Aborting Paul Manata’s Refutation
Ever since I posted my Pro-Fetal Ownership Argument, the reaction has been strong on both sides. For example, Aaron Kinney, who writes Kill the Afterlife, liked the argument so much that he posted it on his site. Conversely, many Christians expressed their extreme displeasure with the argument. Paul Manata, a prominent Christian blogger, was in the latter category. Over his Paul’s blog, as well as at Kill the Afterlife, I’ve engaged him and answered his numerous objections. None of this has helped, though; every time a refutation has been killed, he resurrects it anew. In this post, I will, once and for all, tackle most of Paul’s objections. By the end of this post, everyone should be convinced of my argument’s veracity and soundness.
Let’s look at my argument, to start:
Premise One: Individuals own their bodies, and everything that is growing within them.
Premise Two: Fetuses grow within the bodies of their mothers.
Conclusion One: Females own their fetuses.
Premise Three: Individuals may destroy that which they own.
Premise Four: Females own their fetuses.
Conclusion Two: Females may destroy their fetuses.
Here’s Paul’s first objection:
Clearly, this is a fallacious objection. I do not argue that since the baby is growing in the woman’s property it thereby becomes the woman’s property. Rather, I argue that since the fetus is growing inside the female’s body it thereby becomes the female’s property. My argument (and its stated premises) has nothing to do with growing in one’s property in general. It explicitly and exclusively deals with growing within an individual’s body. Paul’s extrapolations are his own, and I do not claim ownership of them.
Here’s Paul’s second objection, which is closely related:
“His argument also says that one person can own another person. That's the argument. But then he says he's opposed to slavery. This business about it only applying when people are in the womb is strictly ad hoc”
Once again, Manata is expanding my premises in order to erect a straw man that he can subsequently demolish. I never said, “One person can own another person.” I only argue that a female may own a fetus when said fetus is growing within the female’s body. While arguments can be justifiably narrowed, they cannot be expanded.
Here’s an analogy.
I am arguing that a female may own her fetus. Paul is extrapolating that one human may own any other human. That is like me arguing that a human may own a dog, and Paul extrapolating that a human may own any animal. Fetus is a subset of human, and dog is a subset of animal. Saying that a fetus may be owned does not necessarily imply all humans can be owned, just like saying a dog may be owned does not necessarily imply that all animals can be owned. Saying a fetus, but not necessarily all humans, can be property isn’t any more ad hoc than saying a dog, but not necessarily all animals, can be property.
If I had spoken in generalities, such as “Humans may own other humans,” then Paul could rightly deduce that humans may own fetuses. However, Paul cannot rightly do the opposite (make extrapolations), which is what he continually attempts.
Paul’s third objection:
“For example, I proved that George Steinbrenner owns his baseball players. He can tell them when to go to bed, what to eat, etc. He owns them. No, not in a slave era mentality, but he owns the Yankees, which is made up of many things, including Derek Jeter. Therefore, if a person can murder their own property then Steinbrenner can murder Derek Jeter.”
That, of course, is in response to my premise that individuals may destroy their property. What I’ve pointed out to Paul numerous times, to no benefit, is that Steinbrenner owns the Yankees in the sense that he owns the team and the franchise. He does not own the human beings that comprise the team. He might be able to enforce limited behavioral restrictions on the players, but those restrictions are borne out of the contract the players signed, not Steinbrenner’s ownership of them. For example, in my place of business, the boss compels me to dress a certain way and arrive at a certain time. He sometimes compels me to go on business trips. That the boss has some effect on my behavior does not mean the boss owns me as a piece of property.
I’ve often presented Paul with the ultimate argument against his contention that George Steinbrenner owns Derek Jeter the person: Steinbrenner would never allege that he does. All Steinbrenner claims to own is the Yankees team, which rightfully is his property. And, Steinbrenner has every right to destroy that property by disbanding the team and ending the franchise. Thus, my original premise stands. As long as G.S. may destroy the Yankees (the team, not the players themselves), my argument is solid. It’s also rather curious that Paul, who claims humans can never be owned, cites Steinbrenner’s personal ownership of Derek Jeter in order to attack my argument.
Finally, I want to address Paul’s assertion that my argument is irrelevant because it’s subjective, rather than objective.
“Saying something is ‘objective to me’ is nonsense. Anyway, all you just said is that TO YOU they have rights. What we're asking if they have REAL, OBJECTIVE, UNIVERSAL, NON-ARBITRARY rights. A moral relativist cannot account for this.”
My argument is, in fact, objective. My views on morality, immorality, good, bad and rights are all objective. I didn’t reach my views at random: They are organic to me. True, there are no intrinsic rights or intrinsic morals, but things need not be intrinsic in order to be objective.
For example, since I am a huge movie fan, every year I compile a Top 10 list. That list is not randomly reached. Those are the 10 best films of the year to me, completely objectively. Similarly, my set of moral values and my views on rights are also objective, as they are not, in any way, arbitrary. They are the organic result of my mental processes.
Paul, however, is not satisfied with that idea of objective. To continue with the analogy, he wants the 10 best movies as determined in a vacuum, without anybody making a judgment. He wants the intrinsic 10 best list. However, such doesn’t exist. No movie is intrinsically good or intrinsically bad. No act is intrinsically moral or intrinsically immoral. No right is intrinsically possessed or intrinsically lacking. All of the above refer to value judgments, which must be made by an individual. Rights and morality exist within the minds of individuals; they do not exist in vacuums.
To conclude, I just want to mention Paul’s curious use of the word “illogic” in regard to pro-abortion arguments. As a Christian, Paul believes:
1. In a young earth.
2. That Jesus came back to life after 62 hours as a corpse.
3. That macroevolution is a myth and special creation is an actuality.
As a science-minded individual, those are the positions that seem illogical to me. When I told Paul this, he responded, “You can't just assert that some of my beliefs are illogical. Indeed, none of those beliefs defy laws of logic.” Well, what about the laws of nature? What about the conclusions of science? By Paul’s definition of logical, it wouldn’t be at all illogical to believe in unicorns or flying donkeys. After all, neither of those hypothetical creatures defies the laws of logic.
I welcome comments on this post from both sides of the fence, theist and atheist alike…as usual.