ö The Skeptical Review Online - Author Farrell Till
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Smoke Screens and Straw Men

a response to

Jerry McDonald's reply
to

"Does a Person Exist at the Moment of Conception?"




Jerry McDonald, whose debating attempts to defend biblical inerrancy are indexed on a special title page on this website, has posted on his website an article that attempted to reply to "Does a Person Exist at the Moment of Conception?" an article in which I cited scientific information that casts serious doubts on the claim of biblical fundamentalists that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes murder. "Smoke Screens and Straw Men" is the title I have given to this reply, because, as readers will see, McDonald spent more time laying down smoke screens and fighting straw men than he did actually trying to address the scientific information cited in my article. He said that he would post on his website any reply that I may choose to write, so I will expect him to honor that promise.

In addition to using Till and McDonald as ID tags, I will color code McDonald's article as I quote it. His quotations from my original article, as well as my own quotations from some of my other articles, will be printed in red, and his introductory comments and later "replies" will be printed in blue. My debating experiences with McDonald have now spanned almost 20 years, and during those years I have found him to be a close-minded biblicist, who thinks that he has the right answers to all matters involving religious disagreements. Those experiences will explain to readers who may not know him why at times I speak quite frankly about his arrogant belief that he is right and couldn't possibly be wrong.

In his online version of The Skeptical Review Mr Till has come to us with an article entitled "Does A Person Exist at the Moment of Conception? Which [sic] he presents what he thinks is a scientific argument showing that life does not begin at conception. In this article you will find both his article and my response.

In my experiences with Jerry McDonald, mentioned above, I have found that he either has a reading handicap or is deliberately deceptive when he undertakes to "answer" an opponent. The title of my article that he has tried to answer is "Does a Person Exist at the Moment of Conception?" Neither the title nor the article anywhere asked if life exists at the moment of conception. In no way did I even imply in the article that I think that life doesn't exist at the moment of conception. I am not a scientist, but I understand enough about biology to know that "life" must necessarily exist even before conception. The gametes (male and female reproductive cells) that unite at the moment of conception are both alive. One has only to put sperm cells under a microscope and watch their swimming motion to recognize that they are alive. If the gametes were not alive before the moment of conception, no conception could take place.

The fact that the gametes are alive before conception, however, does not make them "persons" any more than the fact that the blood oozing from a scratch on my hand is a person. The blood is alive--and even McDonald's beloved, inerrant Bible says that "life is in the blood" (Gen. 9:4; Lev. 17:11,14)--but it is not a person. It is simply part of the many living cells that make up the body of a person. As I continue through McDonald's article, I will point out the number of times that he either ignorantly or intentionally misled his readers into thinking that I have claimed that "life" doesn't exist at the moment of conception.

Till:
For several decades, abortion has been a driving force on the American political scene, and it no doubt played a key role in voting patterns of the Christian fundamentalists who were largely responsible for returning to the White House a "president" who half of the citizenry believe has been reckless and at times downright incompetent in both domestic and foreign affairs. As a former fundamentalist preacher and foreign missionary, I can appreciate the concerns that many Bible believers have about this emotionally charged issue. Even after my personal studies of the Bible had convinced me that it was not the inspired, inerrant word of God, as I had been taught to believe in my childhood and Bible college classes, I still thought that abortion was a deliberate act of murder. Even though I had by that time spent some fifteen years in rather serious biblical studies, I had not yet disassociated myself from my fundamentalist background sufficiently to see the points that I developed in "Abortion and the God of the Bible," which points cast serious doubts on pro-life attempts to associate abortion with flagrant disregard of biblical principles.

McDonald:
Abortion, alone, has not been the driving force in American politics. Yes, it definitely played a key role in voting patterns of Christians in the last two elections.

I am sure that careful readers noticed that I said that "abortion has been a driving force on the American political scene." Furthermore, the comment was intended only as part of my introductory remarks. I didn't intend it to be understood as a major point for an opponent to use as a smoke screen to hide from answering the central question addressed in my article: "Does a Person Exist at the Moment of Conception?" We will see McDonald consistently evade this question and devote his time to saying that "life" exists at the moment of conception, something that I never once denied.

McDonald:
Homosexuality was another driving force, along with embryonic stem cell research.

McDonald will get no argument from me here, because the ignorance of religious fundamentalists pertaining to homosexuality, which scientific research so far indicates is not something that individuals choose, and embryonic stem-cell research, which, as my article showed, would not involve the killing of "persons," were certainly driving forces for Christian fundamentalists who apparently thought that it would be better to have a "president" who, after having used family influence to evade combat duty when he was military age, didn't even blink at the idea of sending thousands of young men and women off to die or be permanently crippled or maimed in a war that was started under false pretenses. None of these young men and women, of course, would be this "president's" daughters or nieces or nephews. They would come primarily from the lower social classes for which he has always shown little regard and even at times outright disdain.

I could comment forever about the dishonesty of McDonald's presidential hero, but the deplorable personal character of George Bush really has nothing to do with whether a "person" exists at the moment of conception, so I will leave it to readers to pass judgment on McDonald's admiration of someone who most citizens--even many of whom once defended him--have come to regard as the worst president in our nation's history. I can take solace in knowing that I opposed him from the beginning.

McDonald:
However, the war on Terrorism played a key role in the last general election.

It did in the sense that people who couldn't see through Bush's dishonesty and phoniness allowed themselves to be scared into voting for him. I take great pride in saying that I wasn't one of them.

McDonald:
People knew that John Kerry didn't have the intestinal fortitude to see things through (and I shiver every time I think where we would be right now if Al Gore had been in the White House on 9/11), and the nation knew that President Bush did have what it took.

McDonald cannot know how Gore or Kerry would have performed as president, since neither of them made it to the White House, very likely because of dishonest voting tactics in both cases. On the other hand, we do know how Bush has performed, and if McDonald thinks that his performance has been noteworthy, that speaks volumes about McDonald's lack of judgment.

McDonald:
This is why he was re-elected.

In order to be reelected, one must first be elected, and Bush was not elected in 2000. There are serious doubts about whether he was honestly elected in 2004. Regardless of whether he was elected or not, that would in no way prove that he was the best choice for the country. Does McDonald think that every person who has been elected president was the best choice that could have been made at the time?

