Thought Experiments

Ep 42 – The Burning IVF Lab Analogy

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Hello friends! I’ve had a TON of conversations on this analogy lately.
Some productive.
Some not so much.

Hopefully I can help you guys think through this issue and also communicate it well.
Here’s the podcast:


PRELIMINARY THOUGHTS

The information in this post/podcast has come from a ton of conversations I’ve had on this topic, informed by various posts at a bunch of different sites. I wish I could point you to all of them, but I just don’t remember where I found all of the information over the last several years. However, it was most likely a combination of ERI, Secular Pro-Life, and LTI, as well as the absolute best article on this topic in existence: Embryos and Five-Year-Olds: Whom to Rescue by Robert P. George and Christopher O. Tollefsen

I’m not trying to be a jerk here but it seems that the fertility clinic argument is embraced by people who are not trained, at all, in philosophy. This seems to make sense for those who are already biased towards choice, and basically no one else. Maybe the “fence-sitters”. But concluding “therefore abortion is ok” from this thought experiment is intellectually lazy.
I use this thought experiment as something of a litmus test for the pro-choicers I’m talking to. If they genuinely think this is a good thought experiment, I know I have some work to do. This isn’t meant as an insult, but merely an observation. The key here is that you should know your audience, but never use their ignorance as an excuse to be a jerk to them. The goal is to convince, not make them feel or look stupid/uninformed.

At the same time, this thought experiment is awkward. There doesn’t seem to be a pro-life intuition that people have on it. There’s a lot going on (killing vs letting die, saving vs killing, emotional manipulation, etc), so the uninitiated or untrained may be persuaded. In my opinion, if this thought experiment made you pro-choice, you were tricked and your ignorance was preyed upon. And tbh I’d probably be insulted that I was manipulated instead of taught how to think properly.

Before diving into the IVF analogy, let’s talk about thought experiments.
No, you CAN’T SAVE BOTH. You just can’t. You’re not allowed to do that. Stop offering that as a solution to this. That’s not how thought experiments work. Way too many people think that a proper response to this is to assert that you can save both. But you can’t.
You think you can do these things, but you just can’t, Nemo!
The point of a thought experiment is to flesh out our moral intuitions within the parameters of the thought experiment. One of the parameters is that you have to choose between the embryos and a toddler.

All of that being said, let’s talk about it.

It has been recently popularized by an author on twitter (who subsequently blocked me after I engaged him on it), but he didn’t invent it. Here’s his take on it, but the basic idea is this:

You are in a burning IVF clinic. In one corner, a child. In the other, 1000 embryos. Which do you save? If you save the toddler, this shows that you know they’re not equal. And if you’d just admit this, you’d understand that abortion is ok.

Right off the bat, anyone trained in basic logic will notice that this is a non-sequitur of massive proportions. There is no coherent train of thought that would allow you to logically conclude “therefore abortion should be ok” from “you would save a toddler from a burning building”, but the problems are much deeper than mere logic alone.

Because this is a complicated question, I suggest you do three things when talking about this with a pro-choice person.

  1. Respond directly to the question before diving into your explanation.
  2. Ask what the pro-choice person thinks you should conclude from this.
  3. Negotiate for time. Ask for permission to flesh out the details. Ask for permission to explain why their conclusion is faulty.

When you do all three of these things, you’ll have your answer out of the way, the pro-choicer’s conclusion, and the time to explain the flaws properly. And when you have all of these, you have the beginnings of an actually productive conversation!

Look at how much I’ve already said on this and I haven’t even started to address the thought experiment itself! Sometimes simple questions have complicated answers, and unfortunately people will ask a “simple” question, ignore the complicated answer, and then pretend that “no one has EVER answered it honestly“.

As George Horne says, “Pertness and ignorance may ask a question in three lines, which it will cost learning and ingenuity thirty pages to answer. When this is done, the same question shall be triumphantly asked again the next year, as if nothing had ever been written upon the subject. And as people in general, for one reason or another, like short objections better than long answers, in this mode of disputation (if it can be styled such) the odds must ever be against us; and we must be content with those for our friends who have honesty and erudition, candor and patience, to study both sides of the question.”

Ok, so without further ado, here is a bulleted list of the problems with the Burning IVF Lab thought experiment.

