Scientism: the Self-Refuting Argument that has Contaminated Abortion Dialogue

Part One

Scientism is the belief that truth, insofar as it exists, is only (or best) discovered by using the scientific method. In other words, scientism says that fields like biology, chemistry, and physics are superior ways (or the only ways) of knowing what is true and that philosophy or theology can only be matters of opinion, rather than ways to discover the reality around us. This belief isn’t often named, but it shows up everywhere. Public media and private conversations about all sorts of topics make use of this worldview by stealth.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes.
Nuclear Energy Waste

Science vs. Scientism

Despite “science” being in the name, scientism is actually not a doctrine of science. Rather it is a philosophical position that distorts science by undermining its very foundation.

We want to help you confront this false ideology when it appears in conversations about abortion and other important issues. We’re indebted to Dr. J.P. Moreland’s work on this topic, Scientism and Secularism, and we’ll just use page numbers to reference his book (which you can buy on Amazon) throughout this series of posts. Moreland is a professor at Biola University with a Ph.D. in philosophy, but also majored in chemistry and was awarded a fellowship for Ph.D. study in nuclear chemistry before choosing philosophy instead. In other words, he knows a thing or two about both science and philosophy.

ERI-Dialogue-Principle #37

Successful social change comes from recruiting those who agree and reaching out to those who disagree.

For more of the context of this quotation, click here to read the full article, “Five Lessons for Pro-Lifers from the Women’s March.”

Don’t Blindly Use Statistics in Dialogue

A few years ago, I used to enjoy watching popular political commentators debating or responding to questions from college students after speeches. I gained a lot from the videos because they provided me with new ways to think about complicated political issues. The arguments and responses I watched tended to include a barrage of facts and statistics.

That is all perfectly appropriate for debates, where your goal is to beat your opponent and move the audience. But when I tried to replicate that approach in my dialogues, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.

Responding to the Question of Rape

One day at work, I struck up a conversation with Jeff*, a coworker. It eventually turned to politics. He began by saying, “In some issues, I don’t care what people do, like in abortion.” I responded with, “Well, it’s not a casual thing, like an appendectomy; it’s the killing of a child.” To this, Jeff grinned widely and snarkily shot back, “Oh yeah? What about rape?” I immediately fired back, “That only has to do with less than one percent of abortions. What about the other 99 percent? Are you fine with those?” Jeff admitted that he was fine with them so I suggested we discuss those first.

Point for me, right? Not really. As great as it felt to turn this common and rhetorically charged objection on its head, I don’t see how it helped Jeff. I’m not sure he’d ever heard a good response to that objection, and I had just perpetuated that streak. Sometimes people bring up marginal cases because they think it will be a winning argument; they want to throw something difficult in your face so they don’t need to defend their own position. But that isn’t the only reason that pro-choice people ask about the question of rape. In fact, most of the time they ask this because they want to know if the pro-life person cares about people or understands the consequences of restricting abortion access for women. To them, as to us, abortion is a human rights issue, and you can’t get around questions involving human rights by responding that such-and-such issue only concerns a small minority of humans.

Our Take on the “AKA Jane Roe” Documentary

You’ve likely heard about the documentary that premiered on FX, AKA Jane Roe, claiming to offer the true story of Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” in Roe v. Wade. Pro-life and pro-choice people are interested in this story, regardless of how relevant it actually is (or should be) to our beliefs about abortion. Even if it feels off-topic, we need to be prepared to talk about this, and shifting to another topic too quickly will likely hurt your conversations about abortion.

I’m explaining our main thoughts below but feel free to use these links if you’d prefer to watch or listen to our discussion on the documentary that covers all of the points below, albeit in more detail.

Why does this matter, especially if our views on abortion shouldn’t be influenced by whether Roe was pro-choice or pro-life? The question this documentary poses isn’t what people should believe about abortion, but rather whether the pro-life movement is corrupt. We then need to answer whether it contains an accurate depiction of the modern pro-life movement.