The Fact-Value Split: Abortion
Blog Post
The Fact-Value Split: Abortion
In the last blog I (Dean) wrote, I mentioned that since the time of the Enlightenment, there has been a fact-value split, which at a basic level states that the only real knowledge stems from empirical science. Thus, religion and morality are subjective. This has impacted the moral fiber of our society regarding every social issue of our time. 45 years ago, the Supreme Court's decision in Roe v. Wade, opening the door for legalizing abortion. How then, does the fact-value split, relate to this hot-button social issue? With the advent of the fact-value split, a sub-split has taken place in how the culture views the body….and it is radically different from the Christian viewpoint. Traditionally, before the post-modern era, a “human” and a “person” were interchangeable terms used to describe people. However, with the Roe v. Wade abortion decision, the Supreme Court affirmed that even though the baby in the womb is human, it is not a person under the Fourteenth Amendment.[1] Therefore, a new category of individual was created, the human non-person. The outworking of the fact-value split is the body-person split. How does this apply to the abortion issue/debate? In utilizing Schaeffer’s two-story illustration, at the lower level is the human, which is made up of biological chemicals, classified as a fetus which is knowable via empirical science. However, it has no moral standing and because it is not a person and it does not warrant legal rights. Yet, at some arbitrary point, the fetus jumps into the upper level and is classified as a person, typically defined by certain levels of cognitive functioning, consciousness, and self-awareness. It is at this point, and only at this point “it” attains moral and legal standing.[2] Do you see the difference? To be biologically human is a scientific fact. But to be a person is an ethical concept, defined by what we value.[3] Therefore, simply being a biological human is not enough to warrant legal rights and protections. The moral implications suggest that if one favors abortion - even if they haven’t thought through the philosophical aspects of the fact-value or body-person split - in the early stages of life an unborn baby (or fetus if you prefer such terminology) has such little value that it can be killed, for any reason or no reason, without any moral consequence, because it is expendable biological matter. Then at some point garners rights. However you feel about the abortion issue, that is a low view of life and of the human body.[4] If our bodies can be so easily disposed of with the idea that there is no moral consequence, it not only dehumanizes the body within the womb, it dehumanizes any society which overwhelmingly supports such a practice. This is one clear reason why the fact-value split is so important and how it has impacted the conscience of our culture. Until there is an acceptance by society that there is a connection between facts and values, the dehumanization of the body will continue. Thankfully, the Christian worldview provides a high view of all bodies at all stages of life because they have all been created by God. Thus, no matter what comes with the body good or bad, in the womb or outside the womb, "it" has intrinsic value and rights and its value is objective, independent because the value of the body is grounded in the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-loving God, the bridge between the fact-value split. Footnotes Photo Credit: Gingi Freedman [1] Nancy Pearcey. Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions about Life and Sexuality. (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2018) 19. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Ibid., 20.
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