The Mourdock Platform

Richard Mourdock, Indiana Senate candidate, has announced his opposition to interference with God’s revealed intent. I presume, then, that he’ll be taking a principled stand against firefighting, medical intervention, federal debt reduction, and unseating incumbent Presidents.

Update: Mourdock now clarifies his position by saying that “God does not want rape”. I’d thought he was saying that if a pregnancy occurs, God must have wanted it, which would seem to be an instance of the general principle that if anything occurs, God must have wanted it. Now we’re told that there is no such general principle — from which I am left to conclude that the only way to tell what God wants is to ask Richard Mourdock. This is a logically consistent criterion, but what if, for example, Mourdock happens to be indisposed at the moment when, say, terrorists attack the White House? How will we know whether it’s okay to resist?

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68 Responses to “The Mourdock Platform”


  1. 1 1 Jimbino

    His wavering just provides the latest example of the dilemma expressed by J.B.: “If God is good, he is not God; if God is God, he is not good.”

    Of course God is not good, since there is no God.

  2. 2 2 Ken B

    Perhaps he has God playing small-ball. Oh sure, if He really wanted to God could have stopped the rape but He doesn’t like to interfere unless it’s important. Given that He chose not to, He impregnated the woman as compensation, so she’d have a momento.
    Chicks dig it.

    Full disclosure. My first partner was born as a result of rape.

  3. 3 3 Michael

    If we assume an infinite God, having him pay attention to (and meddling in the affairs of) a single finite earth would be like insisting that Frank Gehry live in a phone booth.

    Now, if we assume the “many worlds” interpretation of quantum mechanics is true, that fixes the problem. God allows bad things to happen to good people because he allows every possible thing to happen to everyone, everywhere — at least in some universe or reality. Whether or not God wants rape would in some sense become irrelevant — it would be like asking me whether or not I wanted some atom to move left instead of right. I would be more concerned with the collection of atoms and how they moved together.

    /It’s not easy creating a new heresy. :)

  4. 4 4 RPLong

    Another ingenious blog post. Bravo!

  5. 5 5 Roger

    If you ask around, you will find that such views are quite common. A lot of people have religious beliefs that God wills everything or know everything, even in advance. Not just the religious believe this. Prominent atheist scientists believe in pre-determinations and argue that there is no free will.

  6. 6 6 Kevin L

    Out of evil can come good. Out of the evil of slavery and tyrants that forced people from their homes, America became the most diverse large nation in history. What if we had forced the former slaves to move to Africa after the Civil War? Would the world be a better place? Probably not.

    The issue of whether God wills or just allows evil is complicated. Biblically, the most important example is Jesus’ death. God willed that his son would die unjustly at the hands of those supposedly devout to him. Out of an evil act, salvation came to all. Yet those who killed him were not absolved of their wrongdoing. For anyone with moral absolutes, it’s a challenging issued to be weighed heavily. If you ask me, the ones who sound callous are those who see abortion as an amoral choice, and unwanted pregnancy as a tragedy to be mitigated rather than a human conflict to be resolved.

    Consider this: you get kidnapped, knocked out, and one of your kidneys is removed. Your kidney is sold on the black market to someone whose relative needs one that matches yours. The person who receives the kidney does not know of its origin. Suppose you discover this person who has your kidney. Do you demand they restore it to you? Sure, you are scarred and your life is forever changed, but that person will die if you are made whole. Would you treat that situation as flippantly as you treat pregnancy resulting from rape?

  7. 7 7 Doctor Memory

    Kevin: kindly observe the distinction between treating pregnancy from rape flippantly and flippantly observing a politician’s idiotic and incoherent remarks on same. You’ll find that they’re quite different.

  8. 8 8 Martin-2

    Kevin L: “Would you treat that situation as flippantly as you treat pregnancy resulting from rape?”

    As Doctor Memory observes, you haven’t characterized the situation properly (where do you even see Steve expressing an opinion for or against abortion?). But in general the answer to your question is- yes.

  9. 9 9 Ken B

    “Out of evil can come good.”
    Or out of the opposition to evil.

    Which come to think of it isn’t what you said at all.

  10. 10 10 nobody.really

    Out of evil can come good. Out of the evil of slavery and tyrants that forced people from their homes, America became the most diverse large nation in history.