McDonald:
I don't know where Mr. Till gets his information (maybe from the polls--which are not really a reality of the peoples [sic] desire in this country), but most of the people I know, even the Democrats, are satisfied with the way the [sic] President Bush has conducted himself in office.

McDonald is a preacher in one of the most conservative branches of the Church of Christ, so I suspect that "most of the people [he] know[s]" are also members of this church. As McDonald has repeatedly shown in my debates with him and in his participation in the Errancy forum, he will stubbornly refuse to admit that he is wrong, even when he has confronted overwhelming evidence that he is. That is a personality trait that is generally true of Church-of-Christ members, so "most of the people he knows" would certainly not be representative of the country in general. I can honestly say that most of the people I know, including even Republicans, are very dissatisfied with where Bush has taken the country, so my experience has been the opposite of his.

What either of us may personally think in this matter is certainly no proof of what the country in general thinks about Bush's performance. McDonald disdainfully referred to "the polls" above, and his reason for doing so is obvious, because if he doesn't know that all major polls clearly indicate widespread dissatisfaction with the Bush administration, he must never read newspapers or watch TV newscasts.

McDonald:
I don't know when he made these studies but I do know that as far back as the early 90's Mr. Till, although he thought abortion was deplorable, thought that every woman had the right to choose whether to have an abortion or not. He made this plain in our written and oral debates in 1991.

Here is an excellent example of why I said above that McDonald either has a reading handicap or is deliberately deceptive, because our written debate that he just referred to will clearly show that I was opposed to abortion when that debate was in progress. While we were debating whether the massacre of the Amalekites, presumably ordered by the Hebrew god Yahweh (1 Sam. 15:1-4), was a moral atrocity, McDonald took a familiar fundamentalist route and said that I was inconsistent to favor the murder of millions of babies each year by abortion while condemning the massacre of Amalekite children and babies. When he found out that I was opposed to abortion, he issued the following apology.

McDonald:
Now, I want to make an apology. Anytime I am wrong, I want to correct the wrong. It is not my intention to charge anyone with a position that they [sic] do not hold to. I charged Mr. Till with being a pro-abortionist. However, after talking with him on the phone, I see that I was in the wrong. I am sorry. Please forgive me.

One would think that this would have ended this line of argumentation, but, astonishingly enough, McDonald, apparently left with no logical way to defend biblical atrocities, later returned with the same attempt to defend Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament. In his second rebuttal, he said this.

McDonald:
What is abortion, if not the killing of babies? Mr. Till believes that every woman has the right to murder her baby by the process of abortion if she deems it necessary. Yet he does not believe that God, the divine creator of the universe from whom all life stems, had the right to take the lives of the Amalekite babies. What an inconsistency, [sic] man can take innocent human life, but God cannot. In fact in the questions I asked him during the oral debate he set forth that very position: "It is morally wrong for a human to deliberately kill an innocent human for any reason." His answer: "False." Another question was posed: "It is morally wrong for God to deliberately kill an innocent human for any reason." His answer: "True." Man can, but God cannot. Man can kill over twenty four million innocent human babies between the years of 1973 and 1992 and that is perfectly alright [sic]. However [sic] God cannot give the order to take a few hundred thousand Amalekite babies without being guilty of immorality.

Later, in his third rebuttal manuscript, he brought up the issue again and accused me of being inconsistent for condemning biblical atrocities while defending abortion.

McDonald:
My response in my second rebuttal is found on pages 21 & 22 by showing that he has no real problem with babies dying because he allows for millions of babies to die by abortion and never raises his pen to criticize. He only wants to complain about this to find something wrong with the Bible.

I learned long ago that no matter how clear my position is made to McDonald, he will misrepresent it if he thinks that doing so will help his position. I now approve of abortion for reasons stated in my article linked to in the title of this one, but at the time of my written debate with McDonald in the early 1990s, I firmly opposed it. He was told that and later apologized for wrongly accusing me, but when he found himself with no sensible way to defend Yahwistic massacres in the Old Testament, he trotted out his condemnation of my "pro-abortion" position when he clearly knew that I did not at that time favor it. He has a long history of distorting his opponents' positions when he is unable to answer their arguments.

Whenever McDonald makes claims about what I allegedly said in previously debates with him, readers should take them with not a grain but a handful of salt, because he is not above deliberate distortion and misrepresentation whenever he thinks it will suit his purpose.

McDonald:
He never once said anything about believing that it was a deliberate act of murder.

I may not have used that expression in any correspondence, conversations, or exchanges with him--I really can't remember whether I did or not--but those who know me certainly know that I thought that abortion was immoral.

McDonald:
He has always said that it was a deplorable act (which only makes one wonder why, if there is no actual murder involved),

Those who are familiar with the debates and internet exchanges between McDonald and me know that he spends a lot of his time trying to find some kind of inconsistency in my life, as if proving me inconsistent will in some way establish whatever position he is trying to defend. What would inconsistency in my previous position on the issue of abortion do to prove that abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy is an immoral act of murder?

That aside, McDonald's comment above makes me wonder about his sense of logic. Is he actually saying that if an act is deplorable, it must be an immoral act? A parent may deplore having to punish his children, but that would not make the act of punishment immoral. A landlord needing to make mortgage payments on rental property may have no alternative but to evict a tenant who is delinquent in his rent. If he finds this need to evict deplorable, would that make the eviction immoral? Those who read McDonald's articles will soon see that he lives in a black-or-white world. Everything is either right or wrong, so that myopic way of looking at life probably accounts for his apparent belief that if something is deplorable, it must also be immoral.

McDonald:
in the years since I have known him (since 1988) I have never heard him call abortion "a deliberate act of murder."

Neither do I remember ever calling abortion a deliberate act of murder, but so what? I do know, however, that I once thought that abortion was immoral and vehemently argued that it was. At any rate, what would what I may have once called abortion have to do with whether it is moral or immoral?

McDonald:
He uses this to further his attack on the President of the United States by saying that we "Christian fundamentalists... were largely responsible for returning to the White House a 'president' who half of the citizenry believe has been reckless and at times downright incompetent in both domestic and foreign affairs" solely because of our belief on abortion.

