BREAKING DOWN CARL SAGAN’S LOGIC ON ABORTION Part 11 “If the fetus at a certain stage of gestation would be viable outside the womb, the argument goes, then the right of the fetus to life overrides the right of the woman to privacy” (My 1995 correspondence with Sagan)

The last few posts have dealt with material from Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer. Today Francis Schaeffer takes center stage.

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Francis Schaeffer and Adrian Rogers


Carl Sagan pictured below:

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Recently I have been revisiting my correspondence in 1995 with the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who I was introduced to when reading a book by Francis Schaeffer called HE IS THERE AND HE IS NOT SILENT written in 1968. 

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Francis Schaeffer

I was blessed with the opportunity to correspond with Dr. Sagan, and in his December 5, 1995 letter Dr. Sagan went on to tell me that he was enclosing his article “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan. I am going to respond to several points made in that article. Here is a portion of Sagan’s article (here is a link to the whole article):

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Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan pictured above

 “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”

by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan

For the complete text, including illustrations, introductory quote, footnotes, and commentary on the reaction to the originally published article see Billions and Billions.

The issue had been decided years ago. The court had chosen the middle ground. You’d think the fight was over. Instead, there are mass rallies, bombings and intimidation, murders of workers at abortion clinics, arrests, intense lobbying, legislative drama, Congressional hearings, Supreme Court decisions, major political parties almost defining themselves on the issue, and clerics threatening politicians with perdition. Partisans fling accusations of hypocrisy and murder. The intent of the Constitution and the will of God are equally invoked. Doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes. The contending factions call on science to bolster their positions. Families are divided, husbands and wives agree not to discuss it, old friends are no longer speaking. Politicians check the latest polls to discover the dictates of their consciences. Amid all the shouting, it is hard for the adversaries to hear one another. Opinions are polarized. Minds are closed.

 

Is it wrong to abort a pregnancy? Always? Sometimes? Never? How do we decide? We wrote this article to understand better what the contending views are and to see if we ourselves could find a position that would satisfy us both. Is there no middle ground? We had to weigh the arguments of both sides for consistency and to pose test cases, some of which are purely hypothetical. If in some of these tests we seem to go too far, we ask the reader to be patient with us–we’re trying to stress the various positions to the breaking point to see their weaknesses and where they fail.

In contemplative moments, nearly everyone recognizes that the issue is not wholly one-sided. Many partisans of differing views, we find, feel some disquiet, some unease when confronting what’s behind the opposing arguments. (This is partly why such confrontations are avoided.) And the issue surely touches on deep questions: What are our responses to one another? Should we permit the state to intrude into the most intimate and personal aspects of our lives? Where are the boundaries of freedom? What does it mean to be human?

Of the many actual points of view, it is widely held–especially in the media, which rarely have the time or the inclination to make fine distinctions–that there are only two: “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” This is what the two principal warring camps like to call themselves, and that’s what we’ll call them here. In the simplest characterization, a pro-choicer would hold that the decision to abort a pregnancy is to be made only by the woman; the state has no right to interfere. And a pro-lifer would hold that, from the moment of conception, the embryo or fetus is alive; that this life imposes on us a moral obligation to preserve it; and that abortion is tantamount to murder. Both names–pro-choice and pro-life–were picked with an eye toward influencing those whose minds are not yet made up: Few people wish to be counted either as being against freedom of choice or as opposed to life. Indeed, freedom and life are two of our most cherished values, and here they seem to be in fundamental conflict.

Let’s consider these two absolutist positions in turn. A newborn baby is surely the same being it was just before birth. There ‘s good evidence that a late-term fetus responds to sound–including music, but especially its mother’s voice. It can suck its thumb or do a somersault. Occasionally, it generates adult brain-wave patterns. Some people claim to remember being born, or even the uterine environment. Perhaps there is thought in the womb. It’s hard to maintain that a transformation to full personhood happens abruptly at the moment of birth. Why, then, should it be murder to kill an infant the day after it was born but not the day before?

As a practical matter, this isn’t very important: Less than 1 percent of all tabulated abortions in the United States are listed in the last three months of pregnancy (and, on closer investigation, most such reports turn out to be due to miscarriage or miscalculation). But third-trimester abortions provide a test of the limits of the pro-choice point of view. Does a woman’s “innate right to control her own body” encompass the right to kill a near-term fetus who is, for all intents and purposes, identical to a newborn child?

We believe that many supporters of reproductive freedom are troubled at least occasionally by this question. But they are reluctant to raise it because it is the beginning of a slippery slope. If it is impermissible to abort a pregnancy in the ninth month, what about the eighth, seventh, sixth … ? Once we acknowledge that the state can interfere at any time in the pregnancy, doesn’t it follow that the state can interfere at all times?

Abortion and the slippery slope argument above

This conjures up the specter of predominantly male, predominantly affluent legislators telling poor women they must bear and raise alone children they cannot afford to bring up; forcing teenagers to bear children they are not emotionally prepared to deal with; saying to women who wish for a career that they must give up their dreams, stay home, and bring up babies; and, worst of all, condemning victims of rape and incest to carry and nurture the offspring of their assailants. Legislative prohibitions on abortion arouse the suspicion that their real intent is to control the independence and sexuality of women…

And yet, by consensus, all of us think it proper that there be prohibitions against, and penalties exacted for, murder. It would be a flimsy defense if the murderer pleads that this is just between him and his victim and none of the government’s business. If killing a fetus is truly killing a human being, is it not the duty of the state to prevent it? Indeed, one of the chief functions of government is to protect the weak from the strong.

