Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time. Like most controversies, there exist two main sides that seem diametrically opposed to each other. However, I believe that in this conflict there is a way for both sides to work together towards a common goal that will benefit both human life and society for the long term. Before continuing it is important to clarify where each side stands. Those on the “pro-life” side assert that abortion is morally wrong. This is usually, but not always, based on the assertion that God (usually the Christian god) has a purpose for all human beings and that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception. If one holds these assertions as truth it isn’t difficult to feel some sympathy to for their position. For those who stand on the side of being “pro-choice”, abortion is seen as primarily a medical procedure. Further, most “pro-choicers” would say that it should be a last resort only after all other options and factors such as personal socioeconomic situation and health have been carefully considered. This is because abortion, by its very nature, is intrusive, can lead to irreparable damage to the reproductive abilities of the woman and can have severe emotional side-effects (similar to those of women who have miscarried, ie. natural abortion). Therefore, they see abortion as a choice but one that should be used sparingly.
One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. Most of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” individuals I have known through the years would generally agree with this summary of their general views on the subject. However, there are extremists on both sides. Carl Sagan[i] said of them, “doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes”. Thus, it would appear that there is little possibility of reconciliation between the sides. One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. How then could they be convinced to work together? To what common goal could they possibly work towards? To begin, I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable. With this minor agreement as a foundation let us consider other procedures past and present that have either been eradicated from medical practice or are presently being phased out due to current medical therapies/treatments/advances.
For simplicity, let us consider another undesirable medical practice that is less controversial, at least ethically; amputation. Surgical amputations “date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century.”(Source) Obviously, amputations “were performed mainly to remove tissue that was already dead. The reason for this limitation is that early surgical techniques could not control the blood loss.” (Source) Advances were made in surgical practices to prevent this hemorrhaging such as tying off the arteries. (Source) Amputation is an extreme medical practice which, over time given medical advances, decreases in use relative to the population. In a 1998 article in the journal “Diabetes Care”, Andrew D. Morris, MD et.al. found that “rates in the U.S. Amputation rates appear to have decreased significantly since 1980–1982.”(Source) The reason given for the decrease was education about diabetes and advances in care. Another study found that “[t]he frequency of major amputations in the country in 1986-87 of 40.9 per 100,000 per year declined by 25% to 30.9 per 100,000 per year in 1989-90.”(Source), stating further that “vascular surgery reduces the number of major lower limb amputations.”(Source) Given these and many other examples, it is clear that medical advances both in practice and education are responsible for a great deal of the reduction in the use of such an invasive, life-altering, and extreme medical procedure.
How does this relate to abortion? Not only is abortion undesirable, it is also invasive, life-altering and extreme. Thus, just as with the case of amputation; where instead of targeting the practice itself the causes were targeted, we should strive to eliminate the causes of abortions as much as possible. Abortion is obviously necessary in certain cases such as fallopian-tube babies, that if left to go to term, would kill the mother. Furthermore, just as education about diabetes helped in the reduction of amputations, so too can better sex education and the elimination of “abstinence-only” education reduce the need for abortions among ignorant or accident-prone young people. The following quote from Carl Sagani drives this point home: “Shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.” Though it is true that you can’t prevent or solve all amputations, so too will we not be able to end all abortions. That is where technology and research is vital. However, we can, if we work together instead of fighting about who believes what, we can end most abortions by using sound judgment and trusted preventative practices to treat the causes rather than the treatment.
At this point I anticipate some resistance from those extreme pro-lifers who view contraception as evil and won’t have anything to do with it citing that it is God’s will that we end abortion. This argument seems fraught with logical problems. 1) If God chooses when we are born and when we die, then why couldn’t abortion be a tool of God? 2) If it’s God’s will that abortions end then shouldn’t he be offering a solution to us without us asking? 3) If it’s God’s will that we end abortion, could it be that his will includes research as described above and through His divine grace provide us an answer via data collected in such studies? In any case, it would seem to be in the best interest of even the most hardcore pro-lifer to work together with pro-choicers and to utilize sound and moral science to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of killing abortion doctors why not try putting them out of business in a more constructive and less violent way, and donate to an organization or research project that is attacking one of the many causes of abortions. That will accomplish far more than squabbling amongst each other about who’s right and who’s wrong. The truth is, neither group is right by themselves, they are only right together.
In summary, my hope is that I’ve made it clear to pro-choicers that pro-lifers are not all a bunch of scripture-spouting nut-bars that are out to turn the country into a theocracy. Also, pro-lifers are truly concerned about human life, just as much as any pro-choicer. The problem lies in the question of when “human” life begins. This question is not as clear-cut as both sides would like it to be, therefore the concerns of the pro-lifers about ending human life is a painful decision that is not completely baseless from a scientific point of view. Also, I’ve hope I’ve made it clear to pro-lifers that not all pro-choicers are malicious baby killers that care only for the reproductive rights of women and care nothing of potential human beings. There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.
