BREAKING DOWN CARL SAGAN’S LOGIC ON ABORTION Part 33 “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?”(My 1995 correspondence with Sagan)


Carl Sagan stated:

“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?”


Does Carl Sagan and other atheists do believe unborn children worthy enough to be protected?

Slim Jim Abortion:A Worldview Approach

John Janney

“In the flood of the loss of humanness in our age ― including the flow from abortion-on-demand to infanticide and on to euthanasia ― the only thing that can stem the tide is the certainty of the absolute uniqueness and value of people. And the only thing which gives us this is the knowledge that people are made in the image of God. We have no other final protection. And the only way we know that people are made in the image of God is through the Bible and the Incarnation of Christ, which we know from the Bible.

“If people are not made in the image of God, the pessimistic, realistic humanist is right: the human race is indeed an abnormal wart on the smooth face of a silent and meaningless universe. In this setting, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia (including the killing of mentally deranged criminals, the severely handicapped, or the elderly who are an economic burden) are completely logical. Any person can be obliterated for what society at one moment thinks of as its own social or economic good. Without the Bible and without the revelation in Christ (which is only told to us in the Bible) there it nothing to stand between us and our children and the eventual acceptance of the monstrous inhumanities of the age.” [The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer V, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), p. 405-406]


The Loss of Humanness in our Age 

In the flood of the loss of humanness in our age – including the flow from abortion-on-demand to infanticide and on to euthanasia – the only thing that can stem this tide is the certainty of the absolute uniqueness and value of people.  And the only thing which gives us that is the knowledge that people are made in the image of God.  We have no other final protection.  And the only way we know that people are made in the image of God is through the Bible and in the incarnation of Christ, which we know from the Bible. 

If people are not made in the image of God, the pessimistic, realistic humanist is right: the human race is an abnormal wart on the smooth face of a silent and meaningless universe. In this setting, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia (including the killing of mentally deranged criminals, the severely handicapped, or the elderly who are an economic burden) are completely logical…  Without the Bible and without the revelation in Christ (which is only told to us in the Bible) there is nothing to stand between us and our children and the eventual acceptance of the monstrous inhumanities of the age.

Francis Schaeffer (with C Everett Koop), “Whatever Happened to the Human Race?”

Guest Post: Abortion – a Worldview Approach

Note: I just got back from overseas.  This is a guest post that somehow got stuck on our WordPress.  It is by Nate Sonner  who is co-founder of Christian Worldview Discipleship. He and his wife live in Dumaguete City, Philippines.
His website can be found here and his Twitter account here


Abortion is arguably the religious and social issue of our day. Since it became legal in the United States, around 56 millionchildren have been killed. To ignore such an issue, as a Christian, would be unfaithful to God who made man in His image. We as believers must be equipped to discuss and offer a defense. Also, the devaluation of human beings in the womb is not a view held in isolation. Many fail to realize that the fundamental beliefs behind modern bioethics don’t merely affect the unborn, but human beings at all stages of life. If these basic assumptions continue on, unchallenged by Christians who stand unapologetically upon God’s Word, we will continue to see the devaluation of all people.

An Inadequate Approach

The Christian pro-life position recognizes that the unborn are human persons, and therefore have all the rights and protection that comes with being a person. A common argument against pro-abortion advocates is that if it is a human baby, then it shouldn’t be killed. However, if the fetus is just a mass of tissue, like a tumor, then we can do what we want with it. The assertion is that the pro-abortion community must defend that the fetus is not a human baby. Therefore, it’s our task to show that, scientifically, it is a human child, regardless of size and location and dependency, and that should settle the issue. The proposed dilemma is: either the fetus is matter, or a child; it’s either a mass of tissue, or a person. No third option available. That’s the choice, therefore the only defense against the Christian pro-life view is to assert that the fetus is just a blob of matter.1

The underlying assumption is that people in favor of abortion simply need information, an education. Ignorance is the problem! That’s all. That’s the reason why they abort, because they simply don’t know that it is a baby. These helpless women have been misled, and are blithely skipping along to the abortion mill, unaware of their child within them. Once scientific proof is given that the fetus is a human being, then abortion will be immediately recognized as murder, and abortion will be illegal.2 If they already knew the fetus is a baby, they wouldn’t kill it, because that would obviously be murder. Right? Only criminals would say it’s acceptable, even virtuous, to kill their child. Right?

How can we take this sentiment seriously? “If everyone just knew the facts, that the fetus is a human being, then abortion would be illegal immediately.” Really? Who exactly doesn’t know the facts?

