The Truth?

What is truth?

Truth is subjective. You can never find the end of the rainbow, because where it appears to be depends on where the observer is. And, what my friend thinks of me is important to me, but something she said might have assumed great importance to me, something else might have gone over my head, and what she thinks might vary according to her mood.

And Truth is objective. There is a real world where things happen whether or not someone observes them. (My philosopher friend only once tried to talk of philosophy with me, ascertained I knew nothing of Hegel, and gave up.) We perceive nothing exactly as it objectively is, but care and respect may bring us closer to objective truth, and prejudice or carelessness drive us away.

On Radio 4, Charmaine Yoest of “American Values” said Evangelicals should not have “voted for Hillary Clinton, a woman who stood on the stage during the debate and very aggressively defended something as barbaric as partial birth abortion. Donald Trump was very unusual on the Republican side on being willing to dig in and very forcefully come back and say that it would be not okay with him for you to be able to abort a baby up to the very last moment of birth.” Here’s the link: the time is 36.50.

That was not my recollection of the debate, so I went back to it. Here is a transcript, here a video. On the Supreme Court, Mrs Clinton said it was important “that we not reverse Roe v Wade”. Mr Trump responded aggressively that “the second amendment is under absolute siege”. On abortion, he would put pro-life justices on the court who would overturn Roe v Wade.

Mr Wallace, the moderator: You also voted against a ban on late-term, partial birth abortions. Why?

Mrs Clinton: there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account.

Mr Trump: Well, I think it’s terrible. If you go with what Hillary is saying, in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother just prior to the birth of the baby…based on what she’s saying, and based on where she’s going, and where she’s been, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb in the ninth month on the final day. And that’s not acceptable.

The segment starts at 11.40. I considered it again. Mrs Clinton is measured, and defends late abortions. Mr Trump’s phrase “rip the baby out of the womb” is an appalling way of describing the abortion of a foetus whose birth defect prevents it from living outside the womb, or where the mother’s life is in danger.

Mmm. Truth. For Charmaine Yoest, the health of the mother is not a consideration when considering late, perhaps any, abortions; and “rip the baby out of the womb” is merely telling it as it is, though to me “baby” is not an accurate description of a foetus with anencephaly, or other extreme defects.

My memory was of Mr Trump being aggressive, Mrs Clinton reasonable, and so when I heard Charmaine Yoest say Mrs Clinton was “aggressive” I was angry. How dare she so misrepresent reality? Your subjectivity may be closer to or further from the truth. Getting closer matters. So I went to consider the evidence, and still find her inaccurate- though not much more inaccurate than my recollection.

I find Mrs Clinton far more persuasive. While a woman might choose to save her baby even at the cost of her own life, it seems monstrous to me to force her to do so. And, for Ms Yoest, all abortion is wrong, so she might still find most Republicans backsliders on this issue. When I heard her, I was angry with her lying; I still find her biased, yet not properly characterised as “inaccurate”. Oh dear.

Next example. We were discussing men’s refuges for male victims of domestic violence, and a woman was holding forth on how necessary these were and how there was far too little funding. Now, whether that is true or not does not depend on whether or not there is enough funding for female victims, any more than for, say, adoption services; yet I felt some reservations. It seemed to me that the woman holding forth wanted to convince us, or to be articulating a common understanding- it is so reassuring to be with people who think just as we do; and that the other woman listening had reservations, but was not stating them. And these are my impressions, which may simply be false.

OK, next go. The Daily Express front page today. EU EXIT: THE PATH IS CLEAR. Massive boost as Labour say they won’t stand in the way. I saw this in the coffee shop, and felt ill. I don’t know whether Labour would whip MPs to vote for Brexit, or just not whip them to vote against; but I think Brexit is a calamity, and the Express disagrees.

I was surprised to find my friend has no opinion on climate change. She has not looked into it, there are views on both sides. I lamented denialists in power in America, and she was unfazed. I feel my understanding of the scientific consensus is accurate enough, and that carbon emissions are changing the climate, potentially disastrously; and it matters what politicians do. She says Mr Trump is not that much worse than what has gone before- how can you trust any politicians after they invaded Iraq?

