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Wednesday, September 28, 2005

On Some Replies to the Abortion Blog

I write a blog about language and the abortion issue and to my great surprise the blog explodes with replies. There were many interesting responses and I would like to deal with a few here, rather in the reply section. But, first, I should thank the many positive things you said about this and other blogs on this site. It inspires me to continue.

Some persons -- notably Christian Pro-Lifers -- charged me with exhibiting bias. This is ironic since if I have an actual bias in regard to the abortion issue -- a point of view I bring to any thinking I do on the subject -- it is to oppose abortion. My wife and I dealt with an unexpected pregnancy by having our child. However, I have thought my way to the other side of the issue as the result of valuing other moral considerations over those I adopted as a result of early indoctrination by my religious teachers. One of these is my belief that I do not have the right to impose my personal morality on another person.

It was never my intent to debate the abortion issue but rather to speak to the role of language in this debate. Today I got a reply that leads me to engage in this debate in a small way to illuminate a more fundamental problem:

What reason is there for considering a human foetus not a human life? It is definitely made up of human cells, it is alive (if not aborted), and - as I illustrated earlier, it is uniquely individual. So what else is there?
What else is there? While the foetus may be "alive" in some sense of the term, it is not self-sustaining unless born in one way or another and even then requires constant supervision and nursing to stay alive. So, we have two things to think about here. The first is that the foetus can stay alive only within the womb of a woman for some period of time, which brings me to the second point. In a free society, it is understood that the government cannot interfere with what men do to their own bodies in ways that do not apply equally to women, such as restricting us in regard to what drugs we may consume -- either by prohibiting the use of illegal "recreational drugs" or limiting the use of legal drugs. Yet there are some that believe that the bodies of women who are pregnant are property of the state in that they can be required to carry a foetus to term. I find this differential treatment between men and women intolerable. As a man, I would never take the position that I could require my wife to carry a foetus to full term. I would have the option to divorce her if she didn't do so. Indeed, I exist only because a man -- my father -- did divorce his first wife because she had an abortion (actually three -- he was a bit dim about recognizing the outward signs of pregnancy so it took awhile before he could lay down his ultimatum). There are other reasons to come down in favor of Roe v. Wade of course but this is the main one.

Our Pro-Lifer had more to say, including

Really, to believe that a human foetus is not a living human being, one has to rely entirely on aesthetic judgements, right? If there is another way to come to such a conclusion, please enlighten me. You can leave a comment on one of the posts at my blog at [this site]
I gave "another way" to get to the position of defending Roe v. Wade in my preceding paragraph. What I would like to note now is that we have here the signs of someone who doesn't have a clue as to what would and would not constitute an argument against those who support the Roe v. Wade decision. Never, ever have I heard an "aesthetic" argument in favor of a woman's right to do with her body what she wants to do. What in the world would constitute an aesthetic consideration that would favor having an abortion? Could it be that this poster believes that those who wish to have an abortion do so only because they don't want their bellies to expand making them less attractive (an aesthetic consideration) to their husbands? What we have here is an example of what happens when our educational system fails to train people how to think, and that includes not just our K-12 schools but our universities as well.

The ability to think consists of an ability to (a) frame hypotheses, (b) recognize the difference between empirical and nonempirical hypotheses, and (c) recognize the strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses on empirical and logical grounds. A serious problem with the abortion debate is the inability of many or even most participants, especially on the Pro-Life side, to recognize the difference between relevant and irrelevant arguments (quoting the Bible does not constitute giving an argument of any consequence whatever) and to evaluate the distinction between good and bad relevant arguments. This same problem has infected the debate over creationism and intelligent design, but since I so far have nothing of linguistic interest to contribute to these controversies I shall not blog on them now. But as a citizen I find myself dismayed by the continuing effort of the Right Wing Christian Fundamentalist movement to force their views on the American people. If you are Pro-Life because you, like I, sang the bible school song starting off "Jesus loves me, this I know, For the Bible tells me so" and you have generalized that confidence in the Bible to other issues than whether or not Jesus loves you such as the abortion issue I worry about you. After 9/11, we should all recognize the danger of religious fundamentalism, including Right Wing Christian Fundamentalism..

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70 Comments:

Blogger mamalujo1 said...

These "abortion" posts remind we why I find blogging so stimulating. May I state a position I've come up with that I find tenable in an untenable situation? The decision to abort or not would be the most difficult decision I would ever want to be able to make. Thank you.

10:44 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice straw man you've built there. For such a well educated man, I wouldn't think you'd be so quick to posit such a fallacy; unless, of course, there is an agenda of which I am not aware...

11:20 AM

 
Blogger Tommy D said...

Every day a few thousand children under the age of 5 will die because there is no food available to sustain them. Perhaps we should bring all the children that are threatened with starvation to America where there is an abundance of food. Then and only then should the debate about abortion continue.

We have the means to feed every child on the planet, but we do not have the will. Or, more to the point, we are not prepared to reduce our standard of living to accommodate the starving children.

