Dec 02 2011

Episode 95: “180″

The Doubtcasters take a look at Ray Comfort’s film “180″ that equates a woman’s right to choose with the atrocities of the Holocaust.  In God Thinks Like You, Dr. Prof. Luke discusses a new study that finds people view atheists as being as untrustworthy as rapists.  The Aztec god Huitzilopochtli will rip your heart out in PolyAtheism. Plus, Obama doesn’t acknowledge God in his Thanksgiving address, the Catholic Church goes old school and we answer listener questions about how to deal with the ridiculous and how to find comfort in atheism.

Listen Here:

Audio clip: Adobe Flash Player (version 9 or above) is required to play this audio clip. Download the latest version here. You also need to have JavaScript enabled in your browser.

Download RD95

Or subscribe and listen in iTunes or any podcast client:


Apple computers: itunes 1click subscribe

Windows: iTunes 1-click subscribe


1 ping

Skip to comment form

  1. 1

    Anyone else having trouble fetching this episode off the feed?

  2. 2
    Chris Jones

    I can’t download it either. Using a podcast player on Android.

  3. 3
    Kevin Hicks

    I can’t get it, either. My podcast aggregator on my phone can’t get it, and I get a “file not found” error in Chrome on my PC.

  4. 4

    ime having trubill az well

  5. 5

    The RSS feed is b0rken. It redirects to http://www.rd95_180.mp3 , which is clearly wrong.

  6. 6
    Fergus Gallagher

    The direct link (above) to the MP3 works, though.

  7. 7

    iTunes doesn’t show Episode 95 yet, either.

    I’ll go and pray that somebody will solve the problem…

  8. 8

    Same problem here using google reader.

  9. 9

    I want my Reasonable Doubts!! Relieved I’m not alone that can’t download it.

  10. 10

    The direct link on this post works, Jyeffe.

    Dear reasonable doubters, I know it’s not in your plans to keep hammering about determinism, but it seems you have a serious adversary within the skeptical community itself: What do you think about Massimo’s take?

  11. 11

    Sorry people. It was a sill feed writing error on my part. Everything should be working fine now.

  12. 12
    Dee Brown

    Just listened to this (12/04) and I have to say I agree with the owner of Gelato Mio. I can’t stand those people who do the mock sermons thinking they’re funny. It’s just hateful. I’ve quit more than one atheist organization because of this kind of behavior. The argument I get is that people have a right to mock and ridicule other people (they say it’s not the people but their beliefs–that’s crap, because if you mock what people believe in you mock the people) when the audience is only members of their own group. I disagree. Hateful is hateful. Acts like Singleton’s are hateful. Andy understandably took offense. I would have been offended as well, not because I’m a theist (I’m not) but because some of the best people I know are theists, and I don’t like to see them mocked.

  13. 13

    if you mock what people believe in you mock the people

    In that case, I’m fully in favor of mocking people. If you believe something stupid, you don’t get to blame me when I mock it.

    Hateful is hateful.

    Stupid is stupid.

    Incidentally, I believe that the moon is made of green cheese, that Elvis was a shapeshifting reptile and that burritos are the cause of global warming. If you say I’m wrong, you’re being hateful.

  14. 14

    Best way to avoid being mocked for stupid beliefs is to not have stupid beliefs.

  15. 15
    Justin Schieber

    Wether Sam Singleton was mocking or not is not the issue. The shop owner’s right to be offended is not what was at issue here either. It was his reaction in the form of a temporary sign that turned his shop that was apparently ‘open to the public’ into a shop that was ‘open to the public minus those who are attending Skepticon’.

    If I attended a church that was preaching hellfire for all non believers, that does not give me the right to ban the attendees of that church from my public business.

  16. 16

    In the episode you make a passing mention of a bible passage from the book of Numbers that has a connection to the issue of abortion: something about a woman drinking something to induce a miscarriage if she suspects her husband of infidelity. Does anyone know exactly where this passage is found?