Here is an example of how McDonald will misquote or distort what his opponents say. Here is my statement within its broader context.

Till:
For several decades, abortion has been a driving force on the American political scene, and it no doubt played a key role in voting patterns of the Christian fundamentalists who were largely responsible for returning to the White House a "president" who half of the citizenry believe has been reckless and at times downright incompetent in both domestic and foreign affairs (emphasis added).

I didn't say that an anti-abortion belief of Christian fundamentalists was solely responsible for returning an incompetent president to the White House. I said that it had played a "key role" in voting patterns that were "largely responsible" for his return. As I have twice noted now, McDonald either has a reading handicap or he is deliberately deceptive. If the former, then he should take down his apologetic shingle until he learns some basic principles of reading comprehension. If the latter, well, what can I say except that he is a typical Christian fundamentalist, who puts more value on the protection of emotionally important beliefs than on honesty and truth?

McDonald:
Well, this did have something to do with our decision when we voted, but it certainly was not the only thing.

As I just noted, I never said that it was, but I still contend that it played a "key role." The way that Christian fundamentalists are struggling in the present presidential primaries to find a palatable candidate that opposes abortion is indicative of the importance that they ignorantly place on this issue. They played a key role in getting George Bush into the White House, but after almost eight years in office, abortion still remains legal in the United States.

McDonald:
We believed, and as far as I know still believe, that he did the right thing in going to war against the terrorists who were responsible for the destruction of thousands on September 11, 2001, as well as those who aided these terrorists (yep, that's right, [sic] I am talking about Saddam Hussein).

I don't know what McDonald means by "we believed," but if the we was intended to include all Christian fundamentalists who believe that abortion is immoral, he is certainly wrong, because I personally know many anti-abortion Christians who have been very vocal opponents of Bush's foreign policy and especially his war in Iraq. McDonald was vague about Bush's doing "the right thing in going to war against the terrorists for the destruction of thousands on September 11, 2002," but if he meant the invasion of Afghanistan, where al-Quaeda was headquartered at the time, I would agree with him. The invasion of Iraq was the huge error in his policy, because Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack, and even the Bush administration finally admitted that it hadn't. McDonald, like many Bush supporters who seem deaf to any news reports that are unfavorable to their hero, may not be aware of that, but if he will access Wake Up America, he will find links to official White House sites that clearly quote Bush and other adminstration officials, who have finally admitted publicly--after lying about it for years--that there was no link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attack. At a joint press conference between Bush and then British Prime Minister Tony Blair, reported on official White House stationery, a reporter asked this question, which has been cut and pasted directly from the official press release.

Q One question for you both. Do you believe that there is a link between Saddam Hussein, a direct link, and the men who attacked on September the 11th?

THE PRESIDENT: I can't make that claim.

Blair then said, "That answers your question," but proceeded to ramble on about unspecific terrorist threats that needed to be dealt with. Blair has since been replaced, and his successor has begun to withdraw British forces from Iraq. We, unfortunately, are stuck for another year with Bush, who will continue to send young men and women off to die in Iraq. More American lives have already been lost in Iraq than were killed in the 9/11 attack, but this apparently doesn't faze Bush. As long as he knows that his daughters will never be numbered among the casualties and that he will leave the White House with all of his body limbs intact, he obviously doesn't care how severe the penalties of his folly may be on anyone else. That is how far he is willing to go to keep from admitting that he made a mistake.

McDonald:
And actually the attack on our country on 9/11 was not the reason we went to war, but it was the straw that broke the camel's back.

It wasn't? I guess we are supposed to think that McDonald has some kind of direct line to the White House that keeps him informed about the reasons why the Bush administration does whatever it does. Even if McDonald did have personal ties with Bush, as many times as he and his administration have been caught in flagrant lies, how could McDonald possibly know with any degree of certitude why Bush took us into war against a nation that had had nothing to do with 9/11? Even though he is a fundamentalist preacher, McDonald has repeatedly demonstrated a woeful biblical ignorance, so I certainly can't believe that he has any special insights into contemporary political affairs.

McDonald:
The Middle Eastern terrorists had been terrorizing Americans since the late 1970's. However, all of our Presidents held off sending in troops to take care of these people until President Bush was in the White House and had no other choice but to send in troops after 9/11.

McDonald gave no specifics here, so I don't know exactly what he meant by "terrorizing Americans since the late 1970's." Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, and Jimmy Carter were our presidents in the 1970s, but except for the Americans taken hostage in Iran, whom Carter later tried to rescue, I could neither remember nor find any terrorist acts against Americans that Middle Eastern terrorists committed in the 1970s. The Wikipedia list of terrorist acts from the 1800s till the present time contains only one other act of Middle Eastern terrorism against Americans during this decade, and that was the September 8, 1974, bombing of TWA flight 841, which was attributed to the Palestian terrorist Abu Nidal. Most terrorist acts of that decade were attributed to the Irish Republican Army and were committed against British interests, and terrorist acts of that decade in the United States were attributed to radicals in the Black Liberation Army and the Puerto Rican nationalist group FALN, so I suppose that that decade found McDonald upset with Nixon, Ford, and Carter for not bombing Puerto Rica into the stone age.

This list has no entries for Middle Eastern terrorist acts against Americans in the 1980s, although Puerto Rican terrorists remained active during this decade. Even the list for the 1990s contained only four Middle Eastern terrorist acts against Americans, so it seems that McDonald has greatly exaggerated Middle Eastern terrorism against Americans "since the late 1970s." If Mcdonald will check these listings, he will find that more terrorist acts in the United States were committed by anti-abortionists than by Middle Eastern terrorists, but I suspect that these did not evoke in him the "disgust" with American presidents (which he referred to below) for not "doing something sooner" about these.

McDonald:
The terorists [sic] had made it clear that they were going to keep it up until we came out and fought them, so after 20 something years of terror, we finally did something.

If McDonald would bother to do such a drastic thing as actually research a subject before he pontificates on it, he will find that terrorism has been practiced down through modern history. Those who resort to it are difficult enemies to combat, but all major countries have had to deal with it. If McDonald thinks that Bush's invasion of Iraq is going to remove the problem from the American political scene, he is more naive than I previously thought.

