house on fire

Fallacy of the Day: Frozen embryos in a burning building

house on fireArgue with enough pro-aborts, and you’ll get the distinct impression that (ideologically, at least) they lead fairly sheltered lives. Often their zest for the “right to choose” and contempt for those who oppose it doesn’t quite match their level of familiarity with their opponents’ arguments or the deficiencies of their own case. Because they’ve never been exposed to significant amounts of contrary thought and have only had their views reinforced rather than put through a genuine critical gauntlet, they develop a false sense of confidence in the sophistication and infallibility of their case.

I found this called to mind by a recent exchange with a particularly zealous commenter who, in what he seemed to think was an ingenious trump card, posed the following thought experiment:

Setup: House with two rooms. In the first room are (100) human embryos ready for implantation into women. In the second room are (2) six month old human born babies. The house is on fire. As a consequence, you only have enough time to enter one of the rooms and save its contents.

Question: Which room will you enter?

The idea is to trap the pro-lifer between two nauseating options. If we save the embryos, we seem like monsters for dooming infants (or children, or elderly people; there are a lot of variants out there) to a fiery death. If we pick the babies, we’re supposedly demonstrating that we don’t really see embryos as full people after all.

Thus, pro-aborts rub their hands together in glee, like a supervillain who’s certain that his ultimate death trap will finally vanquish his nemesis. However, also like a supervillain, their overconfidence has blinded them to the holes in their master plan.

For the record, the question actually isn’t new to pro-lifers. Not by a long shot. Personally, I was still in high school when it was first posed to me. We know that heart-string-tugging isn’t logical force, and we find the Burning Clinic Fallacy’s logic wanting.

First, note that it’s an appeal to personal intuition, not objective reason. It’s hinged on the questioner’s hope to stymie his opponent’s instincts, not his knowledge. Regardless of what one’s answer is, it does not change the empirically indisputable reality that an embryo is alive and human in every way that science defines individual life and membership in Club Homo sapiens. It introduces no information about biology. It offers no claim about natural-rights theory or insight into metaphysics. So even if the challenge were to expose something about the person doing the saving, it would demonstrate nothing about the people in need of saving.

Second, there is a tremendous logical gulf between the respect our rights deserve and our obligations in an emergency. The latter forces on us numerous circumstances and considerations with no implications for the former – particularly with the added qualifier that someone’s rescue must come at the expense of another’s. Further, in the scenario, we haven’t violated anyone’s rights – we didn’t start the fire that threatens their lives, and as the bodily autonomy absolutists are so fond of reminding us, there’s a principled difference between abstaining from harm and providing aid. Essentially, the Burning Clinic Fallacy confuses being a Good Samaritan with not being an aggressor.

When events have crossed the rights bridge for us and forced us to find partial solutions to immediate harm, it’s legitimate to act on factors other than pure natural-rights theory to prevent as much suffering as we can. There could be any number of such reasons to choose the infants – the frozen embryos would likely die anyway when disposed of later, beyond our control; the infants would suffer horrible pain, and the embryos wouldn’t; or the infants’ deaths would massively traumatize their families.

(UPDATE, 4/20/13) It’s also worth noting that, as Melinda Penner does (via Scott Klusendorf), there could be reasons to make the opposite choice, too:

Now new variable could be introduced to the dilemma that change that survival calculation – a lab nearby could keep the embryos in their optimum condition, the baby has a terminal disease, etc. There are circumstances where I’d choose the embryos. But it’s that issue of survival that determines the choice, not that deep down I think one is really more valuable than the other one. So the dilemma just doesn’t prove anything.