Based on these recent experiences, perhaps I can never be sure of what is truth. I still believe in objective truth, just I am not certain of its knowability. You may think I give in too easily. There will be more on this tomorrow.

Meet the Jeannetts

How could anyone vote for Trump? Well, some consider abortion is the most important issue of the election. Two facebook friends resident in the US, both met through WordPress, were brought up Republican and in one case conservative Evangelical, but both will be voting for Mrs Clinton in November. However, through them I get to see what their friends say.

Andrew Jeannett shared a despicable video from a programme called Faith for our Nation, broadcast on the Believers’ Voice of Victory Network, Dish channel 265. Kenneth Copeland says, You’re going to be held seriously, seriously, to account by God if you don’t vote… You’re going to be guilty of murder, you’re going to be guilty of every baby that’s aborted from this election forward. God speaks to Copeland, and told him personally, I know my way around politicians, I’ve been dealing with them since Nimrod, and I’ve never failed yet… This is God’s nation and no body is going to take it away from him. Mr Jeannett shared this as a video from Right Wing Watch, commenting, fear fear fear!!!! guilt guilt guilt!!! hear it, see it, distance yourself from it. I say, The LORD will not hold him guiltless, who taketh his name in vain.

Not even all pro-life people take this view. Charissa comments, Y’all do not have the corner market on life issues. We are all equal in the eyes of God, from the unborn babe to the convicted killer…each life is exactly equally precious to God. […]What about the Syrian refugees who are literally trying to escape being starved to death or bombed or some other horrendous end[…] There is an incredible amount of false guilt that goes around Christian circles especially. When you have people in places of presumed authority and leadership telling you constantly that you are doing something wrong, whether or not you actually are, you are probably going to feel guilty. She asks what would lose Trump their vote?

One answers, only if he adopted Hillary’s platform. Another agrees: Mr Trump would have to change his publicly stated position on abortion and adopt Hillary’s. Yes, he may not follow through and stay the course once he’s elected, but I prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. What choice do we have, after all? Hillary has already made it abundantly clear that she favors killing babies in the womb–even up to the moment of birth. Nothing–I repeat–NOTHING! could be more heinous than that.

Trump is a liar, says someone. David Record (Uncle David) most pro-Trump here, says Trump hasn’t been a pathological liar over his lifetime… Benghazi… emails… He didn’t defend a rapist and get him off Scott free. That last line is an attack on American justice. A jury finds not guilty, but Record knows better, and thinks people he thinks guilty should not have a public defender- or that public defender should not do her job. He is incorrigible. So is Susan Jeannett Neal, who says I’m voting for Trump. I believe that he is God-driven and will restore law and order to this country and wipe out ISIS, which no one else has even tried to do.

Mel uses striking language to attack Trump. Where are his fruits? Where are his treasures stored? He is not your savior. He will hand you over to the Romans to be crucified.

Abortion is not the only lunacy prayed in aid of Trump. Open borders = 600 million people estimated to come here, what kind of life will it be for the children and grandchildren WAKE UP AMERICA! Hmm. Is that Poe or Godwin? I can never remember.

Dan sees it in apocalyptic terms. Israel was overtaken when it did not follow God. We could be too. But Keaton, whose evangelicalism I dislike- As I understand the Bible, those poor souls who are aborted would be ferried instantaneously to Heaven, bypassing all of the sin, pain, and ugliness of this world is unduly negative- nevertheless brings in climate change. Do not rape the planet.

I went to Susan’s page, counted twenty pro-Trump or anti-Hillary posts in one day then gave up. They include “I was the Clintons’ Hitman” by Larry Nichols, and a meme calling Paul Ryan a traitor. David Record’s page has a post calling Christians against Trump “Pharisees”, a Clinton Scandal video, and another calling Mrs Clinton the most pro-abort candidate we’ve ever seen.

I see what she says, but don’t understand why. She thinks abortion is the most important issue; she thinks Mrs Clinton is a monster; but I can’t understand why anyone would think like that.

Susan is deplorable, possibly; incorrigible, certainly. But not even all conservative Evangelicals will vote Trump. Thank God!

Then I found this in the Washington Times. The candidates are as bad as each other, says Suzanne Fields, and one commenter blames this on the MSM: Kasich could have trounced Clinton, but the MSM pushed the GOP to the Right, and promoted a candidate Mrs Clinton could beat.