If we do not oppose abortion at some stage of pregnancy, is there not a danger of dismissing an entire category of human beings as unworthy of our protection and respect? And isn’t that dismissal the hallmark of sexism, racism, nationalism, and religious fanaticism? Shouldn’t those dedicated to fighting such injustices be scrupulously careful not to embrace another?

Adrian Rogers’ sermon on animal rights refutes Sagan here

There is no right to life in any society on Earth today, nor has there been at any former time… : We raise farm animals for slaughter; destroy forests; pollute rivers and lakes until no fish can live there; kill deer and elk for sport, leopards for the pelts, and whales for fertilizer; entrap dolphins, gasping and writhing, in great tuna nets; club seal pups to death; and render a species extinct every day. All these beasts and vegetables are as alive as we. What is (allegedly) protected is not life, but human life.

Genesis 3 defines being human

And even with that protection, casual murder is an urban commonplace, and we wage “conventional” wars with tolls so terrible that we are, most of us, afraid to consider them very deeply… That protection, that right to life, eludes the 40,000 children under five who die on our planet each day from preventable starvation, dehydration, disease, and neglect.

Those who assert a “right to life” are for (at most) not just any kind of life, but for–particularly and uniquely—human life. So they too, like pro-choicers, must decide what distinguishes a human being from other animals and when, during gestation, the uniquely human qualities–whatever they are–emerge.

The Bible talks about the differences between humans and animals

Despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Nor does human life begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain dating back to the origin of our species, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.

In some animals, an egg develops into a healthy adult without benefit of a sperm cell. But not, so far as we know, among humans. A sperm and an unfertilized egg jointly comprise the full genetic blueprint for a human being. Under certain circumstances, after fertilization, they can develop into a baby. But most fertilized eggs are spontaneously miscarried. Development into a baby is by no means guaranteed. Neither a sperm and egg separately, nor a fertilized egg, is more than a potential baby or a potential adult. So if a sperm and egg are as human as the fertilized egg produced by their union, and if it is murder to destroy a fertilized egg–despite the fact that it’s only potentially a baby–why isn’t it murder to destroy a sperm or an egg?

Hundreds of millions of sperm cells (top speed with tails lashing: five inches per hour) are produced in an average human ejaculation. A healthy young man can produce in a week or two enough spermatozoa to double the human population of the Earth. So is masturbation mass murder? How about nocturnal emissions or just plain sex? When the unfertilized egg is expelled each month, has someone died? Should we mourn all those spontaneous miscarriages? Many lower animals can be grown in a laboratory from a single body cell. Human cells can be cloned… In light of such cloning technology, would we be committing mass murder by destroying any potentially clonable cells? By shedding a drop of blood?

 

All human sperm and eggs are genetic halves of “potential” human beings. Should heroic efforts be made to save and preserve all of them, everywhere, because of this “potential”? Is failure to do so immoral or criminal? Of course, there’s a difference between taking a life and failing to save it. And there’s a big difference between the probability of survival of a sperm cell and that of a fertilized egg. But the absurdity of a corps of high-minded semen-preservers moves us to wonder whether a fertilized egg’s mere “potential” to become a baby really does make destroying it murder.

Opponents of abortion worry that, once abortion is permissible immediately after conception, no argument will restrict it at any later time in the pregnancy. Then, they fear, one day it will be permissible to murder a fetus that is unambiguously a human being. Both pro-choicers and pro-lifers (at least some of them) are pushed toward absolutist positions by parallel fears of the slippery slope.

 

Another slippery slope is reached by those pro-lifers who are willing to make an exception in the agonizing case of a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest. But why should the right to live depend on the circumstances of conception? If the same child were to result, can the state ordain life for the offspring of a lawful union but death for one conceived by force or coercion? How can this be just? And if exceptions are extended to such a fetus, why should they be withheld from any other fetus? This is part of the reason some pro-lifers adopt what many others consider the outrageous posture of opposing abortions under any and all circumstances–only excepting, perhaps, when the life of the mother is in danger.

By far the most common reason for abortion worldwide is birth control. So 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. Instead, the United States is far behind other nations in the development of safe and effective methods of birth control–and, in many cases, opposition to such research (and to sex education) has come from the same people who oppose abortions.continue on to Part 3

For the complete text, including illustrations, introductory quote, footnotes, and commentary on the reaction to the originally published article see Billions and Billions.

The attempt to find an ethically sound and unambiguous judgment on when, if ever, abortion is permissible has deep historical roots. Often, especially in Christian tradition, such attempts were connected with the question of when the soul enters the body–a matter not readily amenable to scientific investigation and an issue of controversy even among learned theologians. Ensoulment has been asserted to occur in the sperm before conception, at conception, at the time of “quickening” (when the mother is first able to feel the fetus stirring within her), and at birth. Or even later.

Different religions have different teachings. Among hunter-gatherers, there are usually no prohibitions against abortion, and it was common in ancient Greece and Rome. In contrast, the more severe Assyrians impaled women on stakes for attempting abortion. The Jewish Talmud teaches that the fetus is not a person and has no rights. The Old and New Testaments–rich in astonishingly detailed prohibitions on dress, diet, and permissible words–contain not a word specifically prohibiting abortion. The only passage that’s remotely relevant (Exodus 21:22) decrees that if there’s a fight and a woman bystander should accidentally be injured and made to miscarry, the assailant must pay a fine.