Who exactly doesn’t know that there’s a human baby in the womb? If you take these kinds of common Christian objections to abortion seriously, you might start believing that nobody has ultrasound technology anymore. Or are extremely forgetful (we’ve been popping out human babies for thousands of years). Everyone who’s opinion matters knows that it’s a baby. The doctors know it’s a baby. Anyone who’s around the ultrasound machine knows it’s a baby. The baby has eyes and ears and fingerprints. The geneticists know it’s a baby (like you need to be one to know that). Everyone knows. You really think that the pregnant woman herself has any doubt about what’s growing inside her?

Like she wakes up one morning and seriously believes she has a tumor or something. Really? Like for the first time in thousands of years we are suddenly not sure about what goes on inside a pregnant woman. How many of you aren’t sure that you’re human? Because you came from the womb, and apparently a whole lot of people don’t know what goes on in there.

Nobody is confused about what pregnant women give birth to. Human beings reproduce human beings! Do we really think that’s the issue? Nobody is confused about that. The only confused people are the Christian pro-life advocates using these arguments! We’re the ones who are confused in this debate. Many of us actually believe that human beings don’t already know they reproduce human beings. How odd does that sound? Walk up to the person on the street and ask, “Did you know that when a man and a woman love each other very much, they make human babies?” You just might get slapped for asking such an obvious question. Do we really think anybody doesn’t know?

Yet, lo and behold, the baby killing business is as profitable as ever. There is a huge disjunction between these claims by Christians and the actual state of affairs. Why then, since the facts are known, is abortion still legal? Obviously, the common Christian approach to abortion are based on bad thinking. Evidently, the evidence and facts are not enough!

Wrong. Contrary to much opinion, there is a consensus in the medical community about when life begins. There is consensus that the fetus is biologically a human. No informed advocate of abortion is denying this. Nancy Pearcey affirms:

In the past, abortion supporters simply denied that the fetus is human: “It’s just a blob of tissue.” Today, however, due to advances in genetics and DNA, virtually no ethicist denies that the fetus is human — biologically, genetically, physiologically human. Even the arch-radical Peter Singer acknowledges that “the life of a human organism begins at conception.”3

Confused? It gets better (or worse). R.C. Sproul Jr. clarifies:

Now, I used to think, that people who secured abortions were misled, that they were lied to, that they didn’t know. And it’s certainly conceivable, though unlikely, but it’s conceivable that 40 years ago at the dawn of Roe v. Wade, that there were people who really did buy into this “mass of tissue” argument. But that argument friends has been dead, for 20 years. Everyone knows it’s a baby. It’s now being admitted that it’s a baby. Even by those who are pro-choice, publicly in print, admitted, “We know it’s a baby, but we still ought to be able to kill it.” That’s ironically some welcome honesty. But if you go to the mill and you talk to these women who are on their way in that door you didn’t have to wait for these articles where people are coming out, they knew, when you speak to them, they know what they’re doing, their response, even among those who profess to be Christians, is not “it’s just tissue,”  it’s not “it’s no big deal,” it’s “I can be forgiven, I have the right, I know I’m killing my baby.” We all know. They know. Which means that this misguided, poor, innocent, pregnant girl is a myth. This is a heartless woman, who may indeed find herself in a difficult bind, and who’s solution is to murder her baby.4

Case closed! That was supposed to do it. Abortion should be illegal now, since it’s finally admitted that the fetus is in fact a human life. Right? The only defense for abortion was supposed to be that it’s not a child. The case was that the pro-abortion advocate must not know it’s a baby. But, they actually do, since 20 years ago. And abortion is still on demand, during those last 20 years. There was only supposed to be two choices: baby, or matter. We all know it’s a baby. What is the difficulty, then? Evidently, the issue is a bit more complex than the “baby or matter” dilemma. What is the deeper issue?

The situation so far is that the pro-abortion powers-that-be admit it is a baby, and those acquiring abortions admit it, too. Both sides of the debate agree: the fetus is a living human child. Yet, they still insist on killing those babies. Abortion-on-demand is still policy. The implication is that simply being human does not automatically grant worth. Being a human life is not enough to warrant protection. As it turns out, there is a third option to add to the proposed dilemma. Here’s a crucial distinction made in modern bioethics: a human is not automatically a person. In his book Culture of Death, Wesley J. Smith reveals,

Cutting-edge bioethics now holds that there is nothing special per se in being human, and thus bioethicists have generally abandoned the sanctity-of-life ethic that proclaims the inherent moral worth of all people. The favored term for humans used by movement advocates is not “people” or even “individuals,” but “beings”—a term that includes nonhumans. According to the movement’s leading lights, a “being” may or may not be entitled to membership in the “moral community,” which is what truly matters. . . one earns this status by possessing certain “relevant characteristics”—usually a minimum level of cognitive functioning—that bioethicists consider essential for significant moral standing. Those with sufficient cognitive qualifications to achieve membership in the moral community are often called “persons,” who have moral rights. Those who fail this test, on the other hand, are denigrated as nonpersons, who have little or no moral worth.5