  17. 17

    Found it! Numbers 5:11-31, from a pretty detailed discussion here:


  18. 18

    The abortion issue comes down to one question: What is the unborn? If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination. I noticed that no where in this episode did any one identify at what point it is okay and not okay for abortion. Also… if you’ve seen the stats on abortion, somewhere around 96% of abortions are because of inconvenience and something like 1% are because of rape or some other more controversial issue.

  19. 19

    Seth; Please provide references if you are going to make statements like that. http://www.prochoice.org/about_abortion/facts/women_who.html
    Or at least definitions. By “inconvenience”, are you saying that it is inconvenient to bring a child into the world that you can’t afford to feed?

  20. 20

    jwolforth…. here is one source for some stats:


    Not sure what you were referring to with “statements like that”… but the biggest concern for me is the question, “What is the unborn?” The stats are secondary to that.

  21. 21
    Justin Schieber


    thanks for your comment. It was not the aim of this segment to give my view on the abortion debate, rather it was to show how an oversimplification of a complex moral issue like abortion can lead to incredibly insulting statements like those of Ray Comfort in his very popular video as well as cause unnecessary harm.

    Thanks for listening,

  22. 22

    Yo Justin!!! Yes.. you caught me… I was slightly off topic to the episode and I apologize for the issues with Ray Comforts 180 video. For better videos on the prolife view check out http://www.prolifetraining.com/video.asp

  23. 23
    Lausten North

    Yeah Seth, that link was contained within the link I sent you. How you get “96% of abortions are because of inconvenience” out of that I really don’t know. Having the Post Office be closed on Veteran’s Day is an inconvenience. Raising a child you can not afford as a single mother is a major life decision. Comfort plays this same kind of word game, calling it baby killing when talking about a mass of cells with no nervous system.

  24. 24

    While I wonder why there is even a debate about what private citizens should be able to do with their own bodies, I agree with the crazy Christian that thinks the moral questions posed by asking what one would do with a gun to her head is relevant to the abortion debate.

    I think having an unwanted pregnancy is analogous to the moral decision of being forced to choose one life over another. The choice could be the stability and very modest comfort of one’s two existing children over the disruption and further deprivation the unknown child would cause them. Or, the choice could be yourself (Your career. Your comfort. Your happiness.) over the unknown child. “Choose Life?” Whose? Your own? Your child’s? Your unknown child’s? The life (not your own) of the person that would be forced to care for the unknown child? The life of the man forced to be a father to the child he never wanted? The life of the unknown child that could grow up to cure cancer? The life of the unknown child that could also grow up to be the next Ted Bundy?

    An unwanted pregnancy can be like being forced to choose one life (or more lives) over another’s by having a gun to one’s head. But, probably more likely to happen than a gun to the head. The choice is not easy for most women. (Nor should the option to make that choice be legislated by men.)

  25. 25

    Hi Lausten!

    Do you agree with my statement that “If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination”? If so, then at what point do you consider the unborn a human being? If not, then which part of my statement is an issue for you?

  26. 26
    Justin Schieber

    Seth, i am curious as to what exactly do you mean by human being?

  27. 27

    Your question, Seth:

    If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination.

    Why not a 3rd choice? I think both sides would probably agree (with some vigorous arm twisting) that the answer is actually neither: a developing (insert your preferred term for unborn here) is kind of a special case, you might describe it as a “developing human being” or “on its way toward becoming a human being”.

    To me this means that we then have to use our best science, reason, common sense, and argument to make a case for what our laws/policies ought to be on the issue.

    But I don’t think I’m overstating it to say that most (religious) opponents of abortion believe that a fetus is granted an eternal soul by God at the moment of conception, which then makes all discussion/compromise/reason unnecessary and undesirable, full stop.

    So right out of the gate, this is nearly an unwinnable battle for both sides, unless one side can convince the other of their religious beliefs, or the other side can persuade the other to allow themselves to be swayed from their convictions by rational argument.

  28. 28

    “Do you agree… “If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination”?”

    No, I do not agree.