Neither St. Augustine nor St. Thomas Aquinas considered early-term abortion to be homicide (the latter on the grounds that the embryo doesn’t look human). This view was embraced by the Church in the Council of Vienne in 1312, and has never been repudiated. The Catholic Church’s first and long-standing collection of canon law (according to the leading historian of the Church’s teaching on abortion, John Connery, S.J.) held that abortion was homicide only after the fetus was already “formed”–roughly, the end of the first trimester.

But when sperm cells were examined in the seventeenth century by the first microscopes, they were thought to show a fully formed human being. An old idea of the homunculus was resuscitated–in which within each sperm cell was a fully formed tiny human, within whose testes were innumerable other homunculi, etc., ad infinitum. In part through this misinterpretation of scientific data, in 1869 abortion at any time for any reason became grounds for excommunication. It is surprising to most Catholics and others to discover that the date was not much earlier.

From colonial times to the nineteenth century, the choice in the United States was the woman’s until “quickening.” An abortion in the first or even second trimester was at worst a misdemeanor. Convictions were rarely sought and almost impossible to obtain, because they depended entirely on the woman’s own testimony of whether she had felt quickening, and because of the jury’s distaste for prosecuting a woman for exercising her right to choose. In 1800 there was not, so far as is known, a single statute in the United States concerning abortion. Advertisements for drugs to induce abortion could be found in virtually every newspaper and even in many church publications–although the language used was suitably euphemistic, if widely understood.

But by 1900, abortion had been banned at any time in pregnancy by every state in the Union, except when necessary to save the woman’s life. What happened to bring about so striking a reversal? Religion had little to do with it.Drastic economic and social conversions were turning this country from an agrarian to an urban-industrial society. America was in the process of changing from having one of the highest birthrates in the world to one of the lowest. Abortion certainly played a role and stimulated forces to suppress it.

 

One of the most significant of these forces was the medical profession. Up to the mid-nineteenth century, medicine was an uncertified, unsupervised business. Anyone could hang up a shingle and call himself (or herself) a doctor. With the rise of a new, university-educated medical elite, anxious to enhance the status and influence of physicians, the American Medical Association was formed. In its first decade, the AMA began lobbying against abortions performed by anyone except licensed physicians. New knowledge of embryology, the physicians said, had shown the fetus to be human even before quickening.

Their assault on abortion was motivated not by concern for the health of the woman but, they claimed, for the welfare of the fetus. You had to be a physician to know when abortion was morally justified, because the question depended on scientific and medical facts understood only by physicians. At the same time, women were effectively excluded from the medical schools, where such arcane knowledge could be acquired. So, as things worked out, women had almost nothing to say about terminating their own pregnancies. It was also up to the physician to decide if the pregnancy posed a threat to the woman, and it was entirely at his discretion to determine what was and was not a threat. For the rich woman, the threat might be a threat to her emotional tranquillity or even to her lifestyle. The poor woman was often forced to resort to the back alley or the coat hanger.

This was the law until the 1960s, when a coalition of individuals and organizations, the AMA now among them, sought to overturn it and to reinstate the more traditional values that were to be embodied in Roe v. Wade.continue on to Part 4

If you deliberately kill a human being, it’s called murder. If you deliberately kill a chimpanzee–biologically, our closest relative, sharing 99.6 percent of our active genes–whatever else it is, it’s not murder. To date, murder uniquely applies to killing human beings. Therefore, the question of when personhood (or, if we like, ensoulment) arises is key to the abortion debate. When does the fetus become human? When do distinct and characteristic human qualities emerge?

Section 8 Sperm journey to becoming Human 

We recognize that specifying a precise moment will overlook individual differences. Therefore, if we must draw a line, it ought to be drawn conservatively–that is, on the early side. There are people who object to having to set some numerical limit, and we share their disquiet; but if there is to be a law on this matter, and it is to effect some useful compromise between the two absolutist positions, it must specify, at least roughly, a time of transition to personhood.

Every one of us began from a dot. A fertilized egg is roughly the size of the period at the end of this sentence. The momentous meeting of sperm and egg generally occurs in one of the two fallopian tubes. One cell becomes two, two become four, and so on—an exponentiation of base-2 arithmetic. By the tenth day the fertilized egg has become a kind of hollow sphere wandering off to another realm: the womb. It destroys tissue in its path. It sucks blood from capillaries. It bathes itself in maternal blood, from which it extracts oxygen and nutrients. It establishes itself as a kind of parasite on the walls of the uterus.By the third week, around the time of the first missed menstrual period, the forming embryo is about 2 millimeters long and is developing various body parts. Only at this stage does it begin to be dependent on a rudimentary placenta. It looks a little like a segmented worm.By the end of the fourth week, it’s about 5 millimeters (about 1/5 inch) long. It’s recognizable now as a vertebrate, its tube-shaped heart is beginning to beat, something like the gill arches of a fish or an amphibian become conspicuous, and there is a pronounced tail. It looks rather like a newt or a tadpole. This is the end of the first month after conception.By the fifth week, the gross divisions of the brain can be distinguished. What will later develop into eyes are apparent, and little buds appear—on their way to becoming arms and legs.By the sixth week, the embryo is 13 millimeteres (about ½ inch) long. The eyes are still on the side of the head, as in most animals, and the reptilian face has connected slits where the mouth and nose eventually will be.By the end of the seventh week, the tail is almost gone, and sexual characteristics can be discerned (although both sexes look female). The face is mammalian but somewhat piglike.By the end of the eighth week, the face resembles that of a primate but is still not quite human. Most of the human body parts are present in their essentials. Some lower brain anatomy is well-developed. The fetus shows some reflex response to delicate stimulation.By the tenth week, the face has an unmistakably human cast. It is beginning to be possible to distinguish males from females. Nails and major bone structures are not apparent until the third month.By the fourth month, you can tell the face of one fetus from that of another. Quickening is most commonly felt in the fifth month. The bronchioles of the lungs do not begin developing until approximately the sixth month, the alveoli still later.

