Monday, November 1, 2010

Politics, Politicians and Me

The time has come once again for election projection/coverage/news to dominate the television channels I watch, the newspapers I read and the conversations I overhear. Elections are tomorrow. Fantastic. Suffice it to say that I do not consider this to be the most wonderful time of the year.

Disclaimer: if this seems disjointed at times, I apologize. I've been working on this post off and on for a while; hopefully it doesn't show.

My frustration with and general dislike of our political system is well documented (if you know me well, that is). I consider politicians to be sleazy salesmen of a product that does nothing but dig a deeper hole than we already find ourselves living in. The irony is that my frustration towards the system (as a whole) and its participants (by and large) leads members of either "wing" (some of whom I am aware read this blog, and to them no offense is aimed) to believe that I am a lackey for the other end of the political spectrum. No joke: some of my more conservative-Christian-right wing-Republican friends/acquaintances believe that I am a crazy liberal, while many of my liberal-Democrat-left wing-Bush hating friends label me as a hopeless right winger. This fact makes me laugh to no end. Oh, lest I forget, some of my Libertarian buddies find me far too big government for their tastes (more on that later). Regardless of who you ask, the same point resonates: rhetorictocrats (copyright to Xander) of every political persuasion view me as too far one way or the other to fit with their party...and fortuitously enough, I agree. Let's dive a little deeper.


Good ol' GOP, "the party of no". Meh. Media criticism aside, what issues are important to the Republican party? (Disclaimer: I don't claim to be an expert on every issue. But I do have opinions, and that's the purpose here.) It seems like the issues and topics that the majority of Republicans care about most are the following: abortion, gay marriage, taxation, size of government, defense and environmental protections (or lack thereof). The two topics which seem to carry the most weight (by far) and create a prevalence of single issue voters are abortion and gay marriage.

In fact, the prevalence of single issue voters within the political right leads me directly in the opposite direction. Why allow a single issue (or two, or three) to dictate your voting habits? The odds are quite large that current laws with regards to abortion and gay marriage are unlikely to change; why not use your vote to find leaders you agree with on more pressing issues, such as defense spending, health care or tax rates for the middle and upper classes? But instead many Republicans vote (and even identify themselves) as single issue voters. Go figure.

Anyway, back to the specific issues.

First, abortion: many voters within the political right happen to be fundamentalist Christians, which leads to a strong moral opposition to the idea of abortion. While I do not fall under the fundamentalist umbrella (that is a conversation all to itself), I do have a moral opposition to abortion. A strong one, in fact. However, I disagree that the solution is to make abortion illegal. Rather, better educational opportunities and focus on family growth will lead to less abortions and a healthier society. Like we saw with prohibition in the 1920s, making something illegal doesn't make it go away. And besides, there are some scenarios (such as a woman who became pregnant after being raped or engaging in incest, or a situation where the life of the mother is in danger) in which I could not in good conscience make abortion illegal. Do I think it is abhorrent and terrible? Yes. I am in favor of limiting late term abortions as much as possible. If a consensus can be reached in the larger community about when life begins, I believe abortion can be limited to before that moment. While I believe that life begins at conception, that is not a belief I can force on others. Legislating morality is not the answer - which means that the core of the Republican party and I do not agree.

When it comes to economic issues, I find myself in many cases agreeing with the hard right. I would prefer that tax reductions be the catalyst to stimulate economic growth rather than government spending. I am a huge proponent of the free market and believe that a freer market produces greater market efficiency, but I understand the need for regulation to ensure that those in positions of economic power do not take advantage of the market as a whole (such as Enron, Bernie Madoff, et cetera). Let me take a break from the economy for a moment; I'll talk further about these issues below.

Gay marriage? I respond by asking a simple question: why not? The most interesting aspect of the gay marriage debate to me is the fact that most of the people against allowing it support full and equal civil right for gays in the form of civil the end, the argument comes completely for the sake of the "M" word. Bizarre. If you couldn't tell, I disagree with the notion that a single word is reason enough to hold back equal rights from a group of American citizens. Liberty and justice for all...except people different from me. That's how the Pledge goes, right? And unfortunately, often this stance on gay marriage is accompanied by a general hatred/dislike of the homosexual community...something that is blatantly unacceptable for a party that is dominated by religious fundamentalists.

Here is a short list of a few issues where I am in (general) agreement with most Republicans: the death penalty, gun control, the focus on building small businesses. I'll dive into these later. Now on to the enemy of the GOP: liberalism and it's champion, the Democrats. Hooray.


If the GOP is the party of no, does that make Democrats the party of yes? Perhaps. But often the things the left says yes to are things we as a country and as individuals simply do not need. However, the left is much more understanding of people and welcoming of diversity than the right, and the way the left approaches social issues reminds me a great deal of my own views. This section will be more general with regards to the issues I have already discussed, and details will be focused among other issues.

As I said before, I abhor abortion. Its existence is a black eye on modern society...but I don't think we can make it completely illegal. Does this make me pro-choice? I guess so, and therefore relatively liberal on the issue. Strangely enough, I am in favor of the death penalty as well...something I hold in common with many so called "pro-lifers" among the political right. I've never understood how a pro-life individual could choose one life over another - child or criminal - and while I value human life greatly, I don't believe (as I stated earlier) that legislating morality (abortion) or removing the ultimate deterrent (capital punishment) is the answer. I respect the fact that many people disagree with me, and in fact I likely agree morally with nearly all pro-lifers. My difference is one of government and legality, not preserving life and morality.

I also recognize and understand the need for a welfare system in this country to support those who cannot support themselves. Certainly there are those who take advantage of the system (as with any system), but the goal should be to shore up the cracks in it rather than seeking to remove it altogether. It always strikes my fancy when wealthy, upper class Americans start complaining that the system is working against them and that it is unfair for their tax dollars to go to help people less fortunate than them. Nevermind their advantageous backgrounds and the many breaks that have been given to them; I always laugh when hyper-conservative anti-welfare individuals begin chirping about "fairness". Its a term that they likely know very little about. If you couldn't tell, once again I fall on the liberal half of an issue. If conservatives would donate money to those in need, perhaps we could do without the welfare system. Admittedly, welfare is merely a band-aid covering a broken system. Yet for all their talk about replacing welfare with charity, I see little evidence of this actually happening. I wish that the Republican Party's arguments concerning welfare held up and that their solutions worked. Unfortunately, I see nothing to convince me that their answer is the right one; instead, welfare seems to be the only viable (while flawed) option to solve a systemic problem of poverty that pervades our society.

