Every Day is Pike River

On the afternoon of Friday the 19th of November 2010 there was an explosion in Pike River coal mine, 50km north-east of Greymouth, on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Initially I heard mixed reports about how many men were trapped inside. Two managed to crawl out, and eventually it became clear that there were twenty-nine still underground, about two and a half kilometres inside the mine. Nobody yet knows what actually triggered the explosion, but in deep coal mines there’s a lot of methane gas and coal dust, so any source of ignition is a real danger. Tests were done indicating that presence of toxic and flammable gas was still high, and there was a risk of further explosions, so no rescue team was able to be sent in for a number of days.

On Wednesday the 24th November, even as the time frame for when a rescue effort could be made was being discussed, there was a second, enormously larger explosion, certainly ruling out the possibility that these men could have survived. Twenty nine miners lost their lives. Thirteen children are now without a father.

Since then there has been a third blast, but this is more or less irrelevant as far as the fate of these men is concerned. This is a national tragedy and the thoughts and prayers of the nation – and certainly mine – are with the families of those involved.

When I say that it’s a national tragedy, I’m not just talking about the fact that it really is an awful loss for our nation (although of course it is), I’m also talking about the very public phenomenon of treating this like a tragedy. It made front pages everywhere. Outpourings of grief and support are coming from all quarters. The news broadcasts were saturated with the story – and still are. Parliament observed silence to mark the terrible event. It’s appropriate to mourn over this and to make it a tragedy that will be remembered.

I cannot begrudge those who mourn when tragedy strikes. They have a right to mourn. At the same time, it eats away at my respect for our status as a nation of humane people that as a nation we don’t bat an eyelid over the fact that on the day of the first explosion at Pike River, approximately forty-eight babies were killed. By the end of the day of the second explosion, that total had risen to about two hundred and eighty-eight. These were not accidents or workplace hazards. These were mothers who had made the choice to end the life of their unborn children rather than allow them to emerge.

Imagine a mine in New Zealand in which nearly fifty men entered every day, never to emerge alive again. Then imagine that they didn’t emerge because the mine owner made the choice that they wouldn’t. If you have a hard time trying to understand why pro-lifers make such a big deal over abortion, look at what our entire nation did when we lost twenty nine men. Last year abortion claimed over seventeen and a half thousand in New Zealand. The average was just over forty eight per day.

Yes we should mourn for those who are tragically lost – but we shouldn’t leave any out. Every single day is Pike River, and nobody mourns.

UPDATE: Shortly after posting this I became aware of Andy Moore’s excellent blog post on this same theme.

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72 thoughts on “Every Day is Pike River

  1. You could (depending on the status you attribute to chickens and pigs and whether it’s the same as humans). As for the first example, actually it wouldn’t be exactly the same, because you added the qualifier “in other parts of the world.” Although people dying from starvation elsewhere is a really bad (like dying in mines), there’s a natural tendency to be more concerned about tragedies that occur at home, which is why I only used New Zealand abortion numbers.

    So, Dr Singer – on holiday from Princeton?

  2. You could if you conflate failure to save with killing and also if you think non human animals are on par with human fetuses. But then I guess that what distinguishes you from Theologians like myself are a series of theological conclusions that make these assumptions plausible.

  3. True Matt – let’s remember that I made a point of reminding readers that abortions, unlike the miner deaths (and unlike the deaths of most of those who die in poverty), are not accidental.

  4. Yes just back in Australia to catch up with family. Maybe we’ll run into each other when I’m on the Princeton campus again? I did hear that there is a position going there, if your other work is as good as the critiques you give me here may you should apply. Matt might need to look a bit further south, perhaps the Bob Jones uni?

  5. Someone needs to remember that I have the ability to check IP addresses – and to compare the result with other bloggers if I am suspicious.

    Also check my blog policy: “Do not falsely represent yourself as another person.” Also see the words below the comment box: “You can use a pseudonym, but you must supply a genuine email address (this is not visible to other users), or your comment may be deleted.”

    Please don’t repeat these actions, Richard.

  6. So one man pretends to be the son of god and leads billions of people into a dangerous delusion and you are fine with that yet I pretend to be a semi-famous philosopher once on some random blog and you get really angry with me. Am I missing something?

  7. Question: If you find abortion to be such an appalling act, being the same as killing an adult human being, why do you have such as passive response to it? I’m sure if there was an organisation down the road from my place killing other adult human beings I’d be doing more than just trying to pass laws to ban the practice. I might even use violence to save those people. The pro-choice bioethicist Jacob M Appel wrote an article along similar lines; http://www.opposingviews.com/i/george-tiller-and-the-paradox-of-anti-abortion-violence if you are keen to see where I am coming from.

  8. Richard, if you wish to advocate violence against abortionists, that’s your call.

    As for your previous comment, you might want to get your mind reader checked. I’m not “really angry” about your attempt to pass yourself off as Peter Singer. However, there are good reasons for that blog policy, both legal and moral.

  9. Richard, if by violence you mean private, vigilante violane, then yes I am.

    The state should punish abortionists – but of course in order for that to legitimately happen, abortion needs to be illegal first. Well, actually it is. Which creates a very awkward situation.

  10. In fairness to Glenn, I should explain my position on the subject (if anyone cares to know). I oppose abortion for much the same reasons as Christopher Hitchens but, like Hitch, I do not believe that the practice should be made illegal.