On bullshit

That debate on abortion was utterly depressing. Some people are disgusted that anyone could force a woman to incubate an unwanted foetus for nine months, with all the physical and emotional pain that involves. Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body. Others say that cluster of cells is a potential human life, and are disgusted that human life could be expunged. Debates on whether anyone can be “pro-life” without being anti-gun, anti-capital punishment and anti-war, or whether legal prohibition or better family planning services are the best way to avoid abortion, draw dividing lines little different from the main one on pro-life v pro-choice. This does not stop us hurling ourselves against each other. “I find you disgusting- and so should everyone else!” We try to win. Possibly, we will not even co-operate on having a useful conversation- finding any excuse to blame or condemn the other- but we can define what a useful conversation would look like.

Petter A Naessan: Speakers and listeners assume that the others abide by certain, predominantly unstated, speech norms. The cooperative principle can be divided more specifically into the maxims of quantity, quality, relevance, and manner. For bullshitological purposes, the violation of the maxims would appear to be relevant. So if utterances convey not enough or too much information (quantity), are intentionally false or lack evidence (quality), are irrelevant to any current topic or issue (relevance), and are obscure, ambiguous, unnecessarily wordy or disorderly (manner), then they make our conversation valueless, apart from giving transitory feelings of triumph or despair giving way to ennui.

The bullshit of politicians is a threat to public order and the public good. The disaster of Brexit is being achieved by bullshit. Both the liar and the bullshitter try to get away with something. But ‘lying’ is perceived to be a conscious act of deception, whereas ‘bullshitting’ is unconnected to a concern for truth. Frankfurt regards this ‘indifference to how things really are’, as the essence of bullshit. Furthermore, a lie is necessarily false, but bullshit is not – bullshit may happen to be correct or incorrect. The crux of the matter is that bullshitters hide their lack of commitment to truth. Since bullshitters ignore truth instead of acknowledging and subverting it, bullshit is a greater enemy of truth than lies.

Stephen Poole in The Guardian: Trump is merely the most energetic current exploiter of a fact that modern politicians have long known: the media is broken, and you can mercilessly exploit its flaws to your own benefit. (That, after all, is what “spin doctors” are for.) If you repeat a lie often enough, then that claim becomes the story, and it’s what most people remember. And a structural confusion between “impartiality” and “balance” undermines the mission to inform of institutions such as the BBC. To be impartial would be to point out untruths wherever they come from. But to be “balanced” is to have a three-way between a presenter and two economists on opposite sides of some question. Never mind that one economist represents the views of 95% of the profession and the other is an ideologically blinkered outlier: the structure of the interview itself implies to the audience that the arguments are evenly divided.

Petter Naessan reviewing On Bullshit by Harry Frankfurt in Philosophy Now.
Stephen Poole: “How we let the phoneys take control and debase the language of politics,” in The Guardian.

Blake, Pestilence

True love waits

No-one wants abortions to happen. To reduce the numbers, there are three main paths- legal restrictions, better religious education, and better sex education. I want to speak up for the second.

Better religious education, and more people following in the footsteps of Christ, will reduce abortions. The two great commandments are to love God, and to love our neighbour as ourselves. This means respect and care for all, including those who need abortions. It also means care for those who are at risk of needing abortions: social groups which may be found through sociological research. They are our sisters; every hair on their head is numbered. Rescuing them from abortion does not mean enforcing rules on them, but making it as far as possible unnecessary. We enforce rules on subjects. Sisters deserve better.

Constantine used Christianity as the ideology of his empire. It became a system of moral control of the populace: the State could kill the body, and convince the person soul and body would be destroyed in Hell. Before that, Jesus told us how to navigate a strange, unpredictable world, in which the rich, living in luxury and self-indulgence, kept back the wages of the labourers by fraud; a millennial time, when there were wars and rumours of wars, and tales of a Messiah and the coming of God; people trying to live as best they could by following the rules they thought were God’s rules, and a watchful Empire taking over, ready to enforce its will by extreme violence. About forty years after he died, the Empire destroyed the Temple.

