Several months ago, we asked people who follow us and a number of other pro-life groups to take a survey about dialogue habits. We wanted to analyze the ways people approached conversations about abortions on different platforms and see if there were measurable relationships between medium, conversation length, and effectiveness.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.
In total, we received 134 responses from people with all sorts of different backgrounds in dialogue. If you responded, thank you! Because this was a voluntary, non-representative survey sample, the results don’t have ironclad scientific value, but they should still contain valid information about general trends.
The two main relationships we looked at were: 1) conversation medium (social media, private messenger, in person, etc.) and conversation length (number of messages/minutes); and 2) conversation length and how often the other person’s mind changed. We broke the last category up into four parts, based on the intensity of change (no change, minor change, moderate change, and major change).
The next couple of sections are going to be heavy with statistics, so you can skim it if you’re not curious about the data itself and just want to see what it means in the analysis section. If you want to see me show my work or you just enjoy stats, read on.
As somewhat of a follow-up post to my analysis of the deciding vote in Russo v. June Medical Services, I want to caution optimists and pragmatists on the pro-life side. There has long been an implicit deal whereby we are granted court appointees who will (theoretically) protect life and religious liberty as long as we go along with the general Republican platform. The problem, as Sen. Josh Hawley recently pointed out, is that the bargain hasn’t worked, and we don’t have a great reason to think it will suddenly start working in the future.
There has been much clamor about the “conservative” Roberts Court overturning Roe v. Wade. I’ll admit, I indulged some optimism at first, though it quickly became apparent that getting a majority to overturn long-standing precedent required at least one more conservative justice. But recent cases have illustrated how fickle the Republican-appointed justices are, as contrasted with the utter steadfastness of most Democratic appointees.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
First, the Chief
Let’s take a look, first, at the man in the center: Chief Justice John Roberts, who is quite happy to be a centrist even though he’s supposed to be a conservative. He seems to be concerned primarily with protecting the legitimacy of the Court (and implicitly the legal system), so that when they make a controversial decision the outcome of the case is still respected. Without respect for the integrity of the Supreme Court, the thinking goes, there is no real arbiter about law and the Constitution in America.
I’ve already demonstrated the problematic nature of Roberts’ insistence on institutional values, as he refused to overturn a precedent he voted against and maintains was incorrect. But, perhaps more tellingly, the appeal to the legitimacy of the Court was one of the premises of the Court’s decision to uphold Roe in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. I’m not saying Roberts is dog-whistling that he won’t overturn Roe…but we shouldn’t count on him as the deciding vote.
The decision of the Supreme Court in June Medical Services v. Russo, a case which was previously covered in this blog, was a blow to pro-lifers trying to use the legislative process to chip away at abortion-on-demand. Chief Justice John Roberts, once again, joined with the liberal bloc to deliver a bad judgment. What went wrong?
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
One of the challenges of analyzing any jurisprudence by Roberts is that he seems to be inconsistent. Someone will guess his decision based on politics (he’s conservative…right?), and then he’ll flip. People talk about his commitment to the “legitimacy of the court,” and then he upholds a decision which he explicitly believes is wrong.
Roberts could have a grand, overarching plan for guiding jurisprudence over the course of decades, chipping away at old foundations to lay the groundwork for good decisions. But it more frequently feels like his pragmatism causes him to hurt conservative causes at critical junctures.
First, I’ll look at his explicit justification for the decision in Russo as he states it. I’m of the opinion that his surface-level obedience to stare decisis is not the only thing going on in his thinking. Roberts is playing something of a game with the rules of the Supreme Court, and I’ll explain what I think is going on later in this article.
Scientism is not merely wrong, but dangerous. This is the claim I want to make to conclude our series on scientism. It probably seems like an aggressive claim; perhaps it is. But it’s also right there in the subtitle of JP Moreland’s book: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.
I started this series by explaining why scientism is self-refuting. Whether someone believes in strong scientism or weak scientism, their belief is logically incoherent. If scientism is true, then the non-scientific foundations on which scientism (and science!) rests would be null and void. If scientism were true, it would prove that scientism couldn’t be true; it’s a logical contradiction and has no merit as a system of thought.
I then covered the ways in which scientism influences how everyone talks about abortion. Both pro-life and pro-choice people often act like science is the thing with all the answers, but, in reality, science can only get us so far. Some scientific facts, like those from embryology, give us relevant information, but we have to use that information in non-scientific ways to come to a reasoned conclusion about abortion.
If you’ve gotten this far, you may wonder how scientism still exists and why it continues not only to survive but thrive in the public sphere. My answer is simple: scientism is a means of power for some things against other things. It is a convenient weapon in favor of moral relativism against absolute moral truths and those who claim them. Every meaningful defense of human rights must rest on moral truth, so denying moral truth must lead to an eradication of grounds for human rights. Scientism is not bad just because it is incorrect or unhelpful, but because it is a danger to humanity.
One of our not-so-secret missions at ERI is to help pro-life advocates to think well about philosophy as it relates to the abortion debate. The problem with scientism is it says that philosophy isn’t a valid way to reach truth or discover facts. According to this position, our philosophical case for the unborn doesn’t matter, because only science really matters.
Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.
Now, if scientism was true, we would have to drop our strong philosophical arguments and just talk about biology. Biology and embryology can be helpful in articulating the pro-life position, but we don’t think they can get you all the way there. Just knowing that the fetus is human doesn’t tell us how to think about it. But scientism is false—more than that, it’s self-defeating, as I showed in the first article in this series.
So, How Far Can Science Get Us?
This is important, so to say it again: scientism does not equal science. Scientism says that arguments don’t matter, only bare scientific facts. Science stems from philosophical foundations. It answers questions about the world while using basic rules of logic to do so. This makes it a second thing, not a first thing, but scientism pretends that science is first and only. As C.S. Lewis writes:
“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”
If we pursue science as first (scientism), then we lose science in its proper place.
And science in its proper place gives us good and valuable facts which can support various arguments in the abortion debate. We cannot say, with the justices playing make-believe about biology in Roe, that we don’t know when life begins. 96 percent of biologists (not just embryologists, mind you) agree in acknowledging that life begins at conception.
The study of embryology expands on this consensus by telling us what happens at and after conception. An individual human being develops from a single-celled organism into a recognizable baby, maintaining biological integrity and continuity the entire way. We can detect early cardiac activity; we can observe the differentiation of stem cells; we can see movement and interaction. And science adds new discoveries, such as the likely pain threshold for prenatal humans recently being pushed back from 25 weeks to 12 weeks.