So, let's be fair - if you have not adopted a starving child (or 2) and saved them from starvation, you have no business discussing abortion because you have no foundation.

If you want to introduce religion into the arguement, I ask only that you include voodoo and all the "-isms," or at least include a recorded message from God. From a religious standpoint, all we seek is one recording or one picture of the Almighty - a snapshot will do just fine. No recording, no snapshot? Then take a hike, maybe you'll find a picture in the forrest or hear a rumbling from the sky. That would be one God Almighty rumbling I bet. Like the rumbling of a thousand starving bellies on their way to the promised land.

Given the choice, I bet every one- year-old child that starves to death would have preferred to die about 16 months sooner. Just a guess! And your guess is as good as mine.

11:29 AM

 
Blogger Dave said...

Be careful: any young child (who is already born) in general is not "self-sustaining ... in one way or another and even then requires constant supervision and nursing to stay alive."

12:09 PM

 
Blogger WordReader said...

You stated this in your post regarding abortion:

"However, I have thought my way to the other side of the issue as the result of valuing other moral considerations over those I adopted as a result of early indoctrination by my religious teachers. One of these is my belief that I do not have the right to impose my personal morality on another person."

Questions: Why not? Why is it not right to impose your morality on others? What is the foundation of your morality? Where does your morality begin and end?

Statements: We don't live in a vaccum. As much as relativists like to pretend that we do, it is impossible. Laws, customs and traditions all find their home in some kind of moral worldview. By not imposing your moral viewpoint on others is essentially agreeing with theirs.

2:19 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the writer of this blog. I commend your viewing both sides of this matter. To Wordreader, Your stand point is rather harsh to me. To me nothing is this black and white. Wars are started by people imposing their morality. Any adult with their own brain does not like to be told what they should do. Assimilation is never the right answer. We should all be entitled to our own beliefs. It makes us individuals. In my opinion one can suggest, advise, but never should a person impose their views, on another individual. Why not say to someone, "I see your point,.... this is mine." and leave it at that? That said, there are ofcourse some issues (crimes against humanity) that cannot be ignored. To determine a crime against humanity, personal religion based morality should never factor.

4:22 PM

 
Blogger Tui said...

I am enjoying your interesting and stimulating writing.

The problem with the abortion debate (well, one problem, which you rightly also link to the evolution/intelligent design debate, is that people make up their minds, often so firmly as to be utterly entrenched, in what seems to be almost a complete absence of real critical thought. This of course is because these topics are linked in non-rational ways with beliefs (usually religious beliefs) which the person is utterly determined should not be threatened. So to disagree on the linked issues is perceived as an attack on beliefs that must be defended at all costs. Thought is usually a secondary value - the underlying motivation is actually not rational.

The only way to fight this is with reasoned, careful arguments, and not buying into the black-and-white thinking that tends to persist in these instances. One reason I'm enjoying your blog is that I see this promoted in your posts.

I know that there are thinking peope on both sides of the abortion debate, and I wish to respect the rights of everyone to hold and express their own opinion. But all too often the most important agendas are covert and are not really addressed in open debate.

Thanks for your very stimulating posts.

7:51 PM

 
Blogger Phillip Harris said...

Words are interesting things. Often they seem to refer to things when they really refer to values.

I don’t think abortion is the central issue in the abortion debate. What I mean is, the need to believe in the right to abortion is not a stand alone issue. It stands in support of another more central issue – What do you believe about extra and premarital sex. Abortion as rule is about single people, men and women. It is true that some married women have abortions but in dramatically smaller numbers. The engine that drives the abortion industry is the unwanted pregnancies of single women, generally with the support and encouragement of single men. If you believe in the moral validity of casual sex or extramarital sex in general, you need to believe in the right to abortion on demand. Without it, everything falls apart.

It is a conundrum. If you asked those who beleve in abortion if every time they had sex someone pulled up a random number generator and, on average, one in every 100 times they had to shoot someone or pay to have them shot, everyone would shrink back pretty fast. So, if abortion is killing someone, it can’t be moral. Therefore, a fetus can’t be a person because the need for abortion is absolute and indispensable.

I find the use of words in this regard fascinating. Empirically, I observe that the word fetus, when used outside the medical profession, always refers to a baby no one wants. Women who are trying to carry a pregnancy to term never say, “My fetus.” I have never seen a maternity sweatshirt that said, “Fetus on Board.” The term used for the unborn and wanted is, “baby.” We abort a fetus, but we have a baby. Makes you glad we were all, “Babies.”

8:40 PM

 
Blogger LiquiDiamonds said...

Hello. I hope you weren't intent on getting any real commentary on the ever-explosive subject of abortion.

It is interesting, isn't it? You try to get epople to examine the language they use in an effort to promote or deconstruct their view points, and all you get is rhetoric and relativeism, posturing and pontificating.

I wonder, as a lingust, and in your experience, is this commonly the case with ussies concerning social morays? And if not that, than in matters where emotions run high?

I could never really understand the abortion "debate', because it's not that any more. It's jjust both sides, planting their feet in the ground and staying there.