    First, as pointed out above, you create a false dichotomy between “human” and “not human”, while excluding the highly relevant class of “becoming but not yet human.” In Jewish law, for example (with a few exceptions among Orthodox rabbis) the fetus is “becoming human” but not ‘human’ up until a certain defined portion of it is actually outside the mother’s body during birth.

    Second, you remove your hypothetical ‘human’ fetus from its environment – the mother’s body which is being used to support that fetus. The mother is in fact human, no question. She is not “not human,” and she is not “becoming human.” Her human bodily autonomy is a moral issue, too.

    You nor I are legally required to donate a kidney, or part of a liver, even if we are the only good tissue match and that donation is necessary to keeping another human alive – our perfectly-legal and ethical decision to not donate is in fact a decision to allow another person to die. Our legal right to personal bodily autonomy over-rides that other person’s right to stay alive. What exactly is different in the legal calculus for a pregnant woman and the fetus she carries?

  29. 29

    @Seth; I’ve told you twice that I take issue with your idea of “inconvenience”. People are not human until they are about 24 years old. Up until then they should be shot for bad haircuts, not taking out the garbage and showing their underwear in public.

  30. 30

    Most abortions occur in the embryonic stage of pregnancy. The embryo is a nonsentient being at this point. It can’t think. It can’t feel. Keep in mind that most women who have abortions are poor and have existing children. The mother and any children she already has are sentient beings, so their needs should take precedence over the embryo.

    Most late term abortions occur because there is either a risk to the mother’s life or a serious deformity with the fetus. In this case, the mother and her doctor need to decide the best course of action, not prolife busybodies who don’t give a damn about kids after they are actually born.

    If women were having a lot of abortions in the fetal stage of pregnancy, abortion would present serious ethical problem. But this simply isn’t happening.

    If the religious really cared about the unborn, they would be more than happy to provide sex education and easy access to birth control to help prevent the need for abortion in general. But the religious are actually responsible for many unwanted pregnancy by opposing sex education beyond abstinence, promoting misinformation about birth control and making access to it more difficult. The religious are helping to create the very “holocaust” they are railing against.

  31. 31


    Justin… When I say human being I am essentially saying:
    1) Someone we consider to be a part of our species group
    2) a person that we would ascribe whatever rights we give to each other in our group and thus treat each other as we would want to be treated.

    Brad… You are probably right in regards to your last couple paragraphs

    Lee & Brad… I see that you don’t like my false dichotomy, which means that you guys think of early stage unborn as not quite human

    And Lausten’s view would wipe out the human race : )

  32. 32

    When I say human being I am essentially saying:
    1) Someone we consider to be a part of our species group
    2) a person that we would ascribe whatever rights we give to each other in our group and thus treat each other as we would want to be treated.

    Brad… You are probably right in regards to your last couple paragraphs

    Lee & Brad… I see that you don’t like my false dichotomy, which means that you guys think of early stage unborn as not quite human

    Glad you’re admitting its a false dichotomy :) I actually haven’t revealed my own position on the matter, as I’m not actually settled about this in my own mind. At the very least, though, I think its probably more nuanced than your simple statement tries to make it.

    And since your definition of “human” is exactly the point of contention (whether the unborn should have “whatever rights we give to each other in our group”), I would contend that your definition is (at the very least) not a very useful one for the purpose of debate.

    Although it sounds like it may have been a useful definition for the purpose of rhetorical game-playing :)

  33. 33

    Hi Brad..

    Actually my definition can still be used to answer my statement:

    “If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination.”

    Even if you create the third option of the not quite but almost human category, you can say yes or no to my statement above. And that at least helps clarify to move forward in the discussion. Then we can talk about the validity of the third option as well as when is the unborn considered human.

  34. 34

    The fetus was not legally a human in this country being prior to Roe v. Wade, despite the recent myriad of well publicized statements to the contrary. No jurisdiction in the US regularly prosecuted either the obtainers or providers of abortions for murder or manslaughter or for aiding and abetting those crimes.