McDonald:
Personally I am disgusted with every other President (Republican and Democrat) for not doing something sooner.

But as I said above, McDonald's disgust with "every other president (Republican and Democrat) for not doing something sooner" probably didn't extend to terrorism that Christian fundamentalists committed against abortion clinics and their personnel, even though those acts outnumbered those perpetrated by Middle Eastern terrorists.

McDonald:
Even President Bill Clinton (the liberal's choice)

I trust that readers didn't miss McDonald's use of the word liberal. It is his way of implying that Clinton had to be wrong in whatever he did, because he was a "liberal."

McDonald:
[Even President Bill Clinton (the liberal's choice)] understood that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security,

McDonald, of course, didn't explain exactly how he knows that Clinton "understood that Saddam Hussein was a threat to national security." What did Clinton ever say that would so indicate? What documents can McDonald cite that would support this claim? Well, of course, McDonald never bothers with minor details like actual proof of what he is asserting. He finds it much easier just to assert it.

McDonald:
but he didn't have the intestinal fortitude to do anything about it.

On February 10, 1995, a counterterrorism bill drafted by the Clinton administration was presented to the senate and the house of representatives. It was immediately opposed by Republicans as an attack on constitutional rights and due-process protections. That opposition set the tone for the rest of Clinton's tenure in office. When Clinton ordered a cruise-missile attack on a factory in Sudan that was suspected of producing nerve gas for Osama bin Laden, Republicans screamed to high heaven. Their reaction had been the same just two weeks earlier when Clinton approved lauching cruise missiles against a terrorist training camp maintained by bin Laden in Afghanistan.

I wonder if McDonald was numbered in the ranks who opposed these actions that Clinton took against the interests of al-Qaeda? In my personal opinion, opposition to Bill Clinton during his presidency has been unprecedented in my 75 years. If he had invaded Iraq, even McDonald, as disgusted as he had been at all American presidents for doing nothing about Middle Eastern terrorism, would have howled his opposition, and he knows that he would have.

McDonald:
So we continued to suffer attack after attack upon this country, and it's [sic] interests,

McDonald, of course, didn't bother to list those attacks after attacks. There were some attacks, but as I showed above, they could hardly be accurately described as "attack after attack." Anyway, I seriously doubt that someone who doesn't even know the difference in the English terms it's and its would have any background in contemporary history and politics that would qualify him to speak with any competence on Middle Eastern terrorism against U. S. "interests."

McDonald:
[So we continued to suffer attack after attack upon this country, and it's [sic] interests] from Bin Laden (who was supported by Hussein) as well as other Middle Eastern terrorists until finally someone stood up and said "enough is enough."

I don't doubt at all that Hussein was sympathetic to al-Qaeda, but, as noted above, even the Bush administration has finally admitted that Hussein had not assisted bin Laden and had not permitted al-Qaeda training camps like those that the Taliban was condoning in Afghanistan. If McDonald has any evidence to the contrary, why doesn't he make it public? I would be especially interested in seeing his evidence that bin Laden was "supported by Hussein."

McDonald:
That someone was our present President.

Who had promised during the 2000 election that he would not pursue a policy of "nation building." In a speech in Chattanooga, Tennessee, on November 7, 2000, Bush made a commitment that he has obviously flung down and danced upon.

Let me tell you what else I'm worried about: I'm worried about an opponent who uses nation building and the military in the same sentence. See, our view of the military is for our military to be properly prepared to fight and win war and, therefore, prevent war from happening in the first place.

Of all the campaign promises that Bush has broken, this one has brought the ultimate sorrow to almost 4,000 American families, which have either permanently lost sons, daughters, husbands, wives, and other close relatives, or have experienced the emotional pain of seeing them come back with missing limbs and eyes or permanent paralysis or brain injuries, while Bush, who during the Vietnamese war had used family influence to avoid such potential injuries, and his close family members will continue to enjoy lives unhampered by such injuries. That is the tragic obscenity of Bush's "legacy." That McDonald would continue to defend such a hypocritical scoundrel speaks volumes about his own personal character.

McDonald:
Farrell Till never misses a chance to complain about the man who presently presides in the White House as our President.

Well, George Bush may be McDonald's president, but he isn't mine. I consider him a usurper, who gained the office through devious, dishonesty means. What he has since done to my country angers me beyond my ability even to express it. I am almost 75 years old, and I can honestly say that in all of those years, I have never hated anyone until George Bush came along. There have been people whom I disliked, but I can't say that I actually hated them. That changed when I saw what kind of person George Bush is.

Before leaving this point, I can't resist pointing out that McDonald's praise for George Bush's decision to invade Iraq was not shared by his father George H. W. Bush. Father Bush experienced considerable criticism for not taking Desert Storm all the way to Baghdad to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein. A World Transformed is a 1998 book by former President George H. W. Bush and Brent Scowcroft, Bush's National Security Advisor, which discussed foreign relations during the first Bush administration. They justified the decision not to take the war all the way to Baghdad on the grounds that doing so would have entailed dire consequences.

We should not march into Baghdad. To occupy Iraq would instantly shatter our coalition, turning the whole Arab world against us and make a broken tyrant into a latter-day Arab hero. Assigning young soldiers to a fruitless hunt for a securely entrenched dictator and condemning them to fight in what would be an unwinnable urban guerilla war, it could only plunge that part of the world into ever greater instability (Alfred A. Knopf, 1998, p. 464).

Later in the book, they repeated their opinion that the right decision had been made when Bush, Sr., ended the war short of taking it all the way to Baghdad.

Extending the war into Iraq would have incurred incalculable human and political costs. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. The coalition would instantly have collapsed, the Arabs deserting in anger and other allies pulling out as well. Exceeding the U.N.'s mandate would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression we hoped to establish. Had we gone the invasion route, the U.S. could still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land (p. 489).

History has proven Daddy to be right, but I guess that George W. was too busy drinking and snorting in the late 1950s to watch Father Knows Best on early television.

Ironically enough, the first Bush's decision not to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein was shared by a key supporter of George W.'s Iraq "stratedy." At a press conference in 1992, George H. W.'s secretary of Defense, who was none other than Dick Cheney, explained why Desert Storm had not been extended into Baghdad to topple Hussein from his dictatorship.

