Last night, Mike S. Adams, PhD debated Willie Parker M.D. on whether abortion was morally wrong. While it would be easy to say that Mike won the debate (hands down), I would rather focus on Dr. Parker's responses to Mike Adam's arguments for the pro life position.
1. Argument from Ad Hominem
Surprisingly, Dr. Parker's first salvo in this debate was a claim that Mike Adams attacked his character. In reality, Mike used arguments from the science of embryology and read excerpts from Dr. Parker's book. This was confined to Dr. Parker's justifications for abortion, not against his character. It seemed that Dr. Parker attempted to argue from emotion from the outset by claiming a personal attack and this set the tone for his responses the rest of the night. Arguing from emotion is what you most often confront when making a prolife argument. After all, these are in fact real issues that concern real people everyday and they are not easy to deal with. However, truth doesn't rely on how someone feels about that truth and it shouldn't be the deciding factor in determining truth.
2. What about the science?
Mike Adams based his arguments on the science of embryology to show that a fetus is wholly, biologically human the same as those who have already been born and from the philosophical argument that the unborn are persons. He argued that because of this, they had equal human rights as the mother or anyone else. Dr. Parker did not dispute the scientific arguments at all. This is what surprised me most of all about this debate. He would sometimes refer to "medical facts" and seem to infer that Mike was not repeating true medical facts but would never say what those facts were or how Mike was incorrect.
3. What is personhood?
The main thrust of Dr. Parker's position was that the unborn were fully human, but not persons. He claimed that Mike Adams never used the word "persons" in his arguments (which was not the case) so that meant he knew being human was not the same as being a person. This is always a strange position because you must show what the difference is. I've never heard the definition of a non-person human from someone on the pro choice side and it's something they should be able to define if they believe it's the case. Dr. Parker also seemed to be stating that personhood was a legal term, but in fact, it's a philosophical/metaphysical term. He also stated he felt sentience determined personhood. This is a bad line of reasoning. For example, a person in a coma due to a brain injury could be said to not be sentient. Since they are not able to experience their environment, are this still a person?
4. Is abortion murder?
Dr. Parker also stated that no police officer would arrest him because abortion was not murder. He seemed to be confused as to what Mike Adams meant when he said something could be legal but not moral. Slavery was legal, but immoral. Eventually, the laws reflected this. However, the fact that abortion is legal doesn't mean it's not murder. This is a moral truth claim about a set of actions and the law is based on this underlying, objective moral value, not the other way around. This was a very strange argument to say the least.
5. What about Religion?
Dr. Parker in his opening statements began to refute arguments from Christianity stating that because we live in a pluralistic society, we cannot make laws based on a particular religion. While there are philosophical problems with that statement, it was confusing as Mike Adams never made a single argument from Christianity or the Bible. While Mike comes from a Christian worldview, he contained his arguments to the science of embryology and the philosophical argument that the unborn were persons. This appeared to be a pre-emptive strike against any religious argument for the pro-life position, but it was an awkward line of reasoning.
In the end, while I expected to hear some new scientific arguments for abortion to contend with, I only heard the same arguments that are always made and was shocked at the line of reasoning Dr. Parker used. This was a good debate as it brought out the pro-life position and showed the weakness of the pro-choice view.