Even so, it would not logically follow that the embryos have no right to life or that intentionally killing them would be just. The question here is which decision would cause the most suffering, not who has more rights. For the same reasons, one could legitimately choose to save an awake, pain-feeling patient over patients in comas or afflicted with congenital pain insensitivity: not because the former are more human or more valuable, but because they would suffer more. (End of Updated Section)

Indeed, we could make an endless list of such harrowing choices, none of which would legitimize murdering any of their participants. Let’s say one room is full of middle-aged strangers and the other holds your daughter. Or a young, healthy stranger vs. an old, terminally ill one. Or the president of the United States vs. Ken Lay. Or one of the most loaded examples imaginable, from Ramesh Ponnuru’s quintessential The Party of Death:

You can either rescue a research scientist who is making great strides toward a cure for Alzheimer’s disease, or rescue four heroin-addicted fifty-eight-year-old men who have spent their lives rotating through the penal system and are likely to continue to do so. Whom do you save?

Let’s say you save the scientist. Are you therefore saying that it’s permissible to kill hopeless old addicts? Are you saying that such people do not have the same right not to be killed that the scientist does?

Indeed, we don’t even have to hypothesize; the real world gives us far less convoluted examples. Doctors sometimes have to prioritize among the patients vying for their attention. Civilian casualties are sometimes unavoidable in warfare. President Harry Truman chose to devastate two Japanese cities, killing a minimum of 154,000 innocent people, because he deemed it the least bloody option in the long run. In January, we discussed the unique challenge facing “Auschwitz Abortionist” Gisella Perl.

But in every last one of these scenarios, from the IFV clinic to Hiroshima, the necessity of choosing anyone’s death is entirely the product of extreme circumstances. Take those away, and you’re left with no authorization to end anyone’s life.

The art of sophistry is to craft an argument that seems impressive, as long as it’s felt rather than analyzed. But like all superficial sleights of hand, all it takes is a little reason to bring it crashing down.

  • JW

    At risk of getting into an issue tangential to the main point of this post, I have to comment on the mention of Harry Truman and the decision to bomb Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I agree that emergency situations can involve not saving everyone we ideally would want to save, but I do not think this particular historical situation fits that description. Rather, this was a case of a deliberate decision being made to use a massively destructive weapon directly against a population center containing thousands of innocents (that is, civilians). If we grant that intentional killing of the innocent is always wrong, how is bombing cities (whether with atomic bombs or any other kind of massively devastating weapon) not as immoral as an abortion? This seems, to my mind, different from either not saving everyone at risk in a burning building or even from engaging in a military operation that will unintentionally cause civilian casualties.
    To make my own position clear, I am 100% pro-life: I am absolutely opposed to intentionally killing an unborn child. I am also absolutely opposed to intentionally killing civilians in wartime, which is what indiscriminate bombing is.

    • http://twitter.com/SicBorodin Sic Borodin

      Weren’t the Japanese people (all of them) propagandized into fighting the Allies to the death? It would take something on the order of the atomic bomb to show them (and more importantly their sovereign) the real-life ramifications of that.

      There’s also the concept of fungibility of resources. The plain fact is that if you’re at war with a nation, ALL of its output will help it make war and thus kill your people. Even civilians. That’s why Sherman burned the farms on his March to the Sea.

      • JW

        Perhaps I am misunderstanding you (please correct me if I am wrong), but it sounds as if you are arguing that using the atomic bombs against Japan was justified because 1) only an attack of that magnitude would have convinced the Japanese people, committed to the war effort as they were, to surrender; and 2) the civilian population of a nation at war is used to further the war effort and therefore is a legitimate target.

        Argument 1) sounds like a justification of the atomic attacks on the grounds that they led to a good outcome or result. I disagree with the notion that good results can justify an otherwise unjust action, however: if something is intrinsically wrong (as I believe the killing of innocents to be), it is wrong even if it has good consequences. Perhaps you would disagree; this argument ties into the long-standing ethical discussion of whether ends justify means, which I am not philosophically skilled enough to tackle. Suffice it to say that I do not think ends justify means, however.