    Thus the “third option”, abortion was deemed a crime because the situation resulted from sex, and sex was only for procreation when practiced by “the right” people. Or at least, “the right” women. As were Fornication, miscegenation and contraception.

    Demanding that the unborn be legally considered persons in this country is not a “conservative” position. It is not even a reactionary position. Which of the serious current “pro-life” presidential candidates is advocating murder charges for women who obtain an abortion?

  35. 35

    If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination.

    Ok, after further consideration I find that I disagree with both halves of this statement.

    Its possible (hypothetically) for an unborn to not be considered a full human being, and still have society decide to grant it some measure of protection.

    On the other hand, believing an unborn is a full human being doesn’t entirely answer the question either. Judith Jarvis Thompson wrote a famous paper in 1971 that proposed the following thought experiment (from the Wikipedia article):

    Imagine a famous violinist falling into a coma. The society of music lovers determines from medical records that you and you alone can save the violinist’s life by being hooked up to him for nine months. The music lovers break into your home while you are asleep and hook the unconscious (and unknowing, hence innocent) violinist to you. You may want to unhook him, but you are then faced with this argument put forward by the music lovers: The violinist is an innocent person with a right to life. Unhooking him will result in his death. Therefore, unhooking him is morally wrong.

    In this scenario, the moral obligation to keep this fully human, innocent life alive are pretty obviously overshadowed by your own right to your own life, and to not be forced to remain attached to him for his nine month recovery.

    The parallels to pregnancy are obvious, and I’m not claiming that this thought experiment actually answers all of the complicated questions, just that it is a legitimate argument against your proposal of “if the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination”.

  36. 36

    Hi Brad..

    One issue I have with that parallel is that the unborn was not smuggled in and “hooked up” to someone (other than rape). Also, who is the parallel for “the society of music lovers”? I am cool with that parallel as far as health endangerment to the mother. I think at that point you do have a legitimate dilemma on your hands. So I still maintain that if the unborn is a human being, no justification is adequate for termination. I will set rape aside at this moment from being included in that statement. And I am also setting aside the idea of the “almost but not yet human”. I guess a follow up question to this could be, “knowing the action involved to make a baby, and engaging in that action knowing what could happen, (assuming the unborn is a human being) is it okay to terminate the unborn once pregnant?” Let’s exclude rape, health endangerment, and the “almost but not quite human” at this moment. Is there any other reason it would be okay to terminate the unborn’s life?

  37. 37

    Here is a response to the violinist argument:


  38. 38
    Todd W.

    I think the best way to approach this issue is to first determine what it is about humans that makes us morally different from non-human life. Most of us agree that it is morally acceptable to kill plants and non-human animals, and unacceptable to kill humans. Absent a belief in a “divine spark” or other such superstition in the case of humans, what is the moral difference which makes it acceptable to kill other life forms but not humans?

    I don’t think it’s terribly controversial to say that an embryo in its early stages is much more like a collection of bacteria or a sea sponge than a human being. I’m not sure what sort of consistent, naturalistic argument could hold that it is acceptable to kill bacteria or a sea sponge but not acceptable to kill an embryo in its earliest stages.

    But what is that quality which makes us morally different creatures, and at what point in our development does that change occur? I don’t pretend to have that answer, and it may not exist at all. The gradual nature of biological development may not provide for the possibility of a ‘line in the sand’ moment at which we become a morally distinct human being. I am very interested in hearing different theories as to how we might answer these questions with at least some degree of consistency, but I do not have enough knowledge of biology to present one myself.

    Until we can answer these questions, I think it’s best that we acknowledge that this is a complex issue and leave these difficult decisions up to those who have to live with the consequences.

  39. 39

    Let’s exclude rape, health endangerment, and the “almost but not quite human” at this moment.

    You can’t just exclude all the factors that make this a difficult moral question in your quest to try and get a simple answer!