  11. TAM – No, it’s not awkward because of my failure to engage in violence. It’s awkward because nearly all abortions here are already illegal but nothing is done about it.

    Another issue is that I actually want abortion to stop or reduce as much as possible. Have you actually thought through your suggestion that I should engage in vigilante violence against abortionists and 1) whether it would actually have this effect or not, and 2) (since you raised the issue of being taken seriously) whether it would actually increase or decrease the credibility of my cause.

    It’s certainly not as simple as you think.

  12. Glenn, please don’t put words in my mouth. You know perfectly well that I do not not condone violence nor would I ever encourage others to do so. I merely posed questions in comment #15 above which you have declined to answer.

  13. TAM, I said “No, it’s not awkward because of my failure to engage in violence.”

    This is not a claim that you have advocated violence on my part. You have declined to assess my response to your question in #14. Until then, how can I proceed to your questions in #15? It’s called taking turns.

  14. So one man pretends to be the son of god and leads billions of people into a dangerous delusion and you are fine with that yet I pretend to be a semi-famous philosopher once on some random blog and you get really angry with me. Am I missing something?

    Yeah we should all follow secular ideas which are not dangerous, such as the idea that infants have no right to life and parents have a right to kill there children.

    Keep ranting about Abraham and Isaac and the Canaanites the silence about Singer and Tooley remains deafening.

  15. Glenn wrote You have declined to assess my response to your question in #14.

    OK, your first point is that most abortions in NZ are already illegal but nothing is being done about it. I don’t know anything about the NZ legal situation but I can think of plenty of laws in my own country that are not enforced: everything from jay-walking to assisted euthanasia.

    I interpret the second branch of your response (suggesting that vigilante justice might not have the intended effect and/or decrease your credibility) to be quite disturbing. Basically, that comment would mean it would be morally justifiable (at least in your view) to snuff out abortion doctors if you could do it surreptitiously/anonymously and be assured that the “hit” would save the fetus. Perhaps it would depend on many fetus lives you could save. I don’t want to be accused of putting words in your mouth – please explain how you determine what is and what is not permissible in defence of the unborn.

    I have not suggested that this issue is simple. It’s clearly not. My point is that likening abortion to the holocaust is a false analogy coming from the mouths of anyone other than those who are willing to engage in vigilante justice. I realize that is a bold claim which is why I posed the questions in #15 above. I am interested to hear your response. I’m afraid that “this is a complex issue” just won’t do. That’s punting.

  16. My point is that likening abortion to the holocaust is a false analogy coming from the mouths of anyone other than those who are willing to engage in vigilante justice.

    An analogy is either false or not false– regardless if, in your mind, the person making the analogy is consistent or not.

    You’re not very good at this, are you?

  17. Ron, I should hav written: My point is that those who liken abortion to the holocaust are being inconsistent if they would advocate vigilante justice to free holocaust victims but not to save the unborn.

    Still waiting for Glenn’s response to #15 and how he determines what is and what is not permissible in defence of the unborn. What does the divine commander say about that?

    No, I’m not very good at this – dumb as a post actually.

  18. Actually, TAM, I don’t think it’s fair to extend the comparison between abortion and the Holocaust as you do. The major difference that occurs to me is the effect.

    If someone did a vigilante raid on a concentration camp and set free 20 prisoners to take somewhere safe, the positive effect of the raid is 20 prisoners being set free; 20 lives saved.

    If someone does a vigilante raid on an abortion clinic and prevents 20 mothers from killing their children that day, then the effect is quite possibly 20 mothers who will come back later to get their abortion; 0 lives saved.

    Vigilante violence to protect the innocent is only effective if one removes those in danger from those who wish to do them harm. When the person who wants to do them harm is their own mother carrying them…

  19. CGE Gaebler, the claim that abortion is similar to the holocaust has been made by many pro-life people in the past and I don’t think that it is TAM’s.

    Maybe after you have stopped those 20 women attempting to have an abortion you could imprision them in your basement for the next 8 or so months to stop them from trying again; 20 lives saved.

    Anyone who compares abortion to people dying in mines or concentration camps and then only attempts to stop women aborting their children through peaceful means should never be taken seriously. Anyone who is against abortion should never be taken seriously.

  20. T.A.M., allow me to assist you. You’ve implied thatthe following is a valid inference:

    1) Vigilante violence against abortion doctors would harm and not help the pro-life cause
    2) Therefore it would be morally justifiable to snuff out abortion doctors if you could do it surreptitiously/anonymously and be assured that the “hit” would save the fetus.

    T.A.M., I put it to you that in spite of what you seem to think, this is actually not a logical inference, and in fact it is logically invalid.

    Your earlier line of argument was that if a person thinks that abortion is unjustifiable homicide, then a person should (logically, at least) engage in vigilante violence against abortion doctors.

    Presumably (but feel free to correct me) you felt that this was the case because such violence would further the goal of bringing abortion number down. All I needed to do, therefore, was illustrate why your assumption is mistaken and simplistic.

    That’s all. But now we also know that you use logically invalid arguments.

  21. “I’m afraid that “this is a complex issue” just won’t do. That’s punting.”

    T.A.M., did you notice that this wasn’t my response? My response was: Here’s a response to your argument. SO the issue isn’t as simple as you think” Yeah, that’s slightly different. I can see why you’d prefer to characterise it differently.