  • “What would you do?” isn’t a good question. The good question is “what should I do?”. This point may seem a little pedantic to some, but it is an important distinction. What I would do might depend entirely on my emotional state at the time. Moreover, extracting a moral principle should rely on the answer to the “what should I do?” question, not on what I would do. Maybe I’m a sociopath, and what I would do is the immoral choice!
  • One of the important things about this analogy is the question that it is asking. It is asking “which would you save?”, whereas abortion is asking “can we kill this?”
    Right off the bat it is asking a different question, so the entire thought experiment doesn’t even really apply to question of abortion. It might be a little bit better if the thought experiment was trying to get us to conclude something about embryo destructive scientific experiments with ESCs. It would be closer to the moral question, but still not a good thought experiment.
  • The choice to kill is always a devaluing judgement call. The choice to save is not devaluing, but a comparison of valuable human persons.
  • It is perfectly reasonable to save the toddler over the embryos, because this isn’t just a numbers game. If it was 1000 embryos vs 1 embryo, obviously the 1000 should be saved. But it’s much more complex than that. It is a mistake in thinking to see this as purely a utilitarian numbers game.
  • There is a significant difference between the kinds of deaths the embryos would suffer vs the kind of death the child would suffer. The toddler would suffer and die (probably slowly) in a fire. The embryos would cease metabolic activity. This doesn’t make them non-human, of course. It just means that the suffering of the toddler would be infinitely greater than the suffering of the embryos. So if we’re trying to reduce the physical suffering of those involved, the answer is obvious. Save the one that can suffer. Moreover, the familial attachments that the toddler has to her family would mean much greater grief than the loss of the embryos. Additionally, if you save the child, she is guaranteed to survive. The embryos… not so much. Not unless you have access to an IVF clinic and a perfect record of success in implantation, which no one has. Not yet anyway.
  • It’s weird to think that the scientific fact that a new human life comes into existence at conception is somehow going to be changed by a thought experiment that asks whether or not you would save a toddler or an embryo. My actions regarding an ethical dilemma has nothing to do with basic human reproductive biology. And while the embryos may not be “babies”, they are living human beings at the beginning stages of their biological development. No philosophical analogy is going to change this fact of biology, heartily embraced by every developmental biology textbook, and almost every qualified scholar, in existence.

The best way to engage with this, I’ve found, is to say which one you would save, and then ask them what you should conclude from this.
Let’s say you’d save the toddler (most would). What does that mean about the embryos? Almost all of them say it means the embryo isn’t human. And that seems obviously false, but demonstrating that is hard. The best way that I’ve found is to ask permission to explain why, and then modify the thought experiment to include 2 non-embryo entities.

Thought experiment modifications:

  • What if it was two toddlers, and one was your daughter?
    • Saving your daughter doesn’t mean that the other toddler is a worthless non-human or non-person. If that
  • What if I have access to an IVF clinic, and I can save all 1000 embryos? Or better yet, what if the 1000 embryos are the only hope left for the human race? What if all that’s left of the human race is just you, the toddler, and 1000 embryos?
    • This certainly changes the moral equation. But choosing the embryos doesn’t mean the toddler isn’t a valuable human being.
  • What if it was 2 pregnant women or 2 not-pregnant women?
    • This decision seems obvious (all else being equal) because they are pregnant. There are four people vs two. If we use this thought experiment, does this mean abortion is immoral?
  • Comatose patients and a toddler.
    • People agree that the comatose patients are morally relevant individuals but many would choose the toddler. What does that mean about the comatose patients?

…aaaaand that’s all I have on this analogy.
It took much longer and much more work than I had originally planned, but that’s what happens when there is a quick question asked by someone who didn’t think through virtually ANY of the assumptions built into the question.

Now go out there and save some babies.

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Tomlinson & the Burning Fertility Clinic

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Hello friends! As you have likely heard, writer Patrick Tomlinson tweeted out a slightly dramatized version of the “burning research lab” thought experiment, and (for whatever reason) it went somewhat viral and now everyone thinks this is some kind of devastating analogy that absolutely destroys the pro-life position on abortion.

Here’s a link to the first tweet in the chunk (click to to read the whole thing):

The horror!

