Sunday, August 24, 2008

Obama’s Pay Grade Is Not Above Answering the Question About the Beginning of Human Life

In his interview with Barack Obama Pastor Rick Warren asked him the question, “At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?” Obama replied: “Whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade. ”

Well, it’s not above my pay grade, so here’s my answer. For some years now I’ve agreed with Baylor University professor Francis Beckwith. Here’s Beckwith’s argument against abortion, with the answer to Warren’s question in premise 1. Note: Beckwith’s pay grade is surely lower than Obama’s.

1. The unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community.
2. It is prima facie morally wrong to kill any member of that community.
3. Every successful abortion kills an unborn entity, a full-fledged member of the human community.
4. Therefore, every successful abortion is prima facie morally wrong. (In Francis Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice, p. xii.)

Beckwith’s book is brilliant, and i think his argument is powerful. In the book he argues strongly for premise 1.

I now submit the following argument, which I think is understandable by people way below my pay grade:

1. Barack Obama’s pay grade is higher than my pay grade.
2. I can understand Beckwith’s argument that the unborn entity, from the moment of conception, is a full-fledged member of the human community and therefore gets all the rights of the human community.
3. Therefore answering the question “When does a baby get human rights” is not above Obama’s pay grade.

And, by the way, the question as to when a baby gets human rights, or when personhood begins, cannot be answered scientifically.