        My response to argument 2) is more complicated. I would say the following:

        –Even in a nation where the vast majority of the population supports a war effort somehow (whether by growing food for the troops, working to produce military equipment, or in other ways), at least some people are genuinely removed from the war effort: the very young, the very old, the sick and disabled. Under even the broadest understanding of who is helping a nation to make war, these people do not qualify. Nevertheless, these people can be killed in indiscriminate attacks on entire cities that contain schools, hospitals, private homes, and so on (Jonathan Schell, in his anti-nuclear weapons book “The Fate of the Earth,” quotes from accounts by Hiroshima survivors about children, some as young as five or three years old, being pulled from rubble–sometimes living, sometimes dead–or wandering among the city’s ruins). Killing these people is not justified.

        –Whether people who are not uniformed members of a nation’s armed services can ever be legitimate military targets is a difficult question: when the people in question are very closely associated with exclusively military activities–as in the case of civilian employees of the military or workers producing weapons–it seems more plausible than when they are engaged in essentially peaceable activities that nevertheless help the military, such as growing food for the armed forces. For my part, I would err on the side of limiting legitimate military targets to those within the official military chain of command whose jobs allow them to directly use lethal force. This more or less means only uniformed military personnel should be military targets. Civilians who indirectly help the war effort by providing weapons, supplies, etc., should not be directly targeted in war.

    • Julia

      Yes, I agree. I think that if the U.S. had wanted to show off their bomb, showing the Japanese what would happen to their country if they continued the war, dropping the bomb on, say, a mountain and leveling it, would have served the purpose just as well, while resulting in minimal civilian deaths.

      Truly, the destruction of those cities, bringing about the deaths of thousands of civilians, is a great blot on our country’s history

    • http://www.facebook.com/sarahl.terzo Sarah L Terzo

      The bomb never had to be dropped. The Japanese believed that their emperor was a religious figure, like the pope. But they wanted to surrender. They offered to accept a surrender on the condition that the emperor could remain in power, as a figurehead.

      That was not good enough for the Americans.

      They demanded on UNCONDITIONAL surender They wanted to humiliate Japan and break their spirits. – show the world the consequences to messing with the US. They also wanted to show the USSR what we were capable of. So they bombed Japan. And all those people died.

      Needlessly.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sarahl.terzo Sarah L Terzo

    This article is incorrect about Hiroshima. Dropping the bomb was not needed. The Japanese had said they would agree to a conditional surrender – we refused to accept anything less than unconditional.

    • Calvin Freiburger

      My article doesn’t say dropping the bomb was needed. It just uses it as an extreme example of how there is a substantive argument for its necessity (which I linked; did you read it?) that many people would find reasonable, but none of them would extrapolate from it that Japanese civilians don’t have a right to life or that intentionally killing them in other circumstances would have been permissible.

  • KKeell

    TRIAGE, TRIAGE, TRIAGE.

    The only relevant item you posted is the Wikipedia page on triage. This question has NOTHING to do with anything else you wrote about. But I hope you enjoyed your writing session.

    Here are my answers to the scenarios in order. I will save:

    1) Six month old baby

    2) Daughter

    3) Healthy stranger

    4) President

    5) Scientist

    Simple. These are my choices for who has more value. TRIAGE. What are your choices?

    If pro-life people, such as yourself, did not say things like:

    “In the eyes of humane people who understand embryology, yes” when asked:

    “After all, they’re totally equal, right?”

    And if you didn’t say:

    “Actually, this goes to my point too: the equality fakes rationalize their hypocrisy and negligence by simply denying what abortion and the unborn really are”, then this triage question would have never be asked in the first place. Your own words beg this question, and the fact you and your ilk write elaborate explanations as to why the question is invalid instead of just answering proves the question has merit.

    “Frozen embryos would likely die anyway when disposed of later, beyond our control” is an excuse. “Ready for implantation” is what I said. You save them, they get implanted.