Someone? Anyone?

Hopefully I have made clear my unwillingness to be a part of either major political party. I refuse to even consider myself as conservative or liberal - moderate fits me best, in nearly every way possible. However, I do deviate from the political center in one important category: size of government. As time has gone on (especially in the last few years), our government has consistently grown larger and larger, spiraling out control with regards to spending, regulating and other action.

The bailouts (supported by both parties) were somewhat necessary, but not to the extent that they were passed. As has been noted in the past, those in Washington make sure to never let a good crisis go to waste. I could have done without cash for clunkers - all that program did was take car sales from Q3 and Q4 and move them to Q1 and Q2, rather than actually generating new sales (its more complicated than this, but you get the general idea). Can we please privatize social security? Say it with me: small government, small government, small government.


We require government intervention in order for our society to remain workable. Without taxation, the government could not provide us with defense, infrastructure, etc. The "TEA Party" individuals crack me up, failing to realize that we live in a country that taxes far less than in Europe or Canada, for example. Do you want highways and police officers to exist? Then stop complaining about being taxed. We can discuss the method of taxation - I am a major proponent of the Fair Tax system myself - but to simply cry foul about being taxed is absurd. Moving on. If there had been more stringent regulation on the financial industry, crises such as the Madoff scandal and the sub-prime mess wouldn't have happened. We need the government to act as a watchdog to protect investors and private citizens. I want market efficiency as much as anyone, and I agree/understand than regulation necessarily removes some measure of that efficiency, yet the benefits of (some) regulation greatly outweigh cons, as the dangers we expose ourselves to in an unregulated market can be immense and crippling.

To sum it up, I find myself leaning toward the Libertarian value of small government, but there are so many exceptions that I cannot commit to that party either. Some measure of regulation is necessary, and many Libertarians reject that premise. Fair enough, but it prevents me from calling them my own.

So, Where Do I Fall?

As I said before, I maintain a centrist political position, while leaning toward smaller government. I have provided a visual representation of where I exist on the political spectrum below. This came as a result of taking the political spectrum test over at; I highly recommend that anyone and everyone take the test and see where they fall. If nothing else, it's an interesting series of questions that will certainly make you think.

Regardless, politics as they exist today bother me to no end. I cannot wait for this political season to come to an end, and I am continually searching for a way to merge my own beliefs with the options presented by the current system. This is not an easy task, and is one that has me currently and constantly searching for a solution. Game on, Washington. Game on.

And so on...


  1. I share your disgust with both political parties and their shared proclivity for avoiding making the hard decisions that have to be made to correct the mess we're in. Sadly, it is our children and grandchildren who will pay the price for their cowardice. I don't care how you vote and I'm convinced you don't care how I vote :-) but ... that said, you spent a lot of time talking about abortion and I think you need to think a little more clearly about it. Here's why ...


    It is 1860 and President Lincoln gives a speech in which he says the following:

    "I have a moral opposition to slavery. A strong one, in fact. However, I disagree that the solution is to make slavery illegal. Rather, better educational opportunities and a focus on alternative economic growth issues will lead to less slavery and a healthier society. Making something illegal doesn't make it go away. And besides, there are some scenarios (such as a slaveowner who is having a hard time making ends meet, or whose slaves were bequeathed to him by his ancestors) in which I could not in good conscience make slavery illegal. Do I think slavery is abhorrent and terrible? Yes. I am in favor of limiting slavery as much as possible ... While I believe that slavery is immoral, that is not a belief I can force on others. Legislating morality is not the answer - which means that the core of the Republican party and I do not agree."

    Maybe, for good measure, he would also add: "For those who object to my reasoning, I understand. But if you don't think people should own slaves, don't own one."

    QUESTION: Do you think Lincoln's argument is reasonable and should be accepted by the abolishionists?

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  2. For readers who may actually be interested in a civil dialogue in the pursuit of truth, let me explain my previous comment ...

    The HYPOTHETICAL Lincoln quote was nothing more than a cut-and-paste of the abortion related excerpts from the post with the word "slavery" substituted for "abortion." By looking at those statements, it becomes painfully obvious that no one would attempt to excuse slavery in the same ways they attempt to excuse abortion ...

    "I have a strong moral objection to slavery, but I wouldn't want to force my moral position on others."

    "Making slavery illegal won't stop it, so why try?"

    "We can't legislate our opposition to slavery."

    "There are some legitimate objections to slavery that I can't, in good conscience, question."

    ... and so on.

    The reason for this is simple. Those who make these kinds of statements are ASSUMING that the unborn are not human beings. Kevin even admits this in his post, saying: "If a consensus can be reached in the larger community about when life begins, I believe abortion can be limited to before that moment."

    OK ...

    First, we don't determine moral truth by "consensus." Slavery was the approved consensus opinion in the South in the 19th century but that didn't make it right. Beyond that however ...

    There is no question about when life begins. A new human life begins when the male and female gametes meet to form a new entity. That entity has a DNA makeup distinct from any other human being who has ever lived. It is a fully integrated individual that develops from that instant into the fetus, baby, and adult it will eventually become. It is a distinct, whole, living human being. It can't be anything else. That human being's life is initiated at the moment of conception.

    So, I could not agree more that abortion should be prohibited from that moment. This isn't a political or religious opinion. It is a scientific FACT that you can find in any embryology textbook.

    Please understand that this is not a defense of either political party or any particular religious tradition. Some things go beyond politics, religion or personal opinion. This scientific fact is one of them. Killing distinct, whole, living human beings for our own benefit or to avoid unpleasant circumstances is a grave moral wrong. Covering it up in language that attempts to sound "moderate" does not make that wrong acceptable.

  3. BTW, for those who may be interested in learning more about how to persuasively communicate the case for life in a way that DOES NOT amount to waving a Bible in someone's face and telling them they will go to hell if they don't agree with you, may I suggest you visit the Life Training Institute website at:

  4. I would have liked to have responded to your first comment, but job interviews and homework/class/tests got in the way. Nevertheless, hooray for civil dialogue. Certainly an interesting alteration of my words to apply them to the issue of slavery. I have no more to say about it than that.

    To your second comment:

    The problem is that you are trying to simplify an issue that is far from simple, and the claims you make are entirely dependent on taking your version of morality as truth.

