Making self-help sound like terrorism

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You’ve heard of Jordan Peterson. He’s a Canadian professor of psychology and a clinical psychologist. In his work in the latter role, he has helped a lot of people deal with mental health issues and sort their lives out, as clinical psychologists are wont to do. He became notorious because of the hate he received when he objected to a university trying to force people to use the gender pronouns of transgender individuals. Not that he never uses those pronouns, but he objected to being told that he had to use them, or else face consequences. He didn’t create the situation, he just responded to it because it affected him directly.

Peterson has managed to offend people in other ways, too (not that this is a great feat today), for example by arguing that genuine sex differences exist – hardly a radical theory. Cathy Newman notoriously made him more famous via an interview in which she spent nearly all of her time re-stating and misrepresenting most of his answers when discussing the gender pay gap. Peterson didn’t force her to do that. She did it herself, and so badly that she became a meme. She was a train wreck, and in retrospect few people doubt that she knows it. Otherwise the interview would have been much less remarkable and would almost certainly not have had the positive effect on Peterson’s fame that it did.

Most of Dr Peterson’s subject matter is psychology and self-help. But (generally when the issue is raised with him) yes, he has talked about things with broader political and social implications. When he does, the target of his criticisms are generally not just people on the left or the right, conservatives or liberals, but rather the space on the political spectrum he calls “the radical left,” although at times he has also spoken specifically about the dangers of fascism in particular as well as the factors that enable it.

Unsurprisingly, the radical left (as much as I dislike collectivism – take me to mean “many people who could fairly be described as radical leftists”) tend not to like Jordan Peterson. But even not liking somebody or their views should surely be compatible with some very basic principles of fairness and decency. Continue reading “Making self-help sound like terrorism”

Pro-life slogans and groupthink

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I’ve seen a couple people share this picture. I’ve removed the original speaker’s name, but he’s a relatively well-known speaker in Evangelical circles and is does a lot of work in Christian apologetics. I also have no particular issue with him in general, so I didn’t want to make it about him at all.

Think about what is stated here:

If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary.
However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.

You may think it unfair to criticise such a short piece of text. Surely I’m taking things out of context. I disagree. Someone put this picture together to share, all by itself. Presumably the intention in sharing it is that someone will see it and see that it really spells out a simple truth in a clear and concise way. I don’t believe that even couched in a much longer talk, the meaning of what is claimed here could properly be construed in anything other than a direct, literal way.

When I saw this picture being shared, I asked pro-lifers (those of us who believe that abortion is, prima facie, morally indefensible) not to share it. I asked them to be more careful and critical than that. Continue reading “Pro-life slogans and groupthink”

Single Issue Voting and Killing Poor Coloured People

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The New Zealand general election is almost upon us! Rather than talk about which parties I like and which I don’t, I want us all to imagine a parallel world in which we find New New Zealand heading into an election.  Here’s what’s on offer in New New Zealand: Continue reading “Single Issue Voting and Killing Poor Coloured People”

A defence of just letting poor people die

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Suppose you awoke one day and found yourself in a relatively technologically advanced society in which there were some very poor people. You did not consent to be in this position, but here you are. You ask around among some people with reasonably well-paying jobs (that is, people like you), and they all tell you the same thing: They didn’t intend for there to be any very poor people. They all just woke up and found themselves here. Continue reading “A defence of just letting poor people die”

Equality: Just and unjust

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Social equality matters. But does it matter how we go about getting it? Surely it does.

There are two ways to think about equality. The way that I find most interesting is not the one I’m talking about here. I’m most interested in what I call basic equality. That’s the idea that we are all each other’s equal. We’re all equally deserving of a basic level of respect, we all have the same starting point when it comes to our inherent value and there’s therefore something true to the claim that we have a duty to treat each other as having a fundamental dignity as human beings. I think that’s a correct idea. I also think it’s a fascinating idea because it’s tenaciously held by many proponents of political liberalism who reject the theological foundations of basic equality, as I discussed in episode 8, “Secularism and Equality.” I don’t think they can have it both ways.

