bookmark_borderHow the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.

The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates. 

The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.

To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.

The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.

For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).

Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly  torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.

That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.

Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.

And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.

To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.

This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.

The Great Evasion 2.0

After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.

It’s the Animals Too

To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.

The Great Moral Challenge

The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.

Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.

If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.

The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.

So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.

As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.

On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.

That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.

It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?

And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.

bookmark_borderThe Forced Birth Movement Hates Real Religious Liberty – How to Use That Against Them by Making Abortion a Religious (And Medical) Right

It has not worked.

The prochoice movement opposed by the religious right has been making an enormous mistake. We know that because it is experiencing disaster. That when a solid majority of Americans favor abortion rights Roe v Wade included. It is all too clear that what it has been done in support of women being full class citizens has been gravely defective. It follows that it is time to move on to a more effective strategy.

Defunct RvW rested largely upon the 14thAmendment principle of privacy as a legal and societal expression of individual freedom from invasive state control in favor of personal responsibility. The thesis is valid, but it is a defensive posture that has proven insufficient to fend off assaults from a dedicated forced birth campaign. The situation is so bad for the sovereign rights of American women that even as Catholic heritage nations like Mexico, Argentina, Columbia and Ireland place their trust in the gender to make the best choice, the USA is reverting to the paternalistic misogyny of the early 1900s.

The women’s right movement must go on the offensive to regain the legal and moral high ground over the force birthers. Doing that requires utilizing two interrelated lines of argument.

The Big Medical Lies

One issue that has for reasons obscure long been oddly underplayed is women’s health as per maximizing it by avoiding pregnancy. The ant-abortion conspiracy promotes the anti-scientific disinformation that first trimester feticides are artificial and therefore bad for mothers, while child birth is natural to the point that the government must force all pregnant women to do what is good for their health physical and mental. Law enforcement must protect an apparently gullible gender from a diabolical abortion industry that is so clever that it somehow seduces many hundreds of thousands of each year — a quarter of the national female population over time – to commit a dangerous unnatural act that is against the wise ways of God’s benign creation. That when not getting an abortion is as easy as simply not going to a provider. Yet many go to great lengths to get to such, sometimes traveling long distances if necessary, knowing exactly what will happen when they do so, yet only a small percentage report having significant post procedure regrets (https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2020/01/416421/five-years-after-abortion-nearly-all-women-say-it-was-right-decision-study).

The cold truth is that nature is not always the best. Modern medicine is the artificial practice that has saved billions of lives from the deadly side of the biological world, including the many risks of pregnancy. Early term abortions surgical and medicinal are over a dozen times less lethal than going through the months long complexities and risks of pregnancy (https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22270271) which kills 700 women each year in the US (and the death rate is rising — https://www.npr.org/2021/04/26/990980242/as-pregnancy-related-deaths-rise-in-the-u-s-experts-say-expanding-medicaid-is-ke). And because the latter pumps lots of mood altering hormones into mothers, they are highly likely to experience serious mental distress before and especially after birth, post-partum depression being very common and often serious. Early pregnancy does not involve such hormone loads, and mental trauma is much less frequent after termination. That is why the regrets are rare, of the many women I know who have had abortions none was gravely upset about it. Which makes sense since a woman is making the safest decision when ending a pregnancy as early as feasible. Legally sentencing a woman to bear her pregnancy violates her core medical rights. It’s like preventing someone from taking say statins, or forcing them to smoke or use mind altering drugs.

But there is another major right that the anti-abortion project violates big time. the one that the pro-choice forces have been resisting despite its potential potency.

Religious liberty.

Forced Birth, it’s a Religious Thing

Here’s the fact that is as screamingly obvious as it has irrationally been paid much too little attention by the body politic. Almost the entire movement to render women second class citizens by making them reproductive slaves of the state once pregnant, stems from one source. The religious right. That is a historically rather novel entity formed by a once unimaginable collaboration of conservative evangelical Protestants with the Church of Rome. The anti-abortion project is the core engine of a brazen attempt by one religious clique that constitutes about a third of the population to impose their hardline faith-based beliefs on everyone else. Outside of the Christoright who opposes abortion rights? Nontheists against women’s full reproductive rights are as scarce as hen’s teeth, I personally know of only one. Polling suggests that one in ten atheists are forced birthers, but the sample is small and the figure appears inflated. Many if not most Christians — Protestants, Orthodox, Catholics, etc. of the center-left — favor reproductive choice, along with most Jews and other theists. That alliance of nonrelig0ious and believers form the solid majority who want broad abortion rights to remain in force in all 50 states.

The overwhelming and narrow religious basis of mandatory birth differs strikingly from other conservative causes such as limited government size and power regarding guns and economics, and heavy law enforcement against crimes and drugs. Those secular theses enjoy substantial support outside theoconservatism, including many nontheists — advocates of laissez faire capitalism for instance have included such prominent nonbelievers as Herbert Spencer, Ayn Rand, Milton Freidman, Penn Jillette and Michael Shermer.

The Grand Lie – Why No God Opposes Abortion, It Being the Natural Norm

That feticide has become such a fixation of the religious right is remarkably ironic for a reason too few are aware of. The startling fact is that forcing women to bear pregnancies to term lacks theological justification. The central motivating claim by theoconservatives that they are sincerely merely obeying the dictates of a prolife creator is patently false both on real world and scriptural grounds.

While forced birthers like to go on about how pregnancy ending in birth is natural, what they do not say – in part because most do not know – is that pregnancy ending in abortion is even more natural, by a factor of 3 to 1 or more. Not that many prochoicers know that either, the population at large is perturbingly ignorant about the hard statistics. 

Most conservative Christians are creationists of one sort or another who believe God literally intelligently designed our marvelous species, and that he considers the lives of every one of we special creations to be sacrosanct. There is a big problem with this thesis of the pro-like God. Our often lovely but chronically child toxic planet provides the proof that a life defending creator cannot exist. In the academic journal Philosophy and Theology I was the first to calculate and publish the telling and unsettling statistics that remain scandalously neglected (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf). I further detail the problem in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf). The human reproductive complex is in truth remarkably inefficient and indifferent when it comes to generating new lives. The stats start with how it is well documented that about 100 billion people have been born to date. To that add how medical analysis indicates that about three quarters of conceptions normally fail to come to term — about half or more failing to implant in the first place usually due to rampant genetic defects, the rest are later term miscarriages, many of which go unnoticed (which is a reason why fertile couples may take months to achieve noticeable pregnancies; https://www.sciencefriday.com/segments/ivf-roe-v-wade; https://courses.lumenlearning.com/wm-lifespandevelopment/chapter/prenatal-development; additional refs. in my above papers). The human reproductive complex is a Rube Golbergian mess that usually fails – far from the womb being a safe refuge for fetuses, most inhabitants do not make it out alive because they come to a natural early end. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction) — ergo, the violence that is abortion is even more natural than is that of birth. That means something like 300 billion pregnancies have been spontaneously aborted to date. Currently, somewhere in the area of 30,000 spontaneous abortions occur every day in the US, over ten times more than those that are induced. There have been around 60 million abortions in the half century since RvW, the number of spontaneous prebirth deaths has been two thirds of a billion to a billion over the same period in the US.  The noninduced abortion rate can be tamped down some by pregnant mothers living in benign modern circumstances, but not dramatically because little if anything can be done about the core dysfunctions of human reproduction – which ironically appears to stem from our genetic complexity tied to our intelligence and the like, mice do not have a high bioabortion rates. After birth half those born have died as children from a vast array of torturous diseases that infest our biosphere, so some 50 billion kids have not grown up. It is the artifice of disease fighting medicine are other aspects of modernity that has driven juvenile mortality down to a few percent, less can be done about our deeply dysfunctional reproductive system. As I detail in the P&T and EPH studies, it is demonstrably impossible for a supernatural creator that allows hundreds of billions of preadults to die to be prolife.

With just a fifth to a quarter of observed pregnancies deliberately stopped, while three out of four pregnancies failing naturally, spontaneous terminations are around ten times or more numerous than women having abortions. That means that the wide belief that it is mothers that are most responsible for preventing little souls residing in genetically unique bodies from enjoying earthly, potentially Godly lives is far from true, it is Mother Nature that is doing almost all of that job. Yet theocons — some of whom burst into tears when thinking about all those babies murdered by abortionists and/or mothers, or yell murderer/s at the latter – rarely or never express the slightest moral concern much less outrage about the vast wastage of the preborn their creator they hope to get boons from is good with, much less oppose the mass death allowed by the deity, while they condemn humans doing the same thing as murderous and evil and demand it stop under the severe threat of law. That is called out and out duplicity. That theocons will cite their inability to oppose the actions of God serves to reinforce the religious nature of their FB project.

Of course the government mandated birth crowd does not want folks to know about the scale of the natural loss of the preborn. They don’t want to know about it themselves. There is no mention of the statistics in the SCOTUS majority opinion. That would not help the case. It would risk aborting it. Not that it is in the minority opinion either.

The mass loss of immature humans that no creator puts a stop to helps explain a stark scriptural truth that birth enforcement adherents evade as much as they can. Neither the Jewish nor Christian texts come anywhere close to proscribing abortions. The ancient texts instruct that if someone causes a miscarriage involving a woman who is not their wife, then the negligent party can be sued by the father who owns the fetus –  feticide is a civil financial property matter, not criminal murder of a human being in the Holy Bible. There is nothing about if a father causes the wife he owns to experience an abortion, or even if the mother terminates her pregnancy. Nothing. On the abortion actually has its positive uses side as long as it constitutes the misogyny theocons favor, there are instructions that when a pregnant wife is suspected of adultery a priest can administer an abortifacient potion – if the pregnancy continues she was not an adulterer. The written entirely by traditional values males Bible does not condemn abortion, it endorses its use to examine the guilt of women. That after all these decades that that direct disproof of the myth that God hates abortion is not common knowledge is a stunning exposure of how slack the does not wish to offend the religious women’s right movement has been. A day after abortion provider George Tiller was gunned down I found on my car a forced birth pamphlet that cited all the Biblical lines that opposed his work. Of which there were actually none, all the quotes were regarding the protection of undefined innocents. That’s high hypocrisy because in the same book God liquidates all the pregnant women and blameless children in a global flood, does the same to those in cities, and orders the ethnic cleansing Israelite warriors to slaughter enmass guiltless captive kids as well as women even when pregnant. The Gospels of Jesus and subsequent texts have nothing to say on what is now alleged to be a matter of immense divine import. Pro-life is faux theology invented out of whole cloth by right wing theists for entirely earthly ideological cultural and political purposes.

The abject absence of scriptural condemnation against abortion illuminates why most Bible believing Protestants, including the most popular evangelical of the day, Billy Graham, had no comment in the immediate wake of Roe v Wade. Then famed Southern Baptist leader W. A. Criswell did opine that he had “always felt that it was only after a child was born and had a life separate from its mother that it became an individual person, and it has always, therefore, seemed to me that what is best for the mother and for the future should be allowed.” That was in line with SB resolutions in the early 70s, two after RvW, in favor of abortion rights in cases of rape, incest, fetal deformity and the health mental included of the mother. Governor Reagan had liberalized abortion access in California in the late 60s. During a major 1980 campaign speech to evangelicals he did not bring the subject up, and his forced birth speeches to the anti RvW protests when president were not done in person. The strict sanctity of preborn life back in those days was largely a Vatican thing — it cannot be overemphasized the degree to which the Roman and Lutheran churches despised one another and to an extent still do: a few years ago a couple of evangelicals standing right in front of me bemoaned how a relation who had gone Catholic was now worshipping the clergy, not Jesus.

So why the ensuing and incoherent great evangelical Protestant switch — Graham and especially Criswell evolved into staunch forced birthers — to sociopoliically weaponizing abortion as murder that requires harsh punishment via a new found alliance with the heretical Catholic clergy? That when the evidence that there is a creator power that gives a hoot about conceptions making it to birth is zilch, and mass abortion is more natural than birth, meaning that the all the claims otherwise constitute one of the very biggest falsehoods of our times – the Grand Lie. First a little history.

A Little History

Elitist theocons like those on the Supreme Court live very privileged, cloistered lives in an isolated right wing academic, pseudointellectual bubble that leaves them astonishingly and dangerously ignorant of and/or unsympathetic to things outside their narrow worldview that is indifferent to objectivity. And uninterested in the real world consequences of their archaic ideologies. Thus the incompetent, callous and lying Alito and company in their opinion overturning Roe v Wade that reads as though much of it was written by White male misogynists from the 1200s and 1600s. Which it to a great extent is because the astonishingly archaic thing cites ad nauseam the retro opinions of ye olden times Henry de Bracton and Matthew Hale who back in the day thought along the lines of how witches should not be tortured lest they die before being incinerated, described how to investigate women to determine whether they were still virgins or not, were skeptical of rape charges, and contended husbands owned and could rape their wives.

Many – you know, people who are decent and modern and mainstream – are perplexed by why the opinion that rerendered American women 2nd class citizens went to the lengths of being such a primitive document that expressly insults and denies the sensibilities and liberties of so many, that even after the draft was leaked and widely derided. But that folks was the point. The snarky Alito wanted to take the grand opportunity to put women in their proper place as they were in those olden times and they must be today under the aegis of hardcore Christianity. That such would anger many is not a problem for him and the other four on the court, they are delighting in having the power to impose their will and that of the Christoright on a nation that needs to understand it must be under the thumb of their Godly dominion. The only people they care about are those who agree with them, to hell with everyone else that being their destination if they do not get right with the Christ of the Bible anyhow.