I stay away from listening to it or reading about it, since it becomes tedisous to listen to. Language is used as a means for venting emotions not for making a point, it seems - at least to me...the same is true for the war in Iraq ...I just don't want to hear it. Speaking of which, there is some intersting "language" used there in the media...

11:01 PM

 
Blogger LiquiDiamonds said...

you will, I hope, excuse my horrid typing skills...brain works faster than the hands, and even re-reading does'nt seem to help...where is spell check when you need it...

11:03 PM

 
Blogger YJ said...

This is an attempt to post something related the post, but not its main subject.

on "The ability to think consists of an ability to (a) frame hypotheses, (b) recognize the difference between empirical and nonempirical hypotheses, and (c) recognize the strengths and weaknesses of hypotheses on empirical and logical grounds."

But what a hypothesis is, that... is something I believe we can analyse further. (What's a belief anyway? Same thing, I suppose.) I believe that the sensual imagination, and its function within the information system which is the human mind, has something to do with it.

Especially so, when one gets to trying to explain what a non-empirical hypothesis is.

Logic... now, I believe that has something to do with the faculty of set management, and the faculty of apperception: time.

3:29 AM

 
Blogger demondoll said...

I love your blog. That's all. I like the way it gets folk thinking.

12:11 PM

 
Blogger Isabella di Pesto said...

Language Guy,

Not to take anything away from the sudden increase in hits to your blog, but I came to this blog because it was named a "Blog of Note" on Blogger when I logged onto my own blog.

Perhaps others found it that way as well?

But you also provoked a lot of arguments with your post, and I'm sure that's the main reason for so many comments.

May I add this to the discussion. If we had free and widely available birth control, I think the abortion rates would diminish.

But we live under a government that withholds funding overseas--yes OVERSEAS--for programs that encourage the use of birth control devices, so how could I expect such a sensible program to be instituted here.

2:05 PM

 
Blogger FARfetched said...

Tommy D and Phillip Harris both make very good points here, and that really brings the topic back to language.

I’ve found that most right-wing “issues” use code phrases in place of plain language: in this case, disguising a desire to invade and control people’s lives behind a veneer (often a very thin one) of “life.” It’s easy to see that the goal isn’t about abortion, when they oppose sex education and health-care initiatives that are proven to reduce abortion, and make only token gestures toward enhancing the well-being of children already born. (Or as one wag put it, “to them, life begins at conception and ends at birth.”)

I’ll go looking through your older entries, but if you haven’t written about the use of code words & phrases in politics, I’d like to see your take.

4:32 PM

 
Blogger jo_jo said...

I wish there were some other way to communicate but language. I'm having a terrible time trying to say what I mean, about everything. Words seem such poor symbols for reality. And as you note in your post, so infinitely concerned with logic, sequencing, historical use, politics,etc. Every word is pre-loaded with rounds and rounds of explosive connotations. How do you express things that are more inclusive than logic? I'd love to know what you think.

5:09 PM

 
Blogger LiquidLifeHacker said...

We all have the desire to be understood!

5:22 PM

 
Blogger Sangroncito said...

As a man I refuse to allow goverment to control my physical body. And as a human being I must always give the same rights to women. Women must have control over their own bodies, and that includes the right to abortion.

8:34 PM

 
Blogger ArleneWKW said...

I like your blog. I think that people often don't take the time to define terms in discussion ie. defining "God"
before discussing whether one believes in God or not. With this in mind, I think you may be misinterpreting what the "pro-lifer" had to say about "aesthetic judgements." I suspect he or she meant something akin to what Brian Greene means when he uses the word "elegant" to describe The Elegant Universe. For example, that there is something logically displeasing or out of order to regard human fetus as not a living human being. I'm not arguing the abortion issue one way or the other here. Rather, I'm discussing the use of language. For the record though, as a matter of logic, I would describe a human fetus as a living human begin. As a matter of public policy, I would not interfere with a woman's decision to abort her own fetus. Thankfully, I've never had to make that decisionn for myself. And finally, thank you for your interesting and thought provoking blog.

Our Pro-Lifer had more to say, including

Really, to believe that a human foetus is not a living human being, one has to rely entirely on aesthetic judgements, right? If there is another way to come to such a conclusion, please enlighten me. You can leave a comment on one of the posts at my blog at [this site]

9:53 PM

 
Blogger Charles Smith said...

Here's what I never understood about the whole Christian aspect of the abortion issue:

Christians believe in heaven right? So if aborted fetuses are already humans, then they go right to heaven after they're aborted right? So being aborted isn't so bad, from what I've been told heaven is a pretty nice place.

Or maybe aborted fetuses don't go to heaven. Maybe they go to Hell. If that's the case, then it's clear that God hates them and we should continue killing them at every opportunity.

8:53 AM

 
Blogger Phil said...

You overlooked one interesting argument when addressing the "fetus is human" argument. (This is not original with me--I'd have to find the article.) There are many who argue that we cannot abort the fetus because it is human (at least in the biological sense).

