A Skeptics Take on Abortion

Recently Michael Schermer, the publisher of Skeptic magazine and a well-known figure in the atheist and secular circles, published an article on the Scientific American website on abortion.  Unsurprisingly, given it is Michael Schermer, the article displayed a level of mental gymnastics and cognitive dissonance that would be hard to fathom if Schermer did not regularly display such behavior.  This article will address Schermer’s points and why he fails to grasp the significance of the abortion debate.

Schermer seems to argue that the reasons abortions exist is because of unwanted pregnancies.  This is his first error. Abortion exists because people wanted to live licentious lifestyles without consequences. Abortion came about during the Sexual Revolution of the sixties and seventies, at least in the US.  This was a time where many argued for “free love” and a very libertine view of sex. Since many did not want to abandon this lifestyle to either rear children, or even give them up for adoption, abortion became an incredibly appealing option. So yes the pregnancies are unwanted, but they came about because of poor behavior on the part of humanity. This is the aspect Schermer fails to grasp. Because of his naturalist viewpoint, which is on display throughout the article, Schermer seems to think there is no reason for humans to display self-control and thus premarital sex is perfectly acceptable. He has a fundamental misunderstanding. Unwanted pregnancies are not the issue. Lack of self-control and poor human behavior are the issues.

Schermer should know lack of self-control that better than most considering his well-documented behavior at atheist and agnostic conventions. He’s a notorious womanizer and has been repeatedly accused of sexual harassment and sexual violence.  If he was an evangelical Christian, atheists would have absolutely buried him and rightly so. Yet despite numerous credible accusations, Schermer is still publishing Skeptic magazine and is still featured at atheist conferences, and can still publish in Scientific American.  It makes sense for a man like this to venerate abortion. It also explains why he is so strongly opposed to abstinence.

Schermer puts forward two possible solutions to abortion, which he does acknowledge is a public problem. The first is abstinence, which he, unsurprisingly given the above paragraph, flat out rejects. He argues that sexual behavior is nearly as requisite to our survival as food and shelter. Yet there are thousands of people who live long healthy lives without ever having sex so Schermer is clearly deluded on this point.  Schermer is essentially arguing that since sexual activity is natural, denying it is harmful and should be avoided. This argument is foolish. Anger is also natural, yet studies repeatedly show that consistent anger is a contributor to poor health.  A natural tendency can be both good and bad. There is a time to be angry and there is a time for marital relations, but there is also a time to repress both desires, something Schermer doesn’t seem to grasp.  This error of understanding leads him into his third error.

Schermer’s answer to the abortion problem is the same one people of his ilk have been touting for decades. Birth control for all! What Schermer fails to grasp, again, is that many forms of birth control and abortion are synonymous in the result: they end a human life. If we believe that life begins at fertilization, as medicine does and indeed must, then the vast majority of contraceptives are actually infanticide drugs.  Stunningly, Schermer outright admits abortion ends a human life. Yet he seems completely blase` about this fact as if human lives do not matter. He compares the lives lost in war and capital punishment alongside abortion. This comparison is purely specious. Those who die from capital punishment are few and have been adjudged guilty of a heinous crime by a jury of their peers. Their actions forfeited their lives.  As for war, those who die are regrettable, but for almost all the wars in the history of the United States (WWII, Korea, Vietnam, and Civil (to an extent) were exceptions ), those who enlisted did so voluntarily. They chose to risk their lives for a cause they believed in. Even many of those drafted expressed similar sentiments. What choice to the victims of abortion have? None. Of course, believing the evolutionary worldview as Schermer does, it is hardly surprising that he supports abortion.  If man is an animal, what is the value of an unwanted man’s life? It would be the same as that of a rat.

Attempting to view abortion as purely a logical problem as Schermer does rather than a moral problem fails because it does not recognize why human life has value.  Genesis 1:26-27 has the answer to that. ” And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth. So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.” They’re verses Schermer should be well aware of, given he grew up in some form of Christian home, but he has chosen to forget what he was taught. Unfortunately, many of our young people have made similar choices.



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