So, if only a person can be murdered, when does the fetus attain personhood? When its face becomes distinctly human, near the end of the first trimester? When the fetus becomes responsive to stimuli–again, at the end of the first trimester? When it becomes active enough to be felt as quickening, typically in the middle of the second trimester? When the lungs have reached a stage of development sufficient that the fetus might, just conceivably, be able to breathe on its own in the outside air?

The trouble with these particular developmental milestones is not just that they’re arbitrary. More troubling is the fact that none of them involves uniquely humancharacteristics–apart from the superficial matter of facial appearance. All animals respond to stimuli and move of their own volition. Large numbers are able to breathe. But that doesn’t stop us from slaughtering them by the billions. Reflexes and motion are not what make us human.

Section 9 Sagan’s conclusion based on arbitrary choice of the presence of thought by unborn baby

Other animals have advantages over us–in speed, strength, endurance, climbing or burrowing skills, camouflage, sight or smell or hearing, mastery of the air or water. Our one great advantage, the secret of our success, is thought–characteristically human thought. We are able to think things through, imagine events yet to occur, figure things out. That’s how we invented agriculture and civilization. Thought is our blessing and our curse, and it makes us who we are.

Thinking occurs, of course, in the brain–principally in the top layers of the convoluted “gray matter” called the cerebral cortex. The roughly 100 billion neurons in the brain constitute the material basis of thought. The neurons are connected to each other, and their linkups play a major role in what we experience as thinking. But large-scale linking up of neurons doesn’t begin until the 24th to 27th week of pregnancy–the sixth month.

By placing harmless electrodes on a subject’s head, scientists can measure the electrical activity produced by the network of neurons inside the skull. Different kinds of mental activity show different kinds of brain waves. But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy–near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this–however alive and active they may be–lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think.

Acquiescing in the killing of any living creature, especially one that might later become a baby, is troublesome and painful. But we’ve rejected the extremes of “always” and “never,” and this puts us–like it or not–on the slippery slope. If we are forced to choose a developmental criterion, then this is where we draw the line: when the beginning of characteristically human thinking becomes barely possible.

It is, in fact, a very conservative definition: Regular brain waves are rarely found in fetuses. More research would help… If we wanted to make the criterion still more stringent, to allow for occasional precocious fetal brain development, we might draw the line at six months. This, it so happens, is where the Supreme Court drew it in 1973–although for completely different reasons.

Its decision in the case of Roe v. Wade changed American law on abortion. It permits abortion at the request of the woman without restriction in the first trimester and, with some restrictions intended to protect her health, in the second trimester. It allows states to forbid abortion in the third trimester, except when there’s a serious threat to the life or health of the woman. In the 1989 Webster decision, the Supreme Court declined explicitly to overturn Roe v. Wade but in effect invited the 50 state legislatures to decide for themselves.

What was the reasoning in Roe v. Wade? There was no legal weight given to what happens to the children once they are born, or to the family. Instead, a woman’s right to reproductive freedom is protected, the court ruled, by constitutional guarantees of privacy. But that right is not unqualified. The woman’s guarantee of privacy and the fetus’s right to life must be weighed–and when the court did the weighing’ priority was given to privacy in the first trimester and to life in the third. The transition was decided not from any of the considerations we have been dealing with so far…–not when “ensoulment” occurs, not when the fetus takes on sufficient human characteristics to be protected by laws against murder. Instead, the criterion adopted was whether the fetus could live outside the mother. This is called “viability” and depends in part on the ability to breathe. The lungs are simply not developed, and the fetus cannot breathe–no matter how advanced an artificial lung it might be placed in—until about the 24th week, near the start of the sixth month. This is why Roe v. Wade permits the states to prohibit abortions in the last trimester. It’s a very pragmatic criterion.

If the fetus at a certain stage of gestation would be viable outside the womb, the argument goes, then the right of the fetus to life overrides the right of the woman to privacy. But just what does “viable” mean? Even a full-term newborn is not viable without a great deal of care and love. There was a time before incubators, only a few decades ago, when babies in their seventh month were unlikely to be viable. Would aborting in the seventh month have been permissible then? After the invention of incubators, did aborting pregnancies in the seventh month suddenly become immoral? What happens if, in the future, a new technology develops so that an artificial womb can sustain a fetus even before the sixth month by delivering oxygen and nutrients through the blood–as the mother does through the placenta and into the fetal blood system? We grant that this technology is unlikely to be developed soon or become available to many. But if it were available, does it then become immoral to abort earlier than the sixth month, when previously it was moral? A morality that depends on, and changes with, technology is a fragile morality; for some, it is also an unacceptable morality.

And why, exactly, should breathing (or kidney function, or the ability to resist disease) justify legal protection? If a fetus can be shown to think and feel but not be able to breathe, would it be all right to kill it? Do we value breathing more than thinking and feeling? Viability arguments cannot, it seems to us, coherently determine when abortions are permissible. Some other criterion is needed. Again, we offer for consideration the earliest onset of human thinking as that criterion.