This fine distinction has become a refuge to many who are firmly pro-abortion, yet know full well that a living, human child lives in the womb. What else could be appealed to? To be a modernist with respect to abortion won’t work out: scientifically, it’s a human being. Oops. Time to “leap” to another level. Let’s be postmodern about this, and appeal to some nebulous area ruled by completely arbitrary criteria. Where science fails, it is conveniently abandoned in favor of an arbitrary distinction. Perhaps faithfulness to “science” wasn’t really the issue to begin with, then?

In the end, I have to agree that life begins at conception. So yes, abortion is ending that life. But perhaps the fact of life isn’t what is important. It’s whether that life has grown enough to take on human characteristics, to start becoming a person.

In its early stages, the foetus [sic] clearly hasn’t, so I have no problems with early abortions. . . But once an embryo has developed enough to feel pain, or begin a personality, then it has moved from cell life into the first stages of being a human. Then, for me, ending that life is wrong. . . Killing a person, a recognisable [sic] human being, is murder. That’s why late abortion will always be tricky. Who are we to say whether the life inside is a person, or not? 6

Take note of the blatant contradiction in the quotation above. Human characteristics, feeling pain, and personality are associated with the baby becoming a human person. To kill a human being is murder. Then she says, “Who are we to say whether the life inside is a person, or not?” Sounds to me like she just did! Human characteristics, feeling pain, personality. My questions is, why do those determine personhood? In principle, couldn’t the criteria be changed? Obviously, the basis is not being genetically human.

To put it bluntly, if a Christian objects to a pro-abortionist with the fact that the fetus is a baby, the pro-abortionist may very well say, “So what?” Today, that is not the issue.

The question is, how did such a fine distinction come about? In common vernacular, human and person are used interchangeably. Christian pro-lifers will say “it’s a person living in the womb!” (meaning “human child”). Then the pro-abortion advocate responds, “Not yet.” Huh?

An Inadequate Worldview

Francis Schaeffer recognized the real issue, back in 1979. I’ll quote him at length, several times:

Our society has put to death its own offspring, millions of them. Our society has justified taking their lives, even claiming it a virtue to do so. It has been said this is a new step in our progress toward a liberated humanity.

Such a situation has not come out of a vacuum. Each of us has an overall way of looking at the world, which influences what we do day by day. This is what we call a “world-view.” And all of us have a world-view, whether we realize it or not. We act in accordance with our world-view, and our world-view rests on what to us is the ultimate truth.

What has produced the inhumanity . . . is that society in the West has adopted a world-view which says that all reality is made up only of matter. This view is sometimes referred to as philosophic materialism, because it holds that only matter exists; sometimes it is called naturalism, because it says that no supernatural exists. Humanism which begins from man alone and makes man the measure of all things usually is materialistic in its philosophy. Whatever the label, this is the underlying world-view of our society today. In this view the universe did not get here because it was created by a “supernatural” God. . . its present form just happened as a result of chance events way back in time.7

Within this world-view there is no room for believing that a human being has any final distinct value above that of an animal or of nonliving matter. People are merely a different arrangement of molecules. . . this humanist world-view has also brought us to the present devaluation of human life.8

Materialistic humanism. That’s why. And this worldview is taken for granted and taught throughout every level of Western education, today. This is how people can recognize that the unborn is a child and still be pro-abortion. What is real? Matter. How did we get here? Chance, with lots of time.  Based on those premises, those fundamental beliefs, what is a human? Just more matter. No doubt a smarter, more complex, more productive arrangement of molecules; but purely matter, none the less. As the late Christopher Hitchens once said, we are “higher primates.” Humans are at the top of the ladder, but equally void of inherent value or worth.

What, then, of the worth of human life? Obviously there are many non-christians that value life. I’ve known several non-christians who were intensely pro-life! To infer that those who are assuming materialistic humanism do not make value claims would be incorrect. They do, for various reasons. The issue is whether they have a sufficient foundation for their value claims. They hold them and in practice they affirm values. But, if materialistic humanists hold that only matter exists, what is the consensus on something immaterial? Science (which is limited to the material) has verified that the unborn are humans. Yet, we see this distinction: it’s not necessarily a “person.” What decides that state of being a “person,” if not science? The criteria for gaining knowledge was supposed to be science! If the material is all that is real, yet people still hold to moral standards, then it follows that there has been a separation between what is material and immaterial, since those standards are not material. Since science can only confirm that a fetus is a human child, what decides that immaterial thing about being a “person”?