I would guess if we had gone in there, I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We'd be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home.

And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don't think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties, and while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the (1991) conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn't a cheap war.

And the question in my mind is, how many additional American casualties is Saddam (Hussein) worth? And the answer is, not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the President made the decision that we'd achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.

Whenever I encounter vociferous advocates of the war in Iraq, I issue to them challenges that none of them has yet accepted. Because of his age and health problems that he has mentioned in other exchanges with me, McDonald is not qualified for military service. He does, however, have a son in his early twenties, so if he will persuade his son to volunteer for combat duty in Iraq, I will personally drive the 300 miles from my home in Central Illinois to where McDonald lives in Missouri and accompany his son to the nearest recruiting office. If McDonald will persuade his son to volunteer, or at least try to, I will know that he honestly believes in the necessity of this war, but if he refuses this challenge, I will then know that he is just another chickenhawk like Bush, Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, Karl Rove, John Ashcroft, Tom Delay, Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, etc., etc., etc. who all evaded combat duty when they were military age but are now outspoken defenders of the war in Iraq. As long as they or their own don't have to take the risk of dying, they are all for U. S. involvement in preemptive foreign wars.

McDonald:
But in getting back to the point at hand,

At last!

McDonald:
I would just like to know when Farrell Till made this marvelous discovery that abortion, although deplorable, is not "a deliberate act of murder."

When I was presented with the scientific data explained in my article, I realized that I could no longer contend that abortion in its early stages constituted the killing of a person. We will now see McDonald try to dance around that data. We will see him asserting over and over that "there is life at conception," but we will not see him even trying to prove that the "life" present at conception is the same as a person.

McDonald:
He further writes:

Till:
I continued to believe that abortion was immoral until a student nurse in one of my college composition classes directed me to scientific information that produced serious doubts about my hardline position and eventually led to my present belief that abortion, although deplorable, cannot logically be considered an act that kills a person. About the same time that I was discussing this subject with the nursing student, someone who called himself "Chimera" posted similar information in a website forum that I was a member of, but the nursing student gave me more specific information. By sharing the scientific facts that I learned during research prompted by my discussion with "Chimera" and the nursing student mentioned above, maybe I can at least mitigate some of the emotionalism with which Christian fundamentalists view the abortion issue. First, I will begin with information that I already knew and will work my way down to what I learned after accepting the young lady's challenge to research the subject rather than just sticking to emotionally based religious baggage that I had carried with me after my deconversion.

McDonald:
If abortion cannot be considered "a deliberate act of murder" why is it deplorable? If abortion cannot logically be considered an act that kills a person why is it deplorable?

I explained above that deplorable acts aren't necessarily immoral acts. I deplore many things, such as throwing materials like glass, plastic, paper, and aluminum cans out with the garbage instead of recycling them; paying entertainers and professional athletes outrageous salaries compared to what police officials, firemen, and nurses are paid; underfunding public education; euthanizing unwanted pets; and allowing smoking in public places, but I certainly wouldn't say that they these are immoral acts, even though I have strong emotional objections to some of them. McDonald's black-or-white mentality prevents him from understanding this, for to him everything is either right or wrong, and that is why he just can't understand how I could say that abortion is deplorable even though it isn't immoral.

McDonald:
This is the same song and dance that he gave in the 90's when he said that abortion was deplorable, but he felt that every woman had the right to make this choice.

As I showed above, I was opposed to abortion at the time that McDonald referred to. The link just given will show that when McDonald learned in our written debate in the early 1990s that he had wrongly accused me of being pro-abortion, he apologized but then for some reason never explained turned around and twice repeated the charge before the debate was over. That aside, what I may have believed about abortion in the 1990s is irrelevant to what I said about this subject in the article that McDonald is supposed to be answering. Does a person exist at the moment of conception? That is the question that McDonald has yet to address, and as we continue through his "reply" below, we will see him frantically dancing around it.

McDonald:
This is like saying that using a contraceptive is deplorable, but he feels that every woman should have the right to make the choice as to whether or not to use it. Why, if every woman has the right to choose, is it deplorable to use a contraceptive?

McDonald continues to skirt the question that he is supposed to be answering. Contraceptive birth control and abortion are completely different issues, so all he is doing here is setting up a straw man to beat on in hopes that it will distract reader attention from his inability to prove that a "person" exists at the moment of conception. I have never opposed birth control, and I have never deplored it. Yet it would be entirely possible for a person to deplore the practice of birth control without taking the position that it is morally wrong. McDonald's black-or-white mentality won't let him understand this.

McDonald:
Why, if every woman has the right to choose to have an abortion, is it deplorable?

McDonald could just as well ask why, if there is nothing morally wrong with putting plastic, glass, and paper into trash that will be taken to public dump sites, is it deplorable? His black-or-white way of looking at the world apparently won't allow him to understand that people can regret actions that aren't necessarily immoral.

McDonald:
These are questions that Farrell would have a hard time answering.

Actually, I found them quite easy to answer.

McDonald:
The word "deplorable" means: "1: LAMENTABLE <~death> 2: deserving censure or contempt: WRETCHED <~living conditions>" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, p.334).

Deplorable can also mean "regrettable" or "grievous," but everything that a person may regret or grieve over isn't necessarily immoral. A person who loses a close relative or friend from death by natural means would undoubtedly regret the loss and grieve over it, but that wouldn't mean that the death was immoral. To so argue, McDonald, who believes that "God" creates and eventually takes all life, would have to say that whenever a person dies from natural causes, "God" has committed an immoral act.

Readers who may not be familiar with McDonald's "debating" tactics probably won't recognize what he is doing here. Almost any given word will have multiple meanings, so the meaning that a word has will be determined by what the user contextually intended it to mean. McDonald, however, seems to think that he has the right to assign to his opponent's words the meanings that he would like for them to have. Hence, he is now trying to make the word deplorable as I used it in reference to my present attitude about abortion to mean immoral, because he is obsessed--and has been for almost two decades now--with trying to find inconsistency in my personal beliefs. I am certainly inconsistent at times, but there is no inconsistency in my saying that I can deplore abortion without thinking that it is always immoral. His narrow, black-or-white mind, however, just won't let him see consistency in the two positions. Furthermore, even if there were verifiable inconsistency in my saying that abortion is deplorable but not immoral, how would that in any way prove that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes killing a person?