The problem is, this analogy has been refuted countless times by people well before Tomlinson tweeted it, and hundreds more times since. But it doesn’t stop “news” outlets like LADBible and Salon from featuring Tomlinson, as if he invented this analogy or something.

Usually, I’d just post a response article (like this one or this one or this one or hundreds of others) and leave it at that, but I guess a mere response article won’t do nowadays because the internet has become a place where everyone actively searches for their biases to be confirmed, and who needs to be challenged to change their beliefs, right? It turns out, Tomlinson is also really good at confirmation bias, because he has been blocking people who show the stupid analogy for what it is; nonsense. He blocked Ben Shapiro, which is how I found out about him.
So I made a meme (cuz that’s what I do over at DPLM), tweeted it, and tagged Tomlinson.

In response, he called me “desperate” because making fun of him in meme format is desperate I guess? lol

and then told me that he doesn’t block everyone, just those who “acts the fool”.

So I asked if he is interested in engaging me on the subject.

He never responded to that.
However, he did respond to some other things.

Someone else asked if Tomlinson would save 1000 comatose people or a 5 year old…

… and he said that he would save 1000 people in comas.
As would I. But this still doesn’t justify abortion or the analogy in any way. And I do my best to flesh out why the analogy doesn’t prove what he (and those who think like him) think it does.

Obviously not, and he would never admit such a thing. But that’s what he is trying to get us to conclude with “his” analogy.

It’s true. 1000 comatose patients and 1 5-year-old are not equivalent.
But again, this doesn’t do anything to remove the inherent moral worth of the 5-year-old. I try to explain that to him:

… and he didn’t respond to what I said with anything even remotely coherent. He just responded with a gif saying that I’m missing the point.

So then I tried to get him to explain the point that I missed.

… and apparently he didn’t want to clarify what point I missed.

… and that’s when he told me to “read the fucking thread” and blocked me.

Which is ironic, because I was actually not “acting a fool” at all, but really doing my best to engage with the argument. He didn’t block me when I made a meme (which is arguably “acting a fool”) and decided to block me when I showed his analogy to be silly.

Thanks for confirming the meme, buddy.

I guess any argument is invincible if you ignore those who refute it.
If you’re curious as to how to refute the argument (outside of what I said to Tomlinson), visit the links I provided above. They’re great.

Or look at some of the resources in the comments under this Facebook post!

Or watch Ben Shapiro beat him up a bit on his show, here:

 

Ep 28 – A More Realistic Violinist Analogy | The Fiddler in the Womb

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Hello everyone and welcome to the Fetal Position Podcast, episode 28. On today’s episode, I am fleshing out the details of an analogy that [I think] is unique to me. To listen to this in a new window, click here!
I haven’t heard anyone else make this analogy, so if you know someone that has… let me know and I’ll promote his/her work. But if not, allow me to explain my response to Thomson’s Violinist analogy, by using my own analogy.

Links:

And onto my analogy.
I am calling it… “The Fiddler in the Womb” because it’s catchy and kinda funny. But it is, more importantly, a more realistic violinist analogy than the analogy created by Judith Jarvis Thomson in her paper, “A Defense of Abortion“. For what it’s worth, I have already dissected this analogy and concluded that it does not justify abortion in almost any case. I did this during episode 9, and you can find that by going to TheFetalPosition.com/9.

As I explained in that episode, the violinist analogy attempts to justify abortion by showing that even if the unborn is a human person, the mother still ought to have the right to an abortion. I point out that this analogy fails in 3 morally relevant ways, some of which Thomson concedes in her original essay. Yes, no analogy is perfect (cuz if it was perfect, it wouldn’t be an analogy). But in order to be a relevant analogy, it has to be morally parallel to the actual situation. The 3 points are as follows (and this is taken from the show notes of episode 9):

