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Practical Morality

Baby Heart
Baby Heart

This was coming. A group of ethicists from The Oxford Uehiro Centre for Practical Ethics have published an article concluding that killing babies is no different than abortion.

Now these are professional ethicists. They study morality for a living. However, they are also logicians who are merely going on things society has already deemed acceptable. The goal of the Journal of Medical Ethics is not to present the Truth or promote some one moral view. It is to present well reasoned argument based on widely accepted premises. Being practical ethicists, pragmatism is their standard. Pragmatism means whatever works is right. If it doesn’t work, then it’s wrong. If usefulness is the foundation of morality, things like abortion and homicide are inevitable. Usefulness is subjective as it is based on value. The ethicists have taken the next step and confirmed that personhood is determined by value: We take ‘person’ to mean an individual who is capable of attributing to her own existence some (at least) basic value such that being deprived of this existence represents a loss to her. Unless a parent values a child they’re merely potential persons. It may not even be up to the parent. To bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care (emphasis added). Is it right to get rid of someone if we believe we’ll be better off? What’s to stop the elderly and disabled from being next? How far can it go?

If we’re not going to admit that this is criminal, can’t we at least acknowledge that this sort of thinking is thinking like criminals? Criminals make value judgments. A robber justifies robbing because he believes he’ll be better off if he steals. A psychopath commits violent acts because he doesn’t look at people as persons. He only values his victims to the extent that they can make him feel powerful. It’s well known that criminals usually prey on the weak and defenseless. The ethicists have only connected the dots that we, as a society, have set out. People who accept abortion while rejecting homicide are only lacking their consistency.

If man can determine things like personhood then man is asserting that he is God. He is saying that he defines reality. This is insanity. God alone has defined personhood.

So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them.

We are commanded to protect the weak and needy.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless;
maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.
Rescue the weak and the needy;
deliver them from the hand of the wicked.

Practical morality isn’t morality at all; rather, it makes food out of the weak. Without God we are all weak and fatherless. Thankfully we have a God who hasn’t turned his back on us.

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Joshua Ambrose

Joshua Ambrose is a restless disciple of Christ and sometimes whimsical mischief-maker. When not writing about theology, he writes about philosophy, history, economics, finance and basically anything that involves being a good neighbor in a way that honors his Lord.

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