    In fact, the rape and “life/health of the mother” exceptions actually lay waste to your primary thesis: that the “right to life” of the unborn always trumps the right of the mother to choose what happens to her own body. In fact, I think this is the primary purpose of the violinist story: not necessarily to be a perfect analogy to pregnancy/abortion.

    The truth is that every pregnancy is a health risk to the mother (to a small but not-insignificant degree), so even outside the oft-discussed “exceptions”, this isn’t really a subject that I’m willing to allow you to break down into simple sound bytes.

    And since I’m outside the demographic who will ever have to personally wrestle with this issue (being male), I think I’m going to exit the discussion at this point. We’ve certainly ranged far beyond the information discussed in the podcast, who’s discussion thread we have hijacked.

  40. 40

    Hi Brad…

    I’m not trying to get a simple answer. I am trying to isolate all the issues and drill in on one issue at a time.

    Never in this thread has my thesis been that “the “right to life” of the unborn always trumps the right of the mother to choose what happens to her own body”. In fact I would not hold to that view because for me a baby endangering the life of the mother would be a satisfying reason to terminate. Especially if the mother was caring for other children.

    Like I said in my initial post, it all comes down to one question: What is the unborn? Maybe that is too simple for everyone, but once that question is answered, then it helps to answer all of the other questions and scenarios.(assuming you value human life)

    Last thought… I think another important discussion in this debate is why would we value or what value does human life have? This is where I think the world views come in and thus, why theists push for an early recognition of life and non-theists don’t. Honestly, If I wasn’t a theist and held to a naturalistic world view, I would not push as hard against aborting the early stage fetus. I would say “do what you want”. Unless it had some negative effect on society and ultimately me.

  41. 41

    “why theists push for an early recognition of life and non-theists don’t.”

    This is a ridiculous generalization. There are plenty of “prochoice” theists and “prolife” atheists. The question is about the rights of mothers versus the rights of embryos. Some people side with the mother at this stage, some with the embryo. You have two sets of conflicting rights. It really comes down to whose rights should get precedence. About half of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, so nature (or God for believers) seems to have no problem with the mass killing of embryos. The number of embryos killed in abortions are just a small fraction of those killed by nature (God).

  42. 42

    Hi GC,

    You might be right. My statement could be too much of a generalization. I guess I’m making that comment off of what I see in the media. When ever legislation is trying to get passed for recognizing an embryo or conception being a human, it always seems to be a Christian group.

    I have trouble saying that it is just the rights of the embryo vs the mothers… Mostly because of the way that the embryo gets there. The mother and father engage in an action that invites the embryo into the mother’s womb.

    Your comments about miscarriages are irrelevant to abortion.

  43. 43

    The mother and father engage in an action that invites the embryo into the mother’s womb.

    Well, no, actually, you don’t start with a ‘mother and father’, you start with a man and a woman who are having sex for fun because there’s a lot of pleasure involved. They might be trying to start an embryo, but most of the time they are not.

    In fact, more than half the time, if it is available, they are using birth control specifically because they do not want to ‘invite’ an embryo and are putting up every barrier possible to keep one from being created. Your framing is the same lame old religious ‘women should only have sex for procreation and therefore sex should be punished with pregnancy’. I hope you have some grasp of how horrifically tragic this attitude is for the resultant children, who deserve at a minimum to be wanted, and whose lives are permanently distorted when they are considered a ‘consequence’ or a ‘burden’ or a ‘curse’.

    Your comments about miscarriages are irrelevant to abortion.

    Why is miscarriage irrelevant? Doesn’t the embryo lost to miscarriage have the same value as the one aborted? Statistically 15% of the embryo/fetuses which are aborted would have eventually miscarried and so were doomed anyway. In addition, research indicates that approximately 50% of conceptions are lost before implantation or before the pregnancy is ever confirmed. If you’re going to talk about ‘the value of human life’ one of the things you have to explain is why reproduction as designed fails far more often than it succeeds and in fact may have as high as an 85% failure rate.