  1. In the analogy, you are bedridden.
    Statistically speaking, a woman is very rarely bedridden during pregnancy, let alone bedridden for her the entire length of pregnancy. There are certain situations in which a woman will find herself on bed rest (problems with her cervix, preeclampsia, etc), but this doesn’t happen until later in the pregnancy for most. If it does occur earlier in pregnancy, that is due to a preexisting medical condition that is very rare within our society.So, in order for this analogy to be applicable, the pregnant woman must be unable to remove herself from her bed during the entire 10 months of pregnancy.
  2. In the analogy, the person connected to the violinist is not responsible for being connected.
    In the vast majority of cases, the pregnant woman has consented to sex. One of the possible consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse is the creation of a dependent human being.
    We’ll talk more about the ‘responsibility objection’ later, but I’d like to point out that we, as a society, recognize the responsibility objection as legitimate. If you are responsible for causing someone to be in a dependent state, you have an obligation to them that goes beyond the obligation you have to someone else. Even if the other person is in a dependent state but placed into dependency by someone else. The person responsible has a unique obligation. We expect fathers to provide for their children, either by going to work and putting food on the table, or by paying child support. Avoiding that responsibility is socially unacceptable because we recognize the responsibility objection as legitimate.So, in order for the analogy to be parallel, the pregnant woman would have to be a rape victim who subsequently became pregnant, and she must immediately go on bed rest for the entirety of her pregnancy.
  3. In the analogy, the relationship between the violinist and the connected person is that of a stranger.
    In the overwhelming majority of cases, the pregnant woman is carrying her own child. This is even the case when it comes to rape victims. As awful as rape is (and I’m not denying that rape is a horrendous evil), the child being carried by the rape victim is her child, biologically. The only time where a woman bears no biological relationship to the child in her womb is when a woman volunteers her body to be a surrogate for another couple.This is getting a bit strange, don’t you think?
    In order to create a real-life, morally parallel situation to the violinist analogy, we need to have an immediately bedridden woman who was used as a surrogate for someone else’s baby, against her will.

Because of these 3 morally significant oversights, I fail to see how the original violinist analogy accurately represents pregnancy at all. After all, I don’t know of a single situation where a woman is immediately bedridden after being used as an involuntary surrogate for someone else’s baby. And because those are the morally relevant problems with her analogy, pointing these out is a legitimate critique.

So what is a more morally relevant analogy to pregnancy?

Junrey Balawing

Let’s imagine that you’re a stinking jerk and poisoned your violinist cousin, Junrey Balawing. Balawing is the smallest man in the world at under 24 inches tall. He was going to die of a kidney ailment, but your kidneys are able to keep him alive. All you have to do is stay connected to him for 10 months and then you can both go on your merry way. You can carry him around in a backpack. He doesn’t mind.

This analogy hits on all the right morally relevant parallels that Thomson’s Violinist does not. You are not bedridden, you are responsible for putting him into a state of dependency upon you, and Balawing is a member of your family.

… now that we’ve changed it, doesn’t it seem as though you have a moral obligation to stay connected to the little dude that you caused to be in his current situation? He is related to you, his existence doesn’t cause you to be bedridden, and you are the jerk who caused him to be dependent. You certainly have an obligation to stay connected so that he doesn’t die.


And that’s my contribution to this discussion. If you enjoyed this or thought it was absolutely terrible, let me know in the comments below, on the facebook page, private facebook group, twitter, or by email (FetalPositionPodcast@gmail.com). Thanks so much for reading/listening!

– Elijah

 

Episode 9 – Thomson’s Violinist

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cropped-FP_Logo1.pngHey everyone!
New episode on Judith Jarvis Thomson’s violinist analogy is up and going!
Click here to listen to it in a new window.
The links I discussed during the show can be found after the analysis of Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous Violinist analogy. You can find a link to the podcast as a youtube video at the bottom of this post.

The Violinist

In the general category of bodily autonomy arguments, there are at least two sub-categories. The “sovereign zone” and “right to refuse” arguments. In episode 8, I discussed the arguments that fall under the sovereign zone umbrella, which can also be referred to as the “my body, my choice” arguments. This post/episode is going to be on the latter category; the ‘right to refuse’ arguments.

The bodily autonomy arguments essentially say that a woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her body, all throughout pregnancy. If the woman wants to expel the pregnancy before viability, that’s fine. The termination of pregnancy is the goal; the killing of her unborn offspring is simply a consequence of her acting on her right to bodily autonomy.

As I side note, this seems to be one of the primary reasons that some pro-choice people draw the line at viability. Because if a woman no longer wants to be pregnant and the child can not survive outside of the womb… no harm, no foul (from their perspective). However, if the child can survive outside of the womb, then an abortion would be an act of active killing. This seems strange to me because it is essentially saying that when the child is completely helpless, you can kill him. But when he is almost completely helpless, you can’t.