McDonald:
Why is abortion so deplorable, contemptible or lamentable if it does not kill a person, or if it is not a deliberate act of murder?

Is McDonald for real? Can he just not understand that an action that doesn't kill a person can be regrettable or lamentable without its being immoral? Can he not even understand that an act can be regrettable or lamentable without its being immoral?

McDonald:
This would make no sense at all,

No, it wouldn't make any sense at all to someone whose mind sees the world in either black or white, but it will make perfectly good sense to those who can understand that intelligent people can regret or lament actions without thinking that they are immoral.

McDonald:
except for the fact that I know this man and I know, that even though he has rejected God, His word and the church,

Here is a typical example of McDonald at his question-begging best. He assumes, without proof or at least without stating any proof, that (1) there is a god whom I have rejected, (2) the Bible is this god's "word", and (3) the church that McDonald preaches for and which I once preached for is god's church. Had I once been a believer in, say, the god Vishnu, I, of course, would not have rejected god, his word, and his religion had I renounced them as being false.

McDonald:
he still can't quite get it out of his conscience that abortion is [a] terrible act of murder; an act which takes the life of a person.

To borrow McDonald's words, I "rejected God, His word, and the church" back in 1963. However, I continued to believe until the mid-1990s that abortion was an immoral act that resulted in the killing of a "person." Had I not seen the scientific evidence that clearly contradicts that belief, I probably would have retained until now my anti-abortion views. Hence, a lingering conscientious belief that "abortion is a terrible act of murder" has had nothing to do with the change in my position on this. It was the scientific data cited in my article, which data McDonald has yet to address, because he is too busy hurling personal attacks at me.

McDonald:
He just doesn't want to admit it. As hardened an atheist as he is, he isn't that hardened.

Readers who may not know McDonald may be surprised to know that he is able not only to know that every statement in the Bible is inerrant but is also able to know what is in the minds of those who don't fall in line to his way of thinking. I can't read McDonald's mind, but I honestly believe that the drubbings he has taken trying to defend biblical inerrancy have convinced him that this is an erroneous, indefensible belief. He is a hardened inerrantist, but he isn't that hardened.

Gee, argumentation by unsupported assertion is fun. I wonder why I gave it up.

McDonald:
I believe the man is still struggling with his own conscience over this; what is very probably the last of the good moral values he has left.

If McDonald wants to think this, he is free to do so. There is no law against ignorance, and in thinking that I am "still struggling with [my] own conscience" over the issue of abortion, that won't be the first thing he has been wrong about. It probably won't even number in his top thousand.

McDonald:
However, I also know that if he continues on his present track, he will jettison that one and will, sooner or later, say that abortion is not deplorable.

Well, I have retained my opinion that abortion is deplorable for over a decade after I realized that scientific data just won't support the claim that a person exists at the moment of conception, so we can only wait to see if I "jettison" it later on.

McDonald:
When that happens, he will be so far gone that he couldn't come back if he wanted to.

Since McDonald seems free to express his opinions of me, I will reciprocate and say that I think he has gone so far down the path to religious ignorance and superstition that he will never be able to find his way out of it. What I personally think about him proves nothing at all, just as what he personally thinks about me proves nothing at all.

McDonald:
The Humanist Manifesto II says "Human life has meaning because we create and develop our futures" (Humanist Manifesto II under Ethics, Third).

For years now, McDonald has tried to lay on me the responsibility to defend the humanist manifestoes. but I have no such obligation any more than he, as a biblical inerrantist, is obligated to defend the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. He incorrectly assumes that if someone rejects the divine inspiration of the Bible, he automatically accepts everything that humanism in general advocates, but there are differing views and opinions in the humanist movement just as there are obviously different doctrinal beliefs in Christianity. McDonald may even be surprised to learn that I have never actually read the Humanist Manifestoes in their entireties. I have read parts that have been quoted in articles and books, but I haven't actually read the manifestoes.

McDonald:
Thus the implication is that the unborn is not human life because the unborn does not create nor develop his/her future.

I don't see that implied at all in the statement McDonald quoted. He is seeing what he wants to see in it, just as he sees what he wants to see in biblical statements that are obviously inconsistent or erroneous. I no longer oppose abortion in the early stages of pregnancy for the reasons stated in my article that McDonald is presumably trying to answer: scientific facts like twinning and embryonic amalgamations are clearly inconsistent with the claim that a "person" exists from the moment that the female and male gametes unite. We will see below that McDonald did not in any way show that the "pro-life" position on abortion is consistent with these scientific facts.

McDonald:
This being the case,

But as I just stated, this is not the case, because the statement quoted from the Humanist Manifesto does not imply what McDonald is claiming, but even if it did, so what? I have no obligation to defend anything said in the Humanist Manifestoes. On the other hand, if McDonald intends to sustain the pro-life position that a person exists from the moment of conception, he is obligated to show that this position is consistent with the scientific data cited in my article. We will soon see him failing in that endeavor.

McDonald:
one could also take the position that a baby that is born has no meaning as far as human life is concerned because it does not create nor develop his/her future.

McDonald is beating on another straw man here, because the article he is supposed to be answering was clear in stating that scientific data do not support the pro-life claim that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy kills a person.. I know of no pro-choice advocates who would approve of killing newborn babies on the grounds that they have "no meaning" because they have not yet "create[d] or develop[ed] their futures." I think any reasonably intelligent person would say that newborn babies are actively engaged in creating and developing their futures, which they do by exploring the world through their senses. When a baby puts an object in his mouth, he is exploring the world and thereby gradually creating and developing his/her future. With comments like the one above, McDonald is playing a familiar game. Instead of trying to refute my position that a person does not exist in the early stages of pregnancy, he has tried to make it appear that I favor late-term abortions so that he could attack this misrepresentation of my real position to mislead readers into thinking that he is answering my arguments.

What McDonald is doing here is known in logic as the straw-man fallacy.

The Straw Man fallacy is committed when a person simply ignores a person's actual position and substitutes a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position. This sort of "reasoning" has the following pattern:

  • Person A has position X.