    But anyway: I think acts of violence in war are acceptable against the aggressor, yes. That includes using it to rescue prisoners of war.

    But surely before I need to prove a negative (that this situation is not just like the abortion scenario), you have to do at least some work to show that the scenarios are just the same.

  22. Richard, Richard, Richard. I never claimed that the comparison was TAM’s, just his extension of it to the claim that we should all be out doing vigilante violence. The fact that abortion and the Holocaust have something in common, namely a sad loss of innocent human life, hardly implies that the two are similar in any other arbitrary respects. This is why you fail at analogies. If you REALLY want to make the case that comparing the two requires us to get all Batman on abortionists, then you’re going to have to show how that follows. (It doesn’t.)

    And you further demonstrate your failure to understand analogies: Keeping 20 women in your basement is completely different from how one would oppose the Holocaust. You don’t rescue POWs by committing felony kidnapping. Already, your “critique” has hit on an important difference which you are too blind to realize.

    (Hey, maybe those women could instead be pressed with attempted murder charges?)

    And why shouldn’t people who oppose abortion be taken seriously? Why is abortion so obviously a good thing?

  23. Seconding Richard, if we apply CPE Gaebler’s logic, it would be defensible for opponents of abortions to kidnap expectant mothers from abortion clinics and force them to have their babies. Based on Glenn’s responses above, I also assume that he would support such kidnappings. if not, please explain why not.

    Glenn, you have misstated the logic which I am suggesting should be applied by those who liken abortion to the holocaust. Here it is:

    Premise #1 Abortion is comparable to the holocaust because innocent persons are killed in both instances.

    Premise #2 Vigilante action (such as assassination by sniper fire) would have been morally defensible to free prisoners from concentration camps.

    Conclusion – Vigilante action is morally defensible to save fetuses from expectant mothers seeking abortions.

    Glenn doesn’t seem to dispute this argument but merely questions whether the vigilante action would result in saving the unborn. This is quite disturbing. Glenn writes: “I think acts of violence in war are acceptable against the aggressor, yes. That includes using it to rescue prisoners of war“. Applying Glenn’s reasoning to the holocaust/abortion analogy means that an opponent of abortion can justify almost any warlike action as long as it accomplishes its desired end. Thank Thor we have laws to lock up people who are prepared to act based on reasoning like this.

    I am still waiting for an explanation from Glenn as to how one can determine which actions are (and are not) defensible to save the lives of the unborn.

  24. Abortion is not a state of war. Aggression against a wartime opponent is different than aggression against fellow lawbreaking citizens. As it stands, vigilante violence is illegal against more mundane lawbreakers, isn’t it?

  25. So no-one gives a stuff about the death of the 29 workers at the mine.? The grief of their families, friends and relatives? The grief of the whole nation?

    Seems rather cynical to use this tragedy as an excuse for riding one’s hobby horse!

  26. Matt at comment 20; I agree with Singer on infanticide but haven’t read Tooley (but I really must). Singer is a sort of moral hero here. If you and your god have an issue with parents choosing to euthanaise their disabled infant when nothing else can be done to help the situation I suggest that you find another god, one that actually cares for its creations and doesn’t put them in such horrible predicaments (or one that isn’t obsessed with sex). Please remember that ou don’t have to believe in the same god as the majority of other people in your part of the world do. There are heaps of other options in this field. Heck, you could even try atheism.

  27. Firstly,
    Agree with Ken. On these grounds. When people present an argument in the way this post was presented the automatic reaction is to switch off. It’s an underhanded and misrepresentative way to make a point. Currently in the discussion above, people are pointing to a clear distinction between violence towards people responsible for death in a war situation and violence towards lawbreakers in peacetime as they attempt to shut down the argument for violence against abortionists or their clients.
    If that is a distinction worth paying attention to, then the distinction between the accidental deaths of tens of men in horrific circumstances who must each have held a place in the conciousness of any number of the citizens of the communities of Greymouth and the whole country, and the deaths by choice and intent of unborn babies who had not yet formed bonds in community in any circle wider than their immediate family should also be acknowledged.
    A community is grieving for something they know they have lost.
    It would have been nice to see real sensitivity to this by not seeing this post.
    A lack of sensitivity affects the credibility of our arguments as much as committing violence in support of them does, because (if the point of an argument is to attract people to our side) it shows we have not thought things through.

    Secondly,
    Saying that abortion is illegal in New Zealand is another underhanded trick. (If “the practice of abortion” was itself illegal, the “service” would not be provided in public hospitals. This is the underhanded trick whereby somebody says IT’S ILLEGAL! And someone else says what I just said above, and that allows the first person to say “Aaaaah, but murder is illegal and technically…” (correct me if this is not what is going on here) Underhanded tricks also affect one’s credibility because they give the impression that one is not prepared to say outright what one means.

    Thirdly at the other side,
    Where did all this *you advocate assassinating abortionists* come from?
    The most the post author has said about what we should do about it is acnowledge it as a problem, and that the state should punish them. You ARE putting words in his mouth. I assume that he knows that if you are going to argue rationally against something on the grounds that killing is wrong, to advocate killing the people doing it undermines one’s crediblity.
    In fact either you are arguing or you are compelling. If you use compulsion while you are still arguing it undermines your argument because either your argument is not sufficient, or you are sending the message that you don’t believe the people you are arguing with are clever/interested enough to understand your argument. In which case you might as well stop arguing.