Funny thing. Alito in his brilliant cynical bias makes is out that Bracton and Hale were staunchly anti-abortion. But even they were clearly OK with it early term. Which makes sense in that so is the Bible they and the populace adhered to. Abortion was the societal and reproductive norm in largely Protestant colonial and early independent America — for that matter, early term feticide has always been very common in societies whether legal or not. The Puritans of yore were not as super repressive and chaste as usually thought, oops pregnancies outside of marriage were fairly frequent. And there were women who after having birthed a bevy of babies did not want to go through that yet again. All the more so because childbirth was very dangerous, about one out of fifty pregnancies killed the mother, which when you work out the fertility rate math means that about one out of ten women who had kids died from the natural event. “Mother” nature is not much kinder to mothers than their young ones. Early term termination with herbal toxins had its dangers, but to a lesser degree. Such abortions were not a concern to the authorities if it was done before quickening. When the all-male founders, nearly all Protestants and Deists, were assembling the Constitution that instituted separation of church and state they never imagined considering feticide, that being a women’s affair outside their manly concerns. The only faction that might have been interested in the issue were the few Catholics. That they made no attempt to mention much less ban abortion was logical because the rest of the patriots would have slapped that down as an attempt to subvert the intent of the 1stAmendment to keep specific religious cliques from seizing control of governmental policies and vice-versa. Duh. I am not aware of any cases of women being arrested and charged with having an early term abortion in colonial America or the early USA.

There was a set of American women who absolutely did not have any legal access to abortion in the early 1800s. Enslaved Blacks. Their preborn being the property of their owners. Who were fond of raping the women in their possession for sexual enjoyment on their way to financial gain.

In the 1800s going into the early 1900s repression of sexuality and women reached a peak in tune with Victorian culture, often as part of the reaction against the suffrage movement. Also of growing concern was that abortions were killing women, albeit less often than pregnancy. At the same time the all-male and White profession of medical doctors wanted to suppress competition from midwives who often aborted the much bigger money to be made from full term pregnancies. The years after the Civil War saw a general criminalization of ordinary activities such as loitering and vagrancy in order to jail lower class men with a tilt towards blacks to discipline the population (and return to generating create cost free labor). And the nativist eugenics — based on agricultural selective breeding — favored by Protestants (but not Catholics) called for WASP women to bear as many children as possible to prevent the others from dominating the population. As part of this White male power movement laws banning abortions appeared for the first time, and quickly became the national norm (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/abortion-in-american-history/376851).

The result. A little over a century ago the Christoright owned these United States. Well over nine out of ten were Christians, nearly all conservative. It was a popular culture of imposed Judeo-Christian “virtue.” A pious, dour repressive hyper misogynist, racist Christian Dominion patriarchy in which women were second class citizens required to wear heavy clothing even at the beach, and mandated to remain nonsexual until marriage in which husbands could legally rape their wives and she had no legal choice but to bear the child – that by the way helps elucidate why modern forced birthers are often not concerned about if a pregnancy resulted from nonconsensual sex. The draconian Comstock laws banned mailing information on contraceptives in flagrant contradiction of the Bill of Rights. This Christofascist equivalent of Muslim Sharia culture of severely repressed sexual liberty had to have a heavy government hand to it. Lacking the force of law to keep people in reproductive line, most folks feel free to have way too much fun for the likes of the power craving forces who enjoy imagining they know what it best for all of us, feckless women especially. Note that the Dour Culture was to a fair extent a White matter, Black culture was less uptight, as reflected in the advent of the “sex music”, jazz that quickly gained a following among a frustrated White youth.

The rather Taliban like mainstream Christian scheme began to unravel what with women (mainly White) getting the vote, and the first sexual revolution of the Roaring Twenties. That unprecedented loosening of sexual habits was never entirely beaten back by the right, but as late as the 1950s women were still expected to be virgins on their wedding nights who then became stay at home housewives, access to contraceptives remained limited, and abortions forbidden. With blue laws keeping most retail closed on Sundays three quarters of American were church members according the Gallup, as virtually all professed a belief in God.

Since then it’s all gone to theocon hell. Even in the 50s the hot black culture continued to infiltrate the White majority via the first wave of rock-and-roll – previously black slang for intercourse. What was Elvis doing up there on the stage with his pelvis? Seeing the way things were going Billy Graham started his mass crusades to try to restore America to its righteous ways.

That did not work.

Nowadays, with women being emancipated, first class citizens free to have sexy fun, sinfully tempting females strut down streets in minimal clothing. Sex outside marriage is actually the accepted societal norm. Marriage rates are down while divorce rates are sky high – that started with the WW 2 generation in the late 60s BTW — including among conservative Christians. Birth rates are below replacement level – that when many on the right oppose the immigration of nonWhites that’s needed if an expanding population is to help grow the economy. On the networks people can say screw when not talking about hardware. Then there is cable and the web. Most women have careers. The great corporate project to convert pious frugal church goers into hedonistic materialists and digital social media addicts has succeeded spectacularly as Gallup tracks church membership plummeting from 70% at the beginning of the 2000s to 50% today (https://news.gallup.com/poll/341963/church-membership-falls-below-majority-first-time.aspx; Gallup also observes that belief in God is going into a nosedive https://news.gallup.com/poll/393737/belief-god-dips-new-low.aspx) as White Protestants are a fast shrinking minority, the religious right that once ran the country has been reduced to a widely disparaged subgroup, and the nonreligious balloon by an amazing tenth of the population each decade (for a look at that see http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf). Even Republicans are becoming less religious for Christ’s sake — listen to how the Trumpites swore like sailors as they stormed the capital, and denounce Biden with vulgarities Richard Pryor style.

Their Real Goal

That is what the forced birth movement is really about. A return to Christosharia. Having lost the mainstream culture big time over the last century theocons have no viable means to recover it by persuasion, and deep down they know that bitter fact. All those Graham et al. crusades, religious TV channels, megachurches, and Christian rock are getting nowhere with the mainstream. What are they to do in their desperate power trip to return the country to the good old days of largely White righteous Christian domination?

It’s obvious. Try to do what worked up to the 1920s, and see if reapplying governmental coercion will get America back to its straighter laced Godly ways. There is nothing else for them to do. This invidious strategy to employ laws to achieve religious aims requires the high grade hypocrisy of theoconservatives who love to proclaim individual liberty while decrying government power when the latter promotes what they see as ungodly secular-liberal values, but to without batting a cynical eye deploy said government power to lever America back to something like it was in the 1950’s. When father knew best and the good and subservient women properly behaved themselves sex wise and raised their many kids whatever number their husband desired and heaven forbid could not terminate their sacred pregnancies and the churches were packed on Sunday mornings rather than folks hitting Walmart and Home Depo.

It has not been a meticulously hidden secret, occasionally the truth has been let out. The president of the U. S. Catholic Conference of Bishops Jose Gomez has railed against secular liberal movements such as social justice, wokeness, intersectionality, and critical theories that have arisen in recent years as part of an effort to “suppress any remaining Christian influences” and replace “traditional Christian beliefs.” How about the Louisiana lawmaker whose new government enforced birth bill describes human life as “created in the image of God” and to hell with that 1st Amendment separation of state and church thing. That’s a clear enough clarion call of the dire need to try to recapture the culture by as desperate means as necessary.

That’s the FB leadership. What about those on the street? The ultimate aims of the movement are further exposed by what mandatory birth advocates say when they are not reading a script. During what proved to be the final Washington DC annual protest against RvW, an antiabortion demonstrator told NPR’s Morning Edition that, after denouncing some for getting abortions to afford a trip to say the Bahamas, that he thought “at the end of the day, we should trust in God and trust that taking someone else’s life isn’t worth [it] – we should rather live in poverty,” and people should not have sex outside of marriage. Among Whites of those who wish to see abortion fully outlawed about two in three want to see American declared a Christian nation based on their invented Biblical principles (https://www.washingtonpost.com/outlook/2022/05/20/white-christian-nationalism-buffalo-abortion — interestingly, a substantial chunk of those who favor a Christian America are not practicing Christians in this fast secularizing nation, but they think Christian identity and heritage is a good thing).

That those cynical Christofascists go on about the dire danger of Muslims imposing Sharia law in the US– absurd when there are so few Muslims in this nation – is a classic example of projection in that it is they who want to impose Christosharia on the population, and they are in much better position to do so, at least in red parts of the country.

So. How to get the government back under the blessed control of the theocons? You used to have to be fairly sneaky about doing that. Think Charles Boyer. Openly admitting that the ultimate goal is to use the state to bring back the good old theoconservative days by banning abortion et al. would intensify majority opposition, while undermining the legal case for making a private procedure that the Puritans were OK with into murder.

To try to rewin the culture wars via the law they have smartly gone on the sociopolitical offensive by putting a peculiarly lethargic prochoice side on the public relations defensive, to the degree that even many liberals agree that the feticide that has always been common should somehow become uncommon. That abortion should be a hard and sad and infrequent choice consistently avoided by preventing unwanted pregnancies in the first place, rather than by barring terminations. It’s the abortion should be legal but rare line, rather than rare because it’s illegal. Both are naive fantasies – and lies — that have never been achieved and never will be. Early term abortions are the norm in all societies because they involve a modest collection of cells whose humanity is problematic and mainly propounded by extremist theocons, they are fairly easy to do, in secret if necessary, and are not as dangerous as is pregnancy to the mother. At least a fifth of observed pregnancies are terminated, whether that being in advanced democracies with the excellent safe sex education and child care programs that the center-left wants to see operative here in the US, or where the procedure is illegal and riskier (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/343147586_Unintended_pregnancy_and_abortion_by_income_region_and_the_legal_status_of_abortion_estimates_from_a_comprehensive_model_for_1990-2019). This is in stark contrast to murder, which is rare in many nations including most democracies — that these gun laden United States are the exception is pertinent because most who claim to be prolife support the widespread distribution of firearms that is the primary people killing device (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-real-murder-inc-americas-killing-fields-courtesy-the-gun-industry-that-cannot-get-by-without-the-rampant-murder-they-create-and-the-enthusiastic-help-of-the-religious-right). Because murder involves a patent human being, can be difficult to do, produces an awkward corpse that is hard to secretly dispose of, and those who have been born are usually noticed to have gone missing, outlawing intentional homicide is correspondingly practical because only it renders only a tiny fraction of the population criminals while keeping the event highly atypical – there are under 4000 homicides in western Europe per annum for instance (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_intentional_homicide_rate), many dozens of times less than feticides. Whatever success is or is not achieved by criminalizing the latter, it does not make much actual difference because the great majority of conceptions will continue to naturally abort, so what is the point? That when making abortion illegal means turning a fifth or more of knowingly pregnant women into lawbreakers each year, and a quarter to a third of all women over their lives, while saving only one in ten of the preborn who will die anyhow, but injuring or killing a number of pregnant women in the punitive process. It is probably not possible to drive yearly American abortions below a few hundred thousand whatever the methods used. Prohibiting abortion works about as well as banning alcohol, and we know how that turned out. A basic legal tenant is that all legitimate laws must be reasonably practicable to implement — the stop the abortions folks like to compare themselves to the abolitionists, but mass enslavement can be ended simply by eliminating all laws that enforce bondage, leaving all slaves free to up and walk away from their masters — birth enforcement does not meet that feasibility criterion. Prochoicers, use that fact.

The theocon Grand Godly plan to try to overturn modernity is simple enough. Having concocted the notion that abortion is against the will of a prolife Lord Creator contrary to all worldly and scriptural evidence, make the private procedure illegal. Killing off RvW was by no means the end of the journey, that step being about half way up the FB ladder. The top goal is ban the procedure nationwide when the Repubs next control the Federal government, and/or as a form of outright murder by extending personhood to conception or fetal heartbeat perhaps via SCOTUS – that such is the ultimate Forced Birth aim is now obvious despite the gas lighting claims otherwise by some but not all prominent anti-abortionists – with RvW out of the way they are becoming quite open about their ultimate aims (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/02/roe-abortion-congress-fourteenth-amendment). The day of the glorious ruling former VEEP and hopeful POTUS Pence among many said that continuing on to a nation of forced birth is the new splendid target. Don’t imagine that the FB movement will keep up the pretense that they don’t want to see women who have abortions, or are suspected of such after having a natural abortion, while not be subjects of arrest – that makes no sense if induced abortion is murder.

That doing so is not likely to actually protect enormous numbers of preborn is not the critical necessity. That would be very nice if it happened in the opinion of many theocons, but with miscarriages already the norm in God’s nature saving the little preborn is not really such a major deal. Some of them admit it – GOP state representative Andrew Sorrell said even if abortion is illegal that it would not stop them, that not being “realistic, anything you make illegal there’s going to be a black market for. There’s a black market for drugs, there was a black market for alcohol during Prohibition.” Exactly. The true activism driving societal hope of most forced birthers is that by making those who terminate pregnancies into criminals and/or at least subject to financial suits, that fear of having abortions will help tame wanton American women to be less willing to be get it on with men outside of holy matrimony. The idea is to deter, discipline, punish and subjugate women into being both more chaste and fecund as the arrogant power hungry theocons want them to be. It’s the fear and shame factors of the rights massive national social engineering project. To that add putting strictures on contraceptives to further boost the righteous mission to reChristianize America – Catholics especially like that. That doing so may well increase induced abortions due to more unintended pregnancies is not the theoconservatives driving concern (with supreme irony, yet another side effect of protection reduction is a great increase in the rate of natural abortions because the latter are so much more common than successful births – but they don’t care). But trivia of that sort cannot be allowed to get in the way of the majestic design to renormalize the Christofascist sexual tyranny of yore. There is always some diversity in a movement, and some socially less extreme force birthers are realizing they have been duped by the crusaders (https://www.washingtonpost.com/dc-md-va/2022/05/11/karen-swallow-prior-abortion) — it is similar to how some of the “moderate” Taliban who were promising that they would not mistreat women again when they took over Afghanistan have been swept aside by the core of the extremist group now that they have returned to their misogynist power. There are those who are very against abortion on grounds theistic, but because they are also against big government think that the state should stay out of the matter (my Goldwater fan father was like that). But those folks (https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/25/abortion-opponents-celebrate) don’t count to the hardline FB crowd.

The schemes of Christofascists to push women into being proper theists are not just aspirationally hopeful via making compulsive birth a deterrent to women not being divinely virtuous. There are growing efforts to set up mandatory birth enclaves in which single pregnant women who cannot get legal abortions and desperately need maternity help will be pressured by their circumstances to retreat to (http://thewashingtonpost.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx). There they are and will be the target of heavy duty theocon propaganda designed to make them into women of God. State power will be used to boost church power.  love

In 1900, 1950 and 1970 if a wife was impregnated against her will by her husband she had no legal option other than to give birth; why would the religious right want that to be true again in this century? As well as cut back access to contraceptives?