    As to ‘valuing life’, considering the absolutely horrendous statistics on infant and child mortality, child neglect, abuse and murder, the difficulty in persuading people to provide foster homes, our history of tolerating massive civilian casualties in war, and inattention to circumstances known to create famine and epidemic, it is obvious the majority of humans don’t particularly value human life and aren’t willing to personally go very far out of their way to preserve life in the abstract. Although, of course, they can be enthusiastic about forcing other people to preserve life.

    Seems to me that you need to back up a step and explicate the real starting point: What is the woman? Is she a ‘human being’ with a right to life? Or do you think the only purpose for women to exist is so that men have a uterus and support systems available free that they can use in reproducing themselves?

    If that’s your view, then you’re right, women are only for producing sons, so abortion would always be wrong. After all, breeding stock doesn’t get to have an opinion, and that seems to be your sticking point, all those women having the audacity to believe that they are equal in importance to anyone else and entitled to make their own decisions.

  44. 44
    some Matt or other

    Seth, #18:
    “If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification is needed for termination. If the unborn is a human being, then no justification is adequate for termination.”

    Seth, #40:
    “for me a baby endangering the life of the mother would be a satisfying reason to terminate.”

    Dude. Figure out what you actually think about this before you start declaring things. I would also criticize your “put aside these factors” bit, but Brad beat me to it in #39.

    You’re right that the central question of “What is a fetus?” isn’t irrelevant. And I think most or all of the folks you’re arguing against do disagree with you on the answer. But it’s not the only key factor, the whole thing is messy, and (much like atheism itself) being pro-choice doesn’t mean having firm answers.

    For myself, I look at a blastocyst and see, yes, a living thing with human DNA, but as it has no brain or even nervous system, there’s no person there to protect. Aborting it has the same moral value as choosing not to have sex. Both acts snuff out a future person, but since the person never existed in the first place, no actual harm is done. The more developed the nervous system becomes, the more uncomfortable I am with abortion, but I can’t draw a firm line where “thought” begins, and besides which, the rights of the mother (a full person) to control her own body are also in play. The current overall situation in the US, where abortions are generally available all the way through but less readily offered the older the fetus is, I think is a workable reflection of the moral grey areas involved.

    To anyone who thinks that the humanity of an undifferentiated cell-clump grants it the rights of personhood, I ask: If scientists were able to create a human zygote that lacked the capacity to grow, only to survive indefinitely in a nutrient bath, would it be worth protecting? If so, then the only reason I can imagine would be because you believe it has a soul, which would be legislating religion. And if not, then you admit that we’re only talking about potential personhood here, and then, well, see my previous paragraph.

  45. 45

    Never have understood why the possession of a soul makes such a big difference, particularly to those who believe ‘our earthly existence is only a brief moment compared to all eternity’. If the whole point is getting to heaven, eliminating embryos at the ‘innocent unborn’ stage would surely get them to their eventual destination sinfree more quickly.

  46. 46
    Andrew Ryan

    Seth: “Here is a response to the violinist argument:

    I don’t agree with that response.

    “Yet wouldn’t Susan Smith be exonerated by Thompson’s and McDonagh’s logic? These children were kidnappers and interlopers, trespassing on Smith’s life, depriving her of liberty. Why not kill them? Those boys were attacking her. It was self-defense.”

    Gregory Kouki is here arguing that children living in a house with you that you chose to conceive and bring up are ‘kidnappers and interlopers’ in the same way as a foetus forced on you through rape.

    This is nonsense. He seems to have missed the whole point of the analogy. You can walk away from your children, you can’t walk away from a foetus – that’s why it’s like being attached to the violinist. If he doesn’t get that then his response to the argument is worthless.

  47. 47

    1) Just because they are trying not to have a baby doesn’t mean they don’t know what they are gambling with. That’s why they use contraception. They know the potential of their actions. So in fact they invite the human in.

    2) What nature does is irrelevant. We are talking about the moral actions of humans. Just because nature kills humans doesn’t mean I can.