    I guess that depends on what you mean by “large.” As a tangential point, if you wanted to find a nation to illustrate how the trans-Atlantic slave trade promoted ethnic diversity, I suspect the US is the weakest example you could find.

    Recall that the US officially stopped importing slaves in 1804. As a consequence, roughly 95% of the people shipped via the trans-Atlantic slave trade went Central and South America.

    People of African descent became a large portion of the population of Central and South America. Intermarriage became more common. And, as a result, these nations generally avoid dividing their populations into “black” and “white” groups. Rather, they tend to have larger numbers of ethnic categories, and the boundaries of these categories tend to be more porous. Arguably, greater diversity resulted.

  11. 11 11 Martin-2

    Michael – “that fixes the problem. God allows bad things to happen to good people because he allows every possible thing to happen to everyone, everywhere — at least in some universe or reality”

    This fixes the problem? Seems to make it worse if you ask me. I’m also not sure of your interpretation of the Many Worlds hypothesis. Sure, on the quantum level anything can happen. But up here it seems that all cancels out and those random fluctuations don’t influence events much.

  12. 12 12 Andy

    Re 3: What’s the point of believing in God if that’s true? I certainly gain nothing from following religious rules because in some universe “I” will have killed someone (for instance) so “I” will go to hell anyway, in fact, am “I” not already there?

  13. 13 13 Steve Landsburg

    Roger:

    If you ask around, you will find that such views are quite common. A lot of people have religious beliefs that God wills everything or know everything,

    That is not Mourdock’s stated position. His position is that God wills the pregnancy, but not the rape. And as far as I can tell, the only way we can ever know which things God wills and which he doesn’t is to ask Richard Mourdock on a case by case basis.

  14. 14 14 Ken B

    @Steve re 13: Your slam is on target but I think I gave a sardonic rule that fits. God can work *between* acts of human agency. God wills the pregnancy if not the coition. When Rogers hits you with a bat, Rogers wills the hit but God wills the extent of the damage.

  15. 15 15 Leo

    @Steve isn’t he saying life is good and that’s why we treat it as a gift? which is why we have different views for medical interventions and for rape itself. He never said rape was a gift and and that’s probably because he thinks it’s bad. That’s why he’s willing to treat them differently. Though that still seems to leave the question open as to whether or not God wills the rape as long as he thinks God is not omnipotent then this doesn’t have that problem…

  16. 16 16 Roger

    God is omnipotent. God is all-knowing. God is good. There is evil in the world. People have free will. God created man. Men sometimes do bad things. You are not the first to notice some tension between beliefs. Theologians have written about them centuries ago.

  17. 17 17 Paul T

    SL: “Richard Mourdock has announced his opposition to interference with God’s revealed intent. I presume, then, that he’ll be taking a principled stand against … federal debt reduction…”

    Where’s the evidence that Allah intends debt reduction (and why, since it’s known to be immaterial)? All evidence is to the contrary.

  18. 18 18 Philip

    “And as far as I can tell, the only way we can ever know which things God wills and which he doesn’t is to ask Richard Mourdock on a case by case basis.”

    Or, here is another way you can tell what God wants that’s sort of obvious: He wrote it all down in the Bible. That’s the whole point of that book you know.

  19. 19 19 Al V.

    @nobody.really, let’s assume two hypothetical countries. Both had a native population of 1M and over the years, 2M white immigrants moved in from Europe, and also brought in 2M slaves from Africa. Now, 200 years later, both countries have a population of 100M. In one country there has been little or no intermarriage, so there are 20M indigenous people, 40M white people, and 40M black people. In the other country, the population intermarries, and there are 100M mixed race people. Which country is “more diverse”?

  20. 20 20 Steve Landsburg

    Roger:

    God is omnipotent. God is all-knowing. God is good. There is evil in the world. People have free will. God created man. Men sometimes do bad things. You are not the first to notice some tension between beliefs.

    You seem to be talking about something entirely different.

    The tension isn’t between God’s goodness and the evil in the world. The tension is between

    A) “We observe a pregnancy and conclude that it’s God’s will”

    and

    B) “We observe a rape and conclude that it’s not God’s will”.

    In view of B), Mourdock appears not to be saying that everything that happens is God’s will. Given that, what general principle allows him to conclude A)?