  • Person B presents position Y (which is a distorted version of X).

  • Person B attacks position Y.

  • Therefore X is false/incorrect/flawed.

  • This sort of "reasoning" is fallacious because attacking a distorted version of a position simply does not constitute an attack on the position itself. One might as well expect an attack on a poor drawing of a person to hurt the person.

    McDonald has come this far in his "reply" to my article without once addressing my real position: Verifiable scientific data are inconsistent with the pro-life claim that a "person" exists at the moment of conception. We will see that he continues to fight straw men instead of addressing my real position.

    McDonald:
    So just when does the baby's life start to have meaning, at what age?

    When a baby's life starts to have meaning has no relevance to whether a "person" exists at the moment of conception. That is the issue that McDonald is evading with the straw men that he continues to set up.

    McDonald:
    When taken to its logical conclusion this mandate, from the Humanist Manifesto II, nullifies the meaning of much of the human life on this planet.

    This is what McDonald is reading into the Humanist Manifesto and not what the manifesto actually says. I seriously doubt that the author(s) of this statement meant what McDonald is twisting it to say, but even if they did, so what? I never once mentioned the Humanist Manifesto in my article, and my arguments against the pro-life position were based on verifiable scientific facts and not on what the Humanist Manifestoes say. This is another straw man that McDonald is fighting.

    McDonald:
    Some people get to the age that they can no longer create nor [sic] develop their future, so according to the Humanist Manifesto II, their life has no meaning.

    No, according to McDonald's distortion of it, this is what Manifesto II says.

    McDonald:
    This is the logical conclusion of the abortionist point of view.

    No, this is the illogical conclusion of fundamentalist preacher Jerry McDonald, who is distorting a statement in Manifesto II to try to make it mean something that its authors never intended.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till further says:

    Till:
    Before I introduce scientific information into this controversy, I must first explain a term that I will be using in reference to so-called pro-lifers. Instead of using this term that they apply to themselves, I will refer to their position as pro-birth, because I can see many reasons to believe that their main concern is to prevent abortion so that birth can occur, but otherwise they have little interest in protecting life after birth has taken place. "Pro-lifers," for example, are often opponents of public programs that would assist children born in poverty, which is often the social fate of those whose mothers chose the pro-life option over pro-choice, even though they were not financially equipped to support other additions to their families. "Pro-lifers" are often proponents of the death penalty, and they generally oppose gun control laws like those in Canada, England, Japan, and other countries where death from gunshot wounds is rare compared to the number who are killed in the United States. "Pro-lifers" generally favor the unprovoked war against Iraq, which, as I write this, has resulted in the deaths of some 1500 American soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis. Such positions as these show a disdain for life after it has been born, so I consider pro-birth to be a more accurate description of these people than pro-life. That, then, is the term that I will use throughout this article.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till says he is going to refer to those of us who disagree with abortion as "pro-birth" because he says that we are not "pro-life."

    1. He says that we are often opponents of public programs that would assist children born in poverty. I don't know what programs he is talking about unless it is the welfare program which no one who holds to the "pro-life" position is against when it comes to children. What we are against is the idea of dead-beat parents who live off of [sic] welfare when they could be working. I sold insurance (from house to house) in the Kansas City, MO [sic] area [sic] and many of the families I had insurance with had parents who could work, but wouldn't work because it is easier to draw welfare than it is to work.

    No matter what kind of assistance programs are used to help the poor, whether government, church, or other nonprofit programs, there will always be abuses. I know of undeserving people in my local community who regularly go to "pantries" maintained by the Baptist Church and the Salvation Army to get groceries and other free handouts. On my daily three-mile walk, I pass by both institutions, so I have often seen people whom McDonald would call "deadbeats" loading their cars and driving away. Area newspapers carried the story of a woman in Decatur, Illinois, who was arrested for falsifying information in order to obtain public assistance for those who were displaced by the Katrina disaster in Louisiana. She had never actually lived in Louisiana but had falsified various claims in order to get money that she wasn't entitled to. Whenever natural disasters happen, this type of dishonesty always occurs. If no one provided assistance for disaster reliefs until there were absolute guarantees that there would be no abuses in the programs, nothing would ever be done to help those who have genuine needs. The same applies to government welfare programs. If no such programs were authorized until all cheating were eliminated, there would never be any public welfare for those who have legitimate needs.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). In 2000 my mother moved to Missouri to live in the same town that I was living in. I took her to the Social Services office to get her signed up for Medicaid so that her prescription bill wouldn't be so high (she was paying around $400.00 per month for her medications). They made her jump through hoops while I saw young people that I knew could work (they lived in the same town), but chose to live off of [sic] welfare and [sic] they had no problem at all getting it.

    If McDonald knows of any way to eliminate dishonesty in programs like Medicaid and welfare, I am sure that his expertise would be welcomed by officials in charge of these programs, but until someone can devise a fool-proof plan to prevent fraud in the operations of charities, society will either have to eliminate such programs or else accept that some cheating is going to happen. What McDonald is complaining about is a simple fact that has been recognized in the theory of evolution, which he thoroughly disdains. It is called "adaptive radiation," which simply means that whenever a "niche" or way to earn a living becomes available, some living specimen will take advantage of it. The computer age, for example, has made possible opportunities for the unscrupulous to earn livings through identity theft, which had previously been relatively rare. As technology advances, new "niches" will become available, and some will be certain to take advantage of them.

    Does McDonald think that society should stop further technological advancement in order to prevent this kind of inevitable dishonesty?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). It took six months for my mother to get into a program where after she paid so much then Medicaid would pay the rest.

    I honestly have to wonder why McDonald's mother, whom he consistently described in our written debate as a godly woman, needed to apply for government assistance. Why were her needs not supplied by the church, which McDonald claims is the only true church? When McDonald took his mother to apply for Medicaid was he not aware that the New Testament, which he claims is his only guide in matters of faith and doctrine, teaches that the church is to provide for the needs of widows?

    1 Timothy 5:3 Honor widows who are really widows. 4 If a widow has children or grandchildren, they should first learn their religious duty to their own family and make some repayment to their parents; for this is pleasing in God's sight.... 8 And whoever does not provide for relatives, and especially for family members, has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever. 9 Let a widow be put on the list if she is not less than sixty years old and has been married only once.