The prochoice side often wonders – often with breathtaking naivety — why those opposed to abortion want to also cut back on the use of sex education and protection that can suppress said abortions. That is because abortion reduction is not the real point, lifestyle alternation is. Get that? That women will be injured and killed by unsafe outlaw abortions and by mandated pregnancies is not a great concern of the birth forcers — those wayward women should have known better than to get pregnant out of wedlock in the first place, and if raped oh well, the growing soul inside them takes priority to its reproductive vessel who needs to understand their Godly prolife duty yet again never mind that the conception is at far greater risk of a natural death. The fear of getting pregnant without abortion as a readily accessible and safe solution is meant to deter doing the sex thing for the fun of it thing. If raped by her husband well what is the problem in the first place, why was she not doing her wifely duty – like in Pakistan, or in England in 1700 or 1300. If a woman who would have gotten a legal termination if she could because it is safer than not having one happens to die from what seemed like a normal pregnancy oh well that’s too bad, it’s God’s Will anyhow, and if she was right with Christ she is in a better place so what is the big problem. That the forced birth laws are going to make it intrinsically harder to deliver proper prenatal care even to those women who are fine with being with child and thereby increase mortality rates of both the person who has the womb and its contents is acceptable because such side losses are well worth the larger project to bring women to pious compliance. The wastage of pregnant women is well worth the glorious aims of the prolifers.

Prochoicers also often ask why those promoting forced birth do not seem all that interested in dramatically improving the level of government assistance to mothers to make them less interested in pregnancy termination in the first place. Dear reader, not providing such aid is an integral part of the great project. Which is to push all American sexually active women to be virtuous dependent wards of their pious husbands. Handing new moms aid from the feds and states would only serve to encourage them to stay single or if married not be sufficiently in control of the hubby in direct opposition to the ultimate goals of government mandated birth, while expanding the power and reach of the secular government. And it lures women away from the religion based charities designed to instruct the gender to be obedient wives – that is why there are efforts underway in red states to increase government support for privately run pregnancy crisis centers that are operated by conservative Christians. For the same reasons, abortion banners are delighted that forcing women to bear children whether they like it or not has been shown to seriously degrade the income earning potential of the gender – all the more reason for females to get hitched. The keeping of women dependent on bread winning male providers is one of the reasons a big chunk of the religious right favors small government over big, and free markets over socialist policies, lest the latter degrade the religiosity of the population as it has done in the developed democracies.  

When the forced birth crowd waxes about how they want to shower those with unwanted pregnancies with their support and love, it is the manipulative cloying “love” and aid of a hyperpaternalistic and arrogant right wing Christians who think they know what is the Godly best for everyone and are itching to use the law to impose their societal authority and will on all who disagree with them. It is the pseudo love of forced obedience and compliance. It is about controlling self-righteous power that dismisses the feelings of those who do not comply as sinful, not truly caring.  

That the Christoright is not doing all that much prep for an explosion of births when abortion is banned does have a perverse logic in that most who want to terminate their pregnancies will find a way to do it, so why bother.

The Race and Minorities Factors

The Christoright project to return America to Godly traditionalism of the type when Ike was president is accompanied by a host of other schemes designed to try to reassert the toxic White Christian Dominion over the nation. It is about sex and race. Thus bashing those, mostly Black, who have taken a knee during the National Anthem (which was written by an advocate of slavery and trashes Black rights which is a reason it was not made the NA until Lost Causers succeeded in the 1930s but that is another subject), evicting views on alternative sexuality and Common Core and liberal social-emotional learning out of public schools and libraries, is sending state investigators to inspect families with trans kids, is going after corporations for standing up for nonconservative social values, and denounces Woke Culture, the 1619 Project, BLM and intersectionality in an effort to protect the delicate sensibilities of White theocons from the history of Ameroracism. Of course LGTBQ lifestyles and rights gay marriage included is in their sights as they are making clear with their heavy duty red states campaign to harass and suppress nonhetero lifestyles. It is a vast campaign of picking on and bullying vulnerable others to help intimidate a dismayed center-left into irrelevance and compliance under the thumb of the ChristoWhiteRight. The combined assault on sexual and racial minorities is why reproductive rights are widely supported by White supremacists and advocates of replacement theory, including some who are not all that Christian in their beliefs and lifestyles. That returns us to the eugenics factor that has long been a motivator of government mandated birth for White women at a time when American Whites are reproducing at a rate well below replacement level as nonWhites rapidly expand their portion of the population by reproduction and especially immigration.

The Rape Nonexception Factor

This is a good place to further explore how the callous indifference of the hard right to rape that has a yet again ingenuous center-left wondering what the hell is going on with these ethically retrograde Christofascists fits in with their traditionalist plans. In their twisted logic a woman who is truly Godly and virtuous cannot be raped to pregnancy because she will not dress or be provocative or intoxicated in a manner that entices a man to sexually assault her, and if one does he will not be able to achieve penetration because of her not being sexually aroused. In that theory only a woman who is sufficiently loose and in some way desiring the assault can be impregnated – remember if you will how during the 2012 election cycle some GOP pols made statements to this effect (https://www.politico.com/story/2012/08/akin-legitimate-rape-victims-dont-get-pregnant-079864 — and these people are now in charge of the show). The slander of women as the foolish temptresses is not at all novel, it goes back over millennia as per the story of sinful and seductive Eve and the apple. As vile as this deep patriarchal attitude appears to today’s ethical westerners, the traditional misogynist opinion was the norm in many societies until the modern feminist movement, and used to be used by defendants in rape cases. In some current societies a woman who was and claims to have been raped risks harsh penalties for her wantonness. At the theocon Liberty University female students who file a sexual assault complaint with school authorities are likely to find themselves charged with violating strict school rules banning sexual and related activity. It is the intent of many forced birthers to revive the legal concept that rape that can and does lead to impregnation is always a false claim. It follows that it is never justified to allow an abortion that resulted from a “rape” – incest included – that never truly occurred because she really wanted it.

The (White Baby) Adoption Incentive

FB advocates note that 2 million couples say they would like to adopt children, but not enough are available, and preventing abortions in favor of forced birth would solve both problems at the same time. The trick is that there already are over 100,000 children who cannot kind find new parents, so in real world terms there already is a surplus. Many of the couples who say they want to adopt but are not willing to take who is available are Whites looking for White babies. So banning abortion is yet another example of White privilege via a form of eugenics enabled by government enforcement, in this case enslavement of White mothers as reproductive vessels of the state. And the even supposedly vast pool of couples waiting to adopt would be tapped out in a few years if the frequency of the procedure is dramatically cut back.

Liberty for Godly Theocons, Ascendency over Secular Liberals

So do not be fooled, coming even close to actually stopping abortions is not the end goal of the forced birth agenda, making it legally and physically hard to do being part of a more important greater scheme. In concert with weaponizing the induced abortions that are dwarfed by those accommodated by any creator as an act worthy of criminalization, they use the sacred theme of All-American Religious Liberty to facilitate discrimination against those the religious right does not approve of, especially all those who are not life time monogamous heterosexuals, and allow theocon medical providers to deny reproductive services they do not sanction – do note that conservative calls for liberties religious and otherwise are carefully crafted to most favor their liberties, for others not so much. Specific to the issue herein, SCOTUS has ruled in favor of red states that force abortion providers in violation of their free speech and religious rights and medical autonomy to inform clients of often false antiabortion information, while overturning blue state regulations that compel under handed mandatory birth clinics to openly inform their clients that they are expressly anti-abortion in nature because that breaches their free speech and religious rights. Got that one? And make divorce more difficult and less frequent. And don’t you pay any mind to how evangelicals denouncing masking and vaccines to protect schoolkids from covid yet further reveals how “prolife” Protestants do not truly care about young lives. And how the right demanding the liberty to not protect themselves, their children and others from covid as a prochoice position is directly contrary to their no choice about pregnancies.

Do observe that bringing deadly viruses to heel does nothing to bring back that old time culture. Banning abortions just might in theocon minds.

Not wanting to overly spill the theoproject beans when it comes to their true aims, birth enforcer theists I chat with are prone to start out saying they just want to save all the innocent preborn. When I ask why, they often claim it is murder. When I ask why they think that, they proclaim it a sin against God. After I point out the reasons that cannot be so – including how a million or so unborn naturally die off every day on the planet, and how the Bible is abortion friendly when it is misogynist — they then resort to vaguely complaining about the decay of society and the need to bring the majority back to the good solid and sound traditional morals that are good for them. Exactly.

Up at the level of the theocon power elites the protestations by Thomas, Alito and Barrett that the conservative wing of the court does not have a larger sociopolitical agenda in mind were proven to be prove to be PR window dressing designed to mislead with comforting false assurances while they proceeded to do what they needed to do to get rid of that pesky RvW and move on to bigger fish. We know that because with the winds behind their SCOTUS sails there is increasingly open talk from the justices and the hard right about overturning judicially and by legislature just about anything center-left when it comes to privacy and sexuality and speech about such – maybe some of those Comstock Laws were not such a bad idea. About time red states can be in charge of contraceptives use. And whatever happened to that wonderful Hayes Code? Do we really need movies coming out celebrating the gay lifestyle for instance? Do we?

This giant sociopolitical power play centered on making abortion illegal got underway as the feminist movement inspired successful EPA opponent Phyllis Schlafly to proclaim that “feminists were promoting abortions instead of families” in 1972, and the Dem presidential candidate McGovern was labeled the “Triple-A candidate: acid, abortion and amnesty. While evangelical views of and actions against RvW were initially disorganized, by 1976 the practical political weaponization into a wedge issue was underway with the GOP convention inserting government mandated birth into the party platform, and passing the Hyde amendment. Matters really ramped up as the Feds starting cracking down on funding racist private religious schools. The first born-again Baptist POTUS Jimmy Carter proved much too liberal – he backing stopping federal funding for theocon colleges practicing racially discriminatory policies to the fury of the Christoright, but they could not complain too much for that — for increasingly fearful and enraged evangelicals. To their growing horror and bitter anger they realized that the second rock and drug driven sexual revolution of the 60s and 70s they so loath/ed, plus the similarly odious new wave feminism, were settling into being the national norm and their permanent sociosexual nightmare. Roe v Wade being a big part of the problem which is certainly has been.

Also firing up the evangelical forced birth movement was the spectacular rise in the percentage of pregnancies being terminated, in the early 1980s it would peak at a third which is atypical by international societal norms. Likewise, STD infections soared in America even as they remained much lower in other sexually progressive nations. That was happening because American youth was not being taught the in-depth sex education that is the standard in other western nations, so teens and twentysomethings were overly using early term legal abortion as a form of contraception.

That actually worked out very well for the right. By pushing against sex-ed and protection use on the pulpit of traditional values they got the very high abortion rate that while they denounced them, they could exploit as ungodly murderous immorality and proof of societal decay – along with all the STD infections — boosting their political fortunes. It has been a strategy as clever as it has been effective.

But for the crafty scheme to operate the evangelicals and hardline Catholics had to suppress their age old acidic theological enmities to ally under the united banner of Muscular Christianity in order to better face the growing cultural and political secular threat, and with the aid of strategists such as Paul Weyrich and his born again buddy Jerry Falwell, turned to their great grandfatherly hero and divorcee Reagan who rarely attended church. But was the first POTUS candidate who took a hardline for forced birth. Then the mediocre preppy Bushes. And now their manly man Trump who as their misogynist, racist, hard talking and chronic lying King Cyrus does their God’s will never mind his boorishly indecent, adulterous, dump the old aging wife in favor of the new babes persona. “Manly” Christianity is not pretty.

After all, God works in mysterious ways.   

To sum up what theocons are up to, being a minority the largely White religious right is trying to force convert the nation into a theocratic autocratic Christian Dominionist republic in which the once traditional and dismally normal, and now retro radical and drearily oppressive, hard right mores are imposed on the majority for their own good. It is a classic and anti-democratic Tyranny of the Minority that cares not one wit about the opinions and desires and well-being of those they desire to bring to societal heel. That they are a minority striving to dominate the majority means nothing to them. Nor do they truly care about the legitimacy of SCOTUS among the American majority that theocons believe should all become theocons, and those who do not need to be under their wise thumb – what they do fear to some extent is a backlash of the majority that may for instance expand SCOTUS to negate a hardcore bench. But they had to sink RvW so they must run that risk. They cannot care because if they give any ground their project of national domination is moot. All the sincere stories by women who have had to obtain abortions often at great effort, or not been able to obtain one sometimes with terrible consequences, mean little to ardent abortion opponents no matter how trying the circumstances up to rape and incest because what happens to nonconservative women has no import to them and threatens their success (such stories are important for swaying fence sitters and rallying the troops as they work to normalize the procedure). The women’s marches? They mean nothing to them. The heartbreak, dismay, anguish, anger, outrage, fury, fear, anxiety, that the majority of American women feel in the wake of being stripped of their right (as per https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8w5tH902MFw). Means nothing – other than sadness of those too willful to follow their dictates — to the dedicated FBs who know what is true and best based on their supernaturalistic speculations. Persuasion is not their modus operandi because that does not work the FB argument being barren, raw power is their means of control. There is therefore no compromising. And to be fair the prochoice side cannot give any ground from their side when it comes to early term abortion — either women are full class citizens, or they are reproductive wards of the state once sperm merges with egg inside their suddenly no longer sovereign bodies.

(Some note that abortion regs are not as open in some other democracies as they are in principle under RvW. In those nations a major religious right is not using forced birth laws to convert the nation, and many Christofascists are against FB laws. And those tight regulations are problematic in any case.)

The incredible, reckless extremes to which the theocons will cheerfully go have been laid bare by the Texas et al. stratagem that employs citizens as cash collecting birth enforcers, forming a snitch society out of Constitutional grounds characteristic of the authoritarian regimes theocons pretend to despise as they work to set such up.

Are You Kidding? The Rank Immorality of the Religious Right

It is as incredible as it is galling the degree to which those who pretend to be deeply moral belong to institutions that are all too often the opposite. It has long been proven that the Catholic priesthood was extensively involved in sexual assaults on children, that the higher echelons of the church protected them from criminal prosecution for decades, and the Vatican has yet to fully address the issue. It is now known that the Southern Baptists clergy has long been engaged in the same blend of extensive sexual criminal activity followed by cover up (https://www.christianitytoday.com/news/2019/february/southern-baptist-abuse-investigation-houston-chronicle-sbc.html).