God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world be saved through him. Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to rule in a more moral fashion, but to give up all stake in that society and become an itinerant. Anyone who wants to be first must be the very last, and the servant of all.

So it is not the Christian’s job to enforce rules on others. We recognise that is the State’s job, and every person should be subject to the governing authorities; for there is no authority except from God, and those authorities that exist have been instituted by God. We obey because of conscience, not just fear. Jesus sent out the seventy, expecting them to be welcomed and fed, and so we should behave like those hospitable Jews. We should bear one another up with a tender hand.

We should also not judge, but remember our own frailty and need. We each need the support of the community, so should not deny that support to others. So when someone needs an abortion, we should support that; but work so that fewer abortions are needed. Self-respect and respect of others promotes sex in a loving relationship, rather than abusive or exploitative sex.

The Christian who only intervenes to say No- who takes no interest in a woman until she needs an abortion, and then denies her what she needs- behaves in the opposite way to Christ and drives people from Christ.

Dirk van Baburen, Christ washing disciples feet

The Catholic Church and abortion

They are against it. They imagine they have moral reasons for this. Their method of moral reasoning is inferior to mine. My method of moral reasoning fits free people; theirs fits people following the rules of an oligarchy.

Catholic morality is deontological, following rules. Certain acts are considered sins, whatever the consequences: the end never justifies the means, they say. My morality is at least in part consequentialist: I look at the intended result.

Can a foetus be aborted to save the life of the mother, when if it is not aborted both will die? No, they say: Two natural deaths are a lesser evil than one murder. John Paul II wrote, The deliberate decision to deprive an innocent human being of his life is always morally evil and can never be licit either as an end in itself or as a means to a good end. It is in fact a grave act of disobedience to the moral law, and indeed to God himself, the author and guarantor of that law; it contradicts the fundamental virtues of justice and charity. “Nothing and no one can in any way permit the killing of an innocent human being, whether a fetus or an embryo. This is clearly not an argument: it is merely a reiteration of words, to be completely clear.

However, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, where the foetus has implanted in the fallopian tube, removal of that tube is permissible under the principle of double effect- the surgeon removes the tube, mutilating her and making pregnancy later less likely, in order to save the woman’s life, with the unintended consequence that the foetus dies. However, removal of the foetus from the fallopian tube, saving the tube, is not permitted, because that is the direct act of killing the foetus.

I analyse this situation by its consequences. This is named consequentialist ethics. Consider the choices:

  1. Remove the foetus without damaging the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, she retains her chances of pregnancy later.
  2. Remove the foetus and the tube. The foetus is dead, the woman’s life is saved, her chances of pregnancy are reduced.

To me, clearly, the first is preferable. The church considers the second preferable because it considers acts rather than consequences. For me, the end justifies the means. For them, the need to avoid the wicked act of directly killing the foetus justifies mutilating the mother.

I cite the legal principle that a person is presumed to intend the consequences of their acts. The Catholic doctor knows that the foetus is implanted in the fallopian tube which s/he removes; how can it be said that the doctor does not intend to kill it?

To me, there are situations where moral rules are useful. Do not lie, do not cheat, do not steal; but it seems to me that I follow rules from virtue ethics rather than deontology: I am not the kind of person who does that. This makes me a moral agent, the judge of my own morality, rather than slavishly following rules thought out before consequentialist ethics was conceived.

Catholic position from The Rejection of Pascal’s Wager.

Benozzo_Gozzoli, the Triumph of Aquinas over Averroes

Limits on freedom

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 2

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 3Comment, here: As there is no right dependent on labor and efforts of others there is no right to healthcare. The ACA forces people to pay for something for others, doesn’t really matter what the thing in question happens to be, it’s a violation of individual liberty.

The stark purity of extremism is attractive to a certain type of mind. I prefer messy bodges, myself: I might not produce a rigorous argument, but I know what I like. Or I am special pleading: obviously, people in a position I can imagine myself in should not suffer X. That comment was about birth control, and an American company’s refusal to pay for a health insurance plan for its employees which includes a morning-after pill, which it claims is abortion.