Since, on average, fetal thinking occurs even later than fetal lung development, we find Roe v. Wade to be a good and prudent decision addressing a complex and difficult issue. With prohibitions on abortion in the last trimester–except in cases of grave medical necessity–it strikes a fair balance between the conflicting claims of freedom and life.What do you think? What have others said about Carl Sagan’s thoughts on 

End of Sagan Excerpt 

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Carl Sagan asserted, “If the fetus at a certain stage of gestation would be viable outside the womb, the argument goes, then the right of the fetus to life overrides the right of the woman to privacy.”

 

Below we see that Francis Schaeffer points out that we are longer as a society concerned about when the unborn baby becomes a human, but just that that the mother’s selfish desires are met!!!!  Pt 1 of 2 Listen to this Important Message by Francis Schaeffer

Published on Sep 30, 2013

This message “A Christian Manifesto” was given in 1982 by the late Christian Philosopher Francis Schaeffer when he was age 70 at D. James Kennedy’s Corral Ridge Presbyterian Church.
Listen to this important message where Dr. Schaeffer says it is the duty of Christians to disobey the government when it comes in conflict with God’s laws. So many have misinterpreted Romans 13 to mean unconditional obedience to the state. When the state promotes an evil agenda and anti-Christian statues we must obey God rather than men. Acts
I used to watch James Kennedy preach from his TV pulpit with great delight in the 1980’s. Both of these men are gone to be with the Lord now. We need new Christian leaders to rise up in their stead.
To view Part 2 See Francis Schaeffer Lecture- Christian Manifesto Pt 2 of 2 video
The religious and political freedom’s we enjoy as Americans was based on the Bible and the legacy of the Reformation according to Francis Schaeffer. These freedoms will continue to diminish as we cast off the authority of Holy Scripture.
In public schools there is no other view of reality but that final reality is shaped by chance.
Likewise, public television gives us many things that we like culturally but so much of it is mere propaganda shaped by a humanistic world and life view.

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Pt 2 -Listen to this Important Message by Francis Schaeffer

I was able to watch Francis Schaeffer deliver a speech on a book he wrote called “A Christian Manifesto” and I heard him in several interviews on it in 1981 and 1982. I listened with great interest since I also read that book over and over again. Below is a portion of one of Schaeffer’s talks  on a crucial subject that is very important today too.

 
 
 
A Christian Manifesto
by Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer
This address was delivered by the late Dr. Schaeffer in 1982 at the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church, Fort Lauderdale, Florida. It is based on one of his books, which bears the same title.
Stalin,Mao,and Hitler versus our  view in the USA today of acceptable killing 
NEWSWEEK January 11 1982 HOW LIFE BEGINS THE BOMB CLAY
 
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The January 11 Newsweek has an article about the baby in the womb. The first 5 or 6 pages are marvelous. If you haven’t seen it, you should see if you can get that issue. It’s January 11 and about the first 5 or 6 pages show conclusively what every biologist has known all along, and that is that human life begins at conception. There is no other time for human life to begin, except at conception. Monkey life begins at conception. Donkey life begins at conception. And human life begins at conception. Biologically, there is no discussion — never should have been — from a scientific viewpoint. I am not speaking of religion now. And this 5 or 6 pages very carefully goes into the fact that human life begins at conception. But you flip the page and there is this big black headline, “But is it a person?” And I’ll read the last sentence, “The problem is not determining when actual human life begins, but when the value of that life begins to out weigh other considerations, such as the health or even the happiness of the mother.”
We are not just talking about the health of the mother (it’s a propaganda line), or even the happiness of the mother. Listen! Spell that out! It means that the mother, for her own hedonistic happiness — selfish happiness — can take human life by her choice, by law. Do you understand what I have said? By law, on the basis of her individual choice of what makes her happy. She can take what has been declared to be, in the first five pages [of the article], without any question, human life. In other words, they acknowledge that human life is there, but it is an open question as to whether it is not right to kill that human life if it makes the mother happy.
And basically that is no different than Stalin, Mao, or Hitler, killing who they killed for what they conceived to be the good of society. There is absolutely no line between the two statements — no absolute line, whatsoever. One follows along: Once that it is acknowledged that it is human life that is involved (and as I said, this issue of Newsweek shows conclusively that it is) the acceptance of death of human life in babies born or unborn, opens the door to the arbitrary taking of any human life. From then on, it’s purely arbitrary.
It was this view that opened the door to all that followed in Germany prior to Hitler. It’s an interesting fact here that the only Supreme Court in the Western World that has ruled against easy abortion is the West German Court. The reason they did it is because they knew, and it’s clear history, that this view of human life in the medical profession and the legal profession combined, before Hitler came on the scene, is what opened the way for everything that happened in Hitler’s Germany. And so, the German Supreme Court has voted against easy abortion because they know — they know very well where it leads.
 

‘Tales as wondrous as Homer’s’

As a follow-on from the Life Magazine cover I shared recently, here’s Joe Sobran:

Tone is the immediate expression of values, and the tone characteristic of abortion advocates is that of the sneer. And for a natural reason: their position is reductionist, value-denying. It intentionally minimizes the worth of the incipient human life; and let us bear in mind that for a long while it minimized the facts themselves. It is a prejudice, in the fundamental sense that it springs from the will in advance of any knowledge; it is not a conclusion from the available evidence, nor a perplexity caused by inordinate communion with complexities …

A very different tone was sounded by Newsweek in its January 11, 1982 cover story “How Life Begins.” Written by Sharon Begley, it began:

“If newborns could remember and speak, they would emerge from the womb carrying tales as wondrous as Homer’s. They would describe the fury of conception and the sinuous choreography of nerve cells, billions of them dancing pas de deux to make connections that infuse mere matter with consciousness. They would recount how the amorphous glob of an arm bud grows into the fine structure of fingers agile enough to play a polonaise. They would tell of cells swarming out of the nascent spinal cord to colonize far reaches of the embryo, helping to form face, head and glands. The explosion of such complexity and order — a heart that beats, legs that run and a brain powerful enough to contemplate its own origins –seems like a miracle. It is as if a single dab of white paint turned into the multicolored splendor of the Sistine ceiling.”

