[asa] Dualism and the rights of the unborn

From: <fred@day-star.org>
Date: Tue Apr 28 2009 - 13:35:32 EDT
Here’s an area where the body-mind problem (and the dualism-monism question) might directly address a practical problem. 

As Christians, we believe something more specific than our unbelieving friends when we say that humans have a spiritual dimension.  We believe in a spirit that can sin and repent and believe and enter into a relationship with God through Christ, that can survive death, that can be resurrected along with a recreated body, that can enter eternity with our Lord.  

If we are informed by the science of embryonic development and by accounts of changing personalities when specific areas of the brain are damaged, etc., we might also take seriously the close relationship between our personality/mind/spirit and our brains.  I like the way Murray Hogg expressed it earlier: we might reject the notion “that the human spirit exists as a kind of ‘puppet-master’ which controls the body from outside” and instead posit “a very ‘tight’ association of mind and body such that the interaction runs both ways.”

And that is what brings us into a very practical, but very controversial, area:  the rights of the unborn.  Usually, the key question is presented as:  When does human life begin?  Or to be more specific, in the Christian context:  When does the spirit begin?  It would be easy to argue, from the above paragraph, that God must not imbue the body with a spirit until the mind emerges from it at some point of development, perhaps even after birth.  

I’m sure some will have strong opinions about the possibilities above, and can show how we can draw pro-life conclusions from their evidence.  I’m aware of the Biblical passages that demonstrate God’s knowledge of/involvement with unborn prophets; to me these show God’s foreknowledge and sovereignty in the case of those particular people, but say nothing about the billions of naturally aborted fetuses, etc.  For myself, I tend to see the problem as beyond us, requiring knowledge that God alone possesses.  But I’d be glad to be shown I’m too hasty in my agnosticism.

In the meantime, when people ask me if I’m pro-life, I say I am, not because I claim to know when the human life/spirit begins, but because I don’t.  If I was out hunting and saw something moving in the bushes but couldn’t make out what it was, would I say to myself:  “Well, I can’t be sure whether it’s a human or not, so I might as well take a shot at it”?


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