This when the hard right is inventing tales of liberal Democrats being involved in a mysteriously hidden pedophile/cannibalism cabal – and clear case of evasion via projection.

That the super arrogant people involved in these profoundly corrupt institutions dare to even consider lecturing others on issues of morality, much less use law to impose their Godly views on the rest of the population, is appalling, outrageous, and never should be allowed. To that add that two of the Christocon justices have had serious charges of sexual impropriety thrown against them, with both denying with angry charges of unfairness against them. Yet here they all are having stripped women of their intimate reproductive rights and 1st class citizen status.

How Theocons Did It

A very big reason a disciplined minority movement has gotten so far pushing the Grand Lie they invented out of whole scriptural and biological cloth to the national forefront with shocking success is because they are doing one thing very right — voting at high per capita rates — while a major portion of a perpetually electorally slack center-left has treated voting as a maybe will do it or maybe not option, rather than the urgent civic duty of all citizens it is. Young adults who are prone to be progressive are particularly likely to not vote. As a result theocons outvote the rest of us by about 10% per head, enough to reinforce the right leaning bias of the Senate and electoral college, which in turn allows the GOP to better control the election system – this is why the demographic predictions of permanent and solid Emerging Democratic Majority predicted a couple of decades ago has yet to come to pass. Thus a White House the theocons hold about half the time while winning the popular vote only once after 1988, a closely divided Congress that flips back and forth, a 6/3 SCOTUS, and most states run by increasingly fanatical Republicans. The one thing theoconservatives do dread is the center-left finally getting their electoral act together and making the Democratic Party the dominant party of the nation and most states, and if necessary reformulate the Supreme Court to bring it more in line with majority opinion.

How We Blew It

In contrast to the theocon’s methodical and effective, offense-based operation to deny sexual and reproductive rights as part of a relentless, mammoth cultural war, the center-left has treated abortion as an important but not really extremely urgent issue that had been largely left to a weakening SCOTUS minority to take care of as best it could thank you, using the same justification utilized in RvW half a century ago without producing additional logical legal arguments. That being such a bother what when ancient and correspondingly reckless Ginsberg who refused to preserve the legacy of her seat by resigning in 2013 and her liberal court comrades would take care of matters. Right? Compare that to how a younger Sandra Day O’Conner strategically retired when she knew she would be replaced by a theocon. When Ginsberg was balking at getting out when the getting was good did the reproductive rights community lean on her to put the ability of women to not be forced by the government to continue their pregnancies to birth over her desire to not be a retiree? No. Why was it that while abortion opponents regularly harassed clinics and patients, the prochoice folks rarely showed up in similar much less bigger numbers to counter demonstrate? (Kudos to the volunteers who escorted patients into the clinics.)

The amazing failure of a less organized and too defensive women’s right movement to push religious rights as a key need for protecting the gender from forced birth has been as illogical as it is remiss to the point of being disastrous. A basic strategy of a movement is to go on the offensive by turning a core argument and the language of the opposition into a weakness that now hurts them more than it helps. But, like most factions, liberals like to live in a comforting cultural bubble within which such internally reinforcing progressive clique code terms as personal autonomy and sexual freedom are deployed to defend reproductive rights. Such speaking to the choir dialectics, while they have a lot of truth to them, have obviously not done enough to undercut the theocon argument, a new direction is badly needed. Yet in the only major opinion journal article looking at using religious freedom to defend abortion rights I know of, a brief news commentary in The Atlantic in 2016. the reluctance of the pro-choice side to utilize the Establishment Clause of the 1stAmendment due to cultural discomfort was covered, and the ensuing improbability of such ever being done observed. Liberals just don’t like all that chat about religion and liberty, that’s right wing stuff. Which is a reason that the astonishing and potentially crippling to the FB’s fact that the Bible actually endorses abortion is barely known. That would be fine if abortion rights were secure. But they are not. Just repeating the same old same old to the masses and to the courts is hardly likely to recover the situation. Time to adjust tactics and talk 1stAmendment. Take the right’s terminology such as their favorite word liberty, particularly religious liberty, and throw it right back at them. As per how gays used the conservative themes of family values and marriage to seize the legal and public relations high ground. And things are changing on an informal basis – I have been noticing of late that prochoice advocates are starting to ad-hoc state that having the intimacy of their reproduction coming under the control of the religious right as a gross denial of their religious rights – liberal Christian Joy Reid on MSNBC has been prone to doing so — something I had not heard often before if ever. It was that combined with the deteriorating national situation, the rapidly approaching SCOTUS cases, and my work on the natural mass losses of the unborn, that caused me to produce this piece.

That abortion as a 1stAmendment religious right was not inserted into Roe v Wade from the get go is as understandable as it was a long term mistake. A half century ago the illegality of abortion was seen as a relic of old fashioned Victorianism mixed with male MDs having wanted to knock midwives out of business. Most mid 20thcentury doctors were in contrast horrified by the constant stream of women into the health care system suffering from botched abortions, with some 200 dying each year. And among religious sects only the Roman Church was consistently government mandated birth, Protestants being all over the map even among the evangelicals. So there was little or no thought given to addressing the religious issues back in the day. Since then mandatory birth has moved to front and center to the CathoProtestant theoconservative struggle to reorder the national society, and it is nearly entirely their thing. And the reliance on one section of the Constitution, the 14thAmendment, has proven dangerously narrow. So hitting back by going on the attack when it comes to the religious and health aspects of the confrontation has become obvious and imperative.

A factor in not citing religious freedom has been a legal oddity. The theory is that while having an abortion may not be forbidden by a woman’s non/religion, ending a pregnancy is not required by her worldview, so she is not protected by the 1st Amendment from being forced to continue on to birth. Odd. Should that not mean that while praying in public may not be forbidden by a person’s theism, doing so is not required by their faith, so s/he is not protected by the 1st Amendment from being prevented from praying in public? Anyhow, countering that legal sleight of hand, makes it all the important to formally demonstrate that the stop abortions movement is a part of greater religious scheme to massively remake the nation into a Christoright dominated country in which the power of the government to pressure women as individuals and culture at large to conform to the mores of the religious right.

How to Win

I am not a lawyer, but one does not have to be one to know that a basic legal strategy when presenting a major case is to make it as broad-based and multi-faceted as possible. For one thing, that maximizes the possibility that at least some or one the arguments seals the legal deal and wins the day. Even better, multiple lines of argument can reinforce one another, making the entire package more difficult to dismiss. Consider the following. A possible fear of citing religious freedom as a defense of abortion rights is that theocons could then use that precedent to promote religious freedom as justifying discrimination against the LGTBQ, and those seeking reproductive services. But that premise is weak because of the lack of harm to the bigot. When someone does not want to provide service to a person who is not a monogamous heterosexual, they are not actually physically harmed if they are compelled by law to do so. For example, if — as once was very common — a person holds a sincere belief that blacks or Jews are in some manner defective in the eyes of God, and that justifies their refusal to treat the latter equal to Whites, then having to do so because of the Civil Rights Act does not result in real damage being done to the bigot. So the CRA is constitutional. If a pregnant woman is forced to go through her entire pregnancy, then she may die or be badly injured as per the stats previously detailed. Medical exemptions that allow those threatened with injury or death to terminate pregnancies is far from sufficient because such often do not manifest until late in the pregnancy, when an abortion is itself risky to the mother. And her risk of serious mental distress from a long term pregnancy is many times higher. The medical risks of pregnancy alone are sufficient to ban forced birth. But the combined religious, privacy, and medical rights of persons to not be pregnant (however they became so) are most powerful when they are used to support one another.

If theists proclaim it is their religious right to not aid reproductive practices they think a God rejects, then by that criteria a pregnant woman can proudly declare that as far as she can see any overseer of a planet that has with no apparent concern of that entity terminated countless billions of preborn is fine with her doing the same. Or there is no creator in the first place. Religious liberty is not just about the freedom to be religious as one wishes the way one wishes, it is the freedom from theism theoconservatism included. It follows that the state and/or snitches preventing her from controlling what is happening inside her is moral and legal madness and barbarity that violate her Constitutional rights in enormous spades. One advantage of advancing abortion as a religious right will be to force theocon judges to reveal the extremity of their quasi legal inconsistency if they so tilt the scales of justice in favor one set of theorights over the other, exposing their rulings as bad law. That sets up the legal brief for constitutionally overturning forced birth laws.

Late is better than never, and time is a wasting. So what needs to be done to recover the situation in court and voting booths? Along with the standards of full citizenship via autonomous reproductive privacy rights for women, begin to focus on the religious and medical liberties of handling one’s own pregnancy without interference from hardline theoconservative based government edicts or Christoright empowered vigilantes as a key Constitutional right under the First Amendment. Do that by building the following case. And use it now that RvW is overturned.

The Founders who wrote the Constitution did not consider the issue, and had an abortion ban been raised by Catholics it would have been rejected at some point as an obvious contravention of the 1stAmendment. Nowadays government mandated birth laws are an unacknowledged insidious conspiracy from one religious world view designed by right wing Protestants and Catholics to above all else to try to massively reformulate the national culture to fit their traditional faith-based image. Although they won’t openly admit that, there is abundant public theocon discourse to present as evidential exhibits. The religious nature of antiabortionism is directly exposed when they say that their – i. e. theocon – values concerning preborn life are behind the laws they advocate. As for the narrow religious view of birth enforcement a few scholars such Barbara Pfeffer Billauer (https://scholarship.law.wm.edu/wmjowl/vol23/iss2/6) are documenting how forced birthism is limited to a narrow set of religious doctrines, while many others have disagreed, going all the way back in history, rendering forced birth laws a violation of Constitutional religious right (in contrast to murder which is condemned by all mainstream cultures). It is time for the women’s right cause to get off its liberal sensibilities duff and pay close attention to such meticulous academic work.

So, when and where the Muscular Christianity birth forcers win their case, then only one religious opinion on the matter becomes legally operative on all fertile women to the exclusion of all others regardless of their a/theist opinion on their pregnancies. That when imposing that extreme hardline view on women of differing a/theologies denies them control and maximal safety of their bodies for extended periods. Such theologically idiosyncratic laws lack practical secular justification on the following grounds. The status of a zygote or an early term fetus as a human being is very dubious and held nearly entirely by theoconservatives, and aborting them does not have significant adverse impact outside the body of the woman. Emphasize the sheer impracticality of enforcing a feticide ban, and actually suppress abortion rates to low levels even via draconian decrees. That means that birth enforcement is a waste of law enforcement resources that will make millions of women miserable and/or criminals while maximizing their medical danger from either pregnancies gone bad or the numerous illicit abortions that will inevitably ensue, all the while massively interfering with the deepest privacy of persons. Far more so than the mask and vaccine mandates most theocons are out of the blue rejecting as outrageous violations of personal liberty. This when there is a major effort to relieve an already overburdened law enforcement and court complex.

The deeply disingenuous and misogynist nature of government paternalism on such a colossal scale is all the more true because the persistent claims by anti-abortionists that their reproductive regulations are intended to serve the interests and safety of pregnant women regardless of her opinion on the matter, are the opposite of actual medical truth, and violate their religious and medical sovereignty when their religious views are compatible with ending pregnancies. Making this yet all the truer is that mandatory birth for “alleged” victims of rape/incest is part of a depraved project to decriminalize rape by legally rendering it something that cannot happen to a proper and chaste woman who does not want to have her virtue sullied, much less be impregnated. Racism is also involved in the forced birth movement because minorities are more opposed to and afflicted by abortion restrictions than Whites. So is eugenics in that preventing White women from failing to reproduce remains a goal of some forced birthers. Then there is the sexism of targeting the commonly discriminated against female gender with such draconian restrictions that no man has to put up with and many men which to impose. Because abortion banning laws are evidentially imbedded in a large scale religious sociopolitical agenda they blatantly violate the Bill of Rights on multiple fronts. Core rights that cannot be trumped by the religious right via government authority to force those who are prochoice nontheists or theists to give birth, just as the state cannot force women to abort their pregnancies.

As explained by Aaron Tang (https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/26/middle-ground-abortion-that-originalists-should-embrace) the original Constitution, and the 14thAmendment in association with how most state laws at the time did not ban abortion before quickening, support the right to early term abortion. That abortion is an nonenumerated right contradicts the majority SCOTUS thesis that the courts should stay away from the issue.

The profoundly theistic nature of the criminalize abortion movement is not being entirely ignored. Some atheosecular organizations filed amicus briefs explicitly to that effect in relation to the Mississippi case this December (https://www.au.org/sites/default/files/2021-09/AU%20Amicus%20Brief%2C%20SCOTUS%2C%20Dobbs%20v.%20Jackson%209.20.21.pdf; https://www.supremecourt.gov/DocketPDF/19/19-1392/192717/20210917120823669_Dobbs%20Final%20Brief.pdf). These petitions do a good job of detailing some of the clear cut religious statements and court briefs by forced birth theists. They not expressly detail how antiabortionism is part of a greater open conspiracy to remake the nation. In any case the religion factor must not be a legal issue raised just by nontheists, it must be mainstreamed. (A large number of center-left entities have submitted briefs to the top court, whether any cite religious freedom and how I do not know.) Pertinent to that need, one of the briefs very notably cites a 1989 opinion by Justice Stevens that has gone little noticed noting that government bans of abortion violate the Establishment Clause, that is an important mainline legal precedent by a SCOTUS jurist without an a/theistic bias to build upon.

Another legal angle that should be considered is that a woman who is required to carry a fetus for months against her will is a reproductive slave of the state as was the norm for enslaved Blacks, which violates the 13th Amendment. And there are the equal rights for women issues.

In tandem, cite the mass death of youngsters to disprove the theocon pretense that they are merely doing the urgent bidding of a life loving creator. Same for the absence of compulsive birthism in scripture. Their real aims are much more theosocietal. And further seize control of the rhetoric war by saddling the prolife cause with the stark term forced birth, as well as mandatory, compulsive, etc., on a regular basis. That is exactly what they are trying to enforce. For a rare and especially eloquent example of a woman who deliberately says forced birth see Kate Manning’s detailing of the odium many women have for government mandated pregnancy and why see https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/05/31/antiabortion-laws-are-forced-birth-laws. Manning equates being sentenced to give birth to the cruel and unusual punishment it is for many.