    3) About the valuing life comments: You can’t kill a human life just because “infant and child mortality, child neglect, abuse and murder, the difficulty in persuading people to provide foster homes, our history of tolerating massive civilian casualties in war, and inattention to circumstances known to create famine and epidemic.” If so, we should kill all humans : )

  48. 48

    Matt, here is an argument using science that the early fetus is a human… let me know if you think it is convincing:


  49. 49
    some Matt or other

    Thank you for responding. That article only establishes that a fetus is, as I put it earlier, a living thing with human DNA. It never addresses the issue of why humans are worthy of protection, i.e., what constitutes personhood. It’s not our DNA, it’s our minds that make all the difference. We don’t value, say, bacteria as entities worthy of protection unto themselves because as far as we know they don’t perceive or think. Likewise, an embryo lacking a brain and therefore a mind is decidedly not a person. By the time a baby is born, the brain has started up, and the process of consciousness is off and running (primitive though it may be at that point). I can’t say exactly when the fetus began perceiving things, but to anyone who uses that vagueness to move the incidence of personhood up to conception, I would respond with the same argument that the article-writer ends with: It’s “the fallacy of the beard: Just because I cannot say when stubble ends and a beard begins, does not mean I cannot distinguish between a clean-shaven face and a bearded one.”

    I ask again: If scientists were able to create a human zygote that lacked the capacity to grow, only to survive indefinitely in a nutrient bath, would it be worth protecting?

  50. 50

    Hi Matt,

    I like your last question because it tries to get to the answer of what is the early fetus and why protect it. One question I have is, “would you consider a person (any age will do) with no brain function that is only able to be alive by being hooked up to a machine, equivalent to the non-growing human zygote”?

    Another comment about your question is that I think by taking away the growth part it does possibly change the circumstances… meaning I don’t know that I can say that is apples for apples.

    Matt… do you value human life? Do you feel that you should treat others the way you want to be treated? If so, why not lean on the side of not killing the fetus. Especially, if there is any uncertainty as to what it is.

  51. 51
    some Matt or other

    I’ll answer your questions, but I would really appreciate it if you answered mine. You don’t get off the hook by just saying my thought-experiment is “possibly” not “apples for apples” without explaining why growth-inhibition changes the morality of the situation. I think it’s an entirely moral-neutral factor and thus a perfect means to isolate the actual moral question.

    Answers to your questions, in order:

    1) Yes, and in fact I’m in favor of euthanasia in the case of irreparable brain-death. I don’t have a living will, but I know I ought to, as I certainly wouldn’t want what is effectively my corpse to be kept alive in a vegetative state. It would be nothing but a waste of resources and an emotional drain on the people who care about me.

    2) Yes, but in the sense of valuing people. The value of a meat-machine is in its ability to produce a person via the brain. Without the person, the “life” is just meat. By the same token, if we ever encounter Star-Trek-style aliens, their lack of human DNA should be no barrier to our recognition of their personhood.

    3) Absolutely. Empathy is the basis of all true morality.

    4) Because fetuses aren’t just floating around somewhere, their existence impacting no one. In order to come to term, a fetus must spend time as part of a woman’s body, a woman who is undeniably a full person with interests and rights of her own. Again, I value people, not DNA. If fetuses were essentially tiny, functional adults, I think the issue would be much different (I’ve never been a fan of the violinist argument). But as it is, the rights of a barely-formed, parasitic quasi-person don’t stack up very high compared to the rights of the woman whose body it’s a part of.

    For what it’s worth, I don’t know how the moral equation would change if scientists invented an incubator that could bring a “test-tube baby” to term. Would a machine-supported fetus become morally equivalent to a newborn earlier because no one else’s body is involved? I’m certainly in favor of stem-cell research, since it occurs in the pre-brain stage when there’s no basis for personhood. But I don’t know how far into the gestational process I would be comfortable with that going, if the technology allowed it. That doesn’t mean, however, that I should just “lean on the side of not killing the fetus” across the board. It’s still definitely not a person in the early stages; I refer again to the fallacy of the beard.