The difficulty with this is that human cancer cells are also biologically human (they have human DNA). Thus, if we allow cancer surgery with the goal of eradicating those cells and "killing" them, then what is the difference between that and aborting a fetus (which is another collection of cells containing human DNA)?

I'm not necessarily in favor of this stance. However, this is an argument I encountered which made me rethink a lot of the abortion issues in my own mind. The fact that the fetus is "human" is not at all a conclusive distinction.

9:50 AM

 
Blogger Elzar said...

LanguageGuy I found your latest article quite insightful. An interesting thought for any pro-lifer out there is "What would Jesus do?"

You see I have thoroughly searched the New Testament and have found no mention of Jesus trying to change the government to be more "Christian". No abortion rallies, no forcing of ideas on unbelievers. Jesus simply says, "Take up your cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Note he does not say, "Use your cross to beat unbelievers into submission".

Also when the Pharisees tried to trap Jesus by suggesting that Christians were not required to pay taxes (Matthew 22:15-22). Jesus said "Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's". Notice once again Jesus did not call for a Christian nation to overthrow the evil Roman agressors and impose a Christian-values centric government.

Do I personally believe abortion is right? No. However I fully believe that I have no business imposing my value on my fellow man - people's beliefs should be arrived at of their own accord and not through heavy handed mandates.

Finally pro-lifers need to look at their very agressive behaviour. Certainly not something which could be considered Christ-like.

1:55 PM

 
Blogger Becky said...

Wow... I have a lot of thoughts about all the issues and ideas that are being raised here. Overall, I want to say that I appreciate the attention being paid to linguistic precision. I am often frustrated by the lack of it.

With regard to abortion, it is an issue I personally struggle with quite deeply. Without a doubt, I feel that there is a distinctive lack of fruitful, honest, careful discussion on both sides of the issue, and so I welcome the chance to explore the opinions of others who are either thoughtfully struggling, or who have come to a decision and can present it clearly and without rancor.
I may come back to talk about this again when I have a little more time...

But I also wanted to latch on to something you said about memory and language. I, too, have often wondered what the connection is between memory and language, and whether we begin to retain memories as our knowledge of language solidifies. Do you have any concrete evidence or know of any investigation of this idea? I would be very curious to learn more.

2:01 PM

 
Blogger Kevin Jackson said...

Well, this is interesting. I did a blog search for red bull caffeine and found your site. When I get some time I'll come back and find out where red bull caffeine appears and how it relates - if it even does. Take care - nice work.

2:01 PM

 
Blogger Heaton said...

I was very excited to see so many strong feelings towards abortion, I myself have a very strong outlook on the subject. I'm not about to write a novel because its simlpe really, abortion is MURDER! thats all there is to it, thank you for your time

3:33 PM

 
Blogger Anthony Israel-Davis said...

This is quite an interesting thread. I, too, found the blog in the "blogs of note" list not really expecting to encounter this particular debate.

However, it is one of which I have grown increasingly frustrated. Here are my observations:

Pro-abortion advocates tend to focus their arguments on personal rights and the role of government in regulating personal decisions.

Anti-abortion advocates focus on the morality of the action itself.

Even in your blog you dodge the morality question and go straight to rights, leaving whether or not the act of abortion is right or wrong up to the individual actor.

The first argument has to do with the law - what should be allowed by government. The second whether or not that action is right. The second has bearing on the first since we often, though not always, reflect our moral beliefs in our laws.

The frustration of which I spoke at the beginning has to do with both sides refusing to rationally, critically and thoughtfully consider each others' arguments.

4:07 PM

 
Blogger Mpetersson said...

A very interesting blog indeed, and reading the comments is as interesting as the blog itself. Sometimes it feels to me that even though i, as a person from Western Europe, live in a similar society to America we are still more than just oceans apart. The religious "bible-based" arguments would never even begin to amount to anything here. In America though it seems a lot of people are still pointing toward the bible as if that text itself would constitute an argument. Like i said, interesting blog!

4:25 PM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Food for thought: suggesting that it is morally wrong to impose one's morals on another is, in itself, an imposition.

4:57 PM

 
Blogger Michael N said...

I'm not for or against abortions, but rather I feel that someone planning an abortion should be sent before a court to decide whether an abortion is appropriate or not. A specific law one way or another would inevitably lead to loopholes.

On another note, I'd have to say radical Christians and overly tolerant people have gone off the deep end in the evolution debate. Really, it's not debate. Evolution is science, and intelligent design has absolutely no proof what-so-ever.

5:16 PM

 
Blogger Alex said...

Never underestimate the concern christians have about the reproductive activities of others. Be it an irrational fear of homosexuality, or the support of killing those who conduct abortions. Gotta wonder how boring their personal lives must be if they constantly worry about others.

R2000

7:31 PM

 
Blogger Sarah said...

I could not have put it better myself! This is the best peice of writing I've read on the topic of abortion in years! Your writing is clear, concise, in English, intelligent, thoughtful, non-bias and wonderful! Thank you for this enjoyable and insightful read! I'm printing it out as I write this comment for you! VERY WELL SAID! Bravo!
-Sarah Liz

11:13 PM

 
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11:18 PM

 
Blogger Mrudula said...

