Showing posts with label rights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label rights. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Freedom of Speech

Before I get started let me say "I'm sorry."  I know I probably don't really have regular readers, but if I do, I know I haven't posted regularly since December!  I've had writer's block and then I went on a business trip in January and started classes.  Now my classes are over and I'm going to try to get back into blogging more.

It may seem odd to you, what with a title like "Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness," that I don't often blog about political ideas.  I know, sometimes I think I ought to change the name of my blog to reflect my thoughts, but in a sense I feel that regardless of my specific topic, it always falls under those liberties.  However, today I want to talk about something I've been thinking about for a couple days now, the freedom of speech.

As with all rights, I feel that this right also ends when it infringes on someone else's rights.  Some may claim that my position on abortion doesn't make sense in light of my position on the death penalty, but in the sense that one's right to life ends when it infringes on someone else's right to life it makes perfect sense (at least to me).  The freedom of speech though is a bit tougher concept though.  In a literal sense one's speech cannot ever really infringe on someone's right to life/speech/etc., unless you count someone simply yelling so loud that no one else is able to speak at all.  In the light of the Charlie Hebdo incident, this debate about the freedom of speech including the right to offend, and this debate about liberals stifling intellectual diversity on campus; I've had to rethink what it means to infringe on one's freedom of speech.  First, is hate speech a thing?  Does it exist and what does it look like?  Second, how can one infringe on another's right to speech with speech?  Can that ever happen? And third, are there other ways to infringe on freedom of speech and expression?  Can and does that happen?

So, hate speech, what is it?  Should the government regulate/restrict it?  What about decency?  Should the government regulate that?  Wikipedia has two definitions that are quite significantly different: "[O]utside the law, speech that attacks a person or group on the basis of attributes such as gender, ethnic origin, religion, race, disability, or sexual orientation."  That definition is way too broad, it's basically saying, hate speech is any bigoted communication.  Is saying that you dislike someone because of X characteristic wrong?  That seems clearly covered in free speech.  If you want free speech you have to be willing to sometimes be offended.  Offensive speech is not and should not be defined and enforced by law.  It's a slippery slope to over-censorship.  The second definition is better: "In law, hate speech is any speech, gesture or conduct, writing, or display which is forbidden because it may incite violence or prejudicial action against or by a protected individual or group, or because it disparages or intimidates a protected individual or group. The law may identify a protected individual or a protected group by certain characteristics." (emphasis added)  If I say, "So-and-So (S&S) is a jerk."  I'm not using hate speech!  That, by itself is not hate speech.  If I say, "S&S is a jerk and you ought to hate S&S too, S&S did this, that, and the other (all true), so you need to get on board with hating S&S.  If you don't hate S&S you're wrong.  S&S is evil incarnate, etc. etc."  That seems pretty clear cut to me, that is hate speech.  I'm encouraging and even shaming you into hating or treating S&S in a particularly bad way.  Notice what I didn't include there.  If I say S&S is doing some sin, like homosexuality or stealing etc.  That is not hate speech.  Perhaps it borders on indecent speech, as in, I don't walk up to people every day and confront them in their sin.  In fact if you do, you're not following the Bible's guidelines on that, as Christians are supposed to confront other Christians on their sins, not non-Christians.  That's not to say that sermons and evangelists ought not talk about the doctrines around sin, it's just that evangelism in a sense doesn't really need to tell people that they're sinners.  Romans 1:18, 19 makes it clear that people, really, deep down know when they sin.  It may be offensive to some of you, but really think about what you've done in your life and I'm sure you'll see that every time you've done something that is wrong, deep down you knew it was so and felt remorse for doing it.  (This does not necessarily include psychopaths, that's an issue for another discuss/time.)

So, hate speech is when someone incites or tries to incite hatred and mistreatment of a person or group of people.  Saying someone has sinned is not hatred.  Indeed if you think about the message of the Gospel, it's one of the most loving things a person can do.  But I digress.  The next (and arguably more important) question is, "Should the government regulate/enforce hate speech laws?"  Before I get started on this, don't say, "you can't legislate morality."  That's complete crap.  All legislation, even seemingly unrelated legislative acts, are a form of legislating morality.  So, in a sense I'd be perfectly happy with legislated speech, but in another sense that scares me quite a bit.  If you listen to second debate I mentioned above, about liberals stifling intellectual freedom on campus, you'll hear arguments that on campuses all around the U.S. liberals are trampling on the freedom of speech.  That's one of my fears on this issue.  I know that rights, once given up to the government, will never be gotten back.  And, if the government is going to restrict free speech, it will most likely err on the side of liberal ideals.  There should be at least some limitation on speech, hate speech should certainly be treated as different than free speech.  I certainly don't have a problem with the right to free speech including a certain amount of offensive speech, but there should be a limit.  I don't want the government to draw that line though.  If people would have more self restraint, we wouldn't need government intervention.