“With the rise of empiricism, however, religion was reduced to private feelings. Emotional comfort. The concept of truth as a unified, coherent worldview was shattered.

The division of truth is often referred to as the fact/value split . . . It is the assumption that objective knowledge is possible only in the realm of empirical facts, while morality and religion are merely values. The term literally means whatever I value. Whatever is important to me. My likes and preferences.” 9

It makes sense that if only the material is real, then empiricism (knowledge limited by sense experience) is the only way we can learn what is true. Therefore, truth cannot account for anything beyond the physical!  Morals and values cannot be weighed, measured, or examined empirically. So, it follows that religion and morality are not verifiable truths, just personal preferences and emotional expressions. Religion and morality have no connection to empirical facts.

In her excellent and highly recommended book, which I will quote often, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning, Nancy Pearcey illustrates this dichotomy, crediting Francis Schaeffer:

Francis Schaeffer was among the first in the evangelical world to identify the problem. Although he did not use the terms facts versus values, clearly he was getting at the same idea. Using the metaphor of a building, he warned that truth had been split into two stories. The lower story consists of scientific facts, which are held to be empirically testable and universally valid. The upper story includes things like morality, theology, and aesthetics, which are now regarded as subjective and culturally relative. Essentially the upper story became a convenient dumping ground for anything that an empiricist worldview did not recognize as real. Schaeffer used a simple graphic, which we can adapt like this:

The two-story concept of truth


Private, subjective, relative



Public, objective, universal10

This accounts for the current mentality of pro-abortion advocates. Body, biology (fact) is disconnected from personhood (value). Facts are what can be known empirically, and facts are “value-free” or neutral. They carry no meaning or ethical obligations with them. The lower story of facts is objective and universal, while the upper story of values is personal and subjective. Objectivism is the lower story, relativism is the upper story. Ever heard anyone say, “don’t force your scientific facts on me!” No. That defense is only brought up when it comes to morals and religion. Values, ethics, and religion are your thing. Don’t force your personal beliefs on me. In a sense, reality is still dominated by modernism while values are surrendered to postmodernism.

The fact/value split is the underlying presupposition (fundamental commitment) that results in “person” not following from “human”, anymore. What can be known through science is that the fetus is genetically human, and it’s alive since conception. But, is “personhood” material? Can that, or when it happens, be tested scientifically? Nope. Exactly. Here is the current tactic of the pro-abortion advocate illustrated by the fact/value split:

Personhood theory


“Persons” have freedom and moral dignity



“Humans” are disposable machines

A flaw in this theory is that once personhood is separated from biology, no one can agree how to define it. 11

Personhood is arbitrary, and therefore there’s no consensus. Since we can’t observe through our senses what or when “personhood” is, it’s left up to experts’ personal criteria (as a result of their anti-Christian presuppositions, which weren’t tested by science either!). Personhood has been completely detached from scientific fact, which means pro-abortionists (who claim to be “scientific”) are enforcing their personal criteria on the issue! Personhood is separated from reality as they see it (empirical fact), leaving it to be tossed to and fro by their personal and unscientific beliefs. How ironic.

According to British bioethicist John Harris, “Nine months of development leaves the human embryo far short of the emergence of anything that can be called a person.”

James Watson of DNA fame recommended giving a newborn baby three days of genetic testing before deciding whether the child should be allowed to live. Singer considers personhood a “gray” area even at three years of age. (After all, how much cognitive functioning does a toddler have?) 12

As we have seen, the real problem is not about mere scientific evidence. It is not about asking the pro-abortionist, “What is the unborn?” according to genetics and biology. That question has been answered (for the last 20 years). It’s a baby. The pro-abortion ethicists admit it’s a baby. The women making appointments at abortion mills know it’s their child. Presenting the evidence, then, is not what needs doing.

After all, aren’t both sides looking at the same evidence? If we all know it’s a baby, then why do many still argue that we are able to kill it? Why do children continue to be killed, knowingly?

We are all looking at the same evidence. Could it be that people do not “see” evidence the same way? What stands in between facts and people is interpretation. The objective is known subjectively. What is actually there is seen by an interpreter. There are no “brute facts” that exist independent of interpretation (including God’s interpretation). We all interpret the world, the facts around us, according to rock-bottom assumptions. It is naïve to merely present the evidence as if it can be interpreted in a neutral fashion, independent of biases. We all see the evidence, but we also interpret it.The evidence does not mean the same thing to everyone. The key is how evidence is interpreted. Even the fact that a baby is in the womb is not a “brute fact,” but is subject to interpretation according to fundamental criteria.