    The percentage of live births per cycle when using donor eggs is 31.9% when using frozen embryos.

    http://infertility.about.com/od/ivf/f/ivf_success.htm

    http://infertility.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=infertility&cdn=health&tm=96&f=00&tt=12&bt=6&bts=6&zu=https%3A//www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx%3FClinicPKID%3D0

    Let’s round way down to 10. Those are 10 lives, “totally equal” to an infant, you will let perish so you can save 2.

    “The infants would suffer horrible pain, and the embryos wouldn’t”. The born and the unborn are “totally equal” according to you and the pro-life community. Are there different definitions of “totally equal”? If the infant feels horrible pain and the embryo does not, they are not “totally equal”, are they? Your words, not mine.

    “The infants’ deaths would massively traumatize their families”. You’re damn right they would. Beyond the average person’s comprehension. So, according to your words, which is all I have to go by, infants are “totally equal” to embryos except when it comes to feeling physical pain and traumatizing their families. A scientist and an addict, I’m sure you’ll agree, truly are “totally equal”. But to you, an embryo and an infant are not. Your words, Calvin, not mine. If you have a problem with what I’m writing, take it up with yourself.

    It’s only about TRIAGE. What has more value to YOU? Anything else you and your cohorts write in defense of your infant-choosing position is simply a diversion from the words you have written in the past so you do not have to justify their meaning in the present. A for effort.

    And blocking my account so you won’t be confronted with these questions is not going to work. As long as you allow comments I will be here, throwing your inconsistencies back in your face. Or you can answer my questions and I will leave. The choice is yours.

  • http://twitter.com/Astraspider Ms. Spider

    I’ve got another logic puzzle. Pro-lifers hate Kermit Gosnell. They also hate Roe v. Wade. Which do you hate more?

    Do you hate Roe v. Wade more? Well, it’s extinction would usher in an era of a Kermit Gosnells in every major city. Do you hate Kermit Gosnell more? Well, in that case, you should want Roe to stick around.

    • Calvin Freiburger

      As usual, you’re lying.

      First, the claim that Roe somehow ended an epidemic of death by “unsafe” abortion is an old, discredited myth. We’ve addressed it on multiple occasions here, most recently here: http://liveactionnews.org/naral-spokeswoman-lies-about-abortion-on-complicit-msnbc/ It isn’t plausible that you don’t already know this has been debunked. Yet you choose to suggest it anyway. Honesty? Bah, that’s for people with consciences…..

      Second, Gosnell would never have gotten away with it as long as he had if pro-choice state officials and the National Abortion Federation inspector who checked him out hadn’t let him. The blame for Gosnell is all on your side. Again, it’s suspicious that someone so pretentious about facts and knowledgeably doesn’t already know this, but for the sake of thoroughness:

      http://www.politicsdaily.com/2011/01/23/kermit-gosnells-pro-choice-enablers-how-clinics-become-death-t/?a_dgi=aolshare_twitter
      http://www.theamericanconservative.com/some-people-are-actually-using-the-kermit-gosnell-case-to-argue-for-making-abortions-easier/

      Not that being caught yet again peddling lazy falsehoods (probably knowingly) will put a dent in your obnoxious veneer of moral and intellectual superiority. The bar for being considered a decent person on the Left is scandalously low.

      • Basset_Hound

        The Huffington Post article you linked to is an excellent reference for the fact that when measures that are commonplace for other outpatient medical procedures are proposed for abortion facilities, the “pro-choice” crowd screams like scalded dogs. I am going to copy that link into my list of resources.

    • KKeell

      Yeah, Ms. Spider, that Roe thing is just a myth. You see,

      “best evidence indicates that the annual deaths from illegal abortions would number in the hundreds, not thousands”

      See? You’re getting all worked-up over nothing; only hundreds of women will die. Small price to pay, wouldn’t you say? For the privilege of having your own small gov’t force women to give birth, it’s totally guilt-free. I mean, let’s be honest: who’s gonna miss these women anyway? They’re mainly poor, inner-city dwellers with no families to speak of. Just look at them as collateral damage if that helps. And remember, if a pro-lifer like Calvin has no problem with hundreds of dead women, well then neither should you.