Your blog is insightful, clear and logical. I like it very much.

2:47 AM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

Dave says: Be careful: any young child (who is already born) in general is not "self-sustaining ... in one way or another and even then requires constant supervision and nursing to stay alive."

A foetus is not self-sustaining in any way.

Wordreader says: Questions: Why not? Why is it not right to impose your morality on others? What is the foundation of your morality? Where does your morality begin and end?

Some laws reflect the morality of all of us or virtually all of us (all the manslaughter, murder, assault, etc. laws) and it is appropriate in these cases to express our revulsion in the form of laws against these things. It is the effort of a minority to impose their personal morality that is objectionable. This is a fundamental point that the religious right wing does not understand.

Phil says: There are many who argue that we cannot abort the fetus because it is human (at least in the biological sense).

The difficulty with this is that human cancer cells are also biologically human (they have human DNA).
I think most anti-abortionists would argue that the foetus has cells that if permitted to develop would turn into a human being, not just that they are human cells simpliciter.

elzar says" You see I have thoroughly searched the New Testament and have found no mention of Jesus trying to change the government to be more "Christian". No abortion rallies, no forcing of ideas on unbelievers. Jesus simply says, "Take up your cross and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Note he does not say, "Use your cross to beat unbelievers into submission".

It is truly remarkable how un-Christian so many Christians are. This is, I think, because when people believe they are in possession of The Truth they feel justified in doing anything to further that belief whether it is to murder Israelis, Americans, Spaniards, Indonesians, etc. or impose abortion laws on the American people. Right Wing Fundamentalist Christians are dangerous people.

Becky says:
But I also wanted to latch on to something you said about memory and language. I, too, have often wondered what the connection is between memory and language, and whether we begin to retain memories as our knowledge of language solidifies. Do you have any concrete evidence or know of any investigation of this idea? I would be very curious to learn more.

I believe I indicated at the end of the blog that I lack expertise in that area. If I didn't I should have. I wish for more information as well.

All full of himself, heaton says:

I was very excited to see so many strong feelings towards abortion, I myself have a very strong outlook on the subject. I'm not about to write a novel because its simple really, abortion is MURDER! thats all there is to it, thank you for your time.

Sorry, but "murder" is defined in the law in such a way as to exclude abortion as an instance of murder though Right Wingers are working on that. Go look at the federal and state statutes.

anthony israel-davis says
Pro-abortion advocates tend to focus their arguments on personal rights and the role of government in regulating personal decisions.

Anti-abortion advocates focus on the morality of the action itself.

Even in your blog you dodge the morality question and go straight to rights, leaving whether or not the act of abortion is right or wrong up to the individual actor.

Actually, I did not skirt moral issues. I pointed out that my bias is to oppose abortion and that is based on my personal morality. I also pointed out that I do not believe I have the right to impose my moral beliefs on another. That is to take a moral stance. I also pointed out that it is wrong (put in "immoral") to treat women differently from men.

mpeterssen is right when he says:
A very interesting blog indeed, and reading the comments is as interesting as the blog itself. Sometimes it feels to me that even though i, as a person from Western Europe, live in a similar society to America we are still more than just oceans apart. The religious "bible-based" arguments would never even begin to amount to anything here. In America though it seems a lot of people are still pointing toward the bible as if that text itself would constitute an argument. Like i said, interesting blog!

I agree. It reflects the inability of teachers to teach people how to think. One fo the first things they should teach is that arguments from any kind of authority whether it is a scholarly text or bible are invalid and should be tossed out immediately. This does not mean that such authoritative texts should not be used to stimulate thought.


anonymous says: Food for thought: suggesting that it is morally wrong to impose ones morals on another is, in itself, an imposition.

This is interesting nonsense. If I say no minority of people should be allowed to impose their private morality on all other people, that is an imposition of sorts, but it is one all of us believe in. Right Wing Christians don't want those who oppose the death penalty to abolish it, for instance.

I think I am in love with Sarah. Maybe mrudula as well if mrudula is female.

9:03 AM

 
Anonymous click here to see hurricane pics said...

You say abortion is not wrong because the baby can't live outside th womb without artifical help.

Well you can't live outside the earth's atmosphere without artifical help. Does that make it ok for me to kill you?

Just because a life needs help to live does not make it not a life.

We all need help. We are our brothers keeper. We are to protect life because it's in the image of God.

If someone gets in a car wreck and needs medical help and can't survive without it (example an IV or transfusion) is it ok for me to kill them by sucking their brians out like in abortion?

When a baby is born it can't care for it's self any more than a baby in the womb. A baby without help will die, even after being born. Are you saying life begins and human rights only begin when a person is self sufficiant?

That is crazy talk.

Think dude!

10:04 AM

 
Blogger Huck said...

You my friend, are free to think, feel and say what you want. I would like to see you compete inside yourself. Let me hear the words of your mind take on those of your heart. If there is indeed an equality, then your listeners shall be inspired.

