Julian Savulescu his interlocuter has not bothered to acquaint himself to the slightest extent with any of the rebuttals from the pro-life side to the points he is making. It’s as if he did not wish to clutter his mind with rubbish that was best consigned to an epistemic lumber room.
I consider that a man's brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled up with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it.(Sherlock Holmes: A Study in Scarlet by A.C.Doyle
Thus Savulescu trots out the well worn point ‘if the killing of the unborn is such a scandal why is something not done about the vast numbers of miscarried unborn. Why are pro-life people not working harder to save these mites?’. A less polite form of that argument which is sometimes heard is ‘ if you think this is a holocaust why aren’t you down at the abortion clinic physically preventing abortions from taking place, by violence if necessary?’ The implication is that pro-life people are insincere hypocrites with a ‘war on women’ agenda or something like that.
A roomful of academics ought to be able to distinguish between a deliberate taking of life and and an involuntary loss of life which is difficult to predict and guard against. That does not seem to be the case however as I’ve read a similar ,argument from Peter Smith though slightly more elaborated:
Here a type of gradualist argument is presented. We are offered the notion that because a very early miscarriage, an involuntary event, is not taken to be such a dreadful thing then the voluntary procuring of a miscarriage at the same stage is likewise not an awful thing that we should feel terribly guilty about. The focus is on the psychological relationship to the immature foetus. Why is there such a fuss in the one case and not in the other, Smith asks? That is just the point at, issue, what is voluntary is blameworthy and what is involuntary is not. It is that which builds the attitude we take and even in the case of the involuntary and accidental killing of a person we would be haunted by it but still not accuse ourselves.
My dialogue with Peter Smith went as follows:
September 2, 2011 at 9:38 am
The ‘scourge’(of miscarriage) is interesting but not very alarming. Why? How can you be exercised by something you are not even aware of? Are women who might be pregnant supposed to go around ‘in tin shoes, sipping tepid milk’? Again how is this a challenge to Catholics who at least at the end of life assert that it is not morally required to use heroic means to keep alive the moribund. Having failed to hit the nail to begin with the author continues to hit it in the same place repeatedly.
Peter Smith says:
September 2, 2011 at 9:56 am
But of course the question is: once you are aware of the rate of natural embryo death, what — in consistency — should be your moral reaction?
September 3, 2011 at 7:44 am
I would apply the principle of not using heroic means and not striving officiously to keep alive; to allow, in other words, nature’s quality control to take its course. I do not see that as a challenge to the pro-life/anti-abortion stance.
The comments on the whole are interesting and not unquestioningly supportive of the O.P.