The question is, by what criteria? All of us have criteria. We have basic, fundamental beliefs about reality, knowledge, and conduct. These most basic beliefs, or presuppositions, form the network by which everything is interpreted: a worldview. They determine how we “see” the world. That human child in the womb is interpreted according to an individual’s worldview, along with what should or should not be done with that child.

Why doesn’t the unbelieving world “see” correctly, then? Why is their worldview not true to reality as it really is? The bottom line: sin. More specifically, the effects of sin on the mind, also called the “noetic effects of sin” (see Gen. 6:5; Rom. 1:18, 25; 8:6, 20; 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:21; Eph. 4:23, for example). When our first parents rebelled against God, not only were the will and emotions affected, but the mind as well. The whole person, intellect and affections, was turned against God. All of mankind fell in Adam, and now by default suppresses the knowledge of God in unrighteousness: “Their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21b-22). Those who remain in Adam live according to “the futility of their thoughts. They are darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them and because of the hardness of their hearts” (Ephesians 4:17-18). Unbelievers reject God, the source of truth, and therefore cannot interpret anything truly! As Greg Bahnsen says, “By refusing to submit to the authority of Christ’s Word at the very beginning of his thinking the sinner’s mind is at enmity against God and he is epistemologically incapacitated altogether. . . Fallen man is incapacitated from seeing things as they really are.”13 Because they deny Him, they cannot use their minds correctly, nor know anything truly.

This is where the real issue lies. Merely asserting what the unborn is is superficial. That is attempting to kill a weed by cutting the branches and leaves. The only correct, effective way is to attack the roots. The roots of the pro-abortionist is their worldview, their presuppositions. That’s where the problem lies, and it is the worldview that must be dealt with.  The “debate” is at that level. The debate is not at the level of “either just matter or a person.” That’s merely the symptom. If Christians on the pro-life side are still engaging in debate with the “matter or person” false dilemma, it may betray their lack of understanding concerning worldviews in general, and particularly the fact/value split currently being assumed throughout Western culture. That is what needs to be addressed.

The Adequate Approach

We must accept the reality that we are not merely coming up against an isolated belief, but an entire network of interdependent convictions. It is not our mere pro-life commitment against their pro-abortion commitment. It is our entire Christian worldview against theirs. Since that is the case, our method must follow in kind. This demands a “Worldview Approach.”

We must expose the materialistic humanist worldview and fact/value split. Spoiler alert: the pro-abortionist may not be conscious of their worldview! It follows then that they will neither be conscious of their inevitable inconsistency. We must bring the pro-abortionist to an awareness, a consciousness, of their underlying fundamental commitment. Then, we must reveal how their anti-Christian worldview cannot sustain itself. This is known as “taking the roof off,” or driving their view to the logical conclusion.

The unbeliever cannot live out their worldview consistently because it doesn’t match reality. They have to, in a sense, irrationally “leap” in order to compensate for their inadequate presuppositions. They can deny reality, but they can’t stop being human or escape God’s world. They claim materialism in principle, but in practice they live as if there’s more. Indeed, many leap to the “value” level because they cannot live with only the physical. Empirical facts are claimed to be “value-free” and morally neutral. To claim that only the material is real, is to say that inherent value is not real. Therefore, their life has no inherent value. But, they cannot live that out, because they are in fact human and living in God’s world, which is not limited to the material. We must make this evident to them by internally critiquing their anti-Christian worldview. For the sake of argument, we assume their assumptions, and show how they lead to absurdity if applied consistently. One example of this (there are many possibilities) would be asking them why theyqualify as a “person,” what criteria decides that, where did it come from, and then show how it’s ultimately subjective and therefore not constant, but could in principle disqualify them. If they are consistent, they will have to admit their personhood and value is not guaranteed, based on their presuppositions. We must help them become self-conscious of their basic assumptions, and show their inadequacy in accounting for reality as God has made it. In this way, we begin to “demolish arguments” (2 Corinthians 10:4b)

Anyone who assumes the fact/value split has no right to make value claims, let alone truth claims. They have no right to make value claims, because they only grant materialism. They have no right to claim any truth whatsoever, because they deny God who is the source of truth.

The Adequate Worldview

After exposing the worldview of the pro-abortionist, and finding it lacking by way of internal critique, we then offer them to come and see reality from the Christian worldview, the point of view of Scripture. We show that the Christian Worldview provides the answer, not merely the best answer, but the only answer. Christianity is the only valid worldview. There is no possibility for it to be otherwise.