    The point isn't what I believe to be true or not. Yes, I agree that unborn babies are human beings, not simply organic matter. But that is a belief based on my moral upbringing, not based on scientific fact - a term you chose to use. If there were no debate on when human life began, there would be no debate about abortion. But because there is debate on this subject, debate on the topic of abortion exists. Fact.

    As for your statement that "we don't determine moral truth by 'consensus'", I see many examples in which we do make those determinations by "consensus". The legalization of marijuana, gay marriage, alcohol, and so on are cases where we (the public) use our power as voters to determine our laws, using our own moral compasses to guide us. Because every individual lives by a different moral code, any laws based on morality are reached by consensus. To believe that your moral code is absolute and correct and that anyone who disagrees with you is ignorant or wrong is an arrogant position indeed. This is a problem that plagues our churches, our politics, and our everyday lives. Moderation is vital.

    Now, if we want to play the hypothetical game, I am more than willing to do so. I am curious to hear what you would say about the following situation (one that I hope no one ever actually has to face): let's imagine that a wife is pregnant with the couple's first child, but complications for both the mother and child are adding up. The combination of complications has added up to the extent that it has become clear that attempting to deliver the baby will result in the mother's life being lost (nevermind how this determination has been made, simply assume that it has). As such, the father is faced with a choice. Either abort the unborn child, or attempt to deliver it and lose his wife. In such a situation, could you blame the husband for choosing to save the life of his wife at the expense of the child he has never met. You see, boiling such situations down into a simple distinction between "right" and "wrong" is a mistake. In many cases, the choices are simply shades of grey.

    Yes, I said that if a scientific consensus could be reached on when human life begins then I would support limits on abortion being placed to that moment. I stand by that statement. Unfortunately, the only scientific consensus we have is that life begins at birth. I certainly believe it begins before birth, but yelling my beliefs louder than everyone else doesn't make me right. It just makes me loud.

    Now, we can argue about the question of forcing moral beliefs on others, but that is another topic entirely (one that I believe is vital to this question) and deserves to be focused on by itself.

  5. [Sorry -- my comment was too long (that ought to tell me something!) so the editor said it was rejected. I tried to fix it and just made it worse .. so I split it up]

    ]I hope you didn’t take my last comment negatively (this is why I dislike email/blog comments etc. - we read tone into them that sometimes isn’t there). I was not accusing you of avoiding debate. I know you have more important things (like school!) going on. I was only trying to encourage your readers to jump in and discuss this important issue.

    Your response tells me that you are misinformed or simply unaware of some distinctions here. Let me explain …

    First, If the unborn is NOT a human being, no one needs any justification for abortion. It’s no different than getting a tooth pulled. My contention is that if it IS a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate (with one exception that you rightly brought up and I will address below). The position you are defending says, in effect, “I think it is a human being but I don’t want to tell anybody else that it is wrong to kill human beings.” I don’t know how you rationalize saying such a thing.

    Second, I fully agree that our moral opinions are greatly informed by our upbringing. No question. But that’s not the issue. It isn’t my moral opinion that life begins at conception. The joining of gametes is the scientific definition of fertilization and the beginning of the new life of ANY organism. The organism in question here has human DNA so it is a new human being. That is not debatable. And to say that the consensus is that “life begins at birth” is simply scientifically ludicrous. I can give you a (long) list of embryology textbooks, written by scientists, researchers (not theologians or moralists) that confirm this. It is a scientific fact. Actually, there are very few (but there are some) who deny this fact.

    Where you are confused is with the abortion defenders’ claim that the unborn may be human “being” but it is not yet a “person” who deserves protection. These folks believe that until the unborn acquires some specific trait or status (like consciousness, birth) it is not considered a person and can therefore be killed without reservation. This is not a scientific claim, it is a PHILOSOPHICAL claim.

    I will be glad to debate the philosophical issues but my only point is to say that the unborn’s ontological status as a human being is not in question … and that we shouldn’t be killing innocent human beings without justification.

    [… will continue below because the comment length was limited by the site ...]

  6. ... continued ...

    Your example of danger to the life of the mother is exactly correct. I completely agree that we should do everything we can to save her (and the baby, if possible) because we value the life of BOTH. No argument there. But you also need to know that this is a red herring. No one's disputing that. But that kind of situation comprises < 1% of abortions, rape and incest less than 2%. So what's the point? How does that impact the 97% of abortions that are performed in this country for issues of convenience? It doesn't.

    Finally, you say: "To believe that your moral code is absolute and correct and that anyone who disagrees with you is ignorant or wrong is an arrogant position indeed. This is a problem that plagues our churches, our politics, and our everyday lives. Moderation is vital."

    No argument about the arrogance in churches, politics etc. How could I possibly argue that point? For the record, I never once said that "my moral code is absolute and correct." But let's suppose I did. Your response is to tell me that my position is "an arrogant position indeed" and that "moderation is vital."

    So ... your position is that someone believing they are "correct" is arrogant and that everyone should hold a "moderate" position.

    QUESTION: Do you believe that YOUR position is correct? If not, why do you hold it? If so, is it arrogant to believe you are correct? If so, why are you attempting to impose that view on me?

    This is why relativistic thinking is self-refuting. But, like you said, that's another discussion altogether.

    Cheers …

  7. Chiming in late, but I think the problem with "politics" is that elected officials serve themselves- instead of the electorate. As far as a person being pro-life and pro death penalty, this is no dichotomy. There IS a difference between killing and murder after all. And we have discussed the homosexual marriage issue before. To condone homosexual marriage is to purposely condone depriving children of a mother (in the case of a male couple marrying) or a father (in the case of a female couple marrying). As a society we don't condone fatherless conditions in the inner city... neither should we promote a fatherless or motherless structure for families of the future.

  8. Bob:
    I think you misunderstand my basic point. I want to limit abortion as much as possible; the most attainable way seems to be through limiting late term abortions, then limiting second trimester abortions, and so on. The reason I find myself falling closer to the left on this issue is that I believe there are some instances (whether they are rare or not isn't the issue) where abortion cannot be made illegal. Because I do not support an across-the-board prohibition of abortion, most pro-lifers and I will disagree. And so be it.

    To the "arrogance" statement I made, I was using you in a universal sense. I tend to do that a lot. Anyway, I do think it is arrogant for someone to "know" that their version of morality is correct and better than everyone else's. Confidence is one thing, "knowing" is something else altogether. Knowing that you are right about an issue removes any chance for dialogue.

