Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Ramesh responds

Ramesh Ponnuru discusses the reviews of his book, The Party of Death, in Human Life Review.
I have come to believe that if we had no motives for embracing false ideas about human beings in the earliest stages of development—if we were thinking about the moral questions here as a purely abstract matter—nobody would be at all confused about whether embryos are living human organisms or whether it is morally acceptable to kill them.

Invoking intuitions, feelings, etc., allows for a highly convenient double standard for defenders of abortion, embryo-destructive research, and euthanasia. Rauch, recall, demands that pro-lifers' ideas pass rigorous tests of internal coherence. I have to show that the logical premises behind laws protecting the unborn are compatible with exceptions for the life of the mother, with refusals to throw mothers in jail, and so forth. I can't just say, well, putting the women in jail doesn't feel right. He, on the other hand, doesn't have to do anything but offer an unsupported assertion about the in-between moral status of the unborn, and call it centrism.....

The response, detailed above, to the book's central moral claims is also instructive. In 1970 and for many years thereafter, advocates of legal abortion portrayed themselves as the party of cool, dispassionate reason. Their opponents were the prisoners of superstition and emotion. Pro-abortionists back then tried—not, I think, well—to argue either that fetuses were not "alive" or "human" or that their killing could be justified philosophically. Today, they tend with few exceptions either to refuse to engage the argument at all or to retreat behind their feelings and other non-rational defenses.

There are, of course, very smart people on the other side of the debate. But I think The Party of Death and the reaction to it demonstrate something else that has changed in the last four decades: The intellectual high ground is now ours.

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