First, the morning-after pill. I don’t see much practical moral difference between preventing sperm reaching a fertile ovum, and preventing a fertilized ovum from implanting. However there is a moral difference between preventing implantation and aborting an eight-week foetus- the mother should decide when she needs an abortion, but the longer she waits, the more traumatic it is for her. Alternatives are banning impulsive sex- good luck with that- or insisting that women take large quantities of artificial hormone. All the alternatives are worse, but the ignorant rationalist, who likes verbal arguments, says morning-after pill is an abortion, so wrong.

My justification for limits on freedom is the need for society. I recognise that not all people have the same felt need for society- Kim Jong Un seems happy with his rigid controlled state of hate and fear, based on ancient Chinese philosophy, which I like to think I would find unbearable, even were I in a position of power.

I observe that Great Britain, where the Industrial Revolution started, did not have democracy until 1918, when 60% of adult males acquired the vote. It had limits on free speech in the law of sedition, and on freedom of assembly in anti-Union law. The Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump 1freedom of the capitalist to set up large companies with cheap labour contributed to industrial growth, and someone with the talent of Beethoven growing up in a pit village would still go down the mine. That sort of freedom limits human flourishing. If it were necessary in 1800, with the wealth of the world it is not necessary now, and restricting the freedom of billionaires to do what they like, in order to benefit billions of poorer folk, is worthwhile.

A Christian libertarian will have heard the story of the Good Samaritan. Jesus points out he rescues a man who will die without help, and this is a Good Thing. The link between that one charitable act and society, through taxation, paying for the health care of all, is obvious. If the conservative Christian cannot see it, he suffers moral blindness, a mental disability which diminishes his humanity.

Joseph Wright of Derby- an experiment on a bird in an air pump

The Benefits of Nazism

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 6My friend’s school put on The Producers recently. Perhaps they thought it edgy for a child who learned German at his mother’s knee to wear a Nazi uniform, but with the grandchildren of combatants now in middle age, it is time to see the benefits of Nazism. I don’t mean all we have learned from them- “First they came for the Jews”, and I know that it is for me to do something about that, because I am a Jew- we learned that from their opponents. The Nazis were so wrong that what is right became crystal clear. The Nazis- testing the Wrong Way to destruction, so no-one else need ever go there. What I mean is all that is tempting about their ideology.

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 5One tempting thing is the Ourselves Alone loyalty. So Foreigners are dangerous, and must be restricted: David Cameron portrays Romanians as benefit scroungers, and seeks to have them excluded from the country, playing on our fears and resentment.

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 4Another is the black and white morality. Anti-abortionists can get together and feel one with the Group, a powerful and delightful feeling, and feel Right, which is even better. They are divorced from reality, but their feelings are wonderful. This causes suffering for others. The Northern Ireland Justice Minister is consulting on extending the category of permitted abortions from pregnancies which threaten the life of the mother to pregnancies where the baby could not survive outside the womb.

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 3That anyone could imagine it was right to force a woman to go through with a pregnancy where the baby could not survive outside the womb is horrifying: and the other political parties have expressed opposition to the extension of the law.

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 2There are extreme cases in the abortion debate- partial birth abortion at 38 weeks, where there is no threat to the mother or foetal abnormality, say- and in my pro-choice position, I swither between a pragmatic view that such extreme cases are so rare that I need not have a position, most abortions take place before Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles 1twelve weeks, and a clear view that the woman has the right to choose. But this is not the tempting moral simplicity of the anti-abortionist, but a refusal to make a judgment on the woman, who will have feelings for her child, and will only have an abortion if she cannot see an alternative. It is not for me to decide. I refuse to define myself against the Outsiders, the Bad People.

I am not saying Mr Cameron is a nazi, merely that he had adopted a central plank of the nazi world view, rather than a peripheral one like Hitler’s vegetarianism. For illustration, I thought of Prince Harry’s nazi uniform at a fancy dress party, but found it too disgusting. Here are the Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles, by Colin.

Springtime for Hitler and Germany!
Tomorrow belongs to me!

Paisley Abbey New Gargoyles

Pearl of great worth

https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/15/Portrait_de_Caterina_Sagredo_Barbarigo_par_Rosalba_Carriera.jpgJanet was a pioneer of caring for dementia patients without sedation. Well, you would not want sedated, yourself.