    In response to your QUESTION: I like to think that my beliefs are supported by the evidence I have encountered thus far in my life, but I certainly cannot prove them to be factually correct. Instead, they are true in the sense that they are honest and well-intentioned, the logical results of my personal experiences. Arrogance would be to claim that my answers to life's questions are better or more correct or more factual than someone else's, because that requires ranking my life experience as better or more important than someone else's, which is blatantly arrogant.

    I believe what I believe because the evidence I have access to leads me to those conclusions. It isn't arrogant to believe something, but it is arrogant to claim that my beliefs are correct while yours are not. That assumes that the evidence I have is the only evidence that exists, which I have no way of knowing or proving. As such, I try not to impose my views on anyone. Yes, I will state what I believe and why I believe it, but I have no problem with someone voicing disagreement. In fact, I welcome it. Like I said, dialogue is the goal (if not the purpose) of a setting such as this.

    To be honest, I think our disagreement is contained in the way you worded the question. Your word choice implies that you believe that beliefs can either be correct or incorrect, yet I do not think this is the case. Nothing abstract (like social issues) is completely black and white, but attempting to assign correctness requires that only those two colors exist. Some issues have no right answers, no factual end point; instead, they are abstract and relative. And while it seems like you cannot stand relativism, many times it appears that it is impossible to find one answer that fits all situations, and the freedom to answer the same questions differently in different situations is required to create the best outcomes. I disagree with your notion that relativism is self-refuting. In fact, often it makes more sense than any other approach.

    Who is to say that the state isn't committing murder by carrying out the death penalty? Killing is killing, right? Now, I don't believe that to be true, but it doesn't require mental gymnastics to see that as a plausible way to look at the issue.

    I question your statement that condoning gay marriage is to "purposely condone depriving children". Does condoning the legality of alcohol "purposely condone" the abuse of it? I think not. If I condone gay marriage, it is because I condone equal rights for all Americans. There is no underlying motive.

    I don't really want to get into the parenting argument again; you and I disagree about it, and so be it. I just don't think much will be accomplished by dissecting it again.

  9. Kevin,
    You said: I want to limit abortion as much as possible


    This is the same as the politicians who want abortion to be “safe, legal and rare.” But if there’s nothing morally wrong with it, who cares if it’s rare? If you cannot tell others that abortion is morally wrong, you have no right to impose your moral opinion on them (your words, not mine). So, abortion is either a moral wrong or it is not. This is basic logic (the law of the excluded middle). There is no “middle ground.” If it is not a moral wrong, you have no justification for limiting it. Your desire to do so is just an irrelevant personal preference.

    … there are some instances (whether they are rare or not isn't the issue) where abortion cannot be made illegal

    The rarity absolutely IS the issue, Kevin. Are you seriously suggesting that because of ONE unique circumstance -- danger to the life of the mother (on which I’ve already said I agree with you) -- we as a society have no right to question any other instances of abortion? Is that a position you want to defend -- that there is no moral difference at all between those situations?

    You obviously do not believe this because you said you think we should limit abortion. I’m just trying to point out that your reasoning here is muddled and inconsistent. You can’t have it both ways.

    Think about the cognitive dissonance that is at play here. If a pregnant woman is on her way to an abortion clinic, and the doctor who will perform the abortion runs a stops sign, t-bones her car, and kills her; in 37 states in this country he is charged with 2 counts of negligent homicide. However, if she makes it to the abortion clinic, the doctor can intentionally take the baby’s life with impunity. Is that FACT morally coherent to you?

    I do think it is arrogant for someone to "know" that their version of morality is correct and better than everyone else’s … It isn't arrogant to believe something, but it is arrogant to claim that my beliefs are correct while yours are not.

    Really? You keep repeating this in different ways so I have to assume that you recognize this as moral relativism. Here is the problem with it: This would mean that we (and the rest of the world) had no business telling Nazi Germany that its “version of morality” -- which included genocide and Aryan domination of the world -- was any better or worse than ours. After all, it was the consensus of the German people.

    You ignored it before (actually, you blew it off as “interesting” without need for further comment), but the point of my original comment was that the Confederate States also had reached the moral consensus that slavery was acceptable. On your view, the abolitionists had no basis to claim their view of human rights was any better than the slave owners.

    Do you actually believe both of these to be true?

    I have no problem saying that I “know” that my moral views on human rights are superior to those of the Nazis and the slavery defenders. If you want to be consistent with your view, you cannot say the same thing. I don’t think you really believe that -- but to be CONSISTENT, you have to say you do.

    This is also the issue with abortion. It is a human rights issue. Innocent, defenseless human beings (as defined by science, not by me or by my Bible -- see above) are being intentionally targeted and killed. I don’t think it is “arrogant” to see it as the same kind of moral wrong -- and to say so unapologetically.

  10. I did say I want to limit abortion as much as possible. Why? Because I do. Simple. Perhaps much of this disagreement comes from the fact that I do not believe Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned, and posturing as if it will be isn't worth my time or yours. The statements I make exist in a world where abortion is legal, is a problem that plagues our society and we have to deal with. If making it completely illegal isn't an option (because I do not believe that our government or legal system will ever allow it to be), then we have to work within the parameters which currently exist. And the best that can be done within those parameters is to "limit abortion as much as possible", by which I mean limit it's legality as much as possible.

    I do believe that abortion is morally wrong, something I have stated and restated many times throughout this conversation. So why would I want it to be rare? Because if I believe that we cannot (and will not) make it illegal, then rarity is the next best thing. It becomes a question of degrees - while neither of us want a serial killer to have any victims, wouldn't you prefer that he have 2 rather than 20, if given only those two choices?

    I never said that we shouldn't question other instances of abortion outside of the "life of the mother" example. In fact, you seem to be overlooking my points and taking my words out of context. Immediately after I said that I want to limit abortion as much as possible, I stated that I want to end late-term abortions, then second trimester abortions, and so on. You overlook my statement but then claim that I must support society having "no right to question any...instances of abortion"; in fact, I question ALL instances abortion EXCEPT for the rare instances I have noted previously. If this wasn't clear to you then we must have miscommunicated. Regardless, my reasoning isn't "muddled and inconsistent". You simply have misread and overlooked key parts of my previous statements.