10:22 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The whole abortion argument is a joke, and the punchline is religion.

This is not to say that having a belief in a religion is wrong, everybody has a right to believe what they wish. In fact I believe it is written in the US constitution (please forgive me as I am not American). But religious based arguements/wars/crusades seem to domintate history. And the abortion argument is no different. Also one thing that has always bothered me is that people say that you have the right to believe in what you want - but in reality your choice is made by your parents and they way they raise you. You can only make an informed choice later in life. But if you have lived a certain life for that long you are very unlikely to change.

10:51 AM

 
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sort of related but not really, more on a religious vs health vs aesthetics argument. But circumcision - either your for it or against it, and there are widely published articles to provoke thoughts for both sides? But as a new born child who cannot express yourself you have no choice. How long before somebody brings legal action against their parents for assault occasioning grevious bodily harm, indecent assault, and assault of a minor? If you were to hold down any person capable of consent and cut them up you would be in jail.

And for the record a foetus is not an entity (until such time that it can be shown that it has the ability of rational thought or self awareness)

10:57 AM

 
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11:36 AM

 
Blogger The Cunning Linguist said...

You know what I hate? When people use the word "peruse" to mean they "browsed" something. That is a misuse of that word people. Consult Webster's. Also, it bugs me when people say "reticent" and people who mispell "definitely".

check out my weblog asromafanclub.blogspot.com

11:59 AM

 
Blogger Catnapping said...

What is immoral, and who gets to decide?

I personally believe that it's immoral to own land...to place the lives of humans over those of deer...or carrots...or rocks.

So if it's immoral to kill fetuses, just cuz someone said it is...then isn't also immoral to own land? Isn't it also immoral to harvest corn or hunt elk?

If it's immoral to have an abortion, then why isn't it immoral to leave children to starve? To leave any human to starve, no matter what her age?

2:20 PM

 
Blogger Max said...

Whoaaaaa let's raise deep questions on the internet! Our comments have total relevancy and will change the world. OH MAN! Politics mixed with academia? There's a flavor I've never tried before!

2:38 PM

 
Blogger WhiteLightning said...

Hey - a couple of thoughts on your secondary post/comment:

- I think at some point you must enter into gender issues when dealing with the "we can't impose different laws upon women than we do men." It is quite obvious that whether from evolution or creation, women were created with at least one different function from men: the ability to give birth. This ability to protect and nurture a fetus is unique to women, but why does that automatically make it out of bounds for any kind of governmental regulation? This issue requires more than a black and white statement that, because we as men would not allow the government to regulate what we do to our bodies, we can not allow for regulation upon the bodies of women. It sounds incredibly sexist, but to anyone who thinks that SOME FORM of life has begun inside of the womb at conception, the entire moral and legal situation has changed. It sounds much more PC and equal rights to make blanket laws for both male and female - but it is undeniable that there is a fundamental, natural difference. It also seems that this difference gives the women some form of responsibility in that she has been blessed/cursed with the UNIQUE make-up to sustain the earliest form of human life. As we are sure to protect life in its other forms, I think we must address the gender issue in some form.

Also - if you are going to make the "fetus is not self-sustaining in any way" argument, then are you comfortable with extrapolating that to other circumstances? - In other words, can you say with Peter Singer that it should be legal to kill babies up to the age of three or something, and that the mentally or physically handicapped should be done away with because they are not self-sustaining? Cause if so, then I applaud you for your integrity, and simultaneously disregard you for your obvious lack of respect for human life - self-sustaining or not.

Lastly - if you are going to rip Christians for appealing to irrelevant sources such as the Bible and an undefined God - because they contribute NOTHING to the discussion - which, I happen to agree with - shouldn't you lay off the ad hominem accusations about the past abuse of Christians (such as the Crusades...)? That also seems to be completely irrelevant to the discussion, and a fall-back to mere pejorative language.

11:15 PM

 
Blogger Soledad said...

I was born with a hangar in my ear.

7:44 AM

 
Blogger Soledad said...

Provocative

7:46 AM

 
Blogger Daniel Salas said...

I enjoyed your blog a lot. I am also interested in language since I am a Ph.D. Candidate in Spanish Literature, with emphasis on pre-modern literature. I would like to ask if you have an opinion on John McWhorters' book "Doing Our Own Thing. The Degradation of Language and Music and Why We Should Like Care".

10:04 AM

 
Blogger Paul said...

An foetus is a living human being. The fact that it is not self-sustaining has nothing to do with it. No where can I find that in the definition of what a human is. If you are going to go down that road it is a slippery path. What about older people who no longer have the ability to care for themselves? They are not self-sustaining are the human? What about the sick? People on welfare have the ability to be self-sustaining but for whatever unfortunate circumstance they are not, the government provides for their needs. I know that you deny what nature reveals to us, but no human is self-sustaining. We cannot provide ourselves with the things that we need. You have no control over whether or not there is air to breathe. I say God is, but even an honest humanist would have to say some other force is in control of the air I breathe.
Are unborn babies self-sustaining? No. And that should make it even more heinous to think of killing it.