      Now get on board the pro-life bandwagon and stop asking such hard questions. Calvin hates questions.

  • KKeell

    TRIAGE, TRIAGE, TRIAGE.

    The only relevant item you posted is the Wikipedia page on triage. This question has NOTHING to do with anything else you wrote about. But I hope you enjoyed your writing session.

    Here are my answers to the scenarios in order. I will save:

    1) Six month old baby

    2) Daughter

    3) Healthy stranger

    4) President

    5) Scientist

    Simple. These are my choices for who has more value. TRIAGE. What are your choices?

    If pro-life people, such as yourself, did not say things like:

    “In the eyes of humane people who understand embryology, yes” when asked:

    “After all, they’re totally equal, right?”

    And if you didn’t say:

    “Actually, this goes to my point too: the equality fakes rationalize their hypocrisy and negligence by simply denying what abortion and the unborn really are”, then this triage question would have never be asked in the first place. Your own words beg this question, and the fact you and your ilk write elaborate explanations as to why the question is invalid instead of just answering proves the question has merit.

    “Frozen embryos would likely die anyway when disposed of later, beyond our control” is an excuse. “Ready for implantation” is what I said. You save them, they get implanted.

    The percentage of live births per cycle when using donor eggs is 31.9% when using frozen embryos.

    http://infertility.about.com/od/ivf/f/ivf_success.htm

    http://infertility.about.com/gi/o.htm?zi=1/XJ&zTi=1&sdn=infertility&cdn=health&tm=96&f=00&tt=12&bt=6&bts=6&zu=https%3A//www.sartcorsonline.com/rptCSR_PublicMultYear.aspx%3FClinicPKID%3D0

    Let’s round way down to 10. Those are 10 lives, “totally equal” to an infant, you will let perish so you can save 2.

    “The infants would suffer horrible pain, and the embryos wouldn’t”. The born and the unborn are “totally equal” according to you and the pro-life community. Are there different definitions of “totally equal”? If the infant feels horrible pain and the embryo does not, they are not “totally equal”, are they? Your words, not mine.

    “The infants’ deaths would massively traumatize their families”. You’re damn right they would. Beyond the average person’s comprehension. So, according to your words, which is all I have to go by, infants are “totally equal” to embryos except when it comes to feeling physical pain and traumatizing their families. A scientist and an addict, I’m sure you’ll agree, truly are “totally equal”. But to you, an embryo and an infant are not. Your words, Calvin, not mine. If you have a problem with what I’m writing, take it up with yourself.

    It’s only about TRIAGE. What has more value to YOU? Anything else you and your cohorts write in defense of your infant-choosing position is simply a diversion from the words you have written in the past so you do not have to justify their meaning in the present. A for effort.

    And blocking my account so you won’t be confronted with these questions is not going to work. As long as you allow comments I will be here, throwing your inconsistencies back in your face. Or you can answer my questions and I will leave. The choice is yours.

  • http://www.scribd.com/johnboy_philothea John Sobert Sylvest

    Calvin, many of you made some excellent points and I am generally sympathetic to the overall thrust of the seamless garment ethic. But some of those points are not substantive counterpoints to the normative impetus of this well-conceived bioethical hypothetical, which involves both propositional positions and nonpropositional posits. The dilemma elicits an explicit de-ontological act, which we are invited to explore for its implicit ontological implications.

    From those implications, as you and others rightly point out, one can neither infer that the embryo has no value nor that proscriptions against its indiscriminate destruction no longer apply. Still, it would be quite disingenuous not to infer any distinctions whatsoever, not to infer some very real ontological distinctions between the very earliest stages, post-conception, and later stages. And arguments about the so-called arbitrariness of our definitions are not compelling (such as those which often employ categories from the old essentialism-nominalism, substance-process, debates, e.g. sorite paradoxes).

