Sunday, 18 October 2009

Danders and hackles at the ready. It's abortion this week.

We haven't been posting messages to WATM with anything like the correct level of assiduity. It is difficult to be motivated, though, when one hears that a reader, @smithsky1979 (for it is she), sighs with pre-emptive exhaustion when she sees a message pop up in her RSS. To 'hell' with you, Smith. But for the rest of you, we have news.

Since m'colleague and I have mastered the written word so successfully, it is time to conquer new heights. Onwards to the WATM Podcast. More news will be coming forthwith, but let me assure you that jingles are currently being composed and topics considered for inclusion. I think politics might feature heavily along with foreign affairs, transport issues, cocktails chat (that's just me) and assorted self-righteous geekery, natch.

But today, for your delectation, we must grasp a nettle which has been tempting us for a while: abortion.

Hark, I can hear danders and hackles being raised the land over.

Plenty has been written about the rights and wrongs of abortion, but that is not our task today. Anyway, matters of absolute and relative morality will be considered in a separate message (part 2 of 2) currently being prepared by m'colleague. Instead we want to consider why certain positions on abortion seem to be coterminous with politics and religious positions. There is no obvious reason that should be the case.

Without much fear of contradiction I can say that the western Right are opposed to abortion rights while those of the left are in their favour. This is more stark in the United States than it is in the UK and Europe, but the generalisation does hold.

Why should this be the case? A decision about the morality of abortion is a matter of science, reason, and personal judgement. No reference to one's belief in the role of the state is needed, for instance, nor one's ideas about the organisation of capital and labour, which are the ideas which really govern the Left-Right divide.

In fact, if we were to refer to those ideas, then the Right's traditional desire to reduce the power of the state in favour of personal freedom would seem to suggest they would be in favour of abortion rights.

Perhaps we can explain this problem as a matter of faith. In the US, at least, those on the Right are more likely to hold Christian beliefs of the variety which abhor abortion for apparently biblical reasons. (That the WATM duo think that taking a position based on such a text is ludicrous is neither here nor there as far as our current discussion goes.) This doesn't follow in the UK, though, where the biggest Christian denomination is the Church of England (and associated clingers-on). As far as I can tell the C of E believes less and less with every passing year, with the exception of Sharia Law which recently became part of the Archbishop of Canterbury's preaching. And the Church is certainly not full of fire-and-brimstone anti-abortionists.

Those on the Left also have to explain the sometimes feverish pro-abortion attitudes some take, and the desire by some (I've seen it) to demonise comrades who take a different view.

All of which is to say that it should be completely in order for all positions on abortion to be 'allowed' within the various political factions and groupings.

Those of us who believe in science and evidence for deciding the nature of things, rather than relying on revealed truth, should look at the scientific evidence, ask ourselves about personal freedom, consider whether we think abortion sufficiently egregious to attempt to stop those who differ in their position from following through on their beliefs and be happy to defend our position. We should not allow abortion evangelicals, or actual evangelicals, to cloud our judgement.

I bet Sadie of the Tavern is fired up by this one, eh Smith?


Sadie Smith said...

Not really: it's all about the difference between philosophy in its ideal essence and its practical realisation (although militant atheists hold that there is no difference between these two states).

Female sexual emancipation (as epitomised by the right to choose when, how, and with whom a woman decides to have a family) threatens the power traditional right which believes in the power of agency, but only for some (ie white males). The family, of course, is traditionally the smallest unit of male power and domination.

Read Henry Porter, the chief proponent of this form of High Toryism, on pretty much anything if you don't believe me.

Lefties, on the other hand, tend to be structuralists and believe that undesirable structures can be countered by greater equality ... therefore, inter alia, the belief in abortion because it epitomises a woman's right to decide when, how ... etc etc, as established earlier in the plot. An unpleasant by-product of this is seen in the contemporary feminist movement which is reluctant to criticise ANY sexual behaviour on the basis that to do so would inhibit a woman's right to choose (for example, pole dancing is currently very fashionable. Morality of the slaves in my view). But what is choice and who gets to make one?

So not about religion at all, really. Just power and its manifestations like everything else in this world.

Still, if you want to feel smug about being cleverer than religious people, any hole's a goal. As it were.

M. L. said...

Greetings sir,

I just found your blog through Tom Page's blog (I had the pleasure of using his keyboard picture to create a background: and I stumbled upon this post. Your points are interesting but I found the following statement a little confusing:

"Those of us who believe in science and evidence for deciding the nature of things, rather than relying on revealed truth, should look at the scientific evidence... etc."

Certainly you do not mean the nature of all things? Science is limited to a great degree in revelation. For instance, you cannot observe, test, and repeat April 8, 1513. You must rely on revealed truth handed down by historians who were there and who could observe it. If in truth, science is insufficient to determine some things and we must turn to revealed truth by necessity, what is the standard for that source of truth. If it isn't science, what is it?

I hope you don't mind the rant, but I'm honestly curious as to what your opinion is.

M. L.