Miss Begley went on to speak of the abortion question as “scientifically unanswerable,” and yet she implicitly answered it herself, in her accents of stunned wonder. The very facts of fetal development, far from inducing value-free detachment, inspired her to remarkable eloquence.

Her whole article, though merely descriptive, was suffused with the reverence of a mind free of self-interest and absorbed by the unfolding reality before it. Reading it one felt that rare and sublime sensation of beholding, of sharing the intellect’s love of its object. “The five-week embryo, only one-third of an inch long, is a marvel of miniaturization: limb buds are sending out shoots whose dimples mark the nascent hands and feet, and the hindbrain has grown stalked eye cups.”

Stalked eye cups! This is not a “pretty” description, but an enthralled one, and it takes a certain nerve to insist, in the face of such data, that description has no bearing on prescription, or that the thing described is no more than a “blob of protoplasm.”

And we allow such things to be killed. They are destined to be men and women; they are what we once were. Is not our indifference to them, our official denial of our kinship with them, a judgment on ourselves?

As if to balance the undeniable import of Miss Begley’s article with a kind of moral disclaimer, Newsweek supplemented it with a shorter piece titled “But Is It a Person?”

“It is unquestionably alive,” wrote Jerry Adler, “a unique entity . . .” But, he continued, “The question is one for philosophers, not scientists; . . . the problem is not determining when ‘actual human life’ begins, but when the value of that life begins to outweigh other considerations, such as the health, or even the happiness, of the mother. And on that question, science is silent.”

From the heights to the depths. This was pretty near absurdity. Science, in the sense of physical analysis, is silent on every moral question, for the simple reason that science is not ethics.

We’ve got to recapture the capacity to conceive of the youngest members of the human family in the true and epic terms that Sharon Begley did in her Newsweek piece; in the sense of human beings emerging into the world, who though lacking autonomy and self sufficiency and independence for years upon years nonetheless have already are adventurers with “tales as wondrous as Homer’s.” Thinking in this way might help get the rest of us out of ourselves, and help get us thinking about more than our own ego and our own concerns and instead be content simply to be in the presence of the extraordinariness of others in the sense that C.S. Lewis invites us to think of others:

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.”

The Founding Fathers and the Right to Life

Jameson Taylor
Permission Granted

The Declaration of Independence draws a very clear line between sanity and insanity by proclaiming the existence of certain self-evident truths that all rational men should recognize: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

A self-evident truth is, by definition, evident to anyone who is sane. Persons who do not accept that all human beings are endowed with an inalienable right to life—for example, the 82 percent of Americans who think abortion should be legal—are, by this definition, insane.

The right to life is inalienable because it is not of human, but of divine origin. Because man does not create himself, he cannot deprive himself of the primary goods that are inherent to human existence: life, freedom and happiness. Just as no government can deny its citizens these inalienable rights, neither can a man deprive himself of these rights. The “inalienable” right to life thus precludes abortion as well as suicide.2

A Closer Look at Roe

But what about Roe vs. Wade? Does a “penumbra,” or shadow, of the 14th Amendment guarantee a right to privacy that includes the right to an abortion?

The fact is, as Justice Byron White’s dissenting opinion in Roe vs. Wade concluded, there is “nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgement.” Indeed, just as the logical development of the Declaration’s recognition of man’s inherent liberty required federal intervention to abolish slavery, the Declaration’s acknowledgment of the inalienable right to life would seem to favor federal intervention to end abortion. 3

James Wilson’s “Lectures on Law,” given at what eventually was to become the University of Pennsylvania, clearly affirm that the right to life encompasses the unborn. Wilson was one of only six men to sign both the Declaration and the Constitution, and was a Supreme Court justice from 1789 to 1798. Recognized as “the most learned and profound legal scholar of his generation,” Wilson’s lectures were attended by President George Washington, Vice President John Adams, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson and a “galaxy of other republican worthies.” For this reason, as constitutional scholar Walter Berns states, “Wilson, when speaking on the law, might be said to be speaking for the Founders generally.” So what do the Founders say about the right to life?

Wilson clearly answers this question: “With consistency, beautiful and undeviating, human life from its commencement to its close, is protected by the common law. In the contemplation of law, life begins when the infant is first able to stir in the womb. By the law, life is protected not only from immediate destruction, but from every degree of actual violence, and in some cases, from every degree of danger.”4

Given Wilson’s exegesis, one cannot doubt that the Founders recognized that unborn infants are owed the full protection of the law. The key question thus becomes the point at which the unborn fetus becomes an unborn child.

Wilson, in agreement with the limited medical jurisprudence of his time, assumed that life begins with the “quickening” of the infant in his mother’s womb. As taught by Aristotle, the quickening was the point at which the fetus was infused with a human, rational soul. John Bouvier’s Law Dictionary, first printed in 1839, defines the quickening as follows: “The motion of the foetus, when felt by the mother, is called quickening, and the mother is then said to be quick with child. This happens at different periods of pregnancy in different women, and in different circumstances, but most usually about the fifteenth or sixteenth week after conception….”