    Finally, your rhetoric is much too polemical, not dialogical. Pro-aborts, for example, is much too facile a label. Many people of large intelligence and profound goodwill can agree about moral realities, even intrinsic evils, while disagreeing regarding practical solutions, politically.

    http://www.scribd.com/doc/196706115/Bioethical-Dilemma-of-Saving-Embryos-From-Burning-Building

    • Calvin Freiburger

      I believe that one of the problems with political debate in this country is we give motives and character too much of a pass. Part of the reason so few people are comfortable publicly identifying, with, say, the KKK or the Westboro Baptist Church is because society stigmatizes those groups and their values, sending a message that it’s not respectable or honorable to believe as they do or associate with them. Yet for positions held by the major parties, American politics has this perverse rule of decorum that says they all deserve respect, regardless of content. Instead of making political discourse nicer or more productive, it’s only allowed hatred and dishonesty to spread. And babies to die.

      Also, I think you’re vastly overestimating the other side’s ability to have their mind changed. The vast majority of active pro-abortion commentators are so biased that they aren’t willing to consider the possibility they are wrong, and they’re not taking anything you say seriously, either. I’ll grant you that maybe a few less fanatical pro-choicers could see it and get offended. But what should we do, lie about their side not being monstrous just to spare their feelings? Ignore dishonesty and hypocrisy right in front of us? Pretend there’s not blood on their hands? Maybe the moderates are still pro-choice because the movement they’re associating with hasn’t been stigmatized enough, because more soft-spoken pro-lifers have left them with the impression that the pro-abortion cause is anything less than evil.

      • http://www.scribd.com/johnboy_philothea John Sobert Sylvest

        There is no defense for incivility and ad hominem attacks, which offend charity. The Christian tradition values the voice of prophetic protest, but loves the sinner, only hating the sin. We are to simultaneously speak out against behaviors and circumstances, against both individual and institutionalized sin, while extending compassion and offering hope and healing to all. Furthermore, even when we discern failures to cooperate with grace and even properly interdict them, we cannot know which such failures result from another’s inability (due to poor formation, deformative influences, illness, invincible ignorance, etc) or another’s refusal (personal sin). Name-calling has no pedagogical value.

        To wit: “What Pope Francis did say is that the Catholic Church should simultaneously speak out against abortion while providing hope and healing for women who have them and see their lives destroyed by their abortions.”
        http://www.lifenews.com/2013/09/19/pope-francis-catholic-church-must-minister-more-to-women-after-abortion/

        We cannot give witness to human dignity, while employing rhetoric that offends human dignity. People deserve respect even when their behaviors or positions do not.

        Especially regarding the matter at hand, which would be pertinent to such moral realities as abortifacient contraceptives, in vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research, emergency contraceptives and cryotanks with cryogenic embryos, the Church’s moral teachings are derived normatively for practical purposes and not descriptively for metaphysical speculation vis a vis ensoulment and personhood, which is likely, why, for example, Cardinal O’Connor said he neither uses the word “murder” for abortion nor encourages such language, for which “blood on their hands” would be tantamount.

        • Calvin Freiburger

          “Facile labels applied to political positions are often uninformative, even misleading, because we cannot necessarily infer, merely from one’s legal position or political stance, what moral position one takes.”

          None of the labels I use are facile.

          “There is no defense for incivility and ad hominem attacks, which offend charity.”

          Civility is perhaps the single most overrated value in society today. It seems like the only way I could satisfy it to your liking is by pretending lies aren’t lies, callousness isn’t callousness, selfishness isn’t selfishness, malice isn’t malice, and evil isn’t evil. In a cultural war, constantly hand-wringing about manners and bending over backward to be “civil” enough toward our utterly-ruthless opponents isn’t moral high ground; it’s unilateral disarmament.

          And an ad hominem attack is defined as attacking an argument based on some irrelevant fact about the person making it — which I haven’t done or advocated doing.

          “The Christian tradition values the voice of prophetic protest, but loves the sinner, only hating the sin.”