Very importantly, Jews in Florida are the first to officially and explicitly take on abortion bans as denying their theological religious rights as being persons who are not Christocons. They must just be the start to present such court cases – atheosecular groups should join in the effort by one means or another. What is missing from the Florida suit is an explicit description and opposition to abortion limitations being part of an explicitly theistic movement with intentions of religiously altering the nation. Such should be the norm in such legal petitions.  

That the minority dissent to the overturn of RvW (https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/19-1392_6j37.pdf) makes no mention of the religious bias of forced birth laws was seriously disappointing, all the more so because Justice Sotomayor brought up the issue during the oral arguments. I may be missing something but that seems a big mistake not to introduce the issue in a major way when the opportunity arose. It looks like the Florida and other suits that directly confront the courts with the subject will be needed to get this legal ball rolling towards the highest judicial levels – perhaps the liberal justices were presuming that will provide the opportunity, but one fears that the theocon majority will avoid the awkward problem by simply refusing to hear the cases.

Also remiss has been the mainstream news media that has been negligent in investigating and exposing the deep, extremist motives driving the opposition to legal abortion, and from that informing the nation of what they are up to. Do not, for example, merely ask an anti-abortion activist or politician if they do not want an exception for rape and why, and when they issue the standard line that they think the fetus is precious take that as a complete answer and move on to the next query. That is exactly what they want. Example. The day RvW was overturned NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly interviewed the long term forced birther former governor of Mississippi (https://www.npr.org/2022/06/24/1107531593/former-governor-whose-bill-was-at-the-center-of-roe-ruling-reacts-to-scotus-deci). In the process he made it blazingly clear how he saw banning abortion as a religious matter, opining that any woman considering a pregnancy termination not banned in the Bible must “kneel and pray to God, who is the God of everyone.” He had handed the reporter the perfect exceptional opportunity for her to press the Christoright politician by asking if he and allies were not then violating the 1st Amendment by denying the religious rights of nontheocons. Instead, Kelly in standard interview mode moved on to the regular line of how many pregnant women are in circumstances that are difficult, allowing the former governor to gladly come back with the usual FB theme that adoption is an option. Big opportunity missed. So. At long last pin the FBs down by asking if they think rape and abortion laws need to be revamped as part of a greater scheme to remake society along traditional lines. That will put the forced birth advocate in a bind — if they say yes then they will reveal their real plans and provoke harder opposition, if they say they no they may turn off their base, and if they dodge the question they risk doing both. Do not simply ask an FB is they think women who have an abortion either by their own hand or by the actions of another if they think women should be jailed for homicide. They will do a gaslight dodge. Follow up by asking the person if they will entirely oppose the criminalization of women, or if they will be OK with such if and when that happens. Same for the nationalization of abortion bans. The media needs to get on the coverage ball and do their jobs.

Is going on the offensive by bringing true religious liberty to the forefront of the pro-choice argument, going to abort the forced birth campaign in the next few years? That by compelling abortion stoppers to realize that they – seeing as how they claim to put such high priority on religious liberty and therefore should respect those who claim to be expressing such when they have an abortion — are manifestly and erroneously violating the theoliberty of theoliberals and nontheists? Considering their boldly self-sided view of liberties to date best not to hold one’s breath. But do not wave away the medium and longer term potential to seriously damage and perhaps someday sink antiabortionism in legal venues and public opinion. Consider how pushing marriage rights for all couples worked for gays over years, not long decades. There are theoconservatives who deeply oppose abortion, but see banning it as big government imposition of a religious belief on citizens that strip women of their liberty. Reinforce that opinion. Most critical is for the solid majority who favor women being full citizens to vote at least at the per capita rate as do those who want to use reproduction to remake American women into unsullied subservient theocons. That can render forcing birth into a fundamental violation of a pregnant woman’s religious liberty and medical needs.

Appendix: Will the Force Birth Scheme Work?

For all the fondness the religious right has for the 1950s, it was actually a massive failure for their movement. The 1950s were not even traditionalist. The White flight of Caucasians living in nuclear families in detached housing out the burbs was radical. Prior to then most lived as extended families in rural or urban settings. The decade was actually highly sexualized what with the likes of Marilynn Monroe, Jane Russell, the Miss America contest, Playboy, the sex thrusting of Elvis the pelvis and salacious lyrics of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis. The Comstock laws were on their last legs and the Hayes Code was on the way out. It was the 50s parents that raised a large chunk of the baby boomers that would go wild in the 60s, as their parents initiated the divorce boom that is still running. The secularization and social liberalization forces of corporate consumer modernity were well underway and the right wing churches under the Aegis of Billy Graham and Cardinal Sheen could not prevent.

That abortion was illegal in the 1950s did not preserve traditional cultural, social and religious values over the long term — the 2nd sexual revolution was already well underway when RvW came along. For that matter the Comstock Laws et al. did not stop the 1st sexual revolution of the 1920s, and Prohibition actually helped promote it. It is very possible if not probable that reimposing forced birth laws and other legal rollbacks of nontraditional mores will fail to reconstitute the deity fearing, old fashioned, prudish society the theocons so want to impose on the country as the American Majority thumbs their noses at the prigs.

That is the optimistic view. The pessimistic alternative has the Christoconservatives proving able to impose autocratic minority rule on the nation. In that case they may be able to use harsh government power, even beyond that seen in the 1800s going into the early 1900s, to subdue the opposition.

Time will tell.

bookmark_borderLowder-Vandergriff Debate on God’s Existence Now Out!


I’m pleased to announce that my debate on God’s existence with Mr. Kevin Vandergriff is now out! Here are the options for accessing the debate.

Topic and Format
The topic and format for our debate was as follows.
Topic: Naturalism vs. Christian Theism: Where Does the Evidence Point?
Format: 
Mr. Lowder’s Opening Statement: 20 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Opening Statement: 20 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s First Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s First Rebuttal: 15 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s Second Rebuttal: 10 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Second Rebuttal: 10 minutes
Mr. Lowder’s Closing Statement: 5 minutes
Mr. Vandergriff’s Closing Statement: 5 minutes
This debate was not a live debate but was instead recorded over a series of many weeks. Once I recorded my initial opening statement, each speech was due within a week of the previous one being available to the other debater. Once all of the speeches were complete, the crew at Reasonable Doubts merged all of the files together into a single file for the podcast. As an added bonus, both Vandergriff and I provided PowerPoint slides for each and every speech, which should make it that much easier to follow the debate.
Summary of Mr. Lowder’s Case for Naturalism:
First Contention. Naturalism is a much simpler explanation than Christian theism (where simplicity is defined in terms of modesty and coherence).
Second Contention. Naturalism is a more accurate explanation than Christian theism.
2.1. Physical Matter
2.2. Intelligibility of Universe without Appeal to Supernatural Agency
2.3. Cosmic Hostility
2.4. Biological Evolution
2.5. Biological Role of Pain and Pleasure
2.6. Flourishing and Languishing
2.7. Triumph and Tragedy
2.8. Mind-Brain Dependence
2.9. Types and Distribution of Moral Agents
2.10. Limitations on Human Freedom
2.11. Nonresistant Nonbelief
2.12. Ethical Disagreement
Note: some of these lines of evidence were not mentioned until after Mr. Lowder’s opening statement, specifically, 2.2, 2.9, 2.10, 2.12, and 2.14.
Summary of Mr. Vandergriff’s Case for Christian Theism:
First Contention: Naturalism is not significantly more simple than Christian theism.
Second Contention: Even if naturalism is significantly more simple than Christian theism, it doesn’t matter because God exists necessarily.
2.1. Origin of the Universe
2.2. Why There is Something Physical Rather than Nothing
Third Contention: Christian theism is a more accurate explanation than naturalism.
3.1. Discoverability of the Universe
3.2. Applicability of Mathematics
3.3. Evolution
3.4. Formational Economy of the Universe
3.5. Self-Aware Beings
3.6. Embodied Moral Agents plus Fine-Tuning
3.7. The Connection between Moral Beliefs and Necessary Moral Truths
3.8. The Connection between Necessary Moral Truths and Flourishing
3.9. Worthwhileness of Life
3.10. Resurrection of Jesus
Note: some of these lines of evidence were not mentioned until after Mr. Vandergriff’s opening statement, specifically, 3.3 and 3.4.
Related Topics Discussed in This Debate
1. The differences between metaphysical naturalism and the “hypothesis of indifference”
2. The Anti-Creation Ex Nihilo Argument
3. Neo-Aristotelian Ethical Naturalism, namely, Larry Arnhart’s version as defended in his book, Darwinian Natural Right
4. The Bayesian Interpretation of “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence” (ECREE) and the Bayesian Anti-Resurrection Argument
5. Physical cosmology, including the Borde-Guth-Vilenkin (BGV) Theorem and quantum indeterminacy
6. God’s relationship with time
7. Animal pain
Major Selling Points and Drawbacks for this Debate
I think this debate is fairly unusual, if not unique, for theism and atheism debates for a number of reasons.
Selling Points

  • I think both debaters were pretty evenly matched in terms of speaking ability or, at the very least, the delayed audio format gives that appearance. (That is, in fact, a major point of the delayed audio format.)
  • Both debaters treated their opponents with respect. Anyone who was watched or listened to a number of these debates knows that this does not always happen, which is unfortunate.
  • Both debaters approach the question, “Does God exist?”, as an empirical question. This means that, for the most part (but not entirely), they avoided a priori, deductive arguments and instead gave evidential arguments. (Thomistic scholars like Ed Feser and other critics of “theistic personalism” won’t be happy.) Furthermore, they both adopt a Bayesian approach to evidence.
  • The naturalist debater actually attempted to present a positive case for metaphysical naturalism. Mr. Lowder provided nine (9) lines of evidence for naturalism in his opening statement, and five additional lines of (understated) evidence in later speeches.
  • As mentioned above, the theist debater actually attempted to provide theistic explanations for (alleged) naturalistic facts, rather than appeal to so-called “skeptical theism.” In other words, the theist actually attempted to defend a theodicy.
  • In fact, for the most part, I think both sides defended their position using arguments and objections which are representative of the best scholarship on both sides. I think both debaters avoided the typical blunders we see from both sides in these debates. (Mr. Lowder in particular is proud of the fact that he pretty much ignored every piece of the horrible debating advice offered by the late Victor Stenger.) For example, both debaters avoided making positive arguments which many, if not most, philosophers of religion would say have been discredited: the naturalist debater did not use the Lack of Evidence Argument (LEA) for atheism and the theist debater didn’t defend an ontological version of the moral argument (which claims that God is required as the ontological foundation for moral values and duties). Along the same lines, both debaters avoided using some more of the dubious objections to their opponent’s arguments: the naturalist debater didn’t respond to alleged cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ by appealing to the multiverse hypothesis and did not respond to the Resurrection argument using simplistic arguments for Jesus mythicism. The theist debater did not respond to the argument from biological evolution by denying the fact of common ancestry and he did not respond to various arguments from evil by appealing to so-called “skeptical theism.”[1]

Drawbacks
On the other hand, I think this debate has one, maybe two, major drawbacks.
First, Vandergriff and I discuss a large number of arguments. If you didn’t like the number of arguments in my opening statement for my debate with Phil Fernandes, then you’re probably going to be very unhappy with the number of arguments in this debate. (I think the grand total by the end of the debater was somewhere around 23-25.) I don’t think this ever would have worked in a live debate but, given the unique “audio swap” format, we mutually decided beforehand to debate more, rather than less, arguments on each side. I hope that the PowerPoint slides will make the debate comprehensible.
Second, both debaters spoke faster towards the end of the debate and our speaking rates probably pushed the limits of what is reasonable. For people who listen only to the audio (as opposed to watching the YouTube version), this will make it hard to follow.
Vandergriff Did Not Cheat
Several people on the web noticed that Vandergriff used audio editing software to artificially speed up his speaking rate and to edit out the natural pauses in at least some of his speeches, in order to cram more content into his speeches. Based on that, they have accused Vandergriff of cheating.
I can see why listeners might reach that conclusion, but Vandergriff did not cheat and I want those accusations to stop.  Not only did he not cheat, but  I fully believe that Vandergriff neither had any intention to cheat nor did he believe at any point that he was doing so. Why? The rules for the debate did not impose a limit on the words per minute (WPM) ratio for each speech. They definitely did not prohibit the use of audio editing software. I have no doubt that Vandergriff chose to speaker at a higher WPM ratio because of his collegiate debate background, where it absolutely the norm for debaters to exceed 300 WPM in their speeches. (This convention is the primary reason I decided against participating in undergraduate debate, despite my university debate team’s attempt to recruit me.)
The problem, in my opinion, is that there is a huge disconnect between the way competitive debaters do debates and the way the general public thinks about debates. I believe that speaking faster than 190 WPM is a huge turn off for the general public, whether for a podcast or in a live debate. Even if Vandergriff had not edited the audio file and instead chose to speak (naturally) as fast as possible, I predict that many listeners still would have complained about the fast delivery. I can see how the use of audio editing software might lead people to think Kevin had cheated, but that conclusion is mistaken. He did not.
Operating from a collegiate debate perspective, Vandergriff opted to increase his WPM ratio as needed in order to address every single in the point in every single speech. Some people call that the “Gish Gallop” approach but, as anyone with high school or college debating experience can confirm, that’s the way they do it in that style of debating.
In contrast, my approach was to speak at a more comfortable pace (< 190 WPM). Of course, that meant I could not include as much content into my speeches as Vandergriff included in his. Instead of simply “dropping” arguments, however, my strategy was to “group” various arguments together in a way so that one objection could apply to many of his arguments at the same time. If our debate were judged by collegiate debate judges using collegiate rules, it’s quite possible they may have voted for Vandergriff as the winner. Since this wasn’t a collegiate debate, however, and since I did respond to all of his points at least indirectly (through grouping), I don’t care how a collegiate debate judge might vote. My courtroom was the court of public opinion and my intended “judge” was the judgment of the general public.
The real risk is that, once transcripts of the debate are made available, they may give Vandergriff an unfair advantage insofar as it will be much easier for readers to understand a written transcript of his speed talking than it is for listeners to understand an audio recording of his speed talking. I think that we can manage risk that by putting some sort of note at the beginning of the transcript which explicitly addresses the WPM issue.
Lessons Learned
In my opinion, this debate is a “lesson learned” for all parties involved. If I could go back in time, I would have proposed the following:
(1) No cap on the number of arguments because I think the only way to truly test both worldviews in a debate is to actually debate this large number of arguments.
(2) A modified time limit structure, such as 25 minute openings, 20 minute first and second rebuttals, and 15 minute closings. These longer speeches would provide both debaters more time to address the points raised by their opponents.
(3) A strict cap on the maximum allowed WPM, which I would probably set at 190.
(4) The use of audio editing software to manipulate WPM would be allowed, but rendered irrelevant by rules 2 and 3.
Vandergriff and I have already talked about the possibility of having a re-match in the future using the above proposal or something similar. I think I can speak for both of us when I say that we both hope this re-match happens. For my part, I greatly appreciate his informed, thoughtful, and novel approach and think it deserves a fair hearing by everyone interested in pursuing a deeper understanding of these topics.
We’d love to know your reaction to this debate; please feel free to leave your reviews of the debate and/or debate the arguments yourself in the combox!
 