  21. 21 21 Keshav Srinivasan

    Steve, i think you’re asking a question that has a pretty obvious answer. Mourdock believes in the principle that life is a gift of God in all cases, regardless of the circumstances under which that life came into being. And more broadly, I presume that the general principle that Mourdock would subscribe to is that people are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so wherever people have any of these rights, that constitutes a gift of God.

  22. 22 22 RichardR

    I think Mourdock’s view might be that if something good happens it is willed by God and if something bad happens it was not willed by God (maybe it was willed by the Devil or by an evil person…). I haven’t watched the video but in the quotes I have read he never said that everything that happens is God’s will.

    Therefore A) We observe a pregnancy and conclude that it’s God’s will – a pregnancy is good and is therefore God’s will
    B) We observe a rape and conclude that it’s not God’s will – rape is bad and therefore can not be God’s will
    C) we observe an abortion and conclude that it is not God’s will – abortion is bad and therefore is not God’s will

    Mourdock might argue that knowledge of God’s will is revealed through the Bible and this gives him a general principle to conclude what is good, and is willed by God, and what is bad, and is not willed by God. (Of course his interpretation of the Bible could be wrong and moreover this does not explain why one should use the Bible to understand God’s will and perhaps there isn’t a God at all.)

  23. 23 23 Harold

    I think Keshav srinavasan is on the right lines. All people are “gifts from God”, but not all things are necessarily done at Gods will. If we assume that all one thing that God does personally get involved with is conception, then therre is not necessarily a contradiction. However, we still need some way to know what God does actually get involved with. It is not uncommon to express the belief that life is “god given”

    Why is everyone so concerned about incest? Why should this be grounds for abortion? At least the view that abortion should not be allowed except to save a life is consistent.

  24. 24 24 Bob Murphy

    Oh you’re a clever one, Steve Landsburg. Just like God made you.

  25. 25 25 Paul T

    Jimbino: “Of course God is not good, since there is no God.”

    Jimbo, what’s your take on Pascal’s wager?

  26. 26 26 Roger

    Steve: The difference between A and B is that the rapist has free will to do bad things, and so the rape is primarily the will of the rapist, not God. But once the fetus is conceived, God blesses the baby-to-be with an immortal soul. That part is God’s will.

    As with any discussion of causality, events have multiple causes. Any time you say that X causes Y, a nitpicker can point to other causes. So yes, both God and rapist can be said to be causal factors in everything related to the rape. So, for example, you could say that God caused the rape by giving the rapist free will. Yes, that’s right, but it is still useful to say that the rapist caused the rape.

    This is all conventional theology. You do not hear it from Obama or Romney because they are clever enough not to entertain such questions. But go ask someone who is willing to talk about why there is evil in the world if God is good.

  27. 27 27 Martin-2

    Roger (26) – “once the fetus is conceived, God blesses the baby-to-be with an immortal soul”

    If I were God and I foresaw the fetus being aborted then I wouldn’t bless it with an immortal soul. Who would know (besides novice game theorists)?

  28. 28 28 Advo

    Steve:

    Maybe Mourdock thinks that God wanted the act of sex as such, but that (according to God’s will) the perpetrator should have bought the woman dinner before.

    Or something.

  29. 29 29 Alan Gunn

    Mourdock is an idiot. His opponent is running on the same “free trade causes all our problems” platform that got him elected to the house six years back. Since senators can’t do anything about abortion but do vote on trade, I’ll stick with Mourdock.

    Indiana voters, alas, are inclined to oppose not only buying things from foreigners but also selling them stuff, which I guess is consistent if dopey. We got several billion (plus lots of modernization) for our toll road from Australians and Spaniards, and the politicians who voted for it are still being accused of getting us “tainted foreign money.”

  30. 30 30 Ken B

    Wow. In 14 I make a mocking prediction, intended frankly as ridicule of Mourdock and his defenders. And then along comes 26!

    Life lesson: you cannot Mourdock and his defenders. It’s like being unable to tax a man who does not consume!

  31. 31 31 Ken B

    @Alan Gunn: Yeah. As one who leans to the right parties here and in Canada I get a lot of grief about this kind of idiocy. I always respond that “all parties attracxt useful idiots. My useful idiots want to teach dinosaurs are 5000 years old, yours want to impoverish the world.” I have swallowed some ugly stuff to support free trade.