          I don’t think it’s very loving at all to be anything less than candid about the gravity of sins like abortion, false witness, and defamation.

          “Furthermore, even when we discern failures to cooperate with grace and even properly interdict them, we cannot know which such failures result from another’s inability (due to poor formation, deformative influences, illness, invincible ignorance, etc) or another’s refusal (personal sin).”

          Sure we can. For one thing, when you give someone the info they lack and they still willfully ignore it, they are the ones opening the question of motives. For another, when engaging with pro-abortion professionals (government officials, activists, media figures, etc.), it is quite literally their job to know better. And in both cases, making the issue into a referendum on character challenges them to confront whatever sin they’re committing. Your preferred alternative makes it far too easy for them to continue on sinning, in comfortable denial of their sin.

          “Name-calling has no pedagogical value.”

          The exclamation “You brood of vipers!” is name-calling, is it not?

          “Cardinal O’Connor said he neither uses the word ‘murder’ for abortion nor encourages such language, for which ‘blood on their hands’ would be tantamount.”

          Then frankly, Cardinal O’Connor is part of the problem — part of the reason innocent babies keep getting killed. If his definition of charity is so extreme that it necessitates such a grotesque lie as talking about abortion as if it’s not murder, then he’s elevated decorum to a higher level of importance than the sanctity of human life.

          • http://www.scribd.com/johnboy_philothea John Sobert Sylvest

            We cannot know who’s in a state of mortal sin, who has refused to cooperate with grace.

            We cannot, necessarily, infer a person’s stance toward a moral reality from their stance toward a legal or political reality.

            We cannot easily succeed and should not be facile in our attempts to admonish those who do not even share 1) our definitions, categories and premises, rationally, 2) our faith, suprarationally, 3) our most deeply felt sensibilities, nonrationally, 4) our inclinations, connaturally and intuitively.

            Thus a suitable pedagogy for those who understand a moral reality badly becomes a rather complex affair.

            Thus the Catechism, in paragraph 2478, cites St. Ignatius’ Spiritual Exercises: To avoid rash judgment, everyone should be careful to interpret insofar as possible his neighbor’s thoughts, words, and deeds in a favorable way:
            “Every good Christian ought to be more ready to give a favorable interpretation to another’s statement than to condemn it. But if he cannot do so, let him ask how the other understands it. And if the latter understands it badly, let the former correct him with love. If that does not suffice, let the Christian try all suitable ways to bring the other to a correct interpretation so that he may be saved.”

            I appreciate that you aspire to bring others to a correct interpretation even if we disagree, strategically (and might even be at an impasse on certain other points). Thanks for your time and thoughts, Calvin.

          • http://www.scribd.com/johnboy_philothea John Sobert Sylvest

            And, please!

            RE: “Name-calling has no pedagogical value.”

            The exclamation “You brood of vipers!” is name-calling, is it not? <<<<<<<

            Really? Who hasn't seen this weak rationalization by angry bloggers?

            "Jesus had a perfect insight into the heart and motives of people that you and I simply do not have. "   http://sbcimpact.org/2010/09/20/do-jesus-and-pauls-harsh-words-justify-ours/

      • http://www.scribd.com/johnboy_philothea John Sobert Sylvest

        Less about rhetorical style and its strategic and moral significance, more to the sybstantive issue being raised: “Many people of large intelligence and profound goodwill can agree about moral realities, even intrinsic evils, while disagreeing regarding practical solutions, politically.”<<<<

        Facile labels applied to political positions are often uninformative, even misleading, because we cannot necessarily infer, merely from one's legal position or political stance, what moral position one takes. One would not conclude, for example, that one's refusal to criminalize mothers, who abort, would necessarily entail a particular moral stance toward abortion, itself. One's strategic approach does not necessarily reveal one's moral approach. Facile labels are not helpful in political and moral discourse, however one might otherwise choose to defend impolitic speech.