Recently, actor James Franco and Dr. Eliot Michaelson, Lecturer of Philosophy at King’s College London, both of whom are hosts of the YouTube channel Philosophy Time, interviewed Professor Liz Harman of Princeton University on abortion. Professor Harman defends the liberal position that “there is nothing morally bad about early abortion.” One might suspect that with such a high pedigree of intellectuals engaging in the conversation there would have been a robust argument put forward for the pro-choice position on abortion. However, if one is able to ignore and move past the vocal fry of Professor Harman they will soon realize that this conversation and the position put forward by the Princeton Professor amounts to nothing more than an irrational, absurd pile of nonsense.
At approximately 3 minutes and 4 seconds into the video Professor Harman attempts to explain away the confusion of her position by stating the following:
Right, so it might look like on my view abortion is permissible because you had the abortion but that abortion wouldn’t have been permissible if you didn’t have the abortion. That’s not quite the view, for I think two different reasons. So one reason is that, um, even you have moral status—and in my view back when you were an early fetus you had moral status—but it’s not that aborting you would have been wrong because if your mother had chosen to abort her pregnancy, then it wouldn’t have been the case that you would have had moral status because you would have died as an early fetus [which she already said had moral status], so she would have been aborting something that didn’t have moral status.”
There are two main problems when adopting this view. The first is the Fallacy of Begging the Question and the second is the Law of Contradiction.
Begging the Question
Professor Harman is suggesting that the moral compass points in whichever direction a person acts. There is no true north or absolute moral standard. Her view leads her to commit the fallacy of begging the question. Whether or not the abortion of an early fetus is wrong is contingent upon whether or not the early fetus has moral status, and whether or not the early fetus has moral status is contingent upon whether or not the early fetus is aborted.
Rejecting the Law of Contradiction
Professor Harman first grants that the early fetus has moral status when she states, “in my view back when you were an early fetus you had moral status.” Then, she grants the mother permission to murder (abortion is murder) the early fetus on the grounds that “she would have been aborting [murdering] something [an early fetus] that didn’t have moral status.”
She states, “in my view back when you were an early fetus you had moral status—but it’s not that aborting you would have been wrong… because you would have died as an early fetus, so she [your mother] would have been aborting something that didn’t have moral status.”
Here we have a clear violation of the Law of Contradiction because “the same attribute [in this case moral status] cannot at the same time belong and not belong to the same subject [an early fetus] and in the same respect” (John W. Robbins, “Why Study Logic?” The Trinity Review, July/August 1985, http://trinityfoundation.org/journal.php?id=39). One should keep in mind that the state of having moral status has already been determined prior to the act of aborting. In order to advance such a position, Professor Harman must reject the Law of Contradiction, but it is impossible for her to make her argument intelligible without first presupposing Law of Contradiction. As Dr. John Robbins notes, “The opponents of logic must use the Law of Contradiction in order to denounce it. They must assume its legitimacy, in order to declare it illegitimate. They must assume its truth, in order to declare it false. They must present arguments if they wish to persuade us that argumentation is invalid. Wherever they turn, they are boxed in” (“Why Study Logic?”).
Make no mistake, this Professor and the two hosts of Philosophy Time know God and are suppressing the truth in unrighteousness (Romans 1:18-19). Consequently they have become “futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts [have become] darkened. Claiming to be wise, they [have become] fools” (Romans 1:21-22).