Notes
[1] I recognize that several of the claims in this paragraph will be controversial. For example, some theists deny the truth of common ancestry. Even more important, in my opinion, is the fact some theistic philosophers believe that God is required as the ontological foundation for morality and that skeptical theism is a good response to arguments from evil. I obviously disagree, but I’m not going to attempt to defend my perspective in this blog post.

bookmark_borderOne Problem with Swinburne’s Case for God – Part 2

In a previous post I pointed out three different problems related to the third argument in Richard Swinburne’s systematic case for the existence of God.  The third argument is the final argument of his arguments from the nature of the universe.  It is his Teleological Argument from Spatial Order (hereafter: TASO):
(e3) There is a complex physical universe that is governed by simple natural laws and the values of the constants of the laws and of the variables of the universe’s initial conditions make it probable that human bodies will evolve in that universe.
Therefore:
(g) God exists.
The first problem is that the premise might well be false.  The fact that human bodies did evolve several billions of years after the Big Bang, does NOT imply that this event was probable or likely.  In fact, it seems rather improbable that HUMAN bodies would evolve just the way that they did.  However, Swinburne does not really mean “human bodies” literally here.  He means any sort of body that would be suitable for a ‘humanly free agent’, so that leaves open a wide variety of possibilities in addition to the kind of human bodies that actually exist.  Nevertheless, it is not clear to me that it was probable that bodies suitable for ‘humanly free agents’ would evolve in our universe;  the evolution of such bodies could be a lucky accident.
The second problem is that it seems IMPROBABLE that God would use the slow and (literally) painful process of evolution to bring about animals and human bodies, when God could have designed and created millions or billions of animals and humans in the blink of an eye.  God had no need to use the natural biological process of evolution, and no need to build such a process into the fabric of the universe.    Most importantly, instantaneous creation would have bypassed hundreds of millions of years of animals suffering and dying from disease and parasites and predation and injury.  A huge amount of animal suffering was involved in the natural process of evolution, so a perfectly morally good person clearly would NOT have used evolution to produce human bodies when there was a much better solution ready at hand.  So, it seems clear to me that contrary to Swinburne’s view, (e3) does not provide evidence in support of the existence of God, even assuming (e3) to be true; rather it provides evidence AGAINST the existence of God.
The third problem is the most serious, because it affects his whole systematic case for the existence of God. Unlike the premises of his first two arguments for God, the premise of TASO requires a great deal of background knowledge.  In order to know that (e3) is true, one must first know, at least, that the theory of evolution is the correct theory of human origins.
In order to know that the theory of evolution is true, one must know a significant number of scientific concepts, facts, and theories from a variety of scientific disciplines (chemistry, biology, physics, geology, paleontology, anthropology, and astronomy) plus one must have some awareness of philosophy of science and the history of science.  For all practical intents and purposes, Swinburne has sucked in most of modern scientific knowledge (at least at the level of high school biology, chemistry, etc.) into the background knowledge of TASO and thus into the background knowledge in all the remaining arguments in his case for God.
One big problem is that knowledge of evolution clearly involves knowledge of the problem of evil, at least knowledge of the problem of natural evil.  In order to know that evolution has occurred one must be aware of the fact of natural death, predation, disease, accidental injury, and natural disasters.  Thus, in order to evaluate the success or failure of TASO, one must deal with the problem of evil, at least with the problem of natural evil.
One option Swinburne has would be to simply dump TASO, to completely remove it from his sequence of arguments, and move on to the first argument in the next phase of arguments (that are based on human life).  That is probably his best option.  But if Swinburne insisted on retaining TASO as the third argument in his sequence of arguments for God, then he would have to deal with the problem of natural evil as part of the evaluation of TASO.
On the face of it, the problem of natural evil sinks TASO; that is to say, if we add (e3) and the required background knowledge to the previous information from his first two arguments, then TASO would REDUCE rather than increase the probability that God exists.  In order to avoid TASO reducing the probability of God, Swinburne would have to engage his theodicy for explaining natural evil, and he would have to do so as a part of his evaluation of TASO.
Swinburne explains natural evil or justifies the perfect goodness of God in view of natural evil by making a few basic points:

  • Natural death provides a limitation on the amount of suffering that one animal or human must endure.
  • The vulnerability of animals and humans to being killed provides many opportunities for humans to make significant choices between good and evil.
  • The existence of evil desires (that cannot be helped) in humans makes it possible for humans to have freedom of choice between good and evil.
  • The frequent occurrence of suffering and need that results from accidents, diseases, and natural dangers and disasters provides humans with opportunities to help and comfort animals and humans.
  • The frequent occurrence of suffering and need that results from accidents, diseases, and natural dangers and disasters provides humans with opportunities to investigate and learn about nature (or to choose lazy indifference and ignorance) and with choices in the use of such knowledge either to cause more suffering and need or to help reduce suffering and need or to simply not make use of the knowledge.

It appears to me that in explaining or justifying natural evil, Swinburne focuses in on human beings, and especially on the fact that human beings have freedom to make significant choices for good or evil.  In other words, in order to justify God in the face of natural evil, Swinburne must now pull the problem of moral evil into the picture.  That means, that in order to evaluate TASO and to avoid the conclusion that TASO actually REDUCES the probability that God exists, Swinburne must deal with the whole problem of evil, both natural evil and moral evil.
Furthermore, in order to deal with the problem of moral evil, Swinburne must assume that humans have conscious awareness and moral awareness.  But the next two arguments in Swinburne’s sequence of arguments are based on the premises that humans have conscious awareness and moral awareness.  Thus, in order to evaluate TASO, Swinburne must incorporate not only his response to the problem of evil (which was supposed to be argument number seven in his sequence) but also he must incorporate his argument from consciousness and his argument from moral awareness.  That means that at least three other arguments in his carefully constructed sequence of arguments must be dealt with all at once and summed up all together, in order to evaluate the success or failure of TASO.
Some of the points justifying natural evil (listed above) come from Swinburne’s argument from Providence, so it is hard to see how he could avoid pulling in that argument as well.  Thus, it appears that four out of five of Swinburne’s arguments from the nature of human life must be dealt with in order to evaluate TASO.
This makes a complete mess of his careful sequence of arguments, and destroys the logical neatness of his whole strategy, which is to add facts one at a time, and to analyze the impact of those facts one at a time.  But TASO requires that most of his remaining arguments must be examined all at once, or evaluated all together and not as separate bits of evidence added one bit at a time.
If I am correct in this analysis, then I think Swinburne really has no other option but to toss out TASO completely, and he must simply jump from his second argument from the nature of the universe to his first argument from the nature of human life (the argument from consciousness).  Otherwise, he is forced to abandon his basic strategy of adding facts one at a time, and to evaluate the significance of these facts one at at time.
 

bookmark_borderThe Evidential Argument from Moral Agency Revisited: A Reply to Jerry Coyne

1. Introduction
Biologist Jerry Coyne recently blogged about an argument I’ve called the “evidential argument from moral agency” (EMA). The argument was formulated by (then-agnostic, now-atheist) Paul Draper in an article in the American Philosophical Quarterly. (See here for a free copy.) I’ve blogged about the argument twice: see here and here.  It appears that Coyne has only seen the first blog post, which he says he finds easier to read than Draper’s essay, but since he doesn’t actually provide his readers with a link, it’s hard to know for sure which blog post(s) of mine he’s read.
Following the standard jargon in the philosophy of religion for arguments from evil, I called the argument from moral agency an “evidential” argument because the argument does not claim that moral agency is logically incompatible with metaphysical naturalism. Rather, the argument claims that embodied moral agency is evidence against metaphysical naturalism and for theism.
It’s important to remember that the EMA is NOT, as some commenters on Coyne’s site seem to think, a moral argument for God’s existence. In other words, the EMA doesn’t claim, “Morality exists, therefore (probably) God exists.” In fact, the EMA is perfectly compatible with the fact that morality does not (ontologically) depend on God.(To avoid any doubt, I think morality does not ontologically depend on God.) Rather, the focus of the EMA is on moral agency, i.e., the ability to make moral choices and to be morally responsible for those choices.
In my initial blog post about this argument, I wrote, “I’m inclined to believe this is the strongest argument–by far–for theism I have ever read.” At the risk of stating the obvious, when I wrote, “this is the strongest argument for theism,” I was not claiming that theism is probably true or even that embodied moral agency is evidence favoring theism over naturalism. Instead, I made a relatively  modest claim: in my opinion, the EMA is the strongest argument for theism.
2. The State of the Philosophy of Religion
Jerry Coyne’s critique includes both objections to the argument and some very harsh criticisms of the philosophy of religion.I will very briefly address the latter and then address the former in depth.
Since Coyne is a professional biologist, not a philosopher, he is not an expert on philosophy. Like any other non-philosopher, he has the right to state his opinion regarding the quality of argumentation in philosophy as a whole or a sub-disciple of philosophy, such as the philosophy of religion. But his opinions do not carry the weight of an expert, so it would be fallacious to make the following argument from authority: Jerry Coyne thinks the philosophy of religion is dead; therefore, it’s dead. While some arguments from authority can be logically incorrect, this one is not. Non-philosophers do not have philosophical expertise, so the opinion of non-philosophers, including Coyne, provides no evidence at all for the claim that the philosophy of religion is dead. In other words, there is no logically correct argument from authority for the claim that the PoR is dead when the “authorities” are actually non-authorities. The philosophy of religion may or may not be dead as a discipline, but, if it is, that is for philosophers to determine, not non-philosophers.
If this seems harsh, consider the following words written by philosopher Doug Krueger, in another context, about the sort of expertise required to be competent as a potential debate opponent of William Lane Craig.

Moreover, as Mark Smith, an atheist with college debating experience, points out, if Craig is concerned about the academic credentials of his oral debating opponents, he should also be just as concerned about their speaking skills. According to Smith, “To be good at debating one needs years of training and practice. Would anyone hire a chemistry professor to build a house?” Or as Krueger asks, “What biologist would put a concert pianist up on stage to defend evolution? What mathematician would give an English teacher the job of lecturing on the four color map problem? Of course, there are experts in more than one field, and I’m sure that some English teachers would do a better job than some math teachers, but wouldn’t the math field be a more likely area to get experts in that area? Wouldn’t philosophy be a more likely field from which to recruit people to speak on philosophical issues, such as god’s existence?”

Krueger was pointing out some rather obvious flaws in Craig’s choices of debate opponents, but his comments apply equally to the absurdity of Coyne’s dismissal of the philosophy of religion.
In my opinion, Coyne is partially wrong: the philosophy of religion is not “dead,” but it is in serious condition, if not on life support. This can be shown by counting the number of philosophy departments at secular colleges and universities which have faculty lines for philosophy of religion. (They are very rare.) Why is this? I think that one contributing factor to this state of affairs is the blatant partisanship which is very much the norm in the philosophy of religion. Many philosophers of religion, including both atheists and theists, function as natural theologians (if theists) or natural atheologians (if atheists). In other words, they act as if their job description says, “If you’re a theist, defend theism; if you’re an atheist, defend atheism.” It’s rare for philosophers of religion to engage in genuine inquiry and to spend equal amounts of time defending theism and defending atheism. But, if a philosopher of religion is going to act like a philosopher, not an apologist, they should be engaging in inquiry.[1]
It is for this reason that Coyne’s dismissal of the philosophy of religion, based on Draper’s article, is most unfortunate. Draper’s article on the problem of evil and moral agency is one of the most non-partisan articles in the philosophy of religion I have read in a long time. Moreover, not only is not partisan, it advances the discussion in very interesting ways. First, it shows that the arguments from evil and moral agency are parallel problems for theism and for naturalism. Second, he provides a very interesting analysis of the “multiple universes” objection against (many) arguments from evil, an objection which had received very little attention prior to his article. Indeed, he convincingly shows that the multiverse hypothesis fails as an objection to the EMA, whereas it succeeds as an objection to some versions of arguments from evil (for atheism). Third, he shows how the fine-tuning data can be used to support a theistic argument in a way which avoids one of the major problems with traditional fine-tuning arguments. Coyne, however, seems oblivious to these virtues of Draper’s paper and, instead, dismisses without argument part of Draper’s argumentation as ‘mental masturbation.’ This is simply embarrassing for Coyne. Or at least it should be!
3. The Evidential Argument from Moral Agency Revisited
Following Draper, let’s define a “moral agent” as “a being that has moral duties to others and that is, at least in some cases, morally praiseworthy or blameworthy for succeeding or failing to perform those duties.” If we abbreviate “much greater than” as “>!”, “there exist embodied moral agents” as E, “theism” as T, and “metaphysical naturalism” as N, then the argument as formulated by Draper can be summarized as follows.
(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).
Note that this is precisely the formulation I provided in my two previous blog posts on this argument.
In light of the fact that both Draper and I explicitly state the argument’s logical form, it’s surprising, not to mention disappointing, to find Coyne misrepresenting the argument and so tearing down a straw man of his own creation. Compare the above, actual form of the argument with Coyne’s version.