  52. 52

    Hi Matt,

    In answer to your question I would say no. Just like the person who is brain dead with no hope and hooked to the machine, I would not argue to keep the person alive.

    One question I am wondering as I read some of your thoughts and reasoning is, “why does the stage of human development matter when it comes to killing a human?” If we were talking about stage of development anywhere outside the womb you would never say it is ok to kill that human because they are less developed then another. Why is it okay to work your way back to the fetus and say that this stage of development is ok to terminate?

  53. 53
    some Matt or other

    I don’t understand how I haven’t already answered that question. Stages of development matter because not all of them include having a brain, and without a brain, there is most certainly not a person. If the brain didn’t start developing until, say, a year after birth, then I would consider newborns to be non-persons as well.

    I’m glad you answered “no” to my question and also agree with my stance on euthanasia for the irreparably vegetative. If you understand those fundamentals, I think the rest of the logic should become clear sooner or later.

  54. 54

    I was just making a bit of a connection between episodes. I was thinking of this episode or more accurately the commentary and connecting it to the Genocide series.

    This is a simplistic generalization and observation and should been considered in that light.

    As discussed in the genocide series, some apologists have said the slaughter of children was ok because the children would go to heaven and thus were better off.

    Given this position of the child being better off dead, wouldn’t the anti-abortion argument based on theist reasons also have to come to a conclusion along the same lines as usined to justify the biblical slaughter of children?

    I am assuming the “better in heaven” argument is based on the assumption that going to heaven is a nicer thing than a life in the real world.

    On an aside: Of course for this writer such a place exists only as a concept and has no other existence and if it did in fact have an existence I would not like to actually go there as it would be full of theists who would likely (a) demonstrate I got that little argument wrong for eternity and; (b) be theists who I ordinarily don’t find as much fun to hang out with as my atheist friends.

  55. 55
    Keith "Prof M" Maxwell

    Here is a link to a national survry commissioned by the Salt Lake Tribune (The “a-morman” paper in Utah)regarding the “requirement” that politicians believe in God:


    It might be some fodder for Prof Galen to analyze in a future podcast.

  56. 56

    DonT YHOU Know GOD is liSSSTNing???? to yours podacsst chow??!!! OMG!!!! Maybe yoiu say thESE things bEcase you AR GAY!!!!! To thinK MAybe not Doing (WEORST!@) May BE YOu are WOrhsippNG the DEVILLLL !!!(WORST!!!) All eXPErts agREE devil is the WORSTT!!!!

    Just kidding, I wanted to say I appreciated the letter and comments on emotional comfort and atheism. I remember when that weird guy was predicting the end of the world last year. The day before the big day, they had an airplane flying over our town and I felt a strange unconscious tightening of my sphincter, thinking “what if it really happens”. Obviously, his predictions were absurd, but something inside me got anxious. I can only imagine what would happen if I were diagnosed with cancer or something horribly more real.

    Anyway, I appreciated the discussion.


    p.s. FYI, a sphincter is a butt, the funny-looking part.

  57. 57
    Oakley Holbrook

    I don’t doubt that he will help me.Keep in Touch.Forget it!Will you pick me up at my place? Walt invented the steam engine.He is tough,but I am even tougher.He is tough,but I am even tougher.What a pity!Example is better than precept.How did Mary make all of her money?

  58. 58
    Oakley Holbrook

    We should not only know the theory but also how to apply it to practice.You really look sharp today.The stars are too far away.How ever you may work hard, the boss will not be fully satisfied.He is respectful to his elders.There is a mark of ink on his shirt.There is a mark of ink on his shirt.No pain,no gain.He led them down the mountain.Can you cover for me on Fridayhelp me tell me how to get there?

  59. 59
    dissertation help

    In fact when someone doesn’t understand afterward its up to other people that they will help, so here it takes place.

    Here is my web blog – dissertation help

  1. 60
    Recent questions answers

    Recent questions answers…

    [...]Episode 95: “180″ | Reasonable Doubts[...]…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>