  28. In regards to your last point Tim I agree with you that Glenno never advocated assassinating abortionists or anything similar to those words. I am asking why he doesn’t use or want to use violence to stop them if killing a fetus/unborn baby is the same as people dying in mines or as other pro-life people have argued the same as people being killed in gas chambers.

    So Glenno, why is abortion unjustified homocide as you have stated else where on your blog yet you are not prepared to use violence to stop it? I agree with TAM at comment 30, what is your response to this?

    BTW, do you agree with those who argue that a mother’s womb is the modern day gas chamber?

  29. To be fair I guess you can’t pick on peaceful anti-abortion people whilst not critising animal liberation people like Peter Singer who argue that pigs and cows have a right to life. Those animals get killed everyday and Singer has often come out and denouced violent methods of protest by other animal liberationists.

  30. I’m putting words in his mouth here, but if my assumption that to suggest killing abortionists while arguing against abortion on the grounds that killing is wrong would be stupid is correct,

    then advocating doing something illegal to abortionists while arguing against abortion on the grounds that abortion is illegal would also be stupid.

  31. “So no-one gives a stuff about the death of the 29 workers at the mine.? The grief of their families, friends and relatives? The grief of the whole nation?”

    Ah Ken, nothing like a bit of false outrage. CLEARLY nobody gives a stuff about that. I mean, obviously… just obviously, right?

  32. T.A.M., oh dear. You’ve botched it again. I presented your logic as follows:

    1) Vigilante violence against abortion doctors would harm and not help the pro-life cause
    2) Therefore it would be morally justifiable to snuff out abortion doctors if you could do it surreptitiously/anonymously and be assured that the “hit” would save the fetus.

    This was the correct way to present the issue. Here is why, and please try to get this: I have already stated premise 1. I said clearly that the kind of vigilante violence would fail in the attempt to advance the pro-life cause.

    You then claimed that this is “disturbing,” and it implied that 2) follows from this. Remember? You said that because I stated 1), I was somehow committed to 2), the view that such vigiloante killing is acceptable where it is effective.

    So actually you did make this invalid argument, in exactly the way I said you did. Thus far you are coy about explaining why my advocacy of 1) commits me to 2). In fact it doesn’t, and this argument – which you obviously used – remains logically invalid.

    What you have now posed is a new argument:

    Premise #1 Abortion is comparable to the holocaust because innocent persons are killed in both instances.

    Premise #2 Vigilante action (such as assassination by sniper fire) would have been morally defensible to free prisoners from concentration camps.

    Conclusion – Vigilante action is morally defensible to save fetuses from expectant mothers seeking abortions.

    Unfortunely, this second and different argument is also logically invalid. Allow me to help you see why:

    A = abortion
    H = holocaust
    K = the innocent are killed
    S = sniper fire is justified

    Now, your new argument has the following form

    1) If H then K
    2) If A then K
    3) If H then S
    4) Therefore, if A then S

    But if you know what “logically invalid” means at all, then you will see right away thatthis argument is logically invalid.

    So your previous argument was logically invalid, and your new and different argument is also logically invalid. It’s just not working!

    Tim: Regarding the illegality of abortion, it’s true. There’s nothing underhanded about it. Nearly all abortions that take place in New Zealand in fact do not meet the legal grounds for abortion. Previous ministers of health have frankly admitted that the practice does not match the law, and the Abortion Supervisory Committee have said the same. So there’s nothing underhanded going on here. Abortion is a crime, covered in the Crimes Act. There are specific exceptions allowed, and almost none of the abortions in NZ actually meet those exceptional criteria.

  33. … but are carried out claiming the shelter of that umbrella.

    In that case I apologise for besmirching your honour, and stand corrected for that part of my comment.

  34. T.A.M., you brush it off and call it silly because you don’t want to be patient enough to unpack a real argument. Slow down and look at it. I am NOT saying that H = A, unless I am saying that the Nazi holocaust is abortion. But clearly I am not saying that. You have now introduced yet a THIRD logically invalid argument, namely:

    1) If H then K
    2) If A then K
    3) Therefore H = K

    But this is palpably ridiculous! It’s like arguing:

    1) My car is green
    2) You car is green
    3) Therefore my car is your car

    Come on, don’t make me do the mental work for you. If you think that H’s justifying K entail’s A’s justifying K, then argue for it. But don’t just relax on that mental couch and expect me to just grant that there’s an argument there. There is not – not yet anyway.

    While you’re busy putting an argument together, ponder this, where all of the above abbreviations carry the same meaning, and W = unsafe workplace laws resulting in deaths of innocent people through outrageous negligence.

    1) If H then K
    2) If W then K
    3) If H then S
    4) Therefore if H then S

    This argument is equally invalid. It doesn’t work for the same reason that your argument doesn’t work. Clearly the World War II justifying sniper attacks does not mean that horrific labour laws must also justify sniper attacks. You’ve got to be prepared to argue (and not just assume) that the feature K always justifies sniper attacks. That S is justified in one context, and it’s a context in which K holds, does not logical imply that “If K then S.”

    This is just a bad argument. Do you want to try again and make it three strikes?

  35. Glenn, first of all, thank-you for fairly conceding that abortions cannot be equated with the holocaust.

    I’m not trying to construct an argument. I’m trying to understand how someone acting under a divine command determines what is and what is not justifiable to save the lives of the unborn, particularly in circumstances wher they compare abortion to the holocaust.