  11. To the moral relativism question: yes, I do recognize it as such. However, this is a question buried deep in a grey area (as I have stated before). Clearly there are some aspects of morality that are consistent among all (most) people, for example that murder is wrong. An example of a grey area of morality would be the question of whether killing is wrong (like in war, or government-sanctioned execution). There are no two sides to the question of whether genocide is immoral, and to suggest that somehow the German people acted as one to condone genocide is appalling indeed. This flies in the face of the many attempts on Hitler's life, the German Resistance movement, and the work by individuals such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I didn't expect you to make such a callous and unfounded statement. The genocide done by the Nazis happened because a few madmen held power, and through fear of their own lives soldiers were forced to carry out these horrific acts.

    This has nothing to do with consistency. My version of moral relativism does not require that every question of morality be up for grabs. You made the statement that the South had reached a consensus that slavery was acceptable - which for the sake of argument I will agree with. In the same way, we as a society today have reached a consensus that slavery is immoral. And while I do agree that slavery is abhorrent and wrong much in the same way abortion is, it is a view of morality that exists by consensus. Its place as unquestioned moral truth is perhaps less due to its correctness, and more due to the fact that "justice is the advantage of the stronger"*. If the South had won the Civil War, the way people look at slavery would certainly have evolved differently, and any discussion about the morality of slavery would look quite different.

    My point about abortion is that yes, everyone would agree that it is a human rights issue. However, many would argue that the only human in play is the mother. And until consensus about that question can be reached by the larger community (embryology textbooks aside), abortion is a real problem that we will have to deal with. Because I don't anticipate that consensus being reached, we have to work to limit abortions in whatever way possible outside of across the board illegality - and that includes working for "better educational opportunities and focusing on family growth", which I stated in my original post and you sort-of-slammed me for.

    And once again (hopefully for the last time), your beliefs about morality have no bearing on whether you are arrogant or not. Arrogance comes when someone throws their beliefs in another's face, and berates/looks down on/judges someone who believes differently than them. I state my beliefs unapologetically, just as you do. But the key is the way in which we approach other people, looking at them as an individual and not as the personification of the belief.

    *Thrasymachus, The Republic

  12. I’m wondering if this discussion has passed the point of being productive so I will end with this response...

    First, I sincerely apologize if you feel that I “sort-of-slammed” you about anything. I’m not sure why you think that about the specific instance you named -- all I did was substitute slavery for abortion in your original post to demonstrate that the argument doesn’t hold up. That is not a slam on you, it’s an attempt to expose a faulty argument. In any case, I want to be clear about something. I guess I (like you) also use “you” in a universal sense. I do NOT mean to be attacking you personally. I believe we should be tolerant of people, but intolerant of bad ideas. I don’t think the core of our disagreement is about abortion per se. It is about moral relativism (MR) -- which I think is a demonstrably bad, and false, idea that leads to absurd and indefensible conclusions that support my case … So, from here on I will direct my comments at MR, not at you.

    MR leads to inconsistent conclusions: I’m glad that you insist that abortion is a moral wrong. The problem is that MR doesn’t allow its adherent to claim anything is actually morally wrong, only that it is their preference to think it is morally wrong. So I’m not sure, under MR, how we could advocate limiting abortion at all if the cultural consensus allows it to go on legally? On what basis can a MR defend their wish to “limit it’s legality as much as possible”? If society has deemed it legal, who is the MR to question that? This is what I meant when I said your argument was inconsistent. On one hand you were declaring an objective moral position (abortion is wrong), while at the same time claiming adherence to MR, which says that there is no such thing as an objective moral claim.

    ... continued below ...

  13. … continued from above …

    MR undermines moral authority to achieve cultural change: You stated that “it isn’t worth [our] time” to fight against abortion because it’s the law of the land and making it completely illegal “isn’t an option.” Beside the fact that legal does not equal moral, I wonder if that’s what they told the abolitionists after the Supreme Court issued the Dred Scot decision that deemed slaves didn’t count as persons, or after Plessy-vs-Ferguson entrenched racial segregation? Yes, I’d rather have fewer victims, but that doesn’t mean that fighting for the rights of defenseless human beings is a fool’s errand. In my opinion, for me to believe that abortion is morally wrong and NOT continue the fight against it would constitute a demonstration of moral cowardice on my part. (To be clear, I am speaking ONLY for myself when I say that). MR undermines that option by giving equal weight to inferior moral opinions.

    Case in point -- You are correct that I did not acknowledge your position to end late-term abortions etc. but it was not deliberate and I did not take you out of context. I was simply focusing on the one point we agreed on (life of the mother) and pointing out that society (not YOU) continually focuses on the rare instances to justify abortion while > 97% of the abortions that are performed are purely for issues of convenience or to avoid painful/difficult circumstances. My apologies if I wasn’t clear on that.

    … continued below …

  14. MR leads to “Might makes Right”:No, I did not include all the facts about Nazi Germany. I am completely aware of the resistance (which was a minority, hardly a “consensus,” position and therefore invalid according to MR). Bonhoeffer died in prison for his actions -- which further demonstrates that MR also leads to those who have the most power determining what is acceptable and what isn’t. In fact, you admit this aspect of MR in your discussion of what will be my final point …

    MR leads to absurd conclusions: I don’t think you could not have picked a better example to help me make my case than the MR response to slavery you offered here:

    we as a society today have reached a consensus that slavery is immoral. And while I do agree that slavery is abhorrent and wrong much in the same way abortion is, it is a view of morality that exists by consensus. Its place as unquestioned moral truth is perhaps less due to its correctness, and more due to the fact that "justice is the advantage of the stronger"*. If the South had won the Civil War, the way people look at slavery would certainly have evolved differently, and any discussion about the morality of slavery would look quite different.

    So, on this view of MR, if the South had won the Civil War it is possible that “the way people look at slavery would certainly have evolved differently, and any discussion about the morality of slavery would look quite different.” In other words, MR allows the possibility that slavery could be morally acceptable if our views had “evolved” differently.

    Can you not admit that it is repugnant to suggest that slavery would be OK under any circumstances? This is a perfect example of why MR is a bankrupt and dangerous view. Slavery is wrong for all people, at all times, in all places, for any reason. I don’t care how anyone’s views “evolve,” they cannot justify otherwise -- and that is the definition of objective moral truth.