“So it is naïve and irresponsible to imagine that this world-view will reverse the direction in the future. A well-meaning commitment to “do what is right” will not be sufficient. Without a firm set of principles that flows out of a world-view that gives an adequate reason for a unique value to all human life, there cannot be and will not be any substantial resistance to the present evil brought on by the low view of human life we have been considering in previous chapters. It was the materialistic world-view that brought in the inhumanity; it must be a different world-view that drives it out.” 14

It is nonsensical to think that retaining their materialistic worldview will lead to change. It was the corrupt foundations that led to this situation, and it does not have the stability to fix it. Also, it disagrees with reality as God created it. Any anti-Christian worldview, by definition, denies Him altogether. Naturally then, it is neither right nor effective to share non-christian ground with the unbeliever in handling this issue. It is their worldview, their foundation, that results in their position. It would be foolish to think they will change while continuing to stand on it. Any change in conviction necessitates a change in their basic commitments. We cannot stand on their ground, we must remain firmly planted on the only correct worldview.

The Christian worldview accounts for all reality. There is no split. The Bible (and therefore, God) presents truth as a whole, there’s no splitting between facts and values; Biblical truth accounts for both. The Bible shows reality to not only be material, but also immaterial. God created all of reality. God gave us His Word, which correctly interprets reality. God is the source of both, and therefore the two correspond to each other. Scripture says reality is not only material, but also immaterial. Scripture presents a worldview that is unified and coherent.

If we set aside our Christian bias (which is the right bias), and basis, what exactly would we have by which to justify the inherent value of the unborn? God gave that value, which only makes sense within the entirety of His revelation in Scripture. God-given value of the human being does not make sense in a God-free worldview. What Scripture declares about people does not fit in a worldview that denies Scripture. If we set aside our Christian ground, we have nothing. We’ll be building on sand, with the unbeliever. Such would not be faithful, for all of life (including our way of thinking and methods) must submit to the Lordship of Christ. Even the tools God has given us, such as reason and logic, have no foundation apart from God’s revelation. To attempt to use these gifts, while setting aside the Giver, is wrong. Do we not share them in common with the unbeliever? Yes, because they know God (Romans 1:21), are made in God’s image, and live in His world, despite their denial of Him. But, they use them without basis, nor for God’s glory.  They attempt to use these gifts, while setting aside the Giver. They suppress their knowledge of God, and deny their being made in His image, and use His gives in rebellion. That is the mindset of unbelief, independent of God’s authority, which is autonomy. The tools we have are not a foundation unto themselves, but are upheld by God and dependent upon the total drama of Scripture. They only make sense from within the Christian worldview. They are not isolated, but interdependent within the larger framework.

“The infinite God has spoken. None of the many finite attempts to define truth, doomed to failure as we have seen, is necessary. God has communicated to man, the infinite to the finite. God has communicated, in addition, in words that are understandable to us. The One who made man capable of language in the first place has communicated truth about both spiritual reality and physical reality, about both the nature of God and the nature of man, about both events in past history and events in the future. Where all humanistic systems of thought are unable to give an adequate explanation of things, the Bible as God’s statement is adequate.” 15

Applied to abortion, we show that, according to the Christian worldview, man is made in the image of the personal God (Genesis 1:26-30, 2:7, 5:1-3, 9:5-6, James 3:9). This is the reason God gives for valuing man’s life. In fact, the whole medical enterprise is meaningless (!) apart from the Christian worldview. Any justification for medical practice will inevitably boil down to subjectivism. The whole man (person) is valuable. Notice: the whole man, body and soul (material and immaterial). Value is necessarily linked to being human. One automatically follows from the other. Man is qualitatively different than the rest of creation. No other created thing has God’s image. Mankind is unique. Only the Christian worldview can support a substantial “uniqueness” for man. Contrarily, materialism recognizes man as merely more complex, but not different from any other group of molecules around “it.”

“Unlike the evolutionary concept of an impersonal beginning plus time plus chance, the Bible gives an account of man’s origin as a finite person made in God’s image, that is, like God. We see then how man can have personality and dignity and value. Our uniqueness is guaranteed, something which is impossible in the materialistic system. If there is no qualitative distinction between man and other organic life (animals or plants), why should we feel greater concern over the death of a human being than over the death of a laboratory rat? Is man in the end any higher?

Though this is the logical end of the materialistic system, men and women still usually in practice assume that people have some real value.”16

Again, only the Christian worldview can provide the adequate basis for protecting the life of the unborn. Only from the Christian worldview as a whole can we approach this issue. The inherent worth of the human child is not an isolated belief. It is interdependent on fundamental criteria found in Scripture alone. The pro-abortionist’s denial of the child’s worth is not an isolated belief, but arises from their anti-Christian presuppositions. Because this is the case, we must oppose their entire worldview with the worldview provided by Scripture. We cannot argue for a Scriptural result from un-Scriptural grounds. We must remain committed to God’s revelation. In essence, we are combating their unbelief with the teaching of Scripture, itself. We are confronting their suppression of their knowledge of God and their own “createdness” in His image with the powerful, infallible, and effective Word of God. Their convictions will not align with Scripture if they remain standing on their unbelieving foundation. They must leave their anti-Christian commitments and unconditionally surrender to God’s authority.