  32. 32 32 Martin-2

    Ken B (30) You cannot what Mourdock and his defenders?! This seems like a fun analogy.

  33. 33 33 Ken B

    @Martin-2: :)

    Actually I misspoke slightly. I should have said you can’t mock the *logic* of Mourdock and his defenders. Then the allusion to Steve’s untaxable man post makes more sense.

  34. 34 34 Al V.

    If the fetus is God’s will, but the rape is not, then:
    (1) Is the argument that the fetus would have come into existence without the rape?
    (2) Is it that the fetus was predetermined, and the rape was simply the agency of the fetus?
    (3) That once the rape occurred, God chooses whether or not to make the woman pregnant? Does God make this decision in all instances of sexual contact, or only in the case of rape?

    If (1) or (2), then the logic would imply that to avoid rape, women should have lots of casual sex. That way God has the opportunity to insert a fetus. If a woman doesn’t have lots of casual sex, then God will have her raped to make her pregnant.

    (3) Forces a slightly different conclusion. Since God is always making a decision on pregnancy, women can have as much casual sex as desired, as God will decide when sexual activity will result in pregnancy.

    Personally, forgetting the logic behind this, I think they lead to horrible conclusions.

  35. 35 35 Ken B

    @Al V: And it gets better!
    A couple, married by the pope, loving, godd people, desperately want a child and have sex like bunnies *purely to procreate*. No pregnancy. God’s will, this is good.

    A drug addled couple of alcoholics have casual sex and part, never to meet again. Preganacy results but she doesn’t notice for a while as she drinks heavily. She mainlines thalidomide for the thrill of and a baby is born, and abandoned, with FAS and no arms or legs. This is god’s will and good.

    Some god.

  36. 36 36 Ken B

    @Al V: You can’t instantiate. I tried and the Java loader said “Cannot instantiate Mourdock. No class.”

    :)

  37. 37 37 Roger

    Al V., Ken B: I suggest that you do not make those arguments if you run for public office.

    The existence of evil in the world has driven many men to atheism. If that is your argument, then it is off the point. For those who believe in God, Mourdock’s argument is not unusual or illogical.

  38. 38 38 Ken B

    re 37: Actually, knowing what I think I do about Al V’s politics I hope that if he does run for office he makes just exactly those arguments … :)

    You are right Roger. That’s why we go to the effort of showing the illogic and contradictions. Because many do not see it, and it needs to be pointed out.

  39. 39 39 Will A

    Mourdock’s saying that God does not want rape is totally against the literal interpretation of the bible. Assuming that Mourdock is a right-wing evangelical who believes in the inerrant/literal word of God, God wants rape to be used as punishment.

    2 Samuel 12:11
    This is what the Lord says: ‘Out of your own household I am going to bring calamity on you. Before your very eyes I will take your wives and give them to one who is close to you, and he will sleep with your wives in broad daylight.

    Zechariah 14:2
    For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

  40. 40 40 Will A

    @ Roger #37:

    Mourdock’s belief seems to be that god determine when conception happens.

    So do you tell infertile couples that God didn’t want them to have a baby?

    Also, I believe in a God of Love and forgiveness. I do read the bible’s literally, I read it to find deeper meaning in my life.

    Do not group me in the same category as Mourdock.

    Instead say:
    “For those who believe that God is a vengeful, punishing God who causes Unwanted Pregnancy and Inferitility, Mourdock’s argument is not unusual or illogical.”

  41. 41 41 Will A

    Above I meant to say, “I don’t read the bible’s literally”

    I need to learn to not vent and write.

  42. 42 42 Dave

    What I don’t get is how someone as lucid, critical and intelligent as Bob Murphy (as well Tom Woods) can be so perfect in their analysis of market theories, yet somehow still believe in a (very specific) deity).

    What’s missing??

  43. 43 43 Ken B

    @Dave: I won’t grant the ‘perfect’ part but you ask a good question. I wish I had a good answer. People tend to beleive in things often for emotional reasons. This is especailly true with beliefs that define group membership. It can be hard work applying logic strictly to a wide set of beliefs, especially emotionally resonant ones, and it’s easy for an error to creep in somewhere. I — like most here I guess — like to think I am pretty good at doing it, but every now and then I get caught to my own surprise. Bob Murphy (the example you cite) is clearly a guy who makes the effort, and is serious about thinking about issues. But Bob also reacts *very* emotionally on the topic of religion. My guess is that it is tightly linked to his sense of right and wrong.
    Anyway, this fundamentally is why one needs to be seriously committed to open discussion and open reasoning. We all need to be triple checked.
    A non-answer I fear.