    I want you to know that I sincerely appreciate the dialogue. I greatly respect what you have already accomplished and where you are headed. You are an intelligent, talented and compassionate young man. I wouldn’t have come to read your stuff (or bother to take the time to comment) if I didn’t believe that. In fact, I probably disagree with about everything you say politically :-) but I enjoy hearing and learning from your point of view. I only jumped in on this because I think the abortion topic transcends politics and I hope you will seriously consider why I say that.

    I also want you to know that I admire your courage for putting your thoughts out for public exposure. I know it can be not-so-fun and very challenging to do so. I’ve been doing the same thing for about 5 years over at: I encourage you to stop in over there and challenge my thinking any time. Iron sharpening iron and all that.

    My hope is that we can all hold our views passionately but tentatively -- with the understanding that we could be wrong. I sincerely hope you will consider that in reference to our discussion here. It’s too important a topic to not take seriously.

    Cheers ...

  15. Kevin- not understanding why you would say this: "Killing is killing, right? Now, I DON"T BELIEVE THIS TO BE TRUE (emphasis mine), but it doesn't require mental gymnastics to see that as a plausible way to look at the issue." Are you playing devil's advocate, or are you being open minded and just considering the opinions of others? Really wondering.

    Also not understanding the comparison of the condoning of homosexual marriage to condoning alcohol consumption. If I drink alcohol, I am not depriving a child of a mother or father. That totally makes no sense to me.

    And homosexuals do have equal rights. They may marry anyone they choose of the opposite gender just as everyone else in the country may marry anyone of the opposite gender they choose.

    You asked for thoughts and comments about your blog, yet when I spoke regarding the results of homosexual marriage (children raised without their mother or father) you said, "I just don't think much will be accomplished by dissecting it again." If you bring up the subject again, doesn't it deserve a valid response? If you brush off someone's opinion as irrelevant, does that automatically make that person's opinion invalid? At the beginning of this post, it seemed that you wanted to consider all opinions?

  16. Bob:
    The irony of the last thing you said is that that was my point all along. We should hold what we believe closely and strongly, but without presuming with certainty that we are correct. When I say that these questions hold a certain measure of relativity in their answers, I mean that in many cases we can never know what is correct or "true". As such, we have to respect a diversity of views. That's all I was pushing for all along.

    I was both playing devil's advocate AND being open minded. One can do both at the same time.

    You totally missed the point on the alcohol reference. My point wasn't to say the effects are the same - obviously they are like apples and oranges. Alcohol can be abused (through drunk driving, abusive behavior, etc.) just as the ability to have children can be abused (by abusing them, etc.). If a homosexual parent is harming their child, they should not be able to keep the child (just as it should be for straight parents who abuse their children).

    Your statement about equal rights rings quite closely to old "seperate-but-equal" laws. Things like this: "Blacks have equal rights. They can go to whatever black school and drink from whatever black water fountain they choose." That's blatant inequality, isn't it? In the same way, saying that homosexuals have equal rights with regards to marriage is laughable. We should all have the right to marry whoever we choose. Period. Love knows no bounds.

    And the reason why I said that I didn't want to dissect it again is because you brought up the same arguments this time that you did previously. I'm not brushing your opinion off as irrelevant; however, you seem to care about only one issue, and we have discussed that issue before on this blog. If you want more of my views on the gay marriage issue, reread our previous conversation. I think that is fair.

  17. You failed to address any of the issues surrounding moral relativism. And, when you say "we can never know what is correct or 'true,'" I assume you believe that to be "true" statement. So, once again, you have demonstrated the vacuousness of relativism.

    The simple fact is that we CAN know when something is true or false. Back to my original analogy -- It is TRUE that slavery is morally wrong anywhere, anytime for any reason, no matter how society might "evolve." It is also TRUE that abortion is morally wrong. Justifying either by invoking the circumstances of those who practice them as having the ability to mitigate their moral wrongness just doesn't work.

  18. By the way, don't take my caution to hold views tentatively in a way I didn't intend it. What I mean by that is that I am open to listening to other views to see if they have to power to persuade me that my views may be incorrect. So far, I have heard nothing of the sort. I hold to the views I do precisely because I believe them to be correct.

    So do you.

    It would be ridiculous (and irrational) to claim to hold to views that we do not believe to be correct.

  19. I recognize that MR at face value has issues. That is why I place a limit on it within my belief structure: morality is relative, to an extent. The last half of that phrase allows me to essentially pick and choose what is relative and what is not, though that isn't necessarily my goal. And when I say "we can never know what is correct or true", I say that fully recognizing that there are exceptions to that statement. To explain every exception to a given maxim would be exhausting, and I trust you to understand my underlying point.

    I don't disagree with you that slavery is morally wrong. I also agree that abortion is morally wrong. I never attempted to justify either practice; I did, however, explain why I find it exceedingly difficult to affect the legality of the latter situation.

    You continue to harp on the slavery argument, and that is certainly fine. But do you recognize that this moral wrong was only corrected by a civil war? A moral consensus was forced upon citizens by the government for political reasons...and while the outcome (the end of slavery) is a wonderful thing, the means to it were perhaps just as abhorrent. If we are only concerned with ends and not means, fine. But I challenge that. And that challenge makes it difficult for me to believe that abortion will be made illegal in the relatively near future, if ever.

  20. "It would be ridiculous (and irrational) to claim to hold to views that we do not believe to be correct."

    Agreed. But it would be naive to not recognize the possibility that we are wrong. And that requires a level of caution and tact which are rarely seen in conversations concerning morality and beliefs.

  21. I understand that you have stated that both slavery and abortion are morally wrong. I'm not questioning that. What I am questioning is the ontology (the nature) of moral truth, not how we know it. You continue to claim (and again repeated your belief) that morality is arrived at by consensus. Yet, the example you give actually refutes that possibility.

    You said, "the moral consensus [was] forced upon citizens by the government for political reasons." OK, but that was ONLY the moral consensus of the NORTH. In the SOUTH, the moral consensus was that slavery was acceptable. And therein lies the self-refuting nature of MR.

    If the south's "consensus" is that slavery is OK, while the north's "consensus" is that slavery is wrong -- which is it?! is slavery actually right or wrong?

    Under MR, you cannot say. In fact, under MR, the north HAS NO RIGHT or basis from which it could be so arrogant as to force its view on the south.

    Further, you stated earlier that: "If the South had won the Civil War, the way people look at slavery would certainly have evolved differently, and any discussion about the morality of slavery would look quite different.