“In the flood of the loss of humanness in our age—including the flow from abortion-on-demand to infanticide and on to euthanasia—the only thing that can stem this tide is the certainty of the absolute uniqueness and value of people. And the only thing which gives us this is the knowledge that people are made in the image of God. We have no other final protection. And the only way we know that people are made in the image of God is through the Bible and the Incarnation of Christ, which we know from the Bible.

If people are not made in the image of God, the pessimistic, realistic humanist is right: the human race is indeed an abnormal wart on the smooth face of a silent and meaningless universe. In this setting, abortion, infanticide, and euthanasia (including the killing of mentally deranged criminals, the severely handicapped, or the elderly who are an economic burden) are completely logical. Any person can be obliterated for what society at one moment thinks of as its own social or economic good. Without the Bible and without the revelation in Christ (which is only told to us in the Bible) there is nothing to stand between us and our children and the eventual acceptance of the monstrous inhumanities of the age.”17

To say “it’s a person, human, or alive” is meaningless to the materialistic humanist. The issue of value, human life value, what makes it different, is a worldview question. “It’s alive!” “Ok, so is the cockroach.” It is merely a different arrangement of matter. Any value given is ungrounded and detached from the “fact” level, and therefore variable without consensus. That’s where the “personhood” debate is. Because of the Fact/Value Split, personhood can’t be agreed upon, because it has no connection to fact—publicly verifiable truth (according to scientific method).

To say it’s alive and human is meaningless. Why should it be treated any differently? Why should there be something higher than my preference when deciding it’s value and what to do with it? Only the Christian worldview can answer. God’s Word says that reality, this universe, is not the result of impersonal matter in motion. The universe is created by the personal God, and is not just matter. God’s Word says that Mankind is not the same as the rest of Creation, but that Man is made in the image of God. Humans have value because God made humans in His image (Genesis 1:26-30, 2:7, 5:1-3, 9:5-6, James 3:9.), it is derived value. That is where “personhood” actually comes from (but not as a separate issue from biology). Biblically, to be human necessarily means to be a person. The personal God made Man (persons) in His Image. Hence, in the covenant with Noah, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, his blood will be shed by man, forGod made man in His image.” Genesis 9:6 [emphasis mine]. That is the firm foundation for valuing and protecting human life, including the unborn. No other criteria exists. Therefore, it is inadequate, and I think naïve, to simply prove that the unborn are alive and human. We must go deeper. It’s not the stems and leaves of weeds that we attack, but their roots. An attack at the worldview level is mandated. Hence, a Worldview Apologetic, or Presuppositional Apologetic. We stand firmly on the presupposition of God’s Word, as the only answer and basis, and we expose the opposing worldview, reducing it to absurdity by internal critique.

Only the Bible provides the answer: Are human beings always valuable persons, regardless of life-stage? Yes, because the personal God made Man in His image. Only based on that can there be protection for the unborn. And if the opposition denies it, we “take the roof off” of their assertions. We let reality cave in on them and, for the sake of argument, drive them to the logical, hopeless conclusion of their unbelieving worldview.

“But when we accept Christ as Savior, we must also acknowledge and then act upon the fact that if He is our Savior, He is also our Lord in all of life. He is Lord not just in religious things and not just in cultural things such as art and music, but in our intellectual lives and in business and our attitude toward the devaluation of people’s humanness in our culture. Acknowledging Christ’s Lordship and placing ourselves under what is taught in the whole Bible includes thinking and acting as citizens in relation to our government and its laws. We must know what those laws are and act responsibly to help to change them if they do not square with the Bible’s concepts of justice and humanness. The biblical answers have to be lived and not just thought.

