Category: Morality

Sorry, Fionola Meredith – arguments have no gender. Abortion is still wrong even if a man says it

Fallacious arguments are a bit like Where’s Wally?. Once you learn how to spot Wally, you can easily spot him on every page. Similarly, once you learn how to identify logical fallacies – no matter how eloquently put – they leap off the page and beat you over the head with a hurley bat.

I mention this because, after reading this article by Fionola Meredith, I got beaten so badly by a whole gang of fallacies that I had to be rushed to intellectual A&E.

According to Fionola, some men aren’t qualified to speak on abortion because “murdering the little babies” is the sole reserve of those with a womb. But since pro-life men use exactly the same arguments as pro-life women, it is incumbent upon Fionola to answer these arguments without resorting to fallaciously attacking someone’s gender or making unqualified assumptions about their character. Does she do that? Nope. In fact, the entire article is who’s who (what’s what?) of logical errors, from name-calling and emotional appeals to wild and unqualified assumptions. There’s even some amateur psychology in there too for good measure.

Some of these angry, heartless men call themselves Christians. That’s a sick joke. If you’re such a champion of the unborn foetus that you can’t spare an ounce of compassion for a raped child, then what does your faith count for?

Let’s assume that these men are angry and heartless. In fact, while we’re in prejudice mode, let’s make them tax dodgers and drug dealers too. They’re horrible, compassionless, hypocritical, drug-dealing, tax-dodging, pro-life Christian scummers. And they stole the lead off yer Da’s shed. So now what follows? Nothing. Abortion is still the intentional taking of innocent human life.

What we see here – and in the following four (!) paragraphs – is a commitment to the ad-hominem fallacy – that is, attacking people (who she’s never met) as opposed to their ideas in lieu of making a persuasive case of her own. It’s just name-calling. And name-calling is not an argument.

Notice also that she attacks a strawman – the intentional misrepresentation of an opponent that is easier to defeat than their actual view. I’ve yet to meet any pro-lifer who wouldn’t have compassion for a raped child. Such a charge is as ridiculous as it is unfounded. But it also cuts both ways. If you’re such a champion of raped children that you can’t spare an ounce of compassion for the child heading for the abortion chopping block, then what does your egalitarian secularism count for? See how that works?

A much better approach – and one desperately needed in our wee divided country – is to advance actual arguments that must be defended. Arguments that stand or fall on their merits, not the gender (or colour, or race, or religion, .etc) of those espousing them.

It’s true that we frequently hear female voices who are implacably opposed to abortion in all circumstances, although I’ve never yet heard one of them give a satisfactory answer as to why any girl or woman should be forced to give birth to a child she does not want.

The answer is simple and wholly satisfactory to any right-thinking person: the value of human life is not determined by wantedness. A woman should not be able to poison alive / methodically dismember her unborn child because she does not want her, any more than she should be able to poison alive / methodically dismember her two-year-old for the same reason.

Again, the gender of the person making this point is completely irrelevant – it is either true or false on its own merit – but since you mention it, there are countless female pro-life leaders articulating this basic philosophical truth in the world today. In fact, the whole pro-life movement is headed up and staffed almost exclusively by women. There’s at least a dozen of them in NI alone. Why not meet with them if you’re still unclear?

I think they are motivated by something far more base, ugly and deplorable. I believe they are driven by contempt for women, a desire to control them and to have dominion over their bodies.

Listen to the vitriol in the words they use. What you’re hearing, echoing down the millennia from the dawn of time, is misogyny: an ancient fear, suspicion and resentment of women and their extraordinary power to give birth.

There’s no doubt that Fionola is a talented writer and articulate speaker (as much as I disagree with some of her views, I enjoy listening to her on the radio and reading her articles), but she’s no psychiatrist. All of this is mere conjecture that lies outside the bounds of her knowledge and expertise. How does she know what drives someone? Is she qualified to make statements about someone’s personal psychology? I doubt it. Is she privy to their medical records? I hope not. This is yet more name-calling, just made a little more sophisticated by wrapping it up in pseudo-psychology and poetic language.

And who are these suspicious and contemptuous men anyway? Big Ivor Bogroll she heard on the Nolan Show? Well, she might have a point with Big Ivor – I once saw him eat a plastic fork in a KFC outside Lurgan – but she hasn’t mentioned any names, or provided any evidence of these alleged transgressions, just assumptions and generalisations and someone she heard on the Nolan Show. This is not journalism – or even a thoughtful opinion piece – it’s naked activism.

Men can never know what it is like to experience a crisis pregnancy. They will never grapple with the horror and fear. They will never have to take out a bank loan to fund their personal travel expenses to England, or to make the lonely, disorienting journey there and back.

Consider this: Fionola will never know what it’s like to fight in a war. She will never grapple with horror and fear. She will never have to survive on benefits or struggle with PTSD. Therefore, Fionola doesn’t get to decide whether the army can torture war prisoners or not.

That’s a pretty bizarre argument, don’t you think? So, why would discussing other moral issues like abortion be any different? It’s true that gender perspectives on abortion can help us understand the personal experience, but they are no substitute for rational inquiry.

The abortion question does not hinge on gender or personal experiences (indeed, many women will never know what those things are like, either), but whether or not the unborn child has value and is worthy of protection. Would she make the same appeal to emotion if the debate were about killing toddlers instead of fetuses?