 ANDREW D. MORRIS, MD; RITCHIE MCALPINE, BSC; DOUGLAS STEINKE, BSC; DOUGLAS I.R. BOYLE, BSC; ABDUL-RAHIM EBRAHIM; NAVEEN VASUDEV; COLIN P.U. STEWART, MD; ROLAND T. JUNG, MD; GRAHAM P. LEESE, MD; THOMAS M. MACDONALD, MD ; RAY W. NEWTON, FRCP.
[i] In an article that first appeared in Parade magazine on April 22, 1990 entitled “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”, quoted here from his book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death the Brink of the Millennium (1997). The article appears as Chapter 15 entitled “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?”
Someone sent us this link to a forum, on Godlike Productions web page, about the “LIGHT CHANNELS WORLD MOVEMENT.” Its capitalized, so you know they mean business. The informative link begins with the following:
“On 26 FEB 2009 a Mega Event is arranged at Bangalore…
This is a Movement in Conscience. A Movement to make this world a beautiful place to live in Peace and Love. This is a Movement of Light without any sermons, banners or boundaries. Everyone and anyone is invited to join to make this the greatest Movement ever built.”
Not much to complain about here. I don’t see anything wrong with trying to bring about a paradigm shift for peace and love. If your not sure what a “Movement of Light” means, just wait, they do get to that a little later. In the next few lines, though, things start to get a little weird.
“Let us spread this to millions and millions of beautiful people who are waiting for a World Leader to lead the humanity away from wars and conflicts at all levels, away from the darkness in thoughts and emotions to the New Age of Light. This Movement is backed by the World Leader who will appear to all of us at an appropriate time and is now actively working at the Astral plane.”
A world leader? I think that’s the last thing me need. Appointing a supreme ruler generally doesn’t bode well for the masses, at least according to history. Although, not many dictators, emperors, and monarchs had experience on the Astral plane. Perhaps I should put that on my resume. This is starting to sound very…cultish. I get the distinct feeling this mysterious World Leader is a chubby white guy from Oklahoma with no college education and loads of charisma (why is it never a women leading these nutty cults?). I could be wrong though. Perhaps our supreme leader will bring peace on Earth in the near future. However, I doubt it. The only way to ensure world peace for humanity would be to eliminate all of most of our species, either through extermination or artificial selection, or perhaps mandatory lobotomies. But hey, I could be wrong. How do we convince this brilliant astral entity to grace humanity with his/her/its wisdom?
“All that we have to do is to just channel and spread the Light which is above us in a subtler realm daily for seven minutes when we wake up and go to bed.”
Well it sounds easy, but how do channel this magnificent realm?
“Do not worry about any technique. A plain request is enough. The Light will flow through us. The Light has Intelligence, Power and the Future. The Light has everything.”
Well, before I invite this Light to flow through my innards, maybe you could tell me more about it. I mean, what is the Light, anyway?
“Light is the Creative Intelligence behind the Creation. Light is the formless God. Light carries within it Love, Wisdom and Energies. This Light is not the physical light. It is very subtle and pervades the higher subtler realms. It can be accessed by thought, Meditation and by extending our Awareness.”
Ah, so Light=God. Well lets just call it what it is then. Go back and read the quotes, but this time replace Light with God. How does it sound? Sounds like plain old theism to me, mixed with a hint of New Age western gibberish. There is nothing unique or special about the message here. The message is nothing more than “Believe in Light God, it will solve all our problems.” Face it folks, there is no quick and easy answer to world peace.
Metro State Atheists
Schedule of Events (Spring Semester 2009)
2/12- Darwin Day party- Time and Local TBA
2/16- Why Intelligent Design is not science. Tivoli Tavern Space. 10am-4pm
3/11- Think you know the 10 commandments? Think Again. Tivoli Tavern Space. 10am-4pm
4/7- R-Harmony: We match you with the religion of your dreams! North Classroom Atrium A2. 10am -4pm
4/22-4/23- Spring Fling Our event will consist of demonstrations of the failure of some pseudo-medicine, including the famous Kinoki Footpads. . Tivoli Commons 10am-3pm
5/9- Skepticamp. This event is being brought to us by the Denver Skeptics. It is a gathering of skeptics in which they will present in a lecture type format, certain findings that they have discovered on phenomena spanning a whole host of different fields. President, Joel Guttormson, and Vice President, Chalmer Wren, will be presenting on the language of pseudoscience. Tivoli room 320 9am-8pm
This list is subject to changes and additions as it is TENTATIVE.