    My claim is that it is outrageous to say that if the south had won the war, it is possible that we could have "evolved" to think slavery is morally acceptable. Seriously? You still have not defended that statement.

    I am only "harping" on the slavery issue because, as I stated in the first comment, no one would ever accept the rationalizations given to allow (or to not try to stop) abortion if the same rationalizations were applied to slavery. Yet, both slavery and abortion are wrong for the same reason - they are perpetrated against intrinsically valuable human beings.

    This conversation long ago moved beyond the abortion issue to a discussion of MR. My point is that MR does not get anyone off the hook for abortion or slavery. MR makes it worse because MR is a false (and therefore indefensible) view of the nature of moral truth, as I have repeatedly demonstrated.

    Yes, there are morally difficult dilemmas that we have to deal with -- but abortion (like slavery) is not one of them.

  22. "You continue to claim (and again repeated your belief) that morality is arrived at by consensus. Yet, the example you give actually refutes that possibility...If the south's "consensus" is that slavery is OK, while the north's "consensus" is that slavery is wrong -- which is it?! is slavery actually right or wrong?"

    Before (and during) the war the moral consensus for north and south differed. But the moment the war ended and the south surrendered the consensus for the entire nation became the north's "consensus". By force. I agree that there was no actual consensus among all citizens, but Lincoln's government forced a consensus upon its citizens by means of war. And while I agree with that artificial consensus (that slavery is morally wrong), I disagree with the means to that end. It isn't self refuting; rather, it backs up the claim that "justice is the advantage of the stronger".

    I haven't defended the statement about the evolution of morality because it hasn't seemed to be a pressing issue. I will now. If the south had won the war, slavery as a part of society would have continued, and would have remained acceptable within the new Confederate nation. In the north slavery would have remained morally unacceptable, while in the south it would have been accepted, if not encouraged. This is because of the fickle nature of many people's beliefs - we follow the crowd more often than not. And can you imagine how strongly southerners would have held onto slavery if they had won the war, if only to spite the Yankees who had attempted to change their way of life? Once again, not a matter of correctness, but perception.

    And I guess I have to reiterate this point: I don't subscribe to MR in the literal sense. Not everything is relative, obviously. Rather, I view it as a caution to my approach to beliefs and a way to check myself from becoming overconfident or arrogant about what I believe. I simply cannot know the truth of all my beliefs. Accepting that fact is the most charitable way forward, and allows dialogue to develop more honestly with those individuals I am in disagreement with.

  23. You continue to miss the difference between how we arrive at moral positions and the actual ontological nature of moral reality.

    When you say: "If the south had won the war, slavery as a part of society would have continued, and would have remained acceptable within the new Confederate nation," you are implying that slavery in the south would not have been morally wrong in that case because it would have been "accepted." MR demands that you say that.

    What I am saying is that slavery is morally wrong regardless of anyone's consensus about it. It is wrong in and of itself. I don't know how many different ways I can say that.

    I also find it eye-opening the lengths to which some will go to rationalize MR when doing so forces them to make claims like those that have been made here about such an abhorrent issue as slavery. Not only so but, in your latest comment, you seem to be fine with the notion that moral positions are up to the whims of the stronger -- that "might makes right."

    As I have said before, that is (one of) the achilles heel of MR -- it forces its adherents to say things that are as obviously repugnant as that. I hope I am misunderstanding your position there.

    Finally, there is a world of difference between being confident in a position, and being arrogant about a position. You seem to imply that confidence = arrogance. I hope you can appreciate that they are two completely different things. I can be completely confident in a position I take and also be completely tolerant of those who disagree with me. In fact, disagreement is a prerequisite for tolerance.

  24. I agree that slavery is morally wrong regardless of the circumstances. I'm not sure how many different times I have to point out that I agree with that.

    It's not that I am a fan of moral positions being left the the "whims of the stronger" is that I understand that as the way a moral consensus is artificially created. And for a moral position to become law, there must be some level of consensus. Otherwise we just have anarchy.

    It isn't that "might makes right"; it is that might forces a certain perception of right on those who are not in power.

    The reason I continue to focus on moral positions as opposed to "moral realities", as you say, is because of the difficult and often impossiblity in discovering moral realities. Sure, we can agree that slavery or abortion is morally repugnant. Either way, consensus is reached. But how do we find the "moral reality" of whether gambling or alcohol consumption of being a Michigan football fan are moral or immoral? We cannot. Hence my stance that morality is relative, to an extent. There are a few exceptions where morality is constant: slavery being immoral, murder being immoral, etc. But for most everything else there is no certainty to moral principles. They are merely products of perception.

    We can hold our positions and be confident about them, but not sure. Assuredness is naive. Confidence can be arrogant, but it doesn't have to be. There is certainly a line between confidence and arrogance, and it is fairly apparent when it is crossed. Yes, disagreement is a prerequisite for tolerance. But disagreement can manifest itself in many ways. Obviously you understand the many forms it can take, and the levels of confidence and naivety and arrogance it may possess.

  25. I agree that slavery is morally wrong regardless of the circumstances. I'm not sure how many different times I have to point out that I agree with that.

    I know you say that. But the position you take regarding consensus and its "artificial" creation, and that you "don't subscribe to MR in a "literal sense" and that it depends on the "whims of the stronger" etc. -- Each of those morally relative statements undermines your stated position. There is no "literal sense" in which MR works. It is either true or it is false. It cannot be both at the same time.

    This is the problem with MR of any kind. It is an attempt to explain how we know (epistemology) moral truth, but it does not explain the existence of good/bad, right/wrong (ontology). These are two completely different things. Maybe you aren't familiar with the difference between epistemology and ontology so let me try to give a clearer example -- apparently I have failed to make it clear.

    Forget slavery and abortion. Let's use rape. I say rape is wrong regardless of how, or whether, you reach a consensus about it. For instance, a hard core neo-Darwinian Evolutionist (DE) will say that the goal of natural selection is for a species to get its genes into the next generation -- survival of the fittest and all that.

    So, on DE, the argument can be (and has been!) made that the reproductive act is natural selection's way of propagating the species' genes. Therefore, on DE, sexual intercourse within marriage is not in any way morally different from rape. It's just an explanation for why it happens.

    DE's way of explaining the act is a form of MR. It is an explanation for the behavior (an evolutionary "consensus" if you will), but it does not, and cannot, address the moral status of the act of rape itself.