  44. 44 44 Ken Arromdee

    I tend to agree that the problem has nothing to do with Mourdock, but that it’s a contradiction in our ideas about God, and that these ideas are very widespread but we just don’t talk about them much.

    It is not really true that “the only way to tell what God wants is to ask Richard Mourdock”, because he’s only applying a conception of God that is very common, among many more people than just Richard Mourdock. The fact that more people don’t have his ideas about pregnancy is because they fail to see their beliefs about God through to their terrible conclusion.

  45. 45 45 KS

    I love this post by Dr. Landsburg, it points out the inherent absurdity of anyone claiming to know what does and does not fall under “God’s plan”.

    He’s not arguing for or against religion or God in any way, which is what I think some people here are confusing.

  46. 46 46 Will A

    @ Dave #42:

    I think most in the church I go to would agree that we (those in our congregation) are broken and that God helps us to find joy in life. If I don’t go to church or pray regularly, I get extremely angry and irritated and I am not a good husband or parent.

    My belief in a loving and forgiving God helps me to cope with things done to me in the past and with things that I have done to others.

    Atheists would call this a placebo and that my going to church and praying to cope isn’t that much different than someone using Alcohol to cope.

    I personally envy (I know one of the deadly 7 sins) atheists being able to handle gracefully what I can not handle gracefully without God.

    Where I personally think christians get is wrong is making the assumption that everyone is broken. My God is a God for people who are broken.

    Lastly, I don’t mean this to imply that this is where Bob Murphy might be coming from. As Ken B will tell you, there is no evidence that I am lucid, critical or intelligent.

  47. 47 47 Ken B

    Thanks for the shout out Will A.

    “My God is a God for people who are broken.”

    Nice quote. This is where (unbeknowst to Bob Murphy it seems) I differ with a lot of atheists. I don’t make the genereic charge of hypocrisy when christians talk about sin, like Keira Knightly famously did. Christians mostly don’t pretend to be free of sin. Or forgiven and above it. I think most fervent believers have a higher awareness of and regret for their own failings.

    But I think when we start discussing laws that affect lives we have to give religion no special deference, no plenary exemption form logic or truth.

    So my own feelings about religion are quite mixed. (I am confident in some of the logic that *disproves* religion, not so much in arguments that *devalue* it.)

  48. 48 48 Manyburgers

    This is a straw man based around the word “wanted.” Because we are limited in vision and knowledge a heinous (or as Mourdock said, terrible) thing like rape cannot be imagined to have had a good cause, effect or other result. I certainly cannot see a justification for it. But I can imagine possible outcomes that could be greater than the heinous act itself. This does not mean anyone is trying to justify rape through such possibilities. It only means the economy of such actions cannot be weighed by the moment.

    This blog should know that an economy is a long range and far reaching analysis, and that one single point cannot form a proper evaluation.

    On the issue of God, it seems this blog is equally filled with deities since they all know best. At least they acknowledge that rape is wrong!

  49. 49 49 Steve Landsburg

    Manyburgers:

    Because we are limited in vision and knowledge a heinous (or as Mourdock said, terrible) thing like rape cannot be imagined to have had a good cause, effect or other result.

    This is sort of….ridiculous. Bad things have good effects all the time. You get the flu, therefore you don’t get on the plane that crashes. Et cetera. If you’re saying there are people who don’t realize this, I’d like you to point to one.

  50. 50 50 GabbyD

    i’m surprised by your position dr landsburg.

    isnt this just an example of an externality? if the baby had a voice, would it not stand to reason that it would vote for its own survival?

    but the fact its still a fetus precludes that possibility. so the costs are counted (the mother’s ill feelings), but none of the benefits are.

  51. 51 51 Steve Landsburg

    GabbyD: I think you’re making an excellent argument that would be quite useful in some completely other discussion, but it seems to me to be quite irrelevant here.

    (More precisely: You’re making an argument about abortion policy; this is a discussion about how we can recognize “God’s will”.)