1. There are moral agents in the world, i.e., us. By “moral agents,” Draper means that humans have a code of morality and can freely make moral choices.
2. A naturalistic theory of our origins is less likely to explain our status as moral agents than is the existence of God, who made us moral agents.
3. Moral agency requires moral responsibility.
4. To be morally responsible, one must have libertarian free will, that is, at any time one must be able to choose between moral actions and immoral or neutral ones.
5. Such libertarian free will is much more likely to exist under theism than under naturalism.
6. Therefore, moral agency is a strong argument for God.

A quick comparison of the two arguments should make it obvious that they are not identical. Draper’s argument has four premises, whereas Coyne’s argument has six. Draper’s argument is formally valid, whereas Coyne’s argument is not. Furthermore, in addition to misrepresenting the argument, Coyne also misrepresents the definition of “moral agent.” In short, Coyne’s summary is a blatant straw man.
3.1. The Definition of “Moral Agent”
Let’s start with the definition of “moral agent.” Coyne defines a “moral agent” as a “human who has a code of morality and can freely make moral choices.” A careful reading of Draper’s article (and my blog posts), however, should make it obvious that that is not what Draper had in mind. Again, Draper explicitly defined a “moral agent” as a “a being that has moral duties to others and that is, at least in some cases, morally praiseworthy or blameworthy for succeeding or failing to perform those duties.” Draper’s definition makes no reference to human beings nor does it say anything about whether humans “have a code of morality.”
When Draper writes that moral agents “have moral duties to others,” he is not talking about whether they “have a code of morality.” I’m quite sure that Draper is very familiar with — and accepts — evolutionary explanations for morality, viz., explanations for empathy, altruism, reciprocity, rules, etc. Rather, Draper is talking about moral duties which are objective in the sense that they are independent of human opinion. This distinction matters because it could be the case that humans evolved to “have a code of morality,” but that code of morality is nothing but the subjective opinions of human beings.
Like other non-philosopher biologists, Coyne has totally confused the distinction between moral ontology (the nature of moral properties, such as whether they are objective or subjective), moral epistemology (how moral claims and beliefs can be known and justified), and moral psychology (the nature and source of moral beliefs and moral emotions).  Biology and related fields like evolutionary psychology can (and do) inform moral epistemology and psychology, but it’s a category mistake to confuse (and conflate) them with moral ontology. This is important because Draper’s reference to “moral duties” is an implied reference to moral ontology.
3.2. Coyne’s Assessment of Draper’s Premises
(1) There are embodied moral agents, i.e., E is known to be true.
As we’ve seen, Coyne uses a different definition of “moral agent” than Draper. So when Coyne writes, “Yes, people have a moral code and consider themselves moral agents,” it doesn’t follow that Coyne agrees that there exist embodied moral agents. In fact, Coyne denies (1). He writes, ”

I don’t believe in moral responsibility because, as Draper notes correctly (and contra Dennett and others), I think that true moral responsibility requires libertarian free will.

Coyne goes on to state his belief that “We don’t have libertarian free will.” Thus, Coyne denies there exist beings who are morally responsible for their actions. This entails that Coyne denies that (1) is true.
(2) Embodied moral agents are much more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, i.e., Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
As I read him, Draper offers three reasons in support of (2).
(2.1) First, moral agents, including embodied moral agents, have a distinctive dignity or worth. The dignity or worth of moral agents does not raise the probability of their existence if naturalism is true (and hence blind nature has neither the ability nor the desire to select for the evolution of beings with such dignity or worth). If theism is true, however, then such considerations are relevant to the probability of moral agents (since God has both the ability and desire to create such beings).
(2.2) Second, moral agency requires responsibility, which in turn requires moral libertarian free will (LFW). LFW is more likely on theism than on naturalism. (i) Moral responsibility is likely on theism. (ii) LFW requires mental substances. Mental substances are much less likely on naturalism than on theism.
As Draper notes, given that there are moral agents, the fact that they are embodied is more probable on naturalism on theism. He states that they are not much more probable, however, and so the fact that they are embodied does not offset or outweigh the evidence of moral agency for theism.
(2.3) Draper argues that the fine-tuning data “greatly strengthen[s]” the evidence of moral agency for theism because, he says, the fine-tuning data shows that “moral agency is extremely improbable given naturalism.” The argument seems to go like this. Moral agency does not entail life; if moral agency is true, there may or may not be life. Likewise, life does not entail moral agency; if life exists, moral agents may or may not exist. If naturalism is true, however, moral agency “almost certainly depends on the existence of living beings. Thus, moral agency is extremely unlikely given naturalism.” If theism is true, however, moral agency does not require embodied moral agents. (If theism is true, moral agents could exist in the form of unembodied beings, such as angels, demons, spirits, ghosts, and the like.) Not only are there more ways for there to be moral agents if theism is true, but, as Draper argues, theism gives us antecedent reason to expect that God would create moral agents.
What does Coyne have to say about the above reasons?
Regarding (2.1), so far as I can tell, Coyne offers no response.
Turning to (2.2), Coyne seems to agree. He writes, “If we had it [LFW], it would indeed be a kind of miracle, defying the laws of physics, and therefore would require a metaphysical explanation.” As we saw earlier, Coyne denies that we have LFW. But that says nothing about the antecedent probability of LFW on theism and on naturalism.
As for (2.3), Coyne offers no response. Coyne writes, “Draper and Lowder drag the “fine tuning” argument into this issue, but it’s not necessary.” But this comment seems to reveal a misunderstanding of the argument, as if the fine-tuning data were completely irrelevant to the EMA. “Fine-tuning” isn’t “necessary” in order to defend the EMA, but, Draper claims, it “greatly strengthens” the EMA. Thus, a correct response to Draper would be a denial that the fine-tuning does what Draper says it does. But Coyne contradicts himself. He writes:

… at any rate, even if you accept fine-tuning as an argument for God, it doesn’t do anything except make the ‘existence of moral agents’ claim … even less likely under naturalism.

In other words, Coyne admits that (2.3) is correct. Coyne agrees that Draper’s appeal to the fine-tuning data, if correct, performs the exact role in the EMA which Draper says it does.
Coyne also denies that fine-tuning data is extremely improbable on naturalism. He writes “Draper’s paper was written before physicists had provided a number of possible naturalistic solutions to the fine-tuning argument (see here or here, for instance).” The first link is to an audio interview of physicist Sean Carroll. Carroll notes there are four possible responses to the fine-tuning data: (1) design; (2) necessity; (3) chance (what Carroll calls a “brute fact”); or (4) there’s a selection effect. If I understand him correctly, Carroll defends (4). The second link is to a blog post by fellow Patheos blogger Bob Siedensticker which summarizes Carroll’s five objections to William Lane Craig’s fine-tuning argument. Space limitations prevent me from discussing Carroll’s five objections, so instead I’ll simply state my opinion that Carroll’s first two objections are much stronger than the last three.
(3) Prior to investigation, naturalism is not much more likely to be true than theism, i.e., N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
Coyne denies (3). He writes:

But to me the argument falls down like a deck of cards, for its train of logic is weak. For one thing, it presumes that theism has at least a reasonable probability; that is, that there’s enough independent evidence for God that we can somehow put it into Bayesian probability statements with an appreciable value.

As an objection to (3), this is multiply flawed. First, Coyne confuses the distinction between prior probability and explanatory power. Having independent evidence for God is relevant to explanatory power, but not to prior probability.The fact, if it is a fact, that there is no independent evidence for God (i.e., evidence independent of the evidence of moral agency) says nothing about the intrinsic probability of theism. Furthermore, by itself, the lack of evidence tells us nothing about the hypothesis’s final probability. A hypothesis can be so highly probable prior to investigation that, even after investigating and finding no evidence, the hypothesis can still have a high final probability. (Note: I’m using the word “hypothesis” here to simply mean a proposition that is uncertain.)
Second, Coyne is wrong to claim that, prior to investigation, theism has a negligible probability. In the case of ultimate metaphysical hypotheses like theism and naturalism, we begin by equating “prior probability” with “intrinsic probability.” The intrinsic probability of a hypothesis is its probability independent of the evidence for or against it. Intrinsic probability is determined by two factors: (a) modesty; and (b) coherence. “Modesty” is a measure of how much a hypothesis asserts. The more a hypothesis asserts, the more ways there are for the hypothesis to be false; whereas the less a hypothesis asserts, the fewer ways there are for it to be true. “Coherence” measures the degree to which the logical implications of a hypothesis fit together. If the implications fit together well, the hypothesis is more coherent; if they count against each other the hypothesis is less coherent.[2]
Naturalism says that the physical world explains the existence (or apparent existence) of the mental world. Supernaturalism says that the mental world explains the existence (or apparent existence) of the physical world. Notice the symmetry here: so defined, naturalism and supernaturalism are equally modest and equally coherent.
Theism is a version of supernaturalism. Theism says everything that supernaturalism says, but adds on several additional claims: (a) that the non-physical mental entity which explains the natural world is a person; (b), that person created the world for a purpose; and (c) that person is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent. Because theism entails supernaturalism but could be false even if supernaturalism is true, then, prior to examining the evidence, theism is less likely to be true than supernaturalism (and hence naturalism). In other words, the intrinsic probability of theism is less than the intrinsic probability of supernaturalism. Since the intrinsic probabilities of supernaturalism and naturalism are equal, it follows that theism is also less intrinsically probable than naturalism.
While the above analysis shows that theism is less intrinsically probably than naturalism, it does not support the claim, implicit in Coyne’s remarks, that the intrinsic probability of theism is negligible, i.e., that it’s virtually impossible for there to be enough evidence to overcome this improbability.
(4) Other evidence held equal, theism is more probable than naturalism, i.e., Pr(T) > Pr(N).
So far as I can tell, Coyne says nothing which challenges the inference of (4) from (1)-(3).
3.3. Lowder’s Assessment of Draper’s Premises
I now want to comment on Draper’s one-by-one to provide my latest thinking about his argument.
(1) There are embodied moral agents, i.e., E is known to be true.
As noted above, Draper builds moral responsibility into the definition of moral agent. I agree with Coyne and Draper that moral responsibility does seem to require moral freedom. Unlike Draper and Coyne, however, I’m undecided about whether we have LFW. Therefore, I’m equally undecided about whether we are moral agent’s in Draper’s sense.
(2) Embodied moral agents are much more probable on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true, i.e., Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
I am inclined to agree with Draper, on the basis of (2.1). I am undecided about (2.2) and (2.3).
(3) Prior to investigation, naturalism is not much more likely to be true than theism, i.e., N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
For the reasons given above (i.e., scope and modesty), I now believe (3) is false. It is undeniable that, as the terms are defined above, naturalism is both more modest and more coherent than theism. But that entails that, prior to investigation, naturalism is more likely to be true than theism. In fact, I think Draper may (?) now reject (3).
(4) Other evidence held equal, theism is more probable than naturalism, i.e., Pr(T) > Pr(N).
I think (4) deductively follows from (1)-(3), but since I reject (3) and am undecided about (1), I cannot accept (4) on the basis of (1)-(3).
4. Related Evidence
There are two related pieces of evidence worth mentioning.
1. Even if there are embodied moral agents (in Draper’s sense), the fact that they exist hardly exhausts what we know about them. We also knows facts about the variety and frequency of conditions which severely limit our freedom. These facts are more likely on the assumption that naturalism is true than on the assumption that theism is true. It’s not obvious that the evidence of moral agency for theism outweighs the evidence of moral agency limitations against theism.[3]
2. Likewise, if the life-permitting conditions of our universe are somehow supposed to be evidence favoring theism over naturalism, then the hostility of the universe to life is evidence favoring naturalism over theism.
5. Concluding Thoughts
In summary, I still think the EMA is the best argument for theism I have seen. It is, without a doubt, a massive improvement over cosmic ‘fine-tuning’ arguments for God. Nevertheless, I’m undecided about LFW, so I’m unable to grant that moral agency (in Draper’s sense) is a genuine item of evidence. If LFW and moral agency exist, then I’m inclined to agree with Draper that they are more probable on theism than on naturalism. But since naturalism is intrinsically more probable than theism, it’s far from obvious that the likelihood of moral agency on theism, by itself, outweighs theism’s intrinsic improbability. In other words, it’s far from obvious that moral agency make God’s existence more probable than not.[4]
Notes
[1] This point was inspired by an unpublished paper by Paul Draper.
[2] Paul Draper, “Theism, Naturalism, and the Burden of Proof,” unpublished paper.
[3] Paul Draper, “Cumulative Cases,” in Charles Talioferro, Paul Draper, Philip L. Quinn, Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (John Wiley and Sons: 2010), 414-24 at 421.
[4] I’m grateful to Paul Draper for helpful comments on an earlier version of this essay.
ETA (7-Jul-14): Inserted footnote 2, which was missing from the original draft of this essay.

bookmark_borderSpeaking in Seattle on Saturday

imageI will be reprising my recent talk to the Central London Humanists, “Evidence About God: What Apologists Don’t Want You to Know,” but this time my audience will be the Creation Association of Puget Sound (CAPS).

When: Saturday, May 11, 2013, 7:00PM

Where: Avondale Bible Church, 17010 Avondale Road Northeast, Woodinville, WA

Here is information from the organizer:

Refreshments and meetup discussions at 7:00, talk at 7:30, hosted by Avondale Bible Church. This meeting is organized for Christians to politely hear from the Skeptic community and respond at the end during the Q & A – but this is not a debate. The Creation Association of Puget Sound is returning the favor of Seattle Skeptics, who have provided forums for Creationists and Intelligent Design proponents to speak at their gatherings with Q & A by skeptics. Similarly Skeptics are encouraged to come observe, but not to participate in the Q & A. This meeting will open with scripture and Creation & I.D. announcements.

