Wednesday, April 7, 2010

RedState's bk suffers injury in attempt to use logic

When one oversimplifies issues and refuses to make important distinctions, one will find double standards where none exist.

Such is the case with RedState blogger bk.

In "Abortion vs death penalty double standard," bk accuses "'true' liberals" of (1) working to minimize the suffering of criminals who are being executed but (2) not working to minimize the suffering of sentient fetuses that are being aborted.

I suppose that bk would respond to my criticism of his post below by asserting that I am a false liberal (whatever that is).  Anyway, here it is.

bk cites this New York Times story as evidence that liberals don't want criminals being executed to feel pain.  The story concerns the death penalty case Baze v. Rees, in which "a United States District Court judge in Tennessee ruled that the state had, in fact, violated the Eighth Amendment by disregarding the 'substantial risk' that the three-drug cocktail [used in lethal injection] would cause 'unnecessary pain.'"

Notice that the motivation isn't compassion for the condemned: it is concern about the constitutionality of the punishment.  The Eighth Amendment prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."  bk can't simply ignore the Constitution, even if it would give him great satisfaction to know that criminals feel pain when they are executed.

Anyway, bk asserts that liberals are opposed to a bill being considered in Nebraska that "would make all abortions after the 20th week illegal because of the suffering of the baby vs the current law there that looks at viability on a case by case basis." (Notice his use of the word "baby" to refer to the fetus—a vile technique used by pro-lifers to convert others to their cause by non-rational means.) According to bk,
The same sort of liberals who didn’t want criminals to allegedly suffer for a moment just before death are absolutely outraged at this idea. They are worried because with the Roberts court having already okayed partial birth abortion bans in Gonzales v. Carhart that they might allow another “pillar” of Roe v. Wade to be chopped down by setting a fixed limit – a “bright line” – on viability.  
Allow me to explain, bk.

I am liberal.

I am pro-choice.  I believe that abortion should be legal, safe, and (most importantly) rare.  I don't believe that abortion should be available without restriction, as bk claims.  For example, I am against partial birth abortion unless continuation of a pregnancy threatens the life or health of a woman.  Aborting a viable fetus is equivalent to infanticide in my view.  Why am I pro-choice?  I believe that abortion is a serious moral issue.  The decision to terminate fetal life ought not to be made lightly.  But human beings have a right to control their own bodies.  (Indeed, if we don't have that, what's left to have?)  No government or church has a right to dictate to a woman what her reproductive choices will be.  Many pro-lifers forget that women have rights if fetuses have rights; to them, it is as if women are mere livestock.  But no right is absolute.  It is true that some fetuses are sentient, and fetal sentience is a moral problem for pro-choicers.  But fetal sentience is not the only moral consideration.

I am opposed to the death penalty.  I believe that criminal punishment is justified by its deterrent effect.  There is no scientific proof that the deterrent effect of the death penalty is superior to that of all other alternative punishments, such as life in prison without parole.  And life in prison without parole is a severe punishment.  Common sense arguments that the death penalty is a superior deterrent are no better than common sense arguments that abolition of the death penalty would deter murders.  So the death penalty is overkill: for all we know, we can deter all murders that can be deterred without it, so the death penalty is unnecessary.  And I haven't even mentioned the issue of executing innocent people, an issue that a conservative ought to be concerned about if their support of the death penalty is justified by something other than a lust for blood.  If it could be shown that the death penalty were a superior deterrent, then we would be justified in using it, even if it caused those who received it to suffer.

We ought to minimize unnecessary suffering in this world, be it experienced by the innocent or guilty, human being or sentient non-human animal.  But this is only one of our moral duties.  There are others, bk.  So I reject your rudimentary argument that liberals accept a double standard here. 

Notice that I could formulate an equally sloppy argument to show that "true conservatives" accept a number of double standards: they have concern for the suffering of fetuses, for example, but not for the suffering of infants, especially if they have preexisting conditions or their parents are impoverished.  Of course, there are actual examples of plenty of conservative politicians holding plainly contradictory positions, but we needn't go into that here.  

It is posts like bk's that engender the belief that conservative bloggers can win debates only by oversimplifying the issues, refusing to recognize important distinctions, and attributing strawmen to their opponents who they reduce to mere caricatures.  Conservatives, those debating strategies make you look like morons.  I know a lot of you think that many liberals are mindless idiots, and I suppose that some of them are.  But many of us are actually pretty smart—smart enough to see bk's post for what it is: an attempt to propagandize a readership whose intellectual defenses are down.

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It is wrong always, everywhere, and for anyone, to believe anything upon insufficient evidence. ---W.K. Clifford

Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, than that of blind-folded fear. ---Thomas Jefferson