Was it a carer I met, or on the telly? She told of a man who regularly wet himself, and given that he had been moved to a care home and been unable to learn where the toilets were, she could sympathise with him doing this, and his distress.

I met a woman who wept bitterly as she told me of her inability to care for her mother, her mother’s random and damaging acts, how her mother could get up in the night and wander off. Now I read of a man who talks to his wife in his love for her as she keeps up a wordless muttering, then, still holding her hand, talks to another as if she were not there. So relatives can mourn for a loved one even as the body survives; at the funeral they are not sad as they have done their mourning; yet they care for that living body as if it were still the loved one.

Janet believes in a “Pearl” at the centre of the human being, which is utterly Them. Peeling the onion, one peels off more and more layers but at the centre is a tiny part which can no longer be peeled. Julian Baggini, whose book The Ego Trick I got from Terry, says that modern theorists give no credence to this pearl idea- the self has no fixed essence, it is in part a construction and the autobiographical narratives we tell ourselves invent an order and cohesion that real lives lack, p.83. Though on meeting friends from undergraduate days he finds them fitting together as they had twenty years ago, the same mannerisms coming out; and writes of threads of memory connecting the child, the man, the old man.

https://i0.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/b/be/CdM%2C_intaglio_di_giulia%2C_figlia_di_tito%2C_seconda_met%C3%A0_del_I_secolo_dc.%2C_acquamarina_firmata_da_Evodos%2C_montatura_carolingia_%28IX_sec.%29_con_9_zaffiri_e_6_perle.JPG/470px-thumbnail.jpgI remember as an undergraduate arguing passionately that a gay man- with a partner, forsooth!- should not be serving at the altar of the Episcopal cathedral; and that it is not choice but responsibility to the child growing in her womb that the mother should think of. These arguments I find despicable now, but if you think no decent person could ever have thought that, well, walk a mile in my shoes. One is flat, the other high-heeled.

My morality may change from conservative to liberal (proving I have no heart and no head) but I see characteristics in my nephew as a baby, child and young adult which look consistent. And I think of my Femaleness as my core, which does not change. I add to that my feeling-intuitive nature. I was not conscious of them as an undergraduate but other people may have been, and I think of them as suppressed rather than as not there.

The Pearl would fit Carl Rogers’s “Organismic Self”, and perhaps I construct my understanding of my experience around that theory. Had I read Julian Baggini first, and loved it as I love Rogers, would I see myself as more changeable now? Some parents who seemed always peaceable in dementia become violently angry- “My mother never used to swear”- but then, if you do not know where you are and people you do not know want to tell you what to do in such a confusing manner, well-

Emotive argument

This picture with the caption This is what we all looked like at 12 weeks in the womb. Legal to kill in all 50 states. Anyone think its not a person? Pass this along. It literally might save a life is circulating on Facebook.

Actually, that is not what a 12 week foetus looks like. This is an actual 12 week foetus: I will not copy the picture out of respect to the pro-life mother.

So the photograph here is a lie, designed to create an emotional effect. The size is wrong, the skin is wrong, both made to look more baby-like. It is an exaggeration: there is some truth there, and the liar may not even realise that they are twisting and embellishing the truth.

Snopes has a useful discussion mostly from a rationalist point of view. Chloe says, It’s a little big and a little too developed, especially in facial features and the proportions of the head. Standard pro-lie tactics involve timing the pregnancy at conception, rather than LMP, as the medical world does. For them, a 14 week fetus is considered a 12 week fetus. I suspect this is what we’re seeing here. Mmm, Rationalist- though that phrase “pro-lie” is a lovely rhetorical touch.

That photo is “preaching to the converted”. Anti-abortion campaigners will look at it, and be encouraged by it. They will not be looking at Snopes: there are other places for pro-life and pro-choice to debate. So much of the rhetoric is only for those who agree already. Talking across the divide is more difficult, and the greater the divergence in opinion the more difficult it gets.

The disgust it arouses seems a less complex and adult emotional reaction than the empathy it seeks to kill, empathy with the plight of the mother. That requires imagination and judgment. As a miscarriage is a horror, so is a termination: we all feel that disgust; but the pro-choice advocate moderates it with greater understanding of the whole situation.