  36. T.A.M., firstly, nobody ever said or implied that abortions are the holocaust. That claim barely even makes sense. The holocaust was a phenomenon in World War II. Nobody thinks that this is what abortions are.

    Secondly, thank you for conceding that you haven’t constructed an argument.

  37. We’re doing a remarkably good job of avoiding the actual subject of the initial post.

    To paraphrase the post
    -A terrible thing has happened and it is right that we should mourn because of it.
    -Everyday in this country the practice of abortion persists. On average, it claims the lives of more people per day than the terrible thing we are now mourning over.
    -The fact that we do not mourn in the same way diminishes Glenn’s “respect for our status as a nation of humane people.”
    -We should therefore mourn the victims of abortion.

    Only two people have even begun to address the actual subject of the post. So far we have only got as far as questioning the appropriateness of it’s timing.

    Ken gave a plaintive call of “So no-one gives a stuff about the death of the 29 workers at the mine.? The grief of their families, friends and relatives? The grief of the whole nation?”

    Ignoring the accusation implicit in this, and the statement Ken followed it with, Glenn replied with sarcasm:
    “Obviously nobody cares!”

    Lets just ignore what’s going on in the rest of the country for a second and look only at this page. It opens with a relatively sensitive description of a sad current event. It then becomes clear that this event is only mentioned as a means to introduce another topic – one which is well known to be a contentious and uncomfortable issue. The ensuing discussion involves a lot of things which interest boys – pretending to be somebody else, sniper fire and algebra. Not much about the mining disaster or even really about the specifics of the subject it was used to lead into.

    So looking only at this page perhaps Glenn was not being sarcastic. Obviously. No-one cares.

  38. Tim, if you actually think that nobody cares, then it follows that you do not care (otherwise you wouldn’t think that nobody cares).

    As it happens I care a great deal. But that wasn’t the point. The deaths of the Pike Rivier mineers are mourned and appropriately so, as I said. The point was the comparison between the two tragedies.

  39. Imagine this situation Glenn:

    Supposing you and I knew each other. For the sake of my health I walk home from work every day past the archery range. Often we meet along the path and sit awhile on a bench and discuss philosophy. Being a smoker I take the opportunity afforded by these pauses in my walk to light up. At times you point out how bad it is for my health. I can’t disagree with you but it doesn’t stop me. I always have an excuse to continue: “I’m stressed”, “I enjoy it”, “It’s something I need” or even “Heck there’s a million other ways to get cancer”.

    One day I’m walking home past the archery range and the inevitable happens. An archer misses the target and I end up with an arrow in my side. It’s quite painful so I sit down on the bench for a while.
    That’s when you turn up Glenn.
    “Gosh that looks painful.” you say. “It’s probably a good thing you’re taking a bit of time to sit down. Is there anything I can do?”
    Wincing through the pain I reply “It’s ok. I’ve just updated my facebook status through my i-phone. I’m sure one of my friends will call for an ambulance soon.”
    Confident that everything that can be done is being done, you decide that nevertheless you’ll sit with me awhile. Maybe you put an arm over my shoulder to give moral support and make it easier for me to take the pain. And sitting there thus you say:
    “You know Tim, seeing you there so absorbed in your pain I lose a bit of my respect for you. You’ll get over this in a couple of weeks once the doctor sees to it. But why are you so absorbed in the pain of that arrow when the damage you do to yourself on a cellular level every time you light up is so much greater.”

    Logically you might be correct. But in the midst of my pain do you expect me to listen to you?

  40. Tim, no I don’t. However I don’t think the scenario is analagous either.

    Smoking is a self inflicted and gradual harm. Getting shot with an arrow – or being killed in the womb – is not.

    Imagine that every day on that street fifty people were deliberately shot dead with shotguns and nobody cared. And then imagine that you were accidentally shot with an arrow on that street and there was a national day of mourning when you died. Assuming you could still somehow observe the scene, wouldn’t you find that strange?

  41. I thought the analogy was quite good actually. if you take my person in the story as representing New Zealand society. The deaths from abortion, like the cancerous effect of smoking, are inflicted by the people upon ourselves by our complicity with the status quo. We allow it to happen because it’s convenient, we’d rather not think about it, or we think it’s needful, or heck there are a million other ways we could die. The damage is largely hidden from our view, even though we are aware of it, and it has little impact on our everyday lives.

    To comment that it is a practice that is harmful to us shows that you care.

    The deaths at Pike River mine were a sudden violent event with an immediate and obvious consequence. Like being shot with an arrow. Not completely unforseeable if you are walking past an archery range or down a mine, but otherwise beyond your control. An event like this evokes a response from the population which takes time to pass. And I believe your post is similar in character to the words I put in your mouth at the end of my story.

    Still trying to figure out if your analogy works. Your story fits your view of abortion as an atrocity, mine equates it to my view of it as an atrocious symptom of an underlying social ill.

    You are arguing that the deaths in each case are the same, and should be mourned in the same way if we are to remain high in your esteem.

