In virtually every current debate, religious people are portrayed as being at odds with science. Whether it is intelligent design, the existence of miracles or even the need for God, those who hold to the possibility of a supernatural occurance are ridiculed by many as being contrary to the real world of science.

I will save those debates for another day, but one area where the religious position is clearly the most scientific is the pro-life position.

The current debate over pro-life has shifted tremendously since 1973 and Roe vs. Wade. Most proponents of abortion no longer argue that an unborn baby is “life.” They conceed, while not acknowledging to loudly, that the baby is alive, capable of numerous human functions and is essentially human in all areas. But the debate, to the pro-choice movement is no longer about the baby being “alive” or even being human. It is no longer “When does life begin?”, but “the really hot question is, “When does being a person begin?”

What an interesting, completely unscientific thing to say. As the Planned Parenthood spokesperson went on to say:

Some of our oldest religions have changed their views about this question many times over the centuries. Today, some people sincerely believe that being a person begins when the egg is fertilized. Some, just as sincerely, believe that it begins with birth. And lots of others believe it begins somewhere in between.

What we are all sure about is that a pregnant woman is a person. We know for sure that she has morals, feelings, human needs, and a conscience. Because of this, we know that she is the only one able to make a decision about her pregnancy options. She does it based on her own needs, ethics, and religious belief about when being a person begins.

Most pro-life people argue that life is the same as personhood. If someone is human then by definition they are a person. Some may not agree that conception is the starting point. One may say that the appearance of blood or brainwaves signals the beginning. Either way, there is a beginning point which can be scientifically determined.

For the pro-choice person, there is no starting point for life or “personhood.” It is purely up to the individual based on their “own needs, ethics and religious belief.” There is no science to rest on, merely one’s on philosophical ideas.

One of the pioneers in this realm of thinking has been Peter Singer. For a rebutal of Singer’s form of ethics, I turn to Joe Carter:

Take, for example, his criterion for “personhood.” According to Singer’s definition, a “person” refers to a being that is capable of anticipating the future, of having wants and desires for the future. The problem with this definition is that a human being ceases to be a “person” when they are unconscious, temporarily comatose, or even just asleep. This leads to the absurd conclusion that a human stops being a “person” when they go to bed at night and yet wake in the morning with their status as a person fully renewed.

Instead of explaining why anyone should accept such a silly notion, Singer simply skips ahead to explain the practical application. But this leads to another absurd conclusion. What if Singer were in a funk over losing his girlfriend and lay on his couch to take a nap. While drifting off to sleep he whines that he “wished he’d never been born” and “wishes he could just die.” Imagine also that a grad student walks by and overhears these mutterings. According to Singer’s view, the student would be justified in killing the ethicist in his sleep since (a) by falling asleep he had ceased to be a person and (b) he had expressed a desire to not exist. The grad student may not be able to convince a jury, but he would certainly be consistently applying Singer’s “practical ethics.”

Slippery slope arguments are most often flung about with little or no support. But for people like Singer who have been advocating abortion, they are taking the next step with the personhood argument. The elderly and children with Down Syndrome are perfectly okay to kill because they do not meet our critera of personhood.

For a review on the use of “personhood” as it relates to moral discussions, Carter says:

I suppose this should offer us with a glimmer of hope for the future. Even an evil as great as slavery couldn’t stand in the face of longsuffering opposition. If we can progress to the point where the personhood of a black seven-year old is beyond doubt, maybe someday we will say the same about a seven-month old fetus.

A debate over someone meeting a shifting standard of personhood has always been unscientific and immoral, whether it was slave owners, Nazi officials or Planned Parenthood doctors.

*Much of this information was given by Nancy Pearcey at the Christian Worldview Conference I attended.