Let's look at infringements on free speech.  As I often repeat, one's rights end where they infringe on another's rights, but that's much more nuanced when it comes to speech.  In a very literal sense there's not really a way to use one's speech to restrict someone else's free speech (excluding the already mentioned possibility of using a super megaphone).  However, there is a way of using one's speech to minimize or marginalize someone to the point that they are not able to speak freely.  Say for example, people call me a bigot or intolerant so much that I'm no longer respected (not that I'm really all that respected).  Those people can use their freedom to speak their mind (even in an offensive way), to the extreme point that restricts my freedom to express my opinions.  This is obviously more nebulous than murder, assault, etc., but the point is still there you can use free speech to limit someone else's freedom of speech.  However, the same comments all apply with regards to litigation.  It would be a terrible idea for the government to try to limit free speech in order to limit this type of abuse of the freedom.  It is too nuanced to be dealt with by legislation, and the right to free speech includes some amount of the right to offend.  No matter what position one takes, we must all be prepared to accept the idea that someone will probably say something that will offend us.  Offense is a regular part of freedom to express oneself.

There are other, more obvious ways people, especially those in positions of power, can limit other's freedom of speech.  As the debate mentioned above and some of the research conducted by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education indicates, liberal administrators on college campuses all around the U.S. are doing just that.  They are using their positions of influence to restrict or limit various groups' freedom of speech.  The vast majority of academics are decidedly liberal, and in many cases they are using their positions of authority to limit conservatives' freedom of speech.  That's a scary thought.  If free speech is restricted, it will be on the side of liberals, and against conservatives.  I am a conservative, well, sort of.  Regardless, I hope the government keeps its nose out of free speech.  However, with free speech, comes a price tag ... be prepared to be offended, and that's okay.  Free speech, will mean that someone will eventually step on your toes, and that's okay.

Image source here.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Sociological Approach to Abortion

I know, I'm a glutton for punishment.  The last time I posted about abortion here a veritable conflagration of comments and arguments ensued.  But, here I am again, making another argument for life.  It's so important to me that I actually plan on doing at least one more after this one.

Let's look at a sociological approach to sex.  Ignore hollywood's glamorizing and glorification of sex.  Let's look at it from a biological point of view.  What is the chief goal of sex?  Well, that answer is obvious, to some, to procreate.  That's not to say sex can't be fun that'd backfire pretty quickly, it is fun and it's intentionally so, it encourages security and commitment between sexual partners.  Is sex a right?  No.  Procreation is a right, more a responsibility for all humanity.  If everyone were to stop procreating, what would happen to society tomorrow?  Well, there's actually a movie about that, Children of Men with Clive Owen paints a grim picture of a society that is unable to procreate.  So, what is the best scenario in which one should engage in sex?  Well, this is an easy question for me (religiously).  That would be marriage.  HOWEVER, this is not about pushing biblical morality or religious teaching.  What is the sociologically best situation for sex?  Now, this is arguable and I'm (again) not trying to force peoples' social mores to change, but the best situation in which one engages in procreation (which requires sex) is a committed relationship.  I'm not going to throw in any extra stipulations or anything like that, but think about social stability.  Mother and father both have care over the resultant child.  One or both can work while the other can remain with the child to care for it during the child's defenseless developmental periods.  Again, this isn't going to apply to every situation; these are generalities that make sense.

Now, since the biological goal of sex is to procreate, what does abortion do to this process?  Well, the answer is obvious, it aborts it.  Now, wait a second you might say, "What about single mothers?"  Does this sociological answer let them off and give them the right to kill the fetus?  NO.  Not only does this argument work in concert with many other arguments against abortion, one needs to keep in mind what sex is really about.  Procreation.  The stereotypical love affair in movies, where boy meets girl in X social scene, goes home with the partner, has sex, falls in love or whatever, is NOT real life and that's not a good way to build a relationship.  As anyone in a healthy relationship will tell you, if they're honest, relationships need more than one dimension.  A relationship only about sex (or any other single-dimensional characteristic) is doomed to fail because some day (usually soon) one or both partners won't have matching sexual desires.  Likewise, if it's built on some other single dimension, if that one thing fails the relationship fails, but a relationship built on many pillars is more secure.  Don't get me wrong, I don't think the state must get involved in a relationship to validate it.  Having that piece of paper from the courthouse really doesn't mean anything.  The real meaning is in the commitment made between the two in the relationship (I won't go into the multiple partners area because I find it fairly clear common sense that that kind of relationship is definitely not as secure as one-to-one).  Also, the reason a commitment should be public is fairly obvious.  Which commitments are more likely to be kept, ones in secret between one or two people, or ones made in front of friends and family?  Now, I don't want to go into the social ills of divorce, but it seems obvious (again) that divorce is terrible sociologically.  Again, I'm not saying the alternatives don't work.  Obviously millions of people grow up without one or the other parent involved; keep in mind we're not looking for a line in the sand, we're just exploring the way things ought to run.