Not all pro-choice advocates believe this way, and it seems to point towards a bit of an internal struggle within the pro-choice belief structure. If the woman really is entitled to her own body, then why can’t she kill the child before or after viability? Like I said, this is was covered in much more depth during my episode titled Ep 8. Bodily Autonomy.

Without further ado, let’s jump into Thomson’s Violinist.

Thomson’s Violinist

I’d encourage you to read her paper, which includes more than just the violinist analogy. You can find that right here! The paper really isn’t that long, and anyone interested in defending the pro-life case ought to read it.

It is important to note that Thompson isn’t technically making an argument, she’s just giving a counter example by using an analogy. Her purpose in this analogy was to show that if you do not consent to the violinist using your body, you have a right to unplug. In the same way, if you do not consent to the child using your body, you have the right to abort.

I would encourage you to not respond to this analogy by saying “this would never happen” or “this is so unrealistic”. The entire point of a thought experiment is to suspend whether or not it is a realistic situation and analyze the morality and the ethics of the situation. A consistent ethical approach will be revealed by its answers to important questions brought up by thought experiments.

The Good Samaritan Argument

There are some people who say that they simply would not unplug. These same people often say that they would not unplug (because they have a moral obligation to keep the violinist alive if they’re able), but they would not force anyone else to make the same decision. Staying connected is considered a supererogatory act, but it is not something that should be compelled by law.

This is likely where I would fall. I don’t think I would be comfortable disconnecting, knowing that the violinist would die. However, I would never suggest that this should be required by force of government. I touched on this in episode 7 when it comes to forced kidney donations. I think we have a moral obligation to do it, but we ought not have a legal obligation.

If you think about it, saying that you would stay connected to the violinist but wouldn’t force others to do the same is a fairly common pro-choice argument. They say “I would never get an abortion myself, but I simply cannot imagine telling someone that she has to stay pregnant”.

The people making this statement see pregnancy as a supererogatory act; an action that is not required but would really show off someone’s moral fortitude and selflessness. This, however, is precisely where the violinist analogy falls apart when comparing it to pregnancy. This is because the morally relevant parallels are not actually parallel.

What is the difference between the violinist analogy and actual pregnancy?

  1. In the analogy, you are bedridden.
    Statistically speaking, a woman is very rarely bedridden during pregnancy, let alone bedridden for her the entire length of pregnancy. There are certain situations in which a woman will find herself on bed rest (problems with her cervix, preeclampsia, etc), but this doesn’t happen until later in the pregnancy for most. If it does occur earlier in pregnancy, that is due to a preexisting medical condition that is very rare within our society.So, in order for this analogy to be applicable, the pregnant woman must be unable to remove herself from her bed during the entire 10 months of pregnancy.
  1. In the analogy, the person connected to the violinist is not responsible for being connected.
    In the vast majority of cases, the pregnant woman has consented to sex. One of the possible consequences of engaging in sexual intercourse is the creation of a dependent human being.
    We’ll talk more about the ‘responsibility objection’ later, but I’d like to point out that we, as a society, recognize the responsibility objection as legitimate. If you are responsible for causing someone to be in a dependent state, you have an obligation to them that goes beyond the obligation you have to someone else. Even if the other person is in a dependent state but placed into dependency by someone else. The person responsible has a unique obligation. We expect fathers to provide for their children, either by going to work and putting food on the table, or by paying child support. Avoiding that responsibility is socially unacceptable because we recognize the responsibility objection as legitimate.So, in order for the analogy to be parallel, the pregnant woman would have to be a rape victim who subsequently became pregnant, and she must immediately go on bed rest for the entirety of her pregnancy.
  1. In the analogy, the relationship between the violinist and the connected person is that of a stranger.
    In the overwhelming majority of cases, the pregnant woman is carrying her own child. This is even the case when it comes to rape victims. As awful as rape is (and I’m not denying that rape is a horrendous evil), the child being carried by the rape victim is her child, biologically. The only time where a woman bears no biological relationship to the child in her womb is when a woman volunteers her body to be a surrogate for another couple.This is getting a bit strange, don’t you think?
    In order to create a real-life, morally parallel situation to the violinist analogy, we need to have an immediately bedridden woman who was used as a surrogate for someone else’s baby, against her will.