One of the sources of both Wilson’s and Bouvier’s opinion is William Blackstone’s widely read Commentaries on the Laws of England (1765-1769). Blackstone’s discussion of the quickening observes: “Life is the immediate gift of God, a right inherent by nature in every individual; and it begins in contemplation of law as soon as an infant is able to stir in the mother’s womb. For if a woman is quick with child, and by a potion, or otherwise, killeth it in her womb… this, though not murder, was by the ancient law homicide or manslaughter. But at present it is not looked upon in quite so atrocious a light, though it remains a very heinous misdemeanor…”

The ancient law referred to by Blackstone is best articulated by Henry Bracton (1216-1272), the renowned “Father of the Common Law.”As Roe reluctantly admits, Bracton categorized the abortion of a “formed or quickened” fetus as a form of homicide, “the slaying of man by man.” Wilson seems to agree with Bracton on this issue, and thus affirmed that the inalienable right to life applies just as much to unborn, quickened human beings as it does to any other human beings. The fact that Blackstone emphatically characterizes abortion as “a very heinous” crime suggests he may sympathize with the ancient law on this matter.

Needless to say, the Founders undoubtedly recognized that unborn infants older than 15 weeks possess a constitutionally protected and inalienable right to life. Given that, according to Planned Parenthood, at least 90 percent of all abortions occur in the first trimester, this conclusion seems almost irrelevant. To begin with, however, the obvious intentions of the Founders as well as the weight of the common law compel the Congress and the courts to prohibit abortion—for any reason—in the second and third trimesters. Abortions performed during these late stages are clearly murder—and cannot be justified by a penumbra of the 14th Amendment, the mother’s health or a woman’s “right to choose.”

Pro-abortionists assert that any restrictions on access to abortion in even the second and third trimesters are bound to result in the prohibition of abortion altogether. By the same logic, however, society would have no right to forbid any crime. The reason abortionists claim that women have an absolute right to an abortion at any time is because they recognize that even the right to an abortion during the first trimester is arbitrary. Douglas Kmiec, professor of constitutional law at the University of Notre Dame, discussed this point in his 22 April 1996 statement before the House Committee on the Judiciary. Kmiec’s analysis of internal Supreme Court memoranda related to Roe vs. Wade revealed that Justice Harry A. Blackmun, author of the Roe majority opinion, even admitted to his fellow justices that “you will observe that I have concluded that the end of the first trimester is critical. This is arbitrary, but perhaps any other selected point…is equally arbitrary…” (emphasis added).

What are we to make of this shocking statement? Perhaps the justices did not know that an infant’s heart begins beating at five weeks or that at eight weeks brain waves can be measured or that at 12 weeks the child can and does cry and sometimes sucks his thumb.

Abortion is legal today not because the justices did not know when life begins, but because the justices—as well as the 82 percent of Americans cited earlier—do not know what liberty is. For most Americans, liberty is the subjectively defined right to do whatever you can get away with. Sandra Day O’Connor memorialized this faulty conception of freedom in her 1992 Planned Parenthood vs. Casey decision, which claimed that “at the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.”

America’s Founding Fathers would have condemned such an opinion as madness. Because both life and liberty are “endowments” or “gifts” from God, the proper exercise of liberty requires that man adhere to the “laws of God and Nature’s God” in the use of his freedom. When James Wilson stated that life begins with the infant’s “quickening,” he was not making an “arbitrary” decision as to who is human and who is not. Wilson’s opinion was based upon a reasonable assessment of the best scientific, legal and philosophical opinions available at the time.

Had Wilson and the Founders had access to the discoveries of modern biology, they certainly would have agreed that life begins at conception. Medical discoveries in the years following the American Revolution increasingly encouraged American and English lawmakers to come to this conclusion. In 1803, for example, England adopted a law known as Lord Ellenborough’s Act that made it a capital offense to “cause and procure the Miscarriage of any Woman quick with child.” The law established severe penalties for aborting infants in the first trimester as well: “…if any Person or Persons…shall procure to be used or employed, any Instrument or other Means whatsoever, with Intent thereby to cause or procure the Miscarriage of any Woman not being, or not being proved to be, quick with Child at the Time of administering…that then and in every such Case the Person or Persons so offending, their Counsellors, Aiders, and Abettors, knowing of and privy to such Offence, shall be and are hereby declared to be guilty of Felony, and shall be liable to be fined, imprisoned, set in and upon the Pillory, publickly or privately whipped. …”

Bouvier, citing Theodric and John Beck’s 1835 Elements of Medical Jurisprudence, himself questions the age-old idea of the quickening, noting that “physiologists, perhaps with reason, think that the child is a living being from the moment of conception.” More to the point, Bouvier’s entry, “Foeticide,” comments that “recently, this term has been applied to designate the act by which criminal abortion is procured.” Such scholarship soon bore fruit, with Maine, in 1840, becoming the first state to ban the abortion of infants “quick or not.”6

Subsequent federal and state laws banning abortion altogether were a logical development of the Founding Fathers’ absolute reverence for the self-evident and inalienable right to life. It is no accident that the Declaration, as written by Thomas Jefferson, characterizes the right to life as the first of those three foundational rights for the sake of which government itself is instituted. Where there is no guarantee of the right to life, legitimate political authority simply does not exist. Where there is no guarantee to life for both the weak and the strong, the rights to liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all are themselves at risk. The “New Freedom” heralded by the Supreme Court and other partisans of the Sexual Revolution has thus turned into nothing less than a new enslavement. Only when we as a nation return to our faith in the Creator who gives us life and liberty will we again be truly free.