  52. 52 52 GabbyD

    i’m sorry. i thought it would be obvious. here’s the connection: if god exists, he would like to further the cause of life, at least as it involves human action and participation (this is the christian god).

    protecting the life of a baby would be part of god’s “preferences”.

    the baby itself would agree that furthering its own life is a good thing, and the baby itself is indifferent to the method of conception (tho the woman clearly isnt).

  53. 53 53 Ken Arromdee

    This is sort of….ridiculous. Bad things have good effects all the time. You get the flu, therefore you don’t get on the plane that crashes. Et cetera. If you’re saying there are people who don’t realize this, I’d like you to point to one.

    I would say that just about everyone realizes this in the sense that if you describe a specific scenario to them, they’ll say “yeah, that bad thing had a good effect”. But they don’t otherwise think that way and they ignore the implications of that belief unless it’s specifically brought up. That’s why remarks like Mourdock’s can spark such outrage in the first place–it may be that according to their belief system, God allows rape victims to get pregnant because that does more good than bad, but they’re never going to admit to that and they find the idea horrifying, despite having beliefs for which that is the logical consequence.

  54. 54 54 Manyburgers

    Nice to hear we agree that events must be viewed in totality and not individually evaluated as to its immediate “goodness.” You had me worried you were actually arguing that we should take Mourdock’s affirmation of this general truth and try to apply it to an event out of context in order to make him look “ridiculous.” Oh, wait… perhaps you could point me to someone who did this…?

  55. 55 55 Manyburgers

    BTW, A Natural History Of Rape: Biological Bases Of Sexual Coercion (MIT Press), contains a fascinating perspective on rape’s role in evolution. It puts forth the possibility (please note the careful temperance required for putting forth such a proposition) that rape somehow favored males in the past or otherwise helped expand the gene pool. Neither should be arguable today. Perhaps the discussion could expand to evolution?

  56. 56 56 Ken B

    @manyburgers: I also recommened that book, back when we had the discussion about Todd Akin. You might find those threads interesting.

  57. 57 57 Will A

    @ Manyburgers #54:

    I still think there is a disagreement between you and Prof. Landsburg who said that bad things can have good effects.

    You seem to be arguing that you have to look at the totality of all effects to determine if a thing is bad.

    I don’t know which of you is correct, but your mindset seems to the the mindset of terrorists, demagogues, etc:
    “If I blow up this federal building in Oklahoma, more god-fearing chirstians will rally against the U.S. government and that will be a good thing”

  58. 58 58 KS

    @GabbyD–

    “i’m sorry. i thought it would be obvious. here’s the connection: if god exists, he would like to further the cause of life, at least as it involves human action and participation (this is the christian god).

    protecting the life of a baby would be part of god’s “preferences”.

    the baby itself would agree that furthering its own life is a good thing, and the baby itself is indifferent to the method of conception (tho the woman clearly isnt)”

    Say God exists, and a woman gets pregnant as a result of rape. You are saying the pregnancy is clearly the result of God’s intentions, as he would like to “further the cause of life”. Are you also claiming that the rape is also part of God’s intentions?

    Dr. Landsburg is just inquiring into, how can we know the pregnancy is part of God’s will but the rape is not? Is there any other logically-consistent differentiating criteria between the two, other than Mourdock’s opinion?

  59. 59 59 Ken B

    @Will A: re 57: Indeed. Also worrying are those who convince themselves that bad things are good things to avoid the tension you identify. Like “I’ll blow up these towers, and many will die but they are infidels and so that’s a good thing. And then millions will see and convert, which is a good thing.” Somehow unprovable assertions about God and his will always make this kind of thing easier.

  60. 60 60 Manyburgers

    Will 57 and Ken 58, We have admittedly moved away from the initial concept of making fun of someone for asserting what is or is not God’s will, but I am fascinated by the fear commenters are having in viewing the question of good and evil globally. This is a blog that focuses on issues of economics, yet everyone is mipoic in their view of what is good or evil. I hope your economic analyses are not equally limited! :)

    I am also fascinated to have had this “midset” associated with the rationale of a “terrorist” and “demagogue.” What would the equivilent be in academic circles for math or economics? Good luck on those algorithms! In my world, such an argument is referred to an “escalation” used to try to escape from an untenable position. It seems that this was not really a discussion after all, but rather a conclusion that sought affirmations.