    I don’t know of a single instance where this has happened. But perhaps my knowledge is limited. Or perhaps we can change the violinist analogy so that it becomes more parallel to pregnancy.

Thought experiments can be modified in order to focus on the morally relevant issues at hand. And, for your viewing pleasure, I’d like to introduce…
[Elijiah] Thompson’s violinist:
(Get it cuz Judith doesn’t have a p in her name, and I do? Ha!)
(This analogy is not in the podcast, btw)

Let’s imagine that you’re a stinking jerk and poisoned your violinist cousin, Junrey Balawing. Balawing is the smallest man in the world at under 24 inches tall. He was going to die of a kidney ailment, but your kidneys are able to keep him alive. All you have to do is stay connected to him for 10 months and then you can both go on your merry way. You can carry him around in a backpack. He doesn’t mind.

… now that we’ve changed it, doesn’t it seem as though you have a moral obligation to stay connected to the little dude that you caused to be in his current situation? He is related to you, his existence doesn’t cause you to be bedridden, and you are the jerk who caused him to be dependent. You certainly have an obligation to stay connected so that he doesn’t die.

With that fun little thing out of the way, let’s dive into the more philosophically robust analysis of the violinist analogy.

The Responsibility Objection

In the violinist analogy, the reason the violinist is dependent upon someone else is because of the devious actions of the society of music lovers. Unfortunately, the person chosen to connect to the violinist had nothing to do with the connection. I alluded to this above, but this ‘responsibility objection’ is one of the stronger arguments against the analogy, and gives us a pretty good idea about why the analogy is not morally parallel.

Let’s imagine a slightly modified version of the violinist where I am directly responsible for the violinist to be dependent upon me. Due to the fact that I have a very strange sense of humor or have an insatiable desire to be desperately needed, I do some research and find a famous violinist who has the exact same weird blood type as me (in this analogy, we both share the bombay blood type). I poison him, and then find a hospital and connect myself to him.
I am now directly responsible for his dependent state. The same is true of nearly all pregnancies. So why, if you are responsible for another person’s dependency upon you, are you allowed to kill him/her?

Sex Makes Babies. Duh.

Most people know that sex creates dependent people. If you cause someone to need you, you have an obligation to take care of them. This seems like a rather obvious thing. If you consent to something, you have to take responsibility for the consequences of the decision.

To use an analogy, let’s imagine there is a room. In the room, there is a button with a sign above it saying “press here for 25 – 40 minutes of pleasure. Warning: there is an 8% chance of this machine creating an infant.”
Now if someone walks in, reads the sign, presses the button for pleasure, and a baby is sent down a slide and ends up sitting right next to him. He may argue and say “no, I only consented to having 40 minutes of pleasure! I didn’t consent to this infant!”
Tough.
You are the one who knew the risks. You are the one who hit the button. You are the one who caused the child to come into existence, so you have a moral obligation to take care of the child. You cannot just leave the child there to die, or kill the child. It is absurd to suggest that you consent to a particular behavior but do not consent to the actions of that behavior.
Again, if you are directly responsible for another person’s dependency upon you, what justification is there for you to kill him/her?

A Child is Not an Intruder

As I stated earlier, pro-choice advocates see staying connected as supererogatory. They also see pregnancy as supererogatory. But are the two examples parallel in the relevant ways? I don’t think so. And that’s because the unborn child is not an intruder, whereas the violinist is an intruder.

In the violinist example, we are using our kidneys to keep the violinist alive. This is an unnatural function of our kidneys; they are not designed to keep another person alive. However, the womb is designed (whether by evolution or by god, whichever) to keep a child alive. The womb, when it is performing its natural function, is preparing for a child or keeping a child alive.
The womb provides food, shelter, medicine,safety, etc
For whom are the kidneys designed?

The fact that we are using our bodies in an unnatural way shows that this analogy is not properly analogous to pregnancy.

Killing and Letting Die

The fatal series of events began before you were connected to the violinist in the analogy. But in abortion, you start the fatal series of events. There may be a moral obligation to someone who is dying, but initiating the fatal series of events on an innocent human being is wrong.