To RSVP, you may sign up on Meetup.com, where it has been cross-promoted by Seattle Atheists.

bookmark_borderRichard Swinburne’s newest book: Mind, Brain, and Free Will

This book will be published May 15, 2013. Here is the book’s description on Amazon:

Mind, Brain, and Free Will presents a powerful new case for substance dualism (the idea that humans consist of two parts–body and soul) and for libertarian free will (that humans have some freedom to choose between alternatives, independently of the causes which influence them). Richard Swinburne argues that answers to questions about mind, body, and free will depend crucially on the answers to more general philosophical questions. He begins by analyzing the criteria for one event being the same as another, one substance being the same as another, and a state of affairs being metaphysically possible; and then goes on to analyze the criteria for a belief about these issues being justified. Pure mental events (including conscious events) are distinct from physical events and interact with them. Swinburne claims that no result from neuroscience or any other science could show that interaction does not take place; and illustrates this claim by showing that recent scientific work (such as Libet’s experiments) has no tendency whatever to show that our intentions do not cause brain events. He goes on to argue for agent causation, and claims that–to speak precisely–it is we, and not our intentions, that cause our brain events. It is metaphysically possible that each of us could acquire a new brain or continue to exist without a brain; and so we are essentially souls. Brain events and conscious events are so different from each other that it would not be possible to establish a scientific theory which would predict what each of us would do in situations of moral conflict. Hence given a crucial epistemological principle (the Principle of Credulity) we should believe that things are as they seem to be: that we make choices independently of the causes which influence us. According to Swinburne’s lucid and ambitious account, it follows that we are morally responsible for our actions.

LINK to Amazon

bookmark_borderThe Evidential Argument from Moral Agency (AMA) Revisited

I want to revisit Paul Draper’s very interesting argument from moral agency against metaphysical naturalism.[1]

Informal Statement of the Argument

We know that moral agents exist. If we ignore for a moment the evidence for moral agents–i.e., independent of the evidence for moral agents–we have much more reason on theism than on naturalism to expect the existence of moral agents.

Let us start by considering metaphysical naturalism. If naturalism is true, then it is extremely improbable that there exist such things as unembodied minds like souls, spirits, ghosts, etc. Thus, in a naturalistic world, the existence of moral agency virtually requires the existence of living beings. Therefore, on the assumption that naturalism is true, we would expect that any world without (physical) life would also be a world without any moral agents.

Now consider theism. On the assumption that theism is true, we have several reasons to expect moral agency, reasons we do not have on the assumption that naturalism is true. First, moral agents, by definition, have moral value. That fact is irrelevant to the probability of their existence on naturalism, but it is relevant to the probability of moral agents on theism, which posits a personal God who is, among other things, perfectly morally good.

Second, moral agency requires moral responsibility, which in n turn requires libertarian free will. We have much reason to expect libertarian free will on the assumption that theism is true than on the assumption that naturalism is true.

Third, thanks to recent discoveries in physical cosmology, we now know that our universe is incredibly well “fine-tuned” for life. By itself, the fine-tuning data shows that the prior probability of life given naturalism is extremely low. But when we combine the fine-tuning data with the facts of moral agency, the argument becomes much stronger: embodied moral agency is extremely improbable on the assumption that naturalism is true.

Formal Statement of the Argument

Abbreviations:

>!: much greater than
E: there exist embodied moral agents
T: theism: the hypothesis that there exists an omnipotent, omniscient, and morally perfect person (God) who created the universe.
N: metaphysical naturalism: the hypothesis that the universe is a closed system, which means that nothing that is not part of the natural world affects it.

Argument Formulated:

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).

Objects to the Argument from Moral Agency (AMA)

I’m  going to consider various objections to AMA’s premises, in a roundabout order.



Objections to (2)

Objection: Theism is not needed to explain the data about moral agency, including fine-tuning. This is because the hypothesis that there exist multiple or even infinite universes explains the data as good or better than theism. Since the physical laws in each of these universes are random, there is bound to be at least one, if not many, life-permitting universe. We just happen to live in (one of the very few) life-permitting universes.

Reply:  At first glance, the multiverse hypothesis (M) seems irrelevant to the argument from moral agency, since (2) compares the antecedent probability of E on T to the antecedent probability of E on N, not N conjoined with an auxiliary hypothesis about the multiverse. So how could M be relevant to (2)?

Those of you who have read my other recent postings can probably predict what I’m going to write next. Using the probability calculus, we can measure the effect that an auxiliary hypothesis like M has on Pr(E/N). In order to assess the evidential significance of an auxiliary hypothesis like M, we would simply need to consider a weighted average, as follows:

Pr(E/N) = Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;) + Pr(~M/N) x Pr(E/~M&N;)

This formula is an average because Pr(M/N) + Pr(~M/N) = 1. It is not a simple straight average, however, since those two values may not equal 1/2.

The weighted average formula above gives us some insight into what would need to be the case in order for M to be a good defeater for the argument from moral agency. I assume we all agree that the second half of the right-hand side of that equation, Pr(~M/N) x Pr(E/~M&N;), is not going to be useful for deriving a high value for Pr(E/N). (Otherwise, there would be no need to introduce M in the first place!)

So we’re stuck with the first half of the right-hand side: Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;). In order for M to be a good defeater of the FTA, then, Pr(M/N) x Pr(E/M&N;) needs to be high, the higher the better. The problem, however, is that we have little or no reason to believe that Pr(M/N) is high, i.e., we have little or no reason on naturalism (alone) to expect multiple universes. If Pr(M/N) is not high, then there is no reason to believe that Pr(E/N), as a weighted average of Pr(M/N) and Pr(~M/N), is high. So, unless there is independent evidence for M–i.e., evidence that is independent of the evidence for E–it appears that using M as a defeater against the argument from moral agency fails.

Furthermore, not only can we calculate the impact of M on Pr(E/N) as a weighted average, we can also calculate the impact of M on Pr(E/T) also as a weighted average.

Pr(E/T) = Pr(M/T) x Pr(E/M&T;) + Pr(~M/T) x Pr(E/~M&T;)

In order to have a true “apples-to-apples” comparison, we would need to compare both Pr(E/N) and Pr(E/T) as weighted averages. On the assumption that theism is true, it is far from obvious that God would create only this universe.[1] This is significant because the higher the value of Pr(M/T), the closer the value Pr(E/T) will be to Pr(E/M&T;). Since we are ultimately interested in the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N), it seems far from obvious that M significantly decreases that ratio. (In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the “apples-to-apples” comparison ultimately strengthened the argument by increasing the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N), but I don’t need to show that in order to refute the objection based on M.)

Objections to (3)

Objection: (3) is false. N is intrinsically much more probable than T. N only asserts that supernatural beings do not exist, while T asserts that a very specific kind of supernatural being exists. Thus, N asserts much less than the proposition that nothing at all exists, while T says much more than the proposition that something exists. Thus, N is intrinsically much more probable than the proposition that nothing exists, while T is intrinsically much less probable than the proposition that something exists.[1]

Reply: I find this objection very persuasive. I am tempted to conclude that this objection is also decisive, but theories of intrinsic probability are extremely controversial. On the other hand, theories of intrinsic probability are extremely controversial. And I know of no non-question-begging reason to believe that (3) is true. Even without a decisive or conclusive argument for the conclusion that N is intrinsically much more probable than T, this objection does constitute a solid reason for doubting (3).

Objections to (1)

Objection: This argument depends upon the assumption that we have libertarian free will, which is dubious. Only 16% of professional philosoph
ers believe we have libertarian free will; the rest are either compatibilists or determinists.

Reply: I have called the argument from moral agency the “best argument for theism” without calling it a “good argument.” Part of the reason why is that I am undecided between libertarianism and compatibilism. If libertarianism is false, then so be it. But what interests me about the argument from moral agency is how it directly solves one of the major defects of what I call ‘standard’ fine-tuning arguments.

Standard fine-tuning arguments just assume that God would want to create embodied moral agents, but fail to provide a reason why we should believe that. In contrast, the argument from moral agency directly deals with that problem. It provides a plausible explanation for why, if theism is true, we should expect moral agents. This does not show that the existence of embodied moral agents is more probable than not on the assumption that theism is true. What it does show, however, is this. Given that moral agents of any kind (i.e., embodied or otherwise) is antecedently much more probable on theism than on naturalism, the fact that there are embodied moral agents is much more probable on theism than on naturalism. (Again, please review what I wrote earlier about the ratio of Pr(E/T) to Pr(E/N).) That is the inference that I find particularly interesting (and persuasive).

Back to the objection: I think the objection correctly points out that the argument from moral agency seems to have the concept of libertarian free will built into the definition of “moral agent.” If that is so, then we can’t use our knowledge of our own existence, by itself, as evidence for (1). We also need evidence that we possess libertarian free will. In my opinion, this is probably the strongest objection to the argument. (This assessment could obviously change in response to a robust defense of libertarian freedom.)

Objections to (4)

Objection: The fact that embodied moral agents exist hardly exhausts what we know about moral agents. We also know facts about the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom, facts which are antecedently more probable on N than on T.[2] Thus, one can’t conclude that T is true, solely on the basis of moral agency, without committing the fallacy of understated evidence.


Reply: AMA, by itself, doesn’t commit the fallacy of understated evidence, since its conclusion is merely that moral agency provides prima facie evidence favoring T over N, not ultima facie evidence. I consider it an open whether the fully stated evidence regarding moral agency–in other words, whether the general fact of moral agency combined with the more specific facts about the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom–favors T or N.

Conclusions and Prospects

If I were to rank the objections from strongest to weakest, I would rank the objection to (1) as the strongest objection, followed by the objections to (3), (2), and (4), respectively. Suppose, however, someone presented a robust, even overwhelming, defense of libertarian freedom and hence of (1). Where would that leave this argument?

I strongly suspect that, once there is some reasonably well-accepted theory of intrinsic probability, it will support the claim that naturalism is antecedently much more probable than theism. Assume, for the sake of argument, that prediction is correct and premise (3) is false. While the argument from moral agency, as it stands, would be unsound, we would still be left with the argument’s premise (2), which, in my opinion, is powerful. How then could a philosopher build an explanatory argument for theism, based upon moral agency, that is also inductively correct? In my opinion, the most promising option would be to construct a cumulative case utilizing multiple, independent lines of evidence, since the cumulative effect of multiple, independent lines of evidences can be enough to overcome even an extremely low prior probability.

Notes

[1] Paul Draper, “Terrestrial Suffering and Cosmic Fine-Tuning: Parallel Problems for Theism and Naturalism.”  American Philosophical Quarterly 41 (2004): 311-321.


[2] Paul Draper, “Cumulative Cases,” in Charles Talioferro, Paul Draper, Philip L. Quinn, Blackwell Companion to the Philosophy of Religion (John Wiley and Sons: 2010), 414-24 at 421.

bookmark_borderThe Best Argument for God’s Existence: The Argument from Moral Agency

Continuing my theme of summarizing arguments about God’s existence inspired by the writings of Paul Draper, this time I have chosen to summarize an argument for God’s existence, the “argument from moral agency.” Draper’s full argument may be found in his paper “Cosmic Fine-Tuning and Terrestrial Suffering: Parallel Problems for Naturalism and Theism.” (The link will take you to JSTOR, where the paper sits behind a ‘paywall,’ so if you don’t have JSTOR access you won’t be able to read the paper.)

I’ve thought about this argument often since I first read Draper’s paper many years ago. I’m inclined to believe this is the strongest argument–by far–for theism I have ever read. It is surprising that so many theists continue to press boilerplate fine-tuning arguments when the argument from moral agency is so vastly superior (or, at least, so it seems to me). It is equally surprising that the argument has not garnered the critical attention of atheist philosophers.

Abbreviations:

>!: much greater than
E: there exist embodied moral agents
T: theism
N: naturalism

Argument Formulated:

(1) E is known to be true.
(2) Pr(E | T) >! Pr(E | N).
(3) N is not intrinsically much more probable than T.
(4) Other evidence held equal, Pr(T) > Pr(N).

Draper’s Defense of (2)

“I do not contend that the existence of moral agents is certain on theism; for example, a morally perfect God might, for all we know, create only moral patients rather than moral agents or create only moral agents that are not embodied. Nevertheless, there are reasons on theism that we do not have on naturalism to expect the existence of moral agents. For example, the fact that such beings have a distinctive sort of dignity or worth does not raise the probability of their existing on the assumption that naturalism is true, but does raise the probability of their existing on theism. In addition, moral agency requires moral responsibility, which in turn (pace Harry Frankfurt) requires libertarian free will, and libertarian free will is for a variety of reasons much more likely on theism than on naturalism.4 Of course, given that there are moral agents, the fact that they are embodied is more probable on naturalism than on theism, but not much more probable. So there is an interesting argument from moral agency in support of theism quite apart from any ‘fine tuning data.’

“The fine tuning data, however, greatly strengthen this argument, because they show that moral agency is extremely improbable on naturalism. (It is only because of this strengthening that the argument from moral agency can compete in the same league as the argument from evil.) The argument for this is fairly convincing, though unfortunately it requires relying on the claims physicists make about the fine tuning data. According to this data, only a small proportion of the range of possible values that certain ‘cosmic constants’ could have had would be life permitting, and only a small proportion of the possible initial conditions that could have obtained in our world would be life-permitting. Thus, the antecedent probability of life given naturalism is extremely low. But in a naturalistic world, moral agency almost certainly depends on the existence of living beings. Thus, moral agency is extremely unlikely given naturalism.”

In later sections of the paper, Draper considers the multiverse objection to both his argument from moral agency and the argument from evil. In a brilliant move, Draper argues that the multiverse objection is a much stronger objection to arguments from evil than it is to the argument from from moral agency.

I don’t have an opinion on whether the multiverse objection to arguments from evil succeeds, but I am inclined to agree with Draper that the multiverse objection to the argument from moral agency (and to fine-tuning arguments in general) are failures.

On the other hand, I think premise (3) is false: I think N is intrinsically much more probable than T. (Indeed, I’m not sure, but I think Draper himself may also now share this view.) But I am not sure how to weigh the prior IMprobability of theism against theism’s explanatory power with respect to moral agency.

Also, it’s worth mentioning, in the spirit of Draper’s “Fallacy of Understated Evidence,” that Draper, in a later paper, argued a more specific fact about moral agency favors naturalism over theism: the variety and frequency of conditions that severely limit our freedom.