We must live under the Lordship of Christ in all the areas of life—at great cost, if need be. . . Who is on the cutting edge here? The doctor who pays the price of having certain hospitals closed to him because he will not perform abortions. The businessman who knows he is forfeiting advancement in his company because he will not go along with some inhuman practice of his company. The professor of sociology who is willing to lose his post because he will not teach sociology on the basis of determinism. The pastor who loses his church rather than follow the dictates of a liberal theology or a “trashy Christianity.” Or the pastor who preaches the Bible, stressing that today’s people are called to sacrificial action, rather than keeping his congregation comfortable while death, spiritual and physical, is built up year after year for their children and grandchildren. Examples could be endlessly multiplied.”17

“Without the uniqueness and inherent dignity of each human being, no matter how old or young, sick or well, resting on the fact that each person is made in the image of God, there is no sufficient foundation to build on as we resist the loss of humanness in our generation. So we would say again to those of you who are Christians, do not allow your only base, your only hope to be able to stand—namely, the Bible—to be weakened by however subtle means.”18


  1. Sherrard, Michael C., (Don’t Chase the Rabbit, 1/25/2013) adapted from Relational Apologetics: Defending the Christian Faith with Holiness, Respect, and Truth. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (September 6, 2012)

‘The abortion argument, unless I am mistaken, is about one thing: whether or not the fetus is a person or just matter. This really is the only question worth debating in abortion, and it is the only one that is relevant. For no one, except vile criminals, would argue that a woman has the right to choose to kill a child. . . Abortion advocates must defend that a fetus is not a person. However, most of them cannot. This is partly because there is no consensus in the medical field or scientific community on when “life” begins, when “the matter” becomes a person.’

  1. Sproul, R.C., Abortion: A Rational Look at An Emotional Issue (p. 7). Kindle Edition.

“I am convinced that if somehow it could be proven conclusively that the destruction of unborn babies is in fact the willful destruction of living human beings, the debate on abortion would be all but over, and the law of the land would as clearly prohibit abortion as it does all forms of homicide.”

  1. Pearcey, Nancy, “Why Pro-Abortion is Anti-Science,” (9/29/10)
  2. Sproul, R.C. Jr., “Babies Are Murdered Here” (Crown Rights Media, 1/22/2014)
  3. Smith, Wesley J. Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America xiii; Encounter Books (January 31, 2000)
  4. Sawyer, Miranda, “I knew where I stood on abortion. But I had to rethink,” The Observer, 8 April 2007.

Cited in Saving Leonardo by Nancy Pearcey, p. 49

  1. Schaeffer, Francis A., Whatever Happened to the Human Race? p. 353-354 (1979), in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Five, A Christian View of the West, copyright 1982.
  2. , p. 356
  3. Pearcey, Nancy (2010-09-01). Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning (p. 24). B&H Publishing. Kindle Edition.
  4. , p. 26
  5. , p. 53
  6. Pearcey, Nancy, “Why Pro-Abortion is Anti-Science,” (9/29/10)
  7. Greg Bahnsen. Presuppositional Apologetics (Kindle Locations 1370-1372, 1373-1374). American Vision.
  8. Schaeffer, Francis A., Whatever Happened to the Human Race? p. 356 (1979), in The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Five, A Christian View of the West, copyright 1982.
  9. , p. 382
  10. , p. 383
  11. , p. 407
  12. , p. 408

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Recently I have been revisiting my correspondence in 1995 with the famous astronomer Carl Sagan who I had the privilege to correspond with in 1994, 1995 and 1996. In 1996 I had a chance to respond to his December 5, 1995letter on January 10, 1996 and I never heard back from him again since his cancer returned and he passed away later in 1996. Below is what Carl Sagan wrote to me in his December 5, 1995 letter:

Thanks for your recent letter about evolution and abortion. The correlation is hardly one to one; there are evolutionists who are anti-abortion and anti-evolutionists who are pro-abortion.You argue that God exists because otherwise we could not understand the world in our consciousness. But if you think God is necessary to understand the world, then why do you not ask the next question of where God came from? And if you say “God was always here,” why not say that the universe was always here? On abortion, my views are contained in the enclosed article (Sagan, Carl and Ann Druyan {1990}, “The Question of Abortion,” Parade Magazine, April 22.)

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 when he was a young pastor in St. Louis pictured above.

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Francis Schaeffer and Adrian Rogers

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(both Adrian Rogers and Francis Schaeffer mentioned Carl Sagan in their books and that prompted me to write Sagan and expose him to their views.

Carl Sagan pictured below:

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Francis Schaeffer

I mentioned earlier that I was blessed with the opportunity to correspond with Dr. Sagan. 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.

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 


Image result for carl sagan and ann druyan
Carl Sagan with his wife Ann in the 1990’s
Image result for adrian rogers francis schaeffer
I grew up in Memphis as a member of Bellevue Baptist Church under our pastor Adrian Rogers and attended ECS High School where the books and films of Francis Schaeffer were taught. Both men dealt with current issues in the culture such as the film series COSMOS by Carl Sagan. I personally read several of Sagan’s books.  (Francis and Edith Schaeffer pictured below in their home at L’ Abri in Switzerland where Francis  taught students for 3 decades.
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630 × 414Images may be subject to copyright.




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