I wasn’t going to write anything this evening, but a friend came and talked to me about abortion. …Really. Yes, someone thought that was an acceptable topic for casual conversation.
Anyways. Abortion. It’s a tricky subject. I know those who have had them, and I know those who have had miscarriages, and I know people who have had babies. Hell, all of us were babies once. Seldom do we, the liberal minded progressives, talk about it. Why don’t we? I believe it is because,
1. it is sickeningly annoying that this is the single divisive issue which pits monotheists against progressives. Even progressives who oppose war and the death penalty find themselves face-to-face with pro-war, pro-murder people who want to hear nothing about peace, and only wish to talk about the terrors of abortion before anything else.
And 2. that it is a really difficult subject to pinpoint when it is that we cannot end the development of a Life. We cannot kill a grown man. We cannot kill a teenager. We cannot kill a child. We cannot kill a baby after it is out of the womb. We cannot kill that same baby 1 second before it has left the womb. Where then do we look for the line that determines when a life exists that we cannot destroy? Is there even a line? Does there exist a point where the physical life form has the same rights as the baby 1 second from delivery, post delivery, the teenager, the old man… does there exist a point where the earliest formation of ‘Life’ exists? If there does, if technology allows us to determine this to 99.99999999% certainty, what happens when we pull time back 1 plank unit of time (the time required for light to travel, in a vacuum, a distance of 1 Planck length… basically the smallest unit of time/distance)… does this state of organic matter (potentiality aside) not have that which it will in the time it takes for a photon of light to move the smallest possible distance? It doesn’t seem that we will ever arrive at such a fixed point. Instead we will forever find our technology honing in on a grey-area that refuses to be boiled down to anything certain.
I don’t pretend to know when a human life has been formed. Do I have a position? I would like to think that measures should be taken to avoid the necessity for induced abortions of ‘convenience’. I would even go as far as to swear off abortions (with the asterisk upon 1. Physical danger to the mother, 2. Instances of very young children being raped. 3. That other horrible situation I can’t at present fathom), if it would mean the whole of the evangelical monotheist movement would abandon their position on the death penalty, and war. Perhaps there could be ways to sedate a ‘mother’ (perhaps ‘host’ would make more sense in this case), and to deliver the baby, or remove it via cesarean procedure, and take it away to be cared for by people or institutions elsewhere? This is what I expect to hear from the religious right, and perhaps they say it. This of course raises concerns about what kind of life the human will have, and if that life is equal to the life that a ‘normal’ birth of love provides. We don’t know what kind of industry that can create, what kind of people that would turn us (humanity) into.
Anyways. It’s a question that should be thought about, even if we do not expect to find an answer. To recoil in disgust at a question which is too difficult is to behave in a disgusting manner. How could we be philosophers, genuine humans, if we choose what we talk about and what we do not? We cannot. All must be ‘on the table’ when it comes to consideration, and honest thought.
As a people we have to have this and other uncomfortable conversations. Perhaps the quality of life of the fully developed (psychologically, emotionally, etc.) mother and father outweigh that of what could amount to a pre-human ‘blank slate’. Perhaps it isn’t in the third trimester when the human features form, and sufficient mass is added, that ‘Life’ begins. Perhaps it isn’t even when the heart beats. Maybe it is when the young one can finally recognize itself in a mirror. Maybe it is upon the first dream or expectation of a future.
And now I am swinging into the dark. I probably was from the beginning.
Somewhere along the waning end of this conversation I was having with my friend, he said that ‘If there is a hell, I’m probably going to it’. This perhaps alludes to the notion that I talked him to the point where he could see his unquestioned position on abortion isn’t such an easy and comfortable position anymore. He then went on to postulate that maybe Heaven and Hell don’t exist at all. Maybe God, (that of the Jews, Christians, and Islam) and all affiliated texts are a sham or a social construct. Here the idea of abortion isn’t a problem at all. Abort fetus’, abort children, abort teenagers, abort whole geographical regions of adults. Who cares, right?
Wrong. I have read a bit of each testament. I’ve mostly read the old testament, because that’s where it all started. In the bible (I believe old… possibly new testament) it says (between the lines, perhaps just an astute interpretation) that God is within us. It says that we must answer to God… in the sense that we have to answer to ourselves. There are things which each of us hold to be objective morality, and we can see these things to be self evident. Anyone but a psychopath knows that you cannot stomp on a baby. You cannot kill children or stab someone to death in their sleep. To consider such things without the pang of sickness, of guilt, of innate wrongness is to be counted among a minority. (Some circumstances can push people to such ends like war, scarcity, terror etc., where the underpinning of our reptile minds take over, perhaps… but that, in terms of what civilized people call human, is outside of the normal operation of a human. I think we can all agree on that).
There may be a hell or a heaven independent of the existence of anything external to the human experience. Imagine that you were to murder your own brother and you knew at the time, or you decided later, that it was wrong. In life, this purgatory of sorts, your life would turn to a hell where you would damn yourself. Furthermore, upon death there is residual electricity in the brain. And since a second in the waking world, when asleep, can translate into a much, much greater length of time, we see that there could be an afterlife outside of God. Whether it is 5, 10, or 12 minutes that the residual electricity remains in the brain after death could, via time dilation, in itself feel to be an eternity. If your understanding of the Universe includes reward for good deeds and punishment for bad deeds, having in your mind this moral construct and memories of sins committed could find you in a hell that seems to continue on forever.
That being said, the notion that there is no wrong, simply because there isn’t an objective source of morality outside of the human experience doesn’t mean that there isn’t right and wrong. We are not simply animals. We have, over our reactive-reptile brain of fight or flight, a Prefrontal cortex which allows us to make entirely-human decisions. We can think things out. We can decide what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do. This reasoning, this rational component is what makes us human, and unless we are to abandon that which separates us from the beasts of this planet, we must adhere with steadfast resolve to what we believe is right. Similarly, we must stop our bodies from doing that which we can reasonably determine to be wrong.
So many words (1323 so far), and yet so little said.
Abortion. We ought to try and avoid committing errors today that the future may show us to be sins that simply cannot yet be seen. We must also protect women from undue terror associated with drawing arbitrary lines in the sand and killing in a misguided effort to save life. (‘Pro-lifers’ killing abortion doctors, for instance.)
We must look at ourselves and our world and find what is right and wrong. We must know that there are things which are objectively so in either respect. For the sake of our integrity as a people, our constitution as rational philosophers, and perhaps for there simply to be more good in the Universe than bad, we ought to ask the difficult questions and live the proper life, whatever that may be.
I’m just thinking out loud. I’ll likely come back to this at another point.
Fuck that eh? Here are some links I saw today… completely unrelated, but awesome.