Okay, so this line of reasoning means that every time one has sex one should expect to get pregnant.  Right?  That's the rational, biological, normal outcome of sex.  So why is the question of abortion all about women's rights?  I know women's rights have been trampled on in the past, I mean look at how long it took women's suffrage to pass!  Women have all the same human rights as men and it's completely moronic to argue otherwise.  Women have reproductive rights.  Women have health care rights.  Women have rights over their own bodies, anyone who argues differently is ignoring the truth of what it means to be human.  Those are rights that everyone has and is born with.  (Even a biblical argument against women's rights falls apart though many have claimed otherwise.)  The fact that the genders are different and fulfill different roles in different situations, has nothing to do with rights, that's one of the strengths of human society.  We can adapt and grow better together because we have differences that work better together than separately.  That's part of the reason the sociologically best situation for sex and procreation is two happily married (or committed in front of their friends and family) couple.  This whole argument for abortion rips at the already feeble fabric of society.

I don't think anyone can stand solely on sociological arguments and say that abortion is morally wrong.  Sociology isn't really about making those kind of judgements.  Sociology can tell us what works well and the way things really ought to work.  Sociology can also seek out variations and show how they can succeed and what types of things will help bad situations work out.  But, it's clear that aborting an average of 3,000 fetuses daily is NOT good for society.  We need to work together as a society to stop this rift in the way things ought to be.

Based on some comments I'd like to add some edits:

A research paper devoted to studying and comparing the statistics for children growing up in various types of families said this:
Research indicates that, on average, children who grow up in families with both their biological parents in a low-conflict marriage are better off in a number of ways than children who grow up in single-, step- or cohabiting-parent households. Compared to children who are raised by their married parents, children in other family types are more likely to achieve lower levels of education, to become teen parents, and to experience health, behavior, and mental health problems. And children in single- and cohabiting-parent families are more likely to be poor.
This being said, most children not living with married, biological parents grow up without serious problems. In individual situations, marriage may or may not make children better off, depending on whether the marriage is “healthy” and stable. Marriage may also be a proxy for other parental characteristics that are associated with relationship stability and positive child outcomes. The legal basis and public support involved in the institution of marriage helps to create the most likely conditions for the development of factors that children need most to thrive—consistent, stable, loving attention from two parents who cooperate and who have sufficient resources and support from two extended families, two sets of friends, and society. Marriage is not a guarantee of these conditions, however, and these conditions exist in other family circumstances, but they are less likely to.
Emphasis on my points though the conclusion is tempered in the second paragraph with the fact that most don't have serious problems, it's more about individual situations.  Again, I don't think this research says that marriage is required to make happy, healthy, productive members of society, but the research is pretty clear on the fact that it does (provided it's a low-conflict marriage).  We're seeking what works best, not a solution to all the world's social ills.  This is an argument that shows sex/procreation belongs between committed, individuals that are intending to take care of their offspring anything else (especially in excess) is counter-social.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Philosophical Approach to Abortion

The goal is to arrive at a position wherein one either must accept abortion as wrong or accept that their own murder is right.  Or, that abortion is equivalently wrong to murder.

(1) Human life is intrinsically valuable.
  • Within this premise is the concept of invaluable/priceless as in it cannot be measured, counted, or quantified by any utilitarian means.  By intrinsic, I'm saying it's not about what someone has done, or will do that makes one valuable, simply that life is valuable because it's life.  One cannot exchange life for money nor anything else for that matter.
  • The only reason to end a life relates to (2) that is if one uses force to deny someone else their right to life (that is if someone murders someone) their right to life is invalid, that is capital punishment.  Also, the idea of war was mentioned in a comment (on Facebook).  How could war be justified if all life is valuable?  That's just it, war is only valid/justified to stop one person from killing another person/oneself.  That is self-defense or defense of the innocent.  If one can go to war for any other reason, then any killing is justifiable.
  • In regards to the current state of affairs in the US, I can't speak for the government nor against the government, I obey the orders of those appointed over me.  It's not my place to make a comment otherwise.
(2) One's own rights only extend to one's own being.
  • That is, one's rights end where they infringe on someone else's rights.  I have the right to say what I want to say, but when what I say actually hurts another person my right to free speech ends.  (Edit: I did some further research on this.  There is some precedence for hate speech being censored, but by-and-large hate speech has still been defended and won in high courts.  Perhaps a better analogy or example is needed here, I will work on it.)
(3) The potentiality of life should be treated with the same value as the end resultant life could be.