Paul

11:12 AM

 
Blogger Gilly said...

Neato! I love abortions! And I love blogs! It's so neat to see so many people who share my same interests! One time I went to Australia and in the outback there are abortions all over the place! I couldn't beleive it! I mean, I've seen them on tv and in movies and stuff but never in really real life!
They smell really bad, though. They can't help it, it's just the way they are! Australia is neat!

11:13 AM

 
Blogger Lil said...

a) in a world where people are afraid to confront issues like this head-on, [applause] for introducing it, meeting it, and responding to it [abortion issue].

b) when are you going to write something about God, Creationismn and this new term... I.D. ? I'd be quite interested to read your thoughts on this subject.

1:38 PM

 
Anonymous left and right said...

Any law you make is about imposing the beliefs of some on others. This isn't about taking rights away from people, our country does that all the time, and usually we are grateful for it. We take rights away from those who do drugs, who drink and drive, who go 50 in a 25. The question is, is this a right women should have? I feel it is not. Any intelligent human will know that having sex may get the woman pregnent. The choice to have a baby or to not to have a baby should be made at the time of sex not later. Condoms are much easier and cheaper than abortions, and not nearly so controversial. If everyone used them when they were not intending to have a baby, this would be a non issue. So support your local condom maker, and go buy a box. And lets not pretend that this is something strictly between a woman and her doctor. People obviously care about the issue, (just look at the responces on this blog) and in our democratic society, the fact that they care is enough, regardless of their reasonings, or religion.

5:23 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

left and right, each of your examples constitute cases where the vast majority of people support the law and the law discriminates against no specific group. Ergo, they are irrelevant to the abortion debate.

7:22 AM

 
Blogger Caleb Booker said...

I don't understand this need to divide into two camps. I'm neither pro-life nor pro-choice. I have no idea how I feel about the issue... although I can't imagine personally using abortion as a form of contraception.

Regardless... I find it objectionable that people feel there should be laws forcing everybody into one camp or another. The FACT is that people are going to do WHATEVER THEY WANT, regardless of the law.

So feel anyway you want about it, argue any argument you think makes your braincells feel good. Just don't try to make ME live with YOUR conclusions... because frankly, it's impossible to make your decision more than a minor inconvenience to me anyhow.

8:22 AM

 
Blogger conspirisi said...

where can i ask you language questions?

11:39 AM

 
Blogger WhiteLightning said...

Yo language guy - seeing as how you got a B.A. in philosophy, and then all those amazing degrees beyond that, I'm almost positive you've taken logic before. And it interests me that you keep making arguments based on numbers - or the fallacy of argumentum ad populum. I realize that the argument does make sense in the setting of a democratic society in which the majority has say in the laws of the land - but it does not help whatsoever in the debate over whether abortion is right or wrong. And at some point - doesn't that have to be the basis of this debate?

For instance, if there was a crazy revival and the majority of people in this country became Christians all of a sudden - would you change positions? Would you say that you were frustrated because a minority kept trying to push their a-morality upon everyone else and force them to live by their low standards? I bet not. If you are - I again applaud you for your integrity. But I would then ask why we are having this debate - if majority decides what is right, we're all screwed. We both know from history the myriad of mistakes the majority has made (Crusades, Holocaust) - even in America (slavery). Let's cut out the majority/minority debate if we're going to talk about what SHOULD be, and get down to moral basics.

And let's get into gender roles, too.

11:49 AM

 
Blogger FARfetched said...

Hey Whitelightning, let's do talk about right & wrong for a moment.

Is it right or wrong that all the burden of carrying a baby and raising a child be put on the mother?

Is it right or wrong that 20% of US citizens can't afford healthcare, including pre-natal and post-natal care?

Is it right or wrong to force a baby to be carried to term, then absolve yourself of all further responsibility?

The fact is, by providing education and pre-natal care for anyone who needs it, you can erase much of the need (perceived or otherwise) for abortion. Is it right or wrong to oppose initiatives that can reduce abortion?

1:42 PM

 
Blogger Crowley S. said...

In a just society the right of the individual must always come before the wishes of the masses. This is why a woman must be allowed the right to abortion if she so wishes. The foetus is not a self-aware individual; in fact it is really not an individual at all, so the mothers' wishes must always be looked to first. As for those that argue that foetuses should be protected from abortion just like children are from infanticide... the difference is that in order for the state to protect children they don't have to impose their will on the physical body of the mother. You have a right to do whatever you will with your body; you can even kill yourself if you wish, so why should you be prevented from removing what is essentially a dependant growth from your abdomen?

8:16 PM

 
Blogger AndyT13 said...

It's wonderful to see such brilliant thinking and writing still exists. Whatever your position on these various hot-button topics it's refreshing to see someone thinking clearly and calmly about the linguistics involved in the debate. For example foetus vs. child. The same thing by different names; it's a lot easier to kill a foetus than a child. You want to save the wetlands but who wants to save a swamp? Bravo Mr. Geis.
One small aside: you should probably disallow anonymous comments and add the word verification to weed out spam and such.

