Sunday, November 05, 2006

Elephants , Angels and Abortion

As a lifetime atheist I have experienced of late what you might call a ,“crisis of faith”. There are a number of reasons for this , not least that it may be convenient for getting my son into a decent school . Apart from the obvious social benefit though, I notice , for example , the unreality surrounding the abortion debate as it proceeds outside a religious context .

Nadine Dorries ten minute bill concerning the termination of pregnancy. It provoked much discussion centred on what science can tell us about drawing the line .

To me it seems clear it can tell us very little, so I made a “Reasonable proposal “ ,

.” The relevance of foetal sentience seems to me to be fairly moot out side a religious frame work that draws an absolute distinction between a human being and any other sort of life. A fish, I suppose, is sentient, probably more so, and we are not yet seriously discussing banning anglers. The ability to sustain life outside the womb is similarly free floating. A three year old would not last long unaided.I suspect then, , that the discussion of medical or scientific boundaries is a code for religious or metaphysical beliefs which perhaps should be more explicit than they are .

The notion of allowing abortion after full term, might be justified scientifically, on the basis that the foetal stage in humans, as compared to our near relatives, continues long after full term. This is a very distinctive adaptive feature of humans, and key to some of the variant features we have, as compared to other apes.I would not make such an argument of course, but if science is the answer, I do not see any special reason, why one should not . I could scientifically construct numerous reasonable proposals, up to and including chasing miscreant teenagers down the street with a baseball bat, if they failed the boy David’s, “Adult “test. In fact he’s a bit young himself…..

The Christian view says the unborn child has a Soul and would not countenance any sort of abortion. The non religious view might conceivably take us to a disgusting end point . As I am not able to find any good reason except squeamishness and mess to stop the culling of a three month year old child , less sentient than a cat say , I am inclined to the view that the Christians are right and its murder from day one .This will no doubt be a disaster for the mother on occasion , also the father and ,very possibly, the child. Shame ; the continued health of my current employer is quite astonishingly inconvenient to me and this brings me onto euthanasia.

So here is my point , as Science is quite clearly not the moral point and nor is convenience , is this a question of morality , or is it something else . If so what ? “

Then this week , the Daily Mail ran an editorial Titled “Do animals deserve human rights ”, in which , “scientific proof “, shows the following:

“ Elephants can join the small elite of species that have true self awareness ".This is following “Happy , Maxine and Patty” , Asian Elephants, demonstrating full sentience by means of self recognition in a mirror . So, we can flush a three month year old baby down the toilet, but we had better leave the elephants alone . You might think this was an absurd extrapolation, but what do I see today ?….

Roy Nikkah ( DT) “A leading medical college has called on the medical profession to consider euthanasia for seriously disabled new born babies ."

Sounds ghastly doesn’t it but their point is more subtle . They point to the fact that late abortions ,which sometimes are based on incorrect prognostications, might not proceed with this possibility of post birth"abortion" ,and some healthy babies saved .

Strangely then, what I intended as an irreverent conundrum, turns out to be seriously problematical ,and out there in the real world .

Richard Dawkins is currently number one in the best sellers list with the God delusion. He has pointed out the continuum between us and animals ,“scientifically” , so has Desmond Morris .

Scientifically we are atoms and forces and one set is much as another . Is it not obvious that in any discussion where you admit there is a moral problem we must look elsewhere for guidance? For the modern man there is no obvious home for these doubts to rest in. Mathew Arnold’s exquisite corpse is all that is left of Christian certainty

.“A beautiful ineffectual angel beating in the void his luminous wings in vain”

Its has sentience . So what ?

1 comment:

Colin said...

As a lifetime atheist I have experienced of late what you might call a ,“crisis of faith”. There are a number of reasons for this,
.. for example, the unreality surrounding the abortion debate as it proceeds outside a religious context.

In regard to the abortion debate, why shouldn't there be any stupid atheists?

However, is the stupidity of many atheists a sufficient reason for believing that beyond the BigBang there is sitting an old man with a beard who has nothing better to do than to fulfill the wishes of each human individual?

"The wish is father to the thought, says a figure of speech. What it means is that the wish is the father of faith." (Mises)

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