Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Sandefur’s Triumphant Return

I’m pleased to announce that Timothy Sandefur has returned to the blogging world after a few weeks away. Having moved in to a new home with his lovely fiance Erin, he is now free to ignore her and turn his attention to the far more important task of writing entertaining and enlightening posts for all of us. And he begins, naturally, by busting my chops for pointing out the wrong basis for decrying the fanaticism of those who are “pro-life”, yet threaten to kill others (like Judge Greer, Michael Schiavo or abortion doctors). Point taken. He also has this amusing post about the “rational basis” standard of review, which, as he points out, generally means that whatever excuse may be offered up is neither rational nor a basis. Welcome back, Timothy. Your voice has been missed greatly in the cacaphony of conversations around the blogosphere.

Comments

  1. #1 Jeff Chamberlain
    April 1, 2005

    Ed, I think you’ve given up too easily.

    Mr. Sandefur writes that if you begin with the premise that pulling Schiavo’s feeding tube and performing abortions are murder, then it’s (at last arguably) legitimate to use deadly force to combat these (in the same way and to the same extent as deadly force is permitted to combat any other murder).

    Maybe so, but “murder” is a legal term, which applies to certain homicides which are prohibited by law. Neither the Schiavo situation, nor abortion, is murder. Neither is against the law.

    The question is really whether pulling feeding tubes or abortions “should be” murder. There are people who believe that they should. But whether it is justified to use deadly force to advocate these “should be” views is a different question from whether it is OK to use deadly force to combat activities which “are” murder.

  2. #2 JY
    April 1, 2005

    I concur w/Jeff on this one. Even if the Schindlers were right about Terri’s condition, that does not imply that intimidating the judiciary with threats of violence is morally justifiable. It’s an absurd position to take. Judges make mistakes. There will be, and have been, cases in which judges have made life-or-death decisions in which their reasoning about the facts have been flawed. This is an unfortunate consequence of them being human beings, and to imply that this inevitable consequence gives moral license to vigilantism is absurd.

  3. #3 Uber
    April 1, 2005

    Good thing Mr. Sandefur doesn’t live in North Carolina or we could have him thrown in jail for cohabitating with his girlfriend before they marry.

    :-)

    I think being pro-life and pro-death penalty is rather silly. I think you are more correct than wrong Ed. I don’t see murdering those who commit murder as a moral act at all. I think he’s off base.

    I’m with Jeff and JY.

    Actions are neither moral or immoral, it’s the societies judgement that makes it so.

  4. #4 raj
    April 1, 2005

    Judges make mistakes. There will be, and have been, cases in which judges have made life-or-death decisions in which their reasoning about the facts have been flawed.

    Doctors also err. Unfortunately, there aren’t too many appellate processes within the American medical care system. Regardless, sometimes they get it right, and sometimes they don’t. That’s life, too.

    Christian preacher media whores also err. And there aren’t any appellate processes to get them to stop. Usually they get it wrong, because the only thing that they’re interested in is attracting money to their bank accounts. That’s life. That’s life, too.

    What lessons should be gleaned from all this? I don’t know. I really don’t know. Except for the fact that I, myself and me, don’t want to get into the clutches of the doctors. And I’ve made that fact clear to anyone within earshot.

  5. #5 Timothy Sandefur
    April 1, 2005

    Obviously I don’t think that people should kill judges or anything because I don’t think the death of Terri Schiavo qualifies as murder. My point is that if we assume that it is murder, which sure seems to be the view of the conservatives on this issue, then killing for prevention or punishment is morally justified. Likewise, if we assume that abortion is murder, is unequivocally is the position of many conservatives on this issue, then killing for prevention or punishment is morally justified.

    Some time ago, I had an anti-abortion guest blogger, and I challenged him to explain to my why killing to punish or prevent abortion would not be justified. He was unable to, which I remarked upon here.