(4) Even at early stages of development (weeks 1-9) it is medically discernible that the group of cells comprising an embryo is going to develop into a human fetus.

(5) A fetus becomes alive while still in the womb, that is by the typical definition of human life, discernible brain waves. Approximately in the 20th to 36th weeks of pregnancy, as currently measured, not that it doesn't occur earlier, just earliest measurable.

Given the above:

(6) Abortion is wrong, equivalent to manslaughter or murder.

Some background arguments:

For (1), If one rejects this premise than one's own life is invaluable.  If one makes a case for non-intrinsic value, then what is human life's value based on?

For (2), This is a loophole of sorts.  IF a thieving murderer breaks into your house and threatens you with death, you have every right to self-defense and are perfectly justified in killing that person in self-defense.  The same could be said of a pregnancy, if the presence of a fetus in a woman's womb is killing her, with a physician's assistance making that determination she would be justified in killing the fetus.  This is a common critique for pro-lifers because many take the stance that it's never justifiable to kill the fetus.  I can only make that exception and even so, if the mother determines that it's worth the risk to her own life to provide life for the fetus that's her choice.

For (3), Take this endangered frog, the Panamanian Golden Frog

Picture Credit The Guardian
And we had some of these eggs
Picture Credit Flickr
That we know, with as much certainty as anyone can have, that they're going to hatch into these tadpoles:

How would we treat those eggs and or tadpoles?  Would we just throw them away?  Now, one might say, "they're just frogs," but remember we're talking about the same level of potentiality in the first week(s) of pregnancy as these eggs.  The parallel is clear, even the very beginnings of the potentiality to be a human life should be treated as valuable as full-grown human life.  (I personally think it's more valuable, because it has more potential than a grown human mathematically, it has more life to live and it hasn't already made choices which guide itself.)

For (4), Just as in (3) the eggs/tadpoles are almost certainly going to grow into a living thriving fetus, then baby, then child, then adult.  (I realize I left off certain developmental levels, but the argument still stands, if life is precious and the potential for life is also precious then it is clear at all levels it's precious.)

For (5), Why is there a double-standard among abortion advocates that a fetus isn't alive until it's removed from the womb, but a person is alive until they have no readable brain activities?  There's an even more telling double-standard when one considers just what we call alive?  We refer to viruses and other single-celled organisms as alive, why do we call a fetus a "mass of cells"?  I know the reason, but just wanted to point out the double-standard.

For (6), This should be clear.  I know there are many counter-arguments, I'll try to cover some of them.

(1) Some answers to the question of the value of a human life try to make it scientific, or some other rationalization.  But, no matter at whatever level one deny the value of human life, one opens the argument up to mutability/relativism.  Under relativism, one can rationalize pretty much anything including one's own murder.

(2) Some claim that the "mass of cells" is a part of the woman's body and liken it to a cancerous growth or something like that.  The answer is in (4) even at the earliest stages of development the "growth" is distinct from the mother.  Both in DNA structure and general cell structure itself.

(3/4) Some just deny (3) flat out, but I think my treatment of the concept is fair, we're as certain as anyone can be that this "mass of cells" is going to develop into a human, therefore it should be treated as such.

(5) Again I hear this double-standard from pro-abortionists.  One slippery slope this quickly leads to: If a fetus isn't alive until it's removed from it's mother, what happens as technology improves?  This will lead to earlier and earlier outside-the-womb viability, does that mean our treatment of such should change?  That defeats the purpose of developing an ethical standard.  Also, if that line is moveable, then why stop at outside-the-womb viability?  It could easily lead to out-and-out infanticide then on to euthanasia and then to genetic cleansing.

(6) There might be more objections but none that I haven't at least somewhat dealt with.

In order to waylay some reactions...  I am NOT being misogynistic.  The fact that I'm a man and cannot experience this has no bearing on the arguments I've raised.  I'm NOT seeking to "take away a woman's choice" or seeking to control a woman's body or choice, at least no more than any other social convention, do mass murderers have the right to choose to buy weapons?  Remember a person's rights end when they interfere with another's rights, and this isn't an issue about a woman's right to control her own healthcare, it's about the rights of a fetus.