Thomson seems to be ignoring the fact that in abortion, you have a healthy child who is being actively killed. In the analogy, you have someone who is already dying. And this is even more relevant when we’re referring to abortions that are past the point of viability. Partial birth abortions are clear examples of active killing rather than letting die.

As Frank Beckwith says, “Euphemistically calling abortion the ‘withholding of support’ makes about as much sense as calling suffocating someone with a pillow the withdrawing of oxygen”

Fighting Analogies with Analogies

The way that people construct analogies gives the listener a particular perspective on a situation. In the violinist analogy, you are the pregnant woman. In the reverse violinist analogy, you are in the situation of the unborn child.

Imagine you wake up in a hospital and you’re connected to Thomson’s violinist. You decide, ‘you know what? I think it would be nice to stay plugged in, but I can’t stay here for 9 months’. So you unplug, walk out of the hospital, and you start to feel really nauseous and lightheaded. The director of the hospital runs out to you and says “oh my goodness, plug back in or you’ll die!” So you run back into the room, plug back in, and you start feeling better. The director says “I’m terribly sorry, but last night you were kidnapped by the society of musical pranksters. This group of pranksters, of which the violinist is a member, they have a lot of fun together. But they’re pranksters. And because they’re pranksters, every now and then they end up plugged into an innocent person. And when this happens, it destroys the innocent person’s kidneys. But don’t worry. If you stay plugged into the violinist, in 9 months your kidneys will heal and you can go on your way”. And you pass out because this is crazy.

The violinist wakes up, looks at you, and says “hey! This dude doesn’t have the right to use my body without my consent. I’m not going to let him use my kidneys without my permission”. He unplugs from you, walks out of the hospital, and you die of kidney failure. And they toss your body into the hospital incinerator.
Does the violinist, in this case, have the right to unplug from you? Not at all.
Why?
The responsibility objection.

The last analogy I want to use is one used by Anthony George called “The Good Samaritan on Life Support”. I read the analogy in the podcsat (around 49 minutes in) but you can read that here.

To summarize it, Chris and Kyle are conjoined twins that want to be separated. Kyle’s body is dependent upon Chris’ body for survival because of the way their bodies are intertwined, but Chris is able to be separated from Kyle without dying.

They go to see some doctors and they recommend that Chris and Kyle stay connected for 9 months, because in order to separate the two, they need to grow some vital organs for Kyle (and it takes 9 months to grow the organs). But Chris is impatient and wants to be free of Kyle immediately. So, he goes to a separatist who does it immediately, and Kyle passes away and his body is thrown into the dumpster.

Has Chris done anything wrong? Of course he has!
He only had to wait 9 months in order to be separated.
However, if the bodily autonomy arguments (as promoted by the pro-choicers and the violinist analogy) are correct, then Chris has done nothing wrong. After all, it was his body, his choice, right? And Kyle had no right to invade upon Chris’ body without his permission.

It is valuable to fight analogies with analogies because it forces us to take a look at the differences and to see which viewpoint can answer the analogies adequately.

Thanks for reading and listening!
I hope both episode 8 & 9 helped to defang the bodily autonomy arguments and the violinist analogy. Please share with both pro-choice and pro-life friends!

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Show note links

Theology Mix Podcast Network

Cole’s Development at 39 weeks

Happiest Baby on the Block

Relax Melodies App

Adam4D: “Not Ready”

The Fetal Position: Episode 3

Tactics by Greg Koukl

Life Report: Refuting the ultimate pro-choice argument, Part 1
(part 2)

Life Report: Understanding the ultimate pro-choice argument, Part 1
(Part 2)

Life Report: Violinist Reasoning

 

Episode 3: Trotting Out The Toddler

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Click here to listen to Episode 3 in a new window

Thanks for joining me for the Fetal Position, episode 3! In this episode, we discuss one of the common pro-life discussion tactics, trotting out the toddler. Trotting out the toddler is when you replace the unborn child with a 2-year-old in the conversation with the goal to move towards the most important question in the discussion: What is the unborn?

Here are the important links that I discuss in this episode:

Trotting Out The Toddler at ProLifeTraining.com

Trotting Out The Toddler from Greg Koukl

Persuasive ProLife by Trent Horn

Our Facebook group is here, and you can follow me on twitter, here!

If you like the show, please remember to leave me a review and a rating, and share the show with someone who you think would enjoy it. Thanks!