We can exchange information-gobbets, dates of formation of nerve tissue or the incipient frontal lobe, but the feelings, disgust and empathy, seem stronger to me as a way of persuasion. Reducing the disgust with facts is slow, patient work.

Moving back to my more usual LGBT issue, here is suffragan bishop Alan Wilson on his correspondence after he came out as sympathetic to gay people. Ninety of his hundred letters against were mere abuse. That disgust, again, for other people; for who we are. How could that be persuasive? The writer shows his disgust, and a weaker other may take the lead from it, feeling as the dominant human feels, for feelings of solidarity. Or, if the other does not come to share the feeling, the writer feels dislocated and disconcerted, because his feeling is not confirmed as he desires. There is emotional identification with the conservative side of these arguments.

If you have changed your position in these arguments, how did that happen?

Legitimate rape

File:Blastocyst.JPGFrom this side of the Atlantic, Todd Akins appears to be a gift to the pro-choice side of the abortion argument. What he said:

“First of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down. But let’s assume that maybe that didn’t work or something. I think there should be some punishment, but the punishment ought to be on the rapist and not attacking the child.”

Then Congressman Steve King weighs in:

REPORTER: You support the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act that would provide federal funding for abortions to a person that has been forcefully raped. But what if someone isn’t forcibly raped and for example, a 12-year-old who gets pregnant? Should she have to bring this baby to term?

File:Ultrasound image of a fetus.jpgKING: Well I just haven’t heard of that being a circumstance that’s been brought to me in any personal way and I’d be open to hearing discussion about that subject matter. Generally speaking it’s this: that there millions of abortions in this country every year. Millions of them are paid for at least in part by taxpayers. I think it’s immoral for us to compel conscientious objecting taxpayers to fund abortion through the federal government, or any other government for that matter. So that’s my stand. And if there are exceptions there, then bring me those exceptions let’s talk about it. In the meantime it’s wrong for us to compel pro-life people to pay taxes to fund abortion.

Mr King’s argument interests me, because I think genuinely pro-life people should not be compelled to pay taxes towards military spending, to buy tools to kill people, or, for that matter, to pay for executions. In the early 19th century, when British local militias were paid for out of local taxes (“rates”), Quakers corporately decided not to pay the military rate. Generally, politicians agree that tax is apportioned by government, not directly by citizens, and think that the right to opt out is unworkable.

Akins’ outburst appears to be a gift because he is utterly repulsive, so that even Mr Romney had to denounce him. And yet he is a member of Congress, so File:Sucking his thumb and waving.jpgmust have some political skill: he must have thought such opinions would endear him to his electorate, rather than disgust them. It is terrifying that people might agree with such views.

Even if by “legitimate rape” Akins meant “rape as defined in law” rather than “rape which the law allows”, the proper meaning of the words, it is disturbing: it is as if he says that people bandy about the word “rape”, and so its use needs to be restricted.

No abortion, ever, is his desire. Rape victims are not an argument against this, because they are a tiny proportion of the abortions carried out in the US. Oddly enough I find something there to agree with him. The fact that women who have been raped need abortions is not a useful argument on the pro-choice side, just as the disgust I feel at partial-birth abortion is not an argument on the anti-abortion side. Partial birth abortions were 0.17% of US terminations in 2000. The argument is in the middle. Not a woman who will die if her foetus is not aborted, not a woman who was raped, and not a woman who wants to destroy a foetus which might survive if born.File:3dultrasound 20 weeks.jpg The real argument is about a woman who is twelve weeks gone and feels that she will be unable to care for a child, or to give one up if it is born. Such a case represents a far higher proportion of terminations than intact dilation and extraction on the one hand, or rape victims on the other.

It is only a tiny amount of agreement. Mr Akins has an absolute principled stand, no abortions, never, not nohow. Such a simple principled stand leads to the ritual humiliation of the vaginal probe, as legislators desperately try to roll back abortions. Whereas I want to consider the cases which actually happen, and have compassion on all the human beings involved.

I think an anti-abortion stance fails to have that compassion. It judges the woman. It says she has done a bad thing- whether that is unprotected sex, or sex while not in a loving relationship- and so should suffer the consequences. I would keep the law out of the matter entirely, and provide abortion on demand. I trust mothers not to abort unless it is necessary.