    I am trying to assert that they are different – in that on the one hand the miners deaths are accidental, unusual and public, therefore shocking; and on the other hand abortion deaths are intentional, commonplace and hidden.
    You’ve been arguing here that it does not follow that the same punitive/restorative responses are justified for the deaths of concentration camp prisoners in time of war as for aborted children in time of peace. It surely follows that a national day of mourning is not equally justified for the cases you present in your initial post either.
    Public death seems to automatically elicit public mourning. How do you know that diffuse, hidden death does not every day elicit private mourning in little pockets scattered about the country following the pattern of the location of these deaths? Your statement that nobody mourns is not backed up. You mourn, thanks to you I mourn today.

    But I do not think the practice should be illegal, not until we as a society are prepared to put in the hard yards to teach and learn forethought first, other options second and then you won’t need the last resort. To make it known that this is not something we do. If we did that then the law would largely be irrelevant. If you’re already at the door of the clinic then we, lazy society that we are, failed you long ago. All that is left for us to do is mourn with you, and forgive you when you walk back out.

    But the point of my story was simply to say that I think you spoke too soon, and that I disagree with the way you connected the two scenarios.

  42. “The deaths at Pike River mine were a sudden violent event with an immediate and obvious consequence.”

    Tim, that’s how I see abortion. It is sudden. The consequences are immediate. That we as a nation don’t see that the tragedy is obvious is actually the problem. So there really is a problem with the analogy. If your analogy only works once we already reject my view of abortion, then there’s little point in hoping that I’ll think it’s a good one.

    My point is not that I’ve surveyed the country and I know that not a single person mourns abortion. My real point was (quoting fromt he original post): “At the same time, it eats away at my respect for our status as a nation of humane people that as a nation we don’t bat an eyelid over the fact that on the day of the first explosion at Pike River, approximately forty-eight babies were killed.”

  43. Ok, so I read it again. That one sentence you quoted does not say that your respect of the status of our nation is diminished because we hypocritically give one type of event a more thourough and acceptable mourning than we give another. Neither does the rest of your post if you read every word, although you imply that reading of it with your last statement.

    My first issue with the post, and what I was trying to point to with my little story, is that I thought you were being insensitive by linking the two cases.

    You have accepted that in the specific scenario I gave you, you wouldn’t expect me to listen to you (because you would be being insensitive?)

    Can I extend that, because you conceded that point in that situation, to say that you would accept that if you were to chastise a person or a nation over a fault that they have relating to one event, at a time when they were preoccupied with grief over another event, you shouldn’t expect them to listen to you? (because you would be being insensitive?)

  44. That one sentence you quoted does not say that your respect of the status of our nation is diminished because we hypocritically give one type of event a more thourough and acceptable mourning than we give another.

    In fact that quote says precisely this.

    It’s no good saying that I accepted your analogy, since my specific response was “I don’t think the scenario is analagous” and then later, “So there really is a problem with the analogy.”

    What’s more, your more recent comments misunderstand my point. You have said “if you were to chastise a person or a nation over a fault that they have relating to one event, at a time when they were preoccupied with grief over another event, you shouldn’t expect them to listen to you?”

    But my problem is not that they ignore one event. My problem, and I know I was fairly clear about this, is that every single day a large number of abortions occur. It happens all the time. The problem isn’t that people are “preoccupied” at the moment with the Pike River mine disaster. The problem is that as a nation we never mourn this much larger loss, yet as soon as the Pike river mine tragedy occurred, suddenly there was a cause to mourn.

    Think again of my analogy: People are gunned down on that same street every day, and there’s no mourning. But suddenly you get shot and there’s national mourning. The issue is plainly not that hte nation was “preoccupied” with your death. The problem is that they never mourned the previous deaths even when you were not being shot.

  45. aaargh You’re just as guilty of misreading things as I am. I’ve sort of accepted that you haven’t accepted the analogy. But I’m clinging to the admission you made that in the scenario I described EVEN IF IT BEARS NO RELATION TO THE SUBJECT IN HAND that you would not expect me to listen to you.

    I’ve assumed that the reason you wouldn’t expect me to listen, to be because such a statement would be insensitive – largely because you haven’t contradicted me about that yet.

    There are times when it is innapropriate to make statements. You didn’t put up a post on abortion last week. You didn’t do a new one today. Does that suggest it’s an issue that could have waited?

    Answer me that.. and this.

    If we turned it around, and you were present at a service that was part of a national day of mourning for abortion victims, and this was to be the only such service this year. Then I run in and try to grab everybodies attention and point out that as well as the children that die everyday, men also occasionally die in mines. I’m sure you’d be generous and note my statements, but I’m also sure you would think me insensitive and wish I hadn’t decided to pick right now to jump in. I’m sure some attendees who might not think so deeply would probably try to hit me.

    Look, I don’t dispute your right to make this post. I don’t like your timing. I think the timing and the linking of subjects belittles or even insults the personal grief of the people who actually lost friends and family.

  46. In terms of the national grief, it is less close. We observe moments of silence because a week of news broadcasts have given the event life in our imaginations. Abortion hasn’t been on the news. Are we hypocritical? or just the people telling us what to think?

    Tell me to stop. I’m distracting from your mission as much as the guy with faulty logic is.

  47. Oh, OK. In the scenario you gave it would be silly of me to make light of the arrow because of the smoking. Granted. And it has no bearing on the miners v abortion issue. 🙂

    And the reason that now is the appropriate occasion is the contrast. The contrast is the reason for the post. I have said “Look how we mourn for this tragedy, but not for abortion!” I couldn’t have made that point unless there actually were a high profile tragedy right now.