    In any event, a fun blog with good comments. Always nice to have civil conversations with the anonymous!

  61. 61 61 Will A

    @ Ken B #58:

    I think it is about how the religion is taught more than the actual belief in God. The supreme court justices are all either Catholic or Jewish which I believe shows 2 things:

    1) It is political suicide to nominate atheist/agnostic judges

    and

    2) These 2 religions seem to have teachers that instill a sense of needing to question what one has been told.

  62. 62 62 Martin-2

    GabbyD (52) – “protecting the life of a baby would be part of god’s ‘preferences’”

    Debating whether God is pro-life or not would be dull and one-sided. This is a discussion about two conflicting views held by Mourdock:
    1. God wanted that woman to be pregnant with that rapist’s baby.
    2. God didn’t want that woman to be raped.

    I actually think these have been successfully reconciled. God didn’t decide on the rape, but he did decide on the result. Mourdock didn’t make this up but gathered it from the Bible. Do I have this right?

  63. 63 63 Will A

    @ Martin-2 #61:

    Interesting that you say that the baby is the rapist’s baby. This alone would be the reason to outlaw abortions in the case of rape.

    Since it is the rapist’s baby, he should be able to do with it want he wants.

    Also, GabbyD is no different from Mourdock. GabbyD is claiming to speak for God.

    God didn’t want to protect the lives of the first born sons of the Egyptians during Moses’s time. In fact, God didn’t protect the life of his own son.

    GabbyD must have some pathway to God where God tells her on a person by person basis whom God wanted/wants to protect.

  64. 64 64 Ken B

    @Will A re 61:
    Well I agree some religions are better house-trained than others. But it took centuries and a few religious wars.
    One difference is the level of belief and the comfort with doubt. Even a small amount of doubt can do wonders.

  65. 65 65 Ken Arromdee

    Dr. Landsburg is just inquiring into, how can we know the pregnancy is part of God’s will but the rape is not? Is there any other logically-consistent differentiating criteria between the two, other than Mourdock’s opinion?

    Obviously God could have stopped the rape but did not. So in at least one sense, the rape was God’s will–God decided that the benefit from the rape outweighs the harm. (Even if you say that God has to allow rapes so we can have free will–something I find dubious–that doesn’t change this, it just means that free will is part of the benefit.)

    But nobody likes to admit that that’s a logical consequence of their beliefs about God. So when forced to think about rape, they use a different definition of “God’s will”–God’s will is something that God wills without there being an intermediate step where some other entity exercises will. Of course it’s inconsistent, but religion often is.

    I don’t think either of these is really something that only Mourdock believes. Mourdock is just one of the few people who was put in a position where he was forced to confront it.

  66. 66 66 Harold

    I think we have come back to Calvinism again. He followed the logic, and arrived at the conclusion that evrything is pre-destined and decided by God. Most Christians do not agree.

  67. 67 67 GabbyD

    @KS –#58

    “You are saying the pregnancy is clearly the result of God’s intentions, as he would like to “further the cause of life”.”

    No. what i said was, GIVEN a pregnancy, he would like to see life be given to the child. we can figure this out because of what we know about the christian god.

    Note the difference: pregnancy PER SE is something we cannot be sure of whether it falls under some kind of “god’s plan”. but once the pregnancy is there, there is the onus on us to protect it, as can be determined from the body of knowledge of what we know about god’s preferences.

    this is apart from the commonsense notion that the baby itself would vote for its own survival.

  68. 68 68 Will A

    @ GabbyD #67:

    GIVEN a pregnancy, he would like to see life be given to the child

    If this is true how do we handle miscarriages? Does god cause miscarriages?

    This seems to be a place where the free will argument falls apart unless of course the assumption is that the unborn child excised free will and ended his/her own life.

    What do you tell the kind, gentle woman who just lost her child to a miscarriage?

    The following isn’t a comfortable thought for a believer like you, but it still might be true:
    Random events (some good and some bad) happen to people. God will intervene in some of these events and not in others and we don’t know why.

    And when bad things happen to us, we should follow God’s example of grace and forgiveness so that we won’t let these bad events consume us for the rest of our lives.

    It is just possible that what God wants is for us to find peace and joy in a world that can sometimes seem very cruel.

  1. 1 The Mourdock Platform at Steven Landsburg | The Big Questions … | ChildBirth 101
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