Footnotes

1  “Our liberties do not come from charters; for these are only the declaration of pre-existing rights. They do not depend on parchments or seals, but come from the king of kings and the Lord of all the earth.” John Dickinson, Founding Father and author of the Articles of Confederation. [Back]

2  “Nobody can give more power than he has himself, and he that cannot take away his own life cannot give another power over it.” English philosopher John Locke, II Treatise, iv. [Back]

3  As recognized in Holy Trinity vs. U.S. (1892), the Declaration is part of the “organic” or “fundamental” law that provides the context within which the Constitution must be interpreted.[Back]

4  “Lectures on Law,” Ch. 12, p. 597 in The Works of James Wilson. ed. Robert G. McCloskey (1967).[Back]

5  Joseph Story, Supreme Court justice from 1811-1845, states that at the time of the Founding, “the common law of England [was] the fundamental law of all the Colonies.” See also Ex Parte Grossman, 267 U.S. 87, 108.[Back]

6  Justice Rehnquist’s dissent in Roe vs. Wade mentions that by the time the 14th Amendment was adopted in 1868, 36 states and territories had enacted abortion laws. The Maine statute of 1840 is referenced in Brian Young’s “A Brief Survey of U.S. Abortion Law Before the 1973 Decision.”[Back]

Francis Schaeffer’s prayer for us in USA

 Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE Published on Oct 6, 2012 by AdamMetropolis The 45 minute video above is from the film series created from Francis Schaeffer’s book “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” with Dr. C. Everett Koop. This book  really helped develop my political views […]

 

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 10 “Final Choices” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 1 0   Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode X – Final Choices 27 min FINAL CHOICES I. Authoritarianism the Only Humanistic Social Option One man or an elite giving authoritative arbitrary absolutes. A. Society is sole absolute in absence of other absolutes. B. But society has to be […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 9 “The Age of Personal Peace and Affluence” (Schaeffer Sundays)

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Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 8 “The Age of Fragmentation” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 8 Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode VIII – The Age of Fragmentation 27 min I saw this film series in 1979 and it had a major impact on me. T h e Age of FRAGMENTATION I. Art As a Vehicle Of Modern Thought A. Impressionism (Monet, Renoir, Pissarro, Sisley, […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 7 “The Age of Non-Reason” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 7 Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode VII – The Age of Non Reason I am thrilled to get this film series with you. I saw it first in 1979 and it had such a big impact on me. Today’s episode is where we see modern humanist man act […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 6 “The Scientific Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

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Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 5 “The Revolutionary Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

E P I S O D E 5 How Should We Then Live? Episode 5: The Revolutionary Age I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Francis Schaeffer noted, “Reformation Did Not Bring Perfection. But gradually on basis of biblical teaching there […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 4 “The Reformation” (Schaeffer Sundays)

Dr. Francis Schaeffer – Episode IV – The Reformation 27 min I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer makes three key points concerning the Reformation: “1. Erasmian Christian humanism rejected by Farel. 2. Bible gives needed answers not only as to […]

“Schaeffer Sundays” Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 3 “The Renaissance”

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 3 “The Renaissance” Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 3) THE RENAISSANCE I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer really shows why we have so […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 2 “The Middle Ages” (Schaeffer Sundays)

  Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 2) THE MIDDLE AGES I was impacted by this film series by Francis Schaeffer back in the 1970′s and I wanted to share it with you. Schaeffer points out that during this time period unfortunately we have the “Church’s deviation from early church’s teaching in regard […]

Francis Schaeffer’s “How should we then live?” Video and outline of episode 1 “The Roman Age” (Schaeffer Sundays)

Francis Schaeffer: “How Should We Then Live?” (Episode 1) THE ROMAN AGE   Today I am starting a series that really had a big impact on my life back in the 1970′s when I first saw it. There are ten parts and today is the first. Francis Schaeffer takes a look at Rome and why […]

 
 

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 5) TRUTH AND HISTORY

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Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 4) THE BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY

The opening song at the beginning of this episode is very insightful. Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 4) THE BASIS FOR HUMAN DIGNITY Published on Oct 7, 2012 by AdamMetropolis This crucial series is narrated by the late Dr. Francis Schaeffer and former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop. Today, choices […]

Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 3) DEATH BY SOMEONE’S CHOICE

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Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?” (Episode 2) SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS

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Francis Schaeffer: “Whatever Happened to the Human Race” (Episode 1) ABORTION OF THE HUMAN RACE

It is not possible to know where the pro-life evangelicals are coming from unless you look at the work of the person who inspired them the most. That person was Francis Schaeffer.  I do care about economic issues but the pro-life issue is the most important to me. Several years ago Adrian Rogers (past president of […]

The following essay explores the role that Francis Schaeffer played in the rise of the pro-life movement. It examines the place of How Should We Then Live?, Whatever Happened to the Human Race?, and A Christian Manifesto in that process.

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Who was Francis Schaeffer? by Udo Middelmann

Great article on Schaeffer. Who was Dr. Francis A. Schaeffer? By Francis Schaeffer The unique contribution of Dr. Francis Schaeffer on a whole generation was the ability to communicate the truth of historic Biblical Christianity in a way that combined intellectual integrity with practical, loving care. This grew out of his extensive understanding of the Bible […]

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