But ultimately it won’t be the man’s decision, nor should it be. Their views count for less, and rightly have no legal weight, because it is the woman who carries the child. She deals with the immediate physical reality of the pregnancy, as well as the lifelong impact of giving birth to another human being.

OK – if men can’t make decisions on abortion, then the 1967 Abortion Act is bad law. After all, it was introduced by David Steel, a man, and backed by a government comprising entirely of men. The same goes for Roe V. Wade in America which was passed by nine male judges. Of course, Fionola likely believes that the views of those men – and today’s male abortion lawmakers like Simon Harris and Leo Varadkar – do not count for less and have plenty of legal weight because she agrees with them.

So what this all amounts to, then – even with a shoe-horned attempt at balance by referencing the “kindly pro-life men” she knows – is the silencing of those she disagrees with based purely on their gender. Think about that for a second. Isn’t that the very base, ugly and deplorable trait that she claims to detest in others?

Secularists – if you believe morality is subjective, you can’t complain about the Ulster rugby trial (or anything else)

Subjective morality, the idea that there are no moral absolutes, no such thing as “just wrong” – merely differing cultural and circumstantial opinions – is pretty much the dominant philosophy in Western culture today.

And I can see the appeal. I mean, who wants to be told what they can and can’t do? As I’m often told, “you can’t force your morality down someone else’s throat, you intolerant old sea weasel!” Subjective morality is an easy position to adopt because you get to live how you want and nobody can accuse you of doing wrong. Each to their own and all that.

But here’s the catch: if you believe morality is subjective, and you wish to remain logically consistent within this belief, then there are a few things you can’t complain about. Like the following:

1. The Ulster rugby trial

Without wanting to comment on the verdict of the trial, because I’m not a barrister and I don’t know all the facts, one verdict that we can be sure of is this: in terms of pure misogyny, the defendants make Harvey Weinstein look like Moominpappa.

But who are we to judge? Remember, there is no such thing as “just wrong,” so saying “misogyny is wrong” makes no sense. What rational justification is there within a subjective moral framework to deny these men – who were simply creating their own meaning in life – the chance to play rugby again? You don’t like their womanising behaviour? Really? I don’t like the behaviour of people who noisily eat crisps on public transport while whistling through their nose, but I’m not about to become all shouty and righteously indignant over it. Unless the crisps are prawn cocktail.

2. Pro-life protestors outside abortion clinics

We’re often told that pro-life protestors intimidate and harass vulnerable women (“Really? REALLY?!” says the soon-to-be-assassinated fetus), and that such behaviour is wicked and evil and wrong.

Of course, to make any of these claims requires evil and wicked and wrong to be actual things, which moral subjectivists flat-out deny, so to confirm its existence by calling abortion protestors these things pulls the rug from under their entire argument.

So, the simple answer to moral subjectivists who think abortion clinic protestors are wrong is this: if you don’t like protesting outside abortion clinics, don’t protest outside abortion clinics! Ha! See now how this argument works? See? Now?

3. Homophobia (and all the other phobias)

If morality is subjective, equality is a nonsensical concept. It simply doesn’t exist. In fact, it says so in the very title of the book that many secularists and subjectivists hold up as proof that their view is correct – Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Did you read that? Preservation of favoured races. Stronger races will be preserved, weaker races will be obliterated. No equality here. It’s right there in the secular bible. You don’t even have to read beyond the front cover or anything.

Equality entails treating people right, and right depends on good, which, if what Darwin taught is true, doesn’t exist. In this regard, subjective morality is the ultimate pro-choice position because it allows for all choices – even the choice to be homophobic, transphobic, Islamophobic and so on.

4. Chemical attacks

The former head of American Atheists, David Silverman, said during this debate that the Holocaust wasn’t objectively wrong. Although Silverman undoubtedly thinks that such acts are terrible, he has no choice, if he wishes to remain consistent within his atheism, but to deny their just wrongness. The logical conclusion of that, then, is that chemical attacks on innocent civilians aren’t objectively wrong, either.

For an example closer to home, Paddy Kielty’s powerful documentary showed that there’s no regret to be had when ussuns kills themuns because the beauty of subjective morality means that you can force (deadly force, if necessary) your morality on others if it’s in the interest of tribe survival and your personal ethics allow it.

Moral subjectivity makes it impossible to have any kind of meaningful discussion regarding ethical behaviour. There’s nothing to talk about. A conversation on moral behaviour involves juxtaposing one view against another to find out which one is best. But if morals are subjective, there is no reason to view one position over another. You can’t even call something as barbaric as the Holocaust “just wrong”. The best thing a moral subjectivist can do during such a discussion is top up the electric and make the tea.

Living like God exists

The irony of all this is that moral subjectivists often pride themselves on their moral superiority (check out any humanist or atheist Internet group for evidence of this). There’s nobody on the planet quicker at telling you how tolerant and non-judgemental than they are. Moral subjectivists are not like the rest of us insufferable bigots.

In other words, they preach a gospel of moral subjectivity, but when a story like the Ulster rugby trial breaks, or when someone is harassed because of their sexual orientation, their gospel turns out to be a false one that belies who they really are – human beings made in the image of God, coded with an intrinsic moral sense. Their cries of injustice and wrongdoing only make sense in light of the biblical worldview they reject, which is why, if they wish to live in a civil society, they must live like God exists.