The writings of Falvius Josephus have been touted by Christians and some non-Christians alike as being indisputable evidence that the Jesus of the New Testament, Jesus Christ of Nazareth, was a historical figure that actually existed. The evidence for this view has be stated in a previous blog. In this blog, I will critically examine this claim and show that not only is it not sufficient evidence to show that Jesus of Nazareth really existed but the evidence for the claim has been cherry picked and greatly flawed and thus isn’t all evidence for the existence of the historical, real Jesus of Nazareth. The sentence that is cited as evidence is “the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James” (Source:http://www.earlyjewishwritings.com/text/josephus/ant20.html#EndNote_ANT_20.24b). I was astonished by this, until I found the sentence in the paragraph in question. In order to make an objective test, let us examine the paragraph in full, not it part, as the proponents have done.
“1. AND now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, (23) who are very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had now a proper opportunity [to exercise his authority]. Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. (24) Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.”(Source: The Antiquities of the Jews, CH20, Paragraph 9:1)
One should take notice of something quite striking; the bolded text above doesn’t say “Jesus of Nazareth”. It says “Jesus, the son of Damneus”. Strictly deriving from context, there is nothing inconsistent in asserting that the James mentioned in the line in question, which is italicized and underlined in the text above, is the bother of the Jesus mentioned in the bolded line. Context dictates this since they are not separated explicitly (ie Josephus didn’t say that Jesus, the son of Damneus is not the same as Jesus brother of James who they called Christ). Also, there exists no break in the story such that anyone could assert they are different people in the context. It is quite common for writers to be general about the mention of a name, in this case of Jesus in the italicized and underlined line, and then when the story begins to center around that aforementioned character, to be far more specific about the character, as in the bolded line. Furthermore, Christ is Greek means nothing more than “the anointed one”. Literally, this means that one would be blessed with or covered in [holy] oil. (Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_anointing_oil, Greek meaning of Christ) It wouldn’t be out of the question, as far I know, that a “high priest” such as “Jesus, the son Damneus” was, would be called a Christ, an anointed one. So from this line of reasoning, we have a different Jesus than the one of bible who is contemporary of Josephus who not only could very well had a brother named James.
However, this could also be where the Gospel writers got their Jesus of Nazareth who had a brother named James. This proposition isn’t all all out of the realm of possibility in the slightest, for several reasons.
- Around the time Josephus was writing, it has been well established that there was rampant Jewish Messiahism among some groups of Jews in modern-day Israel.
- Although the earliest possible date for the first Gospel, of what would become the New Testament, is 70ad; the earliest, physical, dated Gospel of Mark dates, approximately, to around the year 90ad. This would give ample time to the author of the Gospel of Mark to construct his Jesus character based on the high priest, Jesus, the son of Damneus. The author of Mark obviously would have embellished the story, which is also not out of the question. Further, as the above point indicates certain groups were actually looking for the Messiah and thus had a bias towards those who appeared to have the features of the Messiah.
- The name of Jesus was quite common in the first century, and even before. This can be demonstrated by the fact that there exists an apocryphal Old Testament book called “Wisdom of Jesus Son of Sirach” which is considered part of the “Deuterocanon”. (Source: Early Jewish Writings) Although this writing isn’t in the canonized bible, Jewish or Christian, it does show that the name Jesus wasn’t a particularly unique name in the biblical scheme of things.
However, let us take an aside and begin by assuming that this passage does refer to Jesus Christ. What does this mean exactly? Suspending what has previously been said in this work and simply starting with the assumption that the passage does, in fact, specifically refer to Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition, we can better understand the positive implications promoted by believers, namely, that this passage is definitive evidence Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition was a real historical figure. The problem with this idea is that it is not “definitive” evidence. Such a claim is vast overstatement. This is due to the fact that one cannot assert the following isn’t a real possibility: Josephus may very well have been writing about a healer, seer and “moral teacher” being talked about and believed in at the time her wrote the passage above. Problem is we have the first Gospel, Mark, being written about the same time, nearly 40 years after the supposed death of Jesus Christ, in the year 70ad (as said before this is earliest date scholars can agree upon based solely on context and the fact they are disregarding the notion that Mark was writing prophecy; how could he since he was writing history? Furthermore, how reliable is a 40 year old, unverified story about a traveling preacher, of which there were many for a good part of the first century. (Source: Michael Shermer, from his appearance on Penn & Teller: Bullshit)). If this is the case, then, like the first paragraph of the first book of the Antiquities of the Jews (discussed later in this paragraph in more detail), Josephus could simply be writing the story down as if it really happened when he had no way of knowing whether or not it really did or not. This doesn’t say much for Josephus’ credibility which, as far as I know, has gone unchallenged. Although it is true that Josephus was a fairly accurate and reliable historian, it should be pointed out that in the first paragraph of the first book of the Antiquities of the Jews that Josephus copies, nearly verbatim, the first chapter of the book of Genesis of the Torah (and/or Old Testament). This is no surprising given that Josephus was a devote Jew. However, the Genesis is not in anyway history. At best it’s mythology. It should be further pointed out that if the passage in question is authentic and speaking about Jesus Christ of Nazareth as spoken about in the New Testament, it is the only one from the First Century. All other “historical” references to the figure, known as Jesus Christ, come to us much later, the earliest of these being the beginning of the second century, coming only with more Gospels which were mostly copies of the Gospel of Mark, with minor changes and embellishments.