11:28 AM

 
Blogger Kelly said...

I just wrote an extremely in-depth (and hopefully unbiased) discussion of the abortion debate on my blog, from the perspective of argument theory. Check it out if you get the time, and please criticize it.

5:34 PM

 
Blogger Tracy Lynn said...

I also found this blog by the Blogs Of Note link, and am very glad I did. As someone who is fascinated by language and it's uses and misuses in today's society, it is refreshing to read such precise and well reasoned arguments. Keep it up, Language Guy! I will look forward to your future postings.

6:20 PM

 
Blogger Richpoo said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:21 AM

 
Blogger Does not play well with others said...

I know I'm a little late in commenting on this post, but thank you! So often people don't realize that any brand of extremism, even their own, is toxic.

3:29 PM

 
Blogger Wisemantown United Methodist Church said...

enjoyable post! One of the problems we run into when discussing this issue is the lack of respect of each persons situatedness in life. The key to arguing this issue is humility (I hope I don't have to explain what I mean by this). When considering the views of John doe Muslim or Billy Joe atheist or suzie Q republican, I must remember that I can't expect anyone to come to the same conclusions I do. If I am a follower of Jesus Christ, this means that my character and worldview should, as is possible, reflect the that of Christ. The fact that certain conviction concerning Jesus Christ shape the way I see things in no way predetermines how someone else will see the "same" things. We must always remember that the situatedness of folks must always be respected. Even that of the Christian Fundamentalist. The Christian Fundamentalist is a major example of why a blog like this one is needed in the first place. This is nowhere near a black and white issue. If the Christian Fundamentalist sense that there is something precious concerning life, then we should commend that. What we should not commend is the sloppiness of argument in light of that conviction.

Chinese Proverb: ninety-percent of what you see is behind your eyes.

4:18 PM

 
Blogger IbaDaiRon said...

Re previous comment:

I don't suppose we could get the original Chinese or a citation on that proverb? It strikes me as about as suss as "May you live in interesting times," which is an American fabrication.

(Nice piece, Mike.)

5:07 PM

 
Blogger tramadol said...

This is a great site and i would highly recommend link in Buy Tramadol - all information about tramadol and ultram blog. Thanks!

6:14 PM

 
Blogger Jacolien said...

i think abortion is wrong because it's just like murder. you are not allowing God's creation to live. If it was my decision i would put an end to abortion just like someone put an end to murder

jacolien
grade 8

4:29 PM

 
Blogger Jennifer said...

I think that abortion is wrong because you are killing something that you dont even know about yet. Evcept you just want to get rid of it. And I think that a baby is the best thing that could happen to a family or couple. So if you are abortioning a baby then you are really murdering a human being.

4:41 PM

 
Blogger jaylene said...

i think abortion is wrong because it is like killing someone.Also someone God has created it. there are other things you can do like adoption or other things.

4:46 PM

 
Blogger Language Guy said...

We do not allow religion based arguments on this site. If you can't come up with a better argument you need to think harder about the position you are defending.

7:35 AM

 
Blogger articlecollect said...

Abortion. Complications and consequences - article

12:37 PM

 
Blogger karlawak4 said...

I appreciate all of this dialogue about "when the unborn fetus" is a "person." However, I can't help but ask, "Where is the concern for the young woman or girl (that we know is a person) and her life, whether she aborts OR gives birth?"
This comes from a 48 year old Descendant of American Slaves (DAS) who has aborted two children, both fathered by the same man.
One, as an eighteen year old college student, when my mother made the decision for us. The other at age 24, because this same "college sweetheart", after a seven year, admittedly, rocky relationship, did not want to get married "just" because I was pregnant.
After I moved across the country and he got locked up for a insider trading a couple of years later, he wrote me letter from jail telling me that "a part of him vanished when I aborted our baby." I was stunned.
The abortion issue must be resolved by sane, thoughtful adults.

We both regret decisions we made 20 plus years ago, especially since neither of us have children and we'd make great parents now!
I was "programmed" NOT to be an unwed mother after seeing the reaction my parents had when my sister got pregnant at sixteen; I guess he was "programmed" not to get married "just because a woman is pregnant." No "shot-gun" weddings for him?
Anyway...Today, I just know, we all thank God for my 32 year old nephew who was born of a 16 year old, unwed mother who was blessed with family that supported her and her child. My abortions have left me childless, single and wondering.

Am I pro or anti abortion? After a lot of thought, I would like to see an age limit for receiving legal abortions. An age restriction. Like women 21 and older cannot receive an abortion without written consent of the father, unless life-threatening circumstances exist. Before getting an abortion, when the father is known, he should be required to sign documents of consent.

After age 21, both the mother and father MUST take FINANCIAL responsibility, at least, for the actions that they KNOW bring children into the world.
Use birth control, but ABORTION will NOT be an option.

AFTER 21, THERE SHOULD BE NO CHOICE!

8:48 PM

 
Blogger Viraldi said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

6:43 PM

 

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