    “We observe moments of silence because a week of news broadcasts have given the event life in our imaginations.”

    Exactly. Yet for some reason the killing can go on, in much greater numebrs each day, and it’s not s much as brought to our attention. We are hardended to it and slient about it (as a nation).

  48. Well, I wouldn’t have put it up if I didn’t intend it as an attempt to illustrate something of relevance.

    But what I where I wanted to get was here, near enough. You have used the tragedy as a point of comparison with the abortion issue. I’ve said I think it’s insensitive, Ken thinks it’s cynical. You’re not owning either of those things – fair enough I guess, but let it be duly noted that the only two people who have discussed the actual content of your post have viewed the tactic negatively.

    But you are right. “We are hardended to it and slient about it (as a nation).”

    what do we do then? You don’t advocate violence;other people do. I don’t advocate it being illegal. You thin we should punish the perpetrators.

    I think the answer is as I said in 53. That all people against abortion should be “prepared to put in the hard yards to teach and learn forethought first, other options second and then you won’t need the last resort. To make it known that this is not something we do.” And as I said if we did (worked hard enough at) that, the law would be irrelevant.

    That’s probably a bit wishy-washy for you. I think it’s hard-line sticking to principles. Thoughts?

  49. That all people against abortion should be “prepared to put in the hard yards to teach and learn forethought first, other options second and then you won’t need the last resort. To make it known that this is not something we do.”

    I’ll grant that there are behaviours which, if practiced by those who believe in a place for abortion, would reduce their numbers. But let me offer a parallel:

    Instead of making wife beating illegal, those who are opposed to wife beating should put in the hard yards to educate about alcohol, financial stress, communication skills and the other factors where problems lead to wife beating.

    Now, the people who publicly advocate against domestic violence would be a tad insulted by this. Sure, we do want to engage in this type of education. But this doesn’t mean we should just bank on that education and make it legal for men to beat wives! See, the reason pro-lifers are opposed to abortion is not that abortion creates an unpleasant or stressful situation for a mother which she could have avoided with a bit more forward planning – although many times that may be the case too. That’s not why pro-lifers are pro-life.

    If abortion is what I say it is, namely unjustified homicide, then even if education would reduce the numbers, it should still be illegal.

    PS: Ken’s response to pretty much everything at this blog is entirely negative. I think he feels it’s some sort of duty.

  50. It is illegal in New Zealand. Maybe I’ll change my position (at the risk of being accused of shifting the goalposts – put it down to either your superior reasoning or the thought that I knew this all along and the act of examining my thoughts on the issue has brought me to understand what I actually think)

    Instead of “I don’t think it should be illegal”, I shall say: Lets maintain the status quo so that there is still provision in the law to allow, when a significant enough proportion of people to come to their senses and see that you are right, the law to match conventional practise.

    We have other cases where the law says the opposite to conventional practise but it is not invoked or stringently enforced. See – the New Zealand rode code, Give way to the right when both are turning right at a T intersection.

    https://www.roadcodepractice.co.nz/roadcode/heavy-vehicle-road-code/about-driving/giving-way-at-uncontrolled-intersections.aspx

    It’s the second to last example on the page. Actual practise in that situation (in my experience) is the opposite to what is shown in the ilustration. We don’t see police cars camped on these corners ticketing everybody who does it wrong. In this example a sgnificant enough proportion of drivers follow a convention that directly opposes the law as to render it unenforcable. There are no consequences from the behaviour sufficient to inconvenience the law. The easiest way to tidy this situation up is to change the law to fit convention.

    I don’t see why the people who advocate against domestic violence should be insulted by the tailoring my statment in 60 to fit their cause. At the time when it was accepted by society that wives needed to be disciplined, and that it was a husband’s right provide her with that discipline, men were not charged with assault as often. When society came to believe in greater proportion that this didn’t seem fair, and this belief was reflected in the conventional practise towards their wives by men, those still practising according to the old belief became a small enough minority to be persecuted. So it was the changing of peoples minds that made the difference, not changing the law.

    When faced with a decision about a course of action, am I more likely to be moved away from that course by my knowledge that it is illegal? or by my belief that it is wrong?

  51. “We don’t see police cars camped on these corners ticketing everybody who does it wrong.”

    Well no, but we don’t see police encamped anywhere for the purpose of enforcing laws about giving way. Those rules exists largely so that if there is an accident, it’s clear who is at fault. And we DO see that law invoked when accidents occur. (FWIW my experience is that people do follow this rule, but that’s not really important.)

    If we were to parallel this in the abortion scenario, it would still involve prosecuting referring doctors and abortionists when there is an abortion and they are at fault – which is most of the time.

    “I don’t see why the people who advocate against domestic violence should be insulted by the tailoring my statment in 60 to fit their cause.”

    It’s because my use of your comment at #60 to fit the domestic violence scenario attempts to make it sound as though domestic violence is acceptable if men can blame other things in their life life booze or financial stress. I think that’s offensive. Sure, there may have been a time where the law turned a blind eye to the practice, but that’s not quite the same issue I was addressing earlier.

    The reason that changing the law wasn’t the force that changed the practice of “wife discipline” that you refer to is that the law already forbade the practice. It couldn’t “double forbid” the situation. What needed to change is that the law needed to be enforced. Authorities needed to get a backbone and stop overlooking the practice because of men’s perceived need or right to discipline their wives. This would raise awareness of the fact that it was illegal and help to change public attitudes. Fortunately that happened.