Further, if the both the passage of Josephus is authentic and the Gospel tradition are to be reliable (which they are most certainly not, given the historical inaccuracies in them, which will discussed more detail in the next blog) then, Jesus (according to the aforementioned tradition) would have caused quite a stir in then Roman province of Judea; claiming to be or having it claimed of him that he was the King of the Jews (direct challenge of Roman authority which wasn’t tolerated), claiming to be or having it claimed of him to be the Son of (the Living) God (same issue as the last), and causing a social disturbance in the Temple (which the Romans watched closely as to be able to quell any uprising or rebellion of any kind, no matter how small). Also, Josephus leaves a majority of the story out, suggesting that it wasn’t a large or important movement of the day, given that, as mentioned before, there were many such “messiahs” walking the Earth in the first century. However, assuming it was a big deal and Jesus was a real threat to Roman authority, there were a great many Roman historians who had a opportunity to write about him (and the fact that the Romans prevailed by killing him). The Roman historians had every reason to write about him, insofar as they were able to defeat him and his “movement”, which it should mentioned constituted of, at minimum, 12 other men, 11 excluding Judas later in the story, and about 2 women, Mary his mother and Mary Magdalene. So, this “world-changing-messianic” movement, had at most a total 14 people (not including Jesus himself). This wouldn’t have been much of a threat and one Roman historians would have been very inclined to record since the Governor of Judea, a member of the overall Roman governance system, was successful in stopping him and his “movement”. Yet, to date, not a single document, produced by these many Roman historians of the day, has been provided to me or anyone else in the study of this issue, that mentions Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition.
Thus, from the evidence and analysis given above, it is not likely that Josephus was writing about Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition. Also, even if it was truly authentic, it is not clear that it wasn’t written in a contrived way (just hearsay, as what he wrote in book 1, paragraph 1) or that it is terribly important given he is the ONLY source, outside of the Gospel stories, to “prove” Jesus Christ existed. The bar I have set for the evidence that would definitively prove the existence of Jesus is no higher than it is to prove that other ancient figures existed. For example, for Alexander the Great, we have many records of him that are not Greek or Egyptian in origin, which lends a great deal of credibility to the claim that Alexander the Great existed; this is of course aside from the monuments that bore his name and the military victories he oversaw and orchestrated. Further, if this one reference by Josephus is not speaking of Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition, then the one solitary piece of evidence outside the Gospels that he existed is no longer valid and it further unlikely that the Jesus Christ of Nazareth of the New Testament tradition never existed at all.
Metro State Atheists
Sources are listed inline with the material or linked inline.
Please read “The Jesus Fraud” Blog Series before reading this
The first “pro” argument for the existence of Jesus Christ that will be discussed in this series is the writings of Flavius Josephus. I will presented the argument by using quotes from those who support the claim, which is, that Flavius Josephus clearly and definitively refers to Jesus as a historical figure in the Antiquities of the Jews, Book 20 Paragraph 9.
From krissmith777: “there is the second mention of Jesus made by Josephus. You can argue that this is a forgery as well, but that argument falls when a word study is done on the passage.” (here is referring to the claim above)
krissmith777: “The second mention of Jesus made by Josephus is believed almost universally to be authentic and written by Josephus himself.”
krissmith777: “It’s in the 20th book of the Antiquities of the Jews in the ninth chapter. Depending on which system you prefer to cite Josephus you’d find it in “Antiquities of the Jews 20: 9, 1″ which is entire paragraph system.”
The argument is that since this passage is authentic, written by Josephus himself, and he mentions Jesus in passing along with his brother James, then this implies and proves Jesus Christ was a historical figure and existed.
Please let me know if there is anything wrong with this presentation of the Flavius Josehpus argument. I will not accept anything about the Testimonium Flavium as krissmith777 said “Personally I would not appeal to the Testimonium Flavianum to show that Jesus existed” because we have agreed that it is most likely an interpolation and thus not written by Flavius Josephus himself and, consequently, not evidence for the existence of Jesus Christ.
Proponents will have one week to suggest corrections. If you disagree with this argument, please hold your comments.
Metro State Atheists