    I'm really not trying to be difficult, and I hope this example clears up what I'm saying. This is why MR is so frustrating to me. It sounds really reasonable on the surface, but when you dig into it, it becomes untenable. Unfortunately, it is so prevalent and accepted in our culture that most people cannot imagine any other way of looking at it.

    I'll leave it at that.

  26. Ok, on the off chance (little joke there) that my last might not have been clear, let me share my driveway-snow-shoveling epiphany that I should have given right at the beginning of this but was too stupid to realize.

    We both say rape, slavery, abortion, murder etc. are wrong, but we are saying two different things. (That was my epiphany).

    Here's what I mean. You say it as a self-professed moral relativist (MRV). I say it as a moral realist (MRE).

    When an MRV says something is "wrong," it is nothing more than a personal (the most radical kind of MRV) preference, or that of the group, community, culture, nation to which he belongs. It is therefore, an opinion that could be different depending on the consensus -- as you have repeatedly stated. It is subjective.

    When an MRE says something it "wrong," he is saying it is wrong in the objective sense. In other words, it is wrong regardless of anyone's opinion. It is like gravity. It is built into the fabric of the universe. It is true (in the objective sense) whether we believe in it or not. It is something we discover, not something we construct.

    So, we can both say something is wrong and mean completely different things. My failure to clarify that is why we have been talking past one another.

    Lastly, I have deliberately avoided it, but I must say this: I have never seen anyone who can make the case (arguing from the biblical text) that the Biblical view of truth or morality is a MRV view. The Bible is very clearly in the MRE camp. We don't need to invoke the Bible to make the case for MRE (and I have not), but I think it is clearly compatible with the MRE view, and incompatible with the MRV view.

    Hope this helps ...

  27. I understood what you were saying. But I appreciate the clarification.

    You haven't answered my question of how we find the "moral realist's" position on the other questions I raised (gambling, drinking, etc.). I'd be curious to hear your response.

    Either way, you are still missing my stance. I believe in MRV to an extent (a statement I have made repeatedly); by this I mean that some things I believe are "wrong regardless of anyone's opinion" (your words), such as murder, rape, slavery, etc. However, there are many other cases where morality is based on "an opinion that could be different depending on the consensus" (your words again). In other words, there are cases where MRE is a better view and cases where MRV is a better view. It may seem to you that I disagree with MRE in all cases; this is completely untrue. Instead, I have found myself defending the fact that MRV is relevant in some/many cases (though not all)...and as such I have focused on why I think it has credence as a theory in some cases. The "to an extent" portion of my stance is essential...if you miss it or ignore it or misunderstand it then you will have a misconstrued understanding of what I believe.

  28. OK, good, but now we're onto something different. Before I respond to your questions, I want to be clear about why this started. Your original post said (in part):

    "I do have a moral opposition to abortion. A strong one, in fact. However, I disagree that the solution is to make abortion illegal." and that ... "there are some scenarios ... in which I could not in good conscience make abortion illegal.

    THIS was what prompted me to comment by substituting slavery for abortion. My point was to say that a clearly grievous objective moral wrong (like slavery or abortion) cannot be condoned or looked past because of the difficulties we would have in making it stop. All laws are put in place to prohibit morally wrong behavior. That’s what laws do. My point was that the instances you cited for which you “could not in good conscience make abortion illegal” were not sufficient to allow a grievous objective moral wrong like abortion to continue to be condoned by society (i.e. remain legal)

    With that reminder, I think your examples (gambling, drinking) are a different kind of thing than abortion simply because they do not rise to the level of “grievous objective moral wrongs.” There are very few “objective moral wrongs” on which we can base our ethical choices. I can’t list what they all are but, by definition they all fall under the heading “harming or denying another human being their natural rights without justification” (that’s my paraphrased definition -- I don’t know that there’s a formal one). Because all the things we’ve talked about (murder, rape, abortion, slavery …) do this, they are all grievous moral wrongs. Anything that violates this clear standard is an objective moral wrong.

    As a Christian, we can also identify moral wrongs as those things that are clearly prohibited in special revelation (the Bible) but those kinds of things also fall under the above definition, so we don’t “need” the Bible to ground our ethics, but it is consistent with Biblical teaching.

    Continued below …

  29. … continued

    With that in mind …

    DRINKING … does not constitute an objective moral wrong unless one engages in it (or anything else for that matter) to the point where it causes harm to other human beings. At that point it falls under the above category (drunk driving kills someone). I think we can also apply it to ourselves if, by our own failure to limit how much we drink, we lose our ability to naturally control/honor our own personhood. Obviously a Christian has an added standard of “drunkenness” which parallels this and is mirrored in the Bible.

    It amazes me when Christians claim that drinking is sinful when that is nowhere to be found in the Bible. Drunkenness is another story. But I find it ironic that the same people who tell you that drinking is sinful will shove a dozen donuts in their face on Sunday morning while chastising me for having a beer with my pizza the night before. It never occurs to them that the sin of gluttony (which is specifically mentioned in the Bible but never spoken of in “polite” Christian debate) does not prohibit us from eating.

    GAMBLING … can be wrong/sinful in the same way. It depends on motivation and whether or not one allows it to control their person, or impact their family etc. and we’re back to the definition of a moral wrong. I can spend a couple of hours playing blackjack with $50 and look at it as nothing but a form of entertainment.

    These examples, however, do not constitute MR. They are simply behavioral choices that may or may not rise the level of an objective moral wrong.

    Notice that the moral wrongness comes only in the abuse of the thing, not in its essence -- which is different from something like abortion. There are no levels or degrees of slavery or abortion. They are just wrong in and of themselves.

    Does that make sense?

  30. Yes, because I agree with it. However, I would argue that your explanations on drinking and gambling DO constitute MR...your use of the word "depends", by its very nature, implies relativism on some scale.

    My point is that many individuals would argue that drinking and gambling are absolutely wrong, that in no case are those actions acceptable or defendable. Obviously, you and I disagree with those people, but they exist nonetheless. The same goes for churches (such as the Nazarenes) which believe that going to movies or listening to secular music is morally wrong. They would argue that there are moral absolutes (truths) in these situations, while you and I would not. Drinking and gambling are acceptable, given certain parameters. The acceptability is relative to the degree of action, and deciding where lines are crossed is something left up to the perception of the individual.

    If that isn't morally relative, I don't know what is.