But that’s not the kind of equality that I’m talking about now. Here I’m talking about equality as an outcome at which we aim, the results of personal practices as well as social policies. To aim at equality in this sense is not, of course to make everyone just the same (surely nobody wants that), but it is to try to aim at creating a society where everyone can thrive and there’s no gross disparity in people’s lot in life. Sure, some people will be rich and others not so much. But to have general social equality, there won’t be CEOs with weekly incomes that amount to a full year’s wages for someone who works back-breakingly hard for forty hours a week (to pick an obvious example). There won’t be people who can afford every luxury that life can possibly offer, while others who genuinely work to earn a living and provide for their families must live in continual anxiety about whether or not they can meet costs of the basic necessities of life. Continue reading “Equality: Just and unjust”

Is Abortion Healthcare?

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“Access to abortion services is an essential part of women’s health!”

“Abortion is healthcare, not a crime!”

“You should not use your personal values as a way of interfering with women’s healthcare services.”

I’ve heard slogans like these used more times than I care to remember. These slogans are now being trotted out by the World Health Organisation as it is World Health Day. A number of pro-abortion rights bloggers have initiated a mini blogswarm over this issue. Labelling something “healthcare” gives the impression that by opposing it, you’re in some way opposed to good the good health of the people who seek access to it. Calling abortion a healthcare service automatically makes those who oppose abortion into opponents of healthcare. And who wants to be in that boat? But is it actually true?

Are abortion services a matter of healthcare provision?

The first thing to say is that even if abortion provides health benefits to the women who have them, this is not a sufficient reason to provide abortion services. After all, there are people whose health might be improved if they did not have school-aged children in their care, but this is not in itself an adequate reason to provide termination services to these people so that they can choose whether or not to remain parents of school aged children. Dressing such a grizzly scenario up in the language of healthcare would only make things more sinister and dystopian.

But what’s really interesting here is that the abortion rights lobby here in new Zealand has, for many years now, been well aware that abortion services are not, as a rule, about women’s health. Of all abortions carried out in New Zealand, the number that are actually carried out because of a danger to the mother are a minuscule fraction of the total. By contrast, over 95% of all abortions are carried out on the notoriously dubious grounds that the pregnancy (not future parenthood, but the pregnancy itself) poses a serious risk to the mother’s mental health. This is the ground that has seen abortions approved because the expectant mother fears getting pimples when she is pregnant, or is worried because she does not currently have enough seatbelts in her car for another baby car seat (as much as you might like to believe otherwise, there are not fictional examples).

In fact, for a number of years the Abortion Supervisor Committee has lobbied parliament to loosen abortion law in New Zealand precisely because all these abortions are carried out on the basis of a legal ground that they do not currently meet, namely the serious danger posed by the pregnancy to the mother’s mental health. What we are told by the ASC is that since the law is simply not being followed, this proves that the needs of women have changed and so the law needs to change with them.

So wait a second. If women are having abortions, but not because of any physical or medical risk posed by the pregnancy, and not because of any mental health risk posed by the pregnancy, then on what basis can abortion be considered a healthcare service? If the New Zealand abortion lobby has continually argued that abortion should be a matter of choice regardless of healthcare concerns, then why do they keep referring to abortion as healthcare? Someone’s trying to have their cake and eat it too. If abortion is a matter of health, then let’s see the abortion lobby in the country call to see abortion restricted to cases where health is genuinely at risk – which would reduce abortion numbers to less than 5% of what they are now.

Come on ALRANZ. Let’s see if you have the integrity. You’re going to have to make up your mind: Should abortion be an issue of healthcare, and restricted accordingly, or should it be a matter of personal choice that can be morally evaluated quite apart from the tar-baby of interfering with health issues? It’s not both.

Glenn Peoples

Other blogs on this issue:

Episode 030: Religion in the Public Square: Is it Justified?

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When I was at the University of Canterbury in July I gave two talks. Episode 29 was one of those talks, on abortion. This talk was actually based on the same material that served as the basis for episode 3, so there will be obvious similarities.

Think of this as a consolation prize while I (very slowly) finish the next episode in the series In Search of the Soul. Hey, if you want me to get these things done faster, then hire me. 🙂

Glenn Peoples

Episode 029: Is Abortion Immoral, and Should it be Illegal?

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This episode is a recording of a talk I gave last week at the University of Canterbury on abortion.

As promised in the episode, here’s a summary of some questions and answers that followed. Continue reading “Episode 029: Is Abortion Immoral, and Should it be Illegal?”