    All I’m pushing for is the same thing to happen in the case of abortion. What’s needed to get people to sit up and take notice of the wrongness of abortion is for the authorities, once again as before, to get a backbone and enforce the law. If we maintain the status quo, we will continue to have a scenario where the law is an ass and nobody really cares what it permits.

  52. you believe the law rearing its head will enable people to realize that abortion is wrong.

    I believe people realizing abortion is wrong will enable the law to rear its head.

    I feel a song coming on…

  53. Well Tim, it worked for domestic violence. Enforcing the law has the effect of people saying “Hmmm, if I do this I just might get pinged for it.”

    If people realised abortion is wrong and stopped doing it, then the authorities wouldn’t need to rear their head. Until then, knifesticks and a cold cell. 😉

    OK, I take my leave of this one now.

  54. I’m not well read enough on legal history to state with any certainty whether it the authorities just suddenly got round to bothering or if a critical mass of people appealing for them to do so was reached. So still not convinced sorry.

    Still, it’s been delightful. Sometime, when the pressures of the season have abated, I’d like to continue.

    cue the song… the last time I heard it, it was performed on tv by Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Edna in duet. Lovely they were…

    ………………………………………….. [Exit Tim.

  55. The famous one has got to be the African American civil rights movement. Basically black people got sick of being discriminated, when the constitution/declaration of independence actually reads ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’

    They reached critical mass and the rest is history.

  56. ………………….[re-enter Tim

    I was going to leave this alone but it bothers me. I confess to arguing around the point with Glenn showing no clear purpose, saying I think abortion is wrong but shying away from advocating any restriction or punishment of it. I’ve said elswhere that I don’t go to church, but also that I spent my childhood Sundays there. So while it might seem strange to some, my objections to putting the emphasis on achieving effective legislation against abortion are biblical – at least according to my understanding of what the bible says Jesus said.

    I’m shy of quoting scripture in an enironment full of people more knowledgeable on the subject than me. I also understand that one line of scripture by itself without context or appreciation of the rest of the bible doesn’t back up an argument paricularly well.

    So here, in the most unscholarly way possible, I’ll drop a few examples, burble a bit and consider myself to have got this off my chest.

    For a start, the commandment is “Thou shall not kill.” full stop. there’s not a lot of information right there about how we should respond when others do.

    More importantly to me, this selection:

    The story of Jesus stopping the crowd from stoning the adluterous woman culminating in the statement “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”

    The passage regarding forgiving one’s brother not seven times but seventy times seven. (that’s lots. I assume that if we forgive him that many times it will become a habit and we will realise that judgement and punishment is God’s job not ours – at the very least it suggest that we should hold back as long as possible)

    the passage I can’t find “Vengeance is mine sayeth The Lord” which was explained to me as meaning – It’s not yours, leave it to me (prepared to be wrong on this one.)

    the whole sequence with the refrain you/they will have (already have?) their reward.

    the bit about judge not, lest ye be judged.

    the story of the prodigal son where the righteous stay-at-home brother cannot understand the Father’s treatment of his brother who in his eyes has behaved badly.

    I’ve mentioned these incompletely in a way that I hope will call the full passages to mind to those who now them well. All of these are fundamental to the way my conscience works. I’ve just re-read Matthew, Mark and Luke; I ran out of steam in the early stages of John. Maybe I read them looking for what I found, but I saw very little (if anything) in what Jesus himself said that tells us to go out of our way to restrict other people’s actions, or to take the initiative to judge or punish them for those actions. The implication to me is that God will take care of all that himself thanks very much.

    When I summed up the new testament when commenting on another post as “It’s nice to be nice to each other because it’s nice, and otherwise just wait till your father gets home” I wasn’t trying to be derogatory or really even that facetious at all. That is, in my naive and optimistic way, how I understand it.

    So it just doesn’t fit for me that a Christian pro-lifer should be running around asking anyone on Earth to control or punish participants in the act of abortion.

    What we do seem to be asked to do by Jesus is to spread the Good News, be known as good by our, fruit and give other people the opportunity to come to believe in him and follow him. One of the best things I notice about good churches is that they look after their own. So does it logically follow that if membership in churches increases then the number of people who are looked after increases, and the number of people left to make a desperate decision alone decreases?

    That’s why I think the law is or could be irrelevant as long as we individually and together (not with educational programmes or therapy) looked after our neighbours.

    Tim

  57. Interesting.

    Why do you see pro-life as people who are running around trying to punish others? May be they just want to protect the unborn and be the voice for them? Perhaps they just want to stop their tax money being used to kill unborn babies?

    And what you have just wrote reminds me so much of Confucius teaching, basically don’t defend other people, stay away from trouble and if you just be good, that’s good enough. So for example if you see someone got beaten up in an alleyway, just keep walking, just don’t beat other people.

  58. Actually I was more saying that I don’t think it a christian thing to appeal to the law to fix the problem. And I was half expecting a collection of impolite statements to the effect of “if you think that, you should go and read your bible properly”… which I intend to do anyway.

  59. So if Christians happen to be able to change a law to help others who have been treated with unjustly, say like the slaves in the past, that they shouldn’t do that because that would be appealing to the law to fix problem, and you think that it’s not Christian thing?

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