    I do not think it is silly to “be[] pro-life and pro-death penalty,” or at least, it is not inconsistent. One may disagree with the positions, but it is entirely consistent to view a fetus as an innocent life that ought not to be killed, and a murderer as a person who has chosen to give up his right to life and who may be executed. But even if we put aside the death penalty, what about killing to prevent killing? Surely we all agree that if a man is about to kill someone, a police officer may shoot and kill him to prevent him from doing so.

    Yet again let me restate: I in no way think that killing people to prevent abortions is even close to being justified, because a fetus certainly does not have a right to life. What I can’t figure out is how someone can believe that abortion is murder–but then say it is not morally acceptable to use deadly force to prevent it.

  6. #6 Ed Brayton
    April 1, 2005

    I do not think it is silly to “be[] pro-life and pro-death penalty,” or at least, it is not inconsistent. One may disagree with the positions, but it is entirely consistent to view a fetus as an innocent life that ought not to be killed, and a murderer as a person who has chosen to give up his right to life and who may be executed.

    I agree with this completely, and I’ve always thought it was a silly argument to make.

  7. #7 Uber
    April 4, 2005

    ‘One may disagree with the positions, but it is entirely consistent to view a fetus as an innocent life that ought not to be killed, and a murderer as a person who has chosen to give up his right to life and who may be executed.’

    But the flip side of this is that a person who then ‘kills’ the innocent life is guilty of murder and is the person who allows it.

    I find the death penalty to be inconsistent with a ‘pro-life’ viewpoint as the person committing murder, an inherently selfish act, is NOT choosing to giveup there own life but usually acting in some other manner.

  8. #8 raj
    April 4, 2005

    I do not think it is silly to “be[] pro-life and pro-death penalty,” or at least, it is not inconsistent. One may disagree with the positions, but it is entirely consistent to view a fetus as an innocent life that ought not to be killed, and a murderer as a person who has chosen to give up his right to life and who may be executed.

    I agree with this. But I view the issues from two different directions.

    First, regarding the “death penalty,” it really has to be acknowledged that the prosecutor has way too much discretion in asking for the death penalty. Way too much discretion in charging. Way too much discretion in regards the death penalty. Way too much discretion. And, of course, the fact that the jury determines the death penalty adds another issue. Get a gay person in the issue, and the result is obvious.

    The second direction is the fact that the people who harp on the “pro-life” issue want to criminalize abortion want to go against doctors, but they don’t want to put the women in prison. And they don’t want to put the men who impregnate the women in prison. And they don’t want to put the men who pay for the abortions in prison.

    That suggests to me that the politicians who harp on the “pro-life” issue are nothing but a bunch of hypocrits.

  9. #9 Ginger Yellow
    April 6, 2005

    Surely the irony is that many of the people who claim the distinction is between “innocent” babies/PVS patients and “guilty” murderers also believe in original sin.

  10. #10 JY
    April 8, 2005

    Some time ago, I had an anti-abortion guest blogger, and I challenged him to explain to my why killing to punish or prevent abortion would not be justified. He was unable to, which I remarked upon here.

    The guest blogger should have been able to answer this: abortion, although in his opinion should be murder, is not officially murder. It is a reasonable position to take that in a civil society, individuals have the rightful expectation that no one will take their life if they obey the laws of that society. The dispute of the anti-abortion activist is not with the individual abortion doctor, or the judge, etc., but with the laws of society itself, and individuals should not bear the brunt of that disagreement.

    Timothy Sandefeur’s position is that people who disagree with abortion are being morally inconsistent for not going out and killing (or supporting killing) to prevent abortion. This is equivalent to the view that it is morally inconsist to disagree with the death penalty and not attempt to use, or at least support, deadly force to stop executioners from pushing the button, or juries and judges from handing down the ‘death’ verdict. But neither position is inconsistent. As there is a moral difference between a lynching – an extra-judicial killing – and a legal execution, there is a similar moral difference in a killing to *stop* a lynching versus a legal execution, and it should be possible to see that distinction regardless of whether you support legal executions.

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