    I will give McDonald the benefit of doubt here. Instead of accusing him of having denied the faith and being worse than an unbeliever, I will assume that his mother was younger than 60 years old at this time. However, if she was, I have to wonder why she didn't try to provide for her own needs by finding some type of employment. Many women under 60 have done so, and surely she wasn't one of those deadbeats that McDonald so obviously disdains.

    See how easy it is to blame the indigent for the circumstances that have put them in need?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). These adults often use their children to get welfare so they won't have to work.

    Just as Mrs. McDonald was using her son to try to get public assistance?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). The more children they have, the more money they get. I say if the parents are able to work, but won't then take the children from them and let the parents fend for themselves, but there are too many liberals involved in these programs to allow that to happen.

    In typical fashion, McDonald is stereotyping welfare recipients as lazy, shiftless deadbeats and blaming "liberals" for abuses in the system. As I said above, there is no fool-proof way to keep people from lying and cheating in order to receive charity that they aren't really entitled to. McDonald has used anecdotal "evidence" in his comments above, but I could just as well mention some anecdotal examples, from my years as a Church-of-Christ preacher, of people who dishonestly misrepresented their personal circumstances in order to receive "help" from the church. According to McDonald's logic, the church--the one he thinks is the only true "Church of Christ"--should not engage in charitable works, because there will always be the possibility that some recipients of the charity don't really deserve it.

    I think I detect in McDonald's comments above an attitude that I have found to be widespread in families that vote for Republican candidates. They think that most of the poor and disadvantaged are mainly responsible for their circumstances. I could just as easily blame McDonald's mother for the circumstances that led her to apply for Medicaid. She was the wife of an obscurely known Church-of-Christ preacher, so the compensation he received was probably never more than the nominal amounts that small-town and country congregations paid their preachers. If, however, he was a typical Church-of-Christ preacher, he would have given 10% or more of his meager salaries back to the church when the Sunday contributions were collected. Had this amount been invested in savings or retirement programs, it would have grown sufficiently to have enabled Mrs. McDonald to retire in better circumstances than those that her son described above. When I was a preacher, my wife and I agreed that we should contribute 15% of our salary to the church, so when I left the ministry at the age of 32, we decided to contribute this same percentage of our teaching salaries into retirement accounts. When we retired 33 years later, we were able to do so comfortably. We were by no means rich, but for 12 years now, we have been able to maintain a standard of living as good as what we had enjoyed when we were teaching. My point is that if McDonald's mother and father had shown the same kind of interest in their future retirement, maybe she wouldn't have needed to apply for Medicaid. Why wasn't she qualified to receive Medicare? Didn't her husband pay social security on his earnings? If not, whose fault was it when she was left as needy as her son described above? Wouldn't she have been as much to blame for her circumstances as the needy people who many Republican voters think are responsible for their own poverty?

    See how easy it is to take a widespread Republican view of the poor and blame a widow like Mrs. McDonald for her needy circumstances?

      McDonald:

      1. He says that we are often proponents of the death penalty. Yes, we are! When a person has committed a crime worthy of death, then that is exactly what should happen to him.

    I personally have no objections to the death penalty when guilt has been proven beyond the shadow of all doubt, but I have to admit here that recent improvements in DNA analysis, which has established the innocence of several persons on death rows, have caused me to reconsider my position on the death penalty. These cases of scientifically established innocence indicate that people are sometimes convicted of capital crimes when their guilt has not been established beyond the shadow of all doubt. I referred to the general approval of the death penalty among Evangelicals who simultaneously oppose abortion not to argue against the death penalty but to show inconsistency among Evangelicals regarding what they often call the "sanctity of life" when they state their opposition to abortion. They call themselves "pro-life" when actually they are pro-life in only one aspect of life.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). If you take a mass-murderer and just give him life in prison, he has the opportunity to go to college, get a degree and have the best health care in the state.

    This is an example of McDonald's mouthing off about something that he knows nothing about. If he will bother to reseach this subject a bit by reading such articles as Education as Crime Prevention, he will find that even though education of prisoners reduced recidivism by 29%, college educations for prison inmates were effectively eliminated in 1994 when congress enacted legislation that prohibited giving Pell grants and other federal assistance to prison inmates. Even before this restriction, few death row inmates could earn college degrees because of restrictions that required them to remain in their cells. Teachers could deliver instructions only through the bars, so most of the few deathrow inmates who did take college courses could do so only through correspondence courses that they could complete in their cells.

    This is just another example of McDonald's parroting an urban myth before taking the time to check it for accuracy.

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). He gets three hots a day and a place to sleep. He often has color TV and cable.

    Does McDonald think that prisoners should be starved or fed only bread and water and that they should be forced to sleep on concrete floors? He seems to be ignorant of what Jesus said about one's obligation to "visit" those in prison.

    Matthew 25:34 Then the king will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.' 37 Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? 38 And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? 39 And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?' 40 And the king will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.' 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, 'You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.' 44 Then they also will answer, 'Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?' 45 Then he will answer them, 'Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.' 46 And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."

    I wonder if McDonald understands that the word visit as used in this text meant more than just the mere act of going to see those who were in prison. It was used in the sense of providing for one's needs as in James 1:27, which says that "(p)ure religion that is undefiled before our God and father is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction...." In other words, the one who practices pure and undefiled religion will provide for the needs of orphans and widows. The passage quoted before this was from a chapter where Jesus was describing the final judgment, where he clearly indicated that those who did not clothe and feed the disadvantaged would be condemned to eternal punishment. Fulfilling one's obligation to care for the disadvantaged, then, included "visiting," i. e., providing for the needs of those in prison, but I suspect that McDonald will have one of his insightful biblical interpretations that will to his satisfaction remove this requirement, so that he can continue to claim that those in prison should not be properly care for.

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). Society flips the bill for him,

    Since most prison inmates have no source of income, what else can be done but to have society "flip" the bill for their upkeep? I suspect that even in the time of Jesus society flipped the bill for those in prison whom he said the righteous should "visit."

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). and if he is ever set free, he (many times) goes out and does it again.

    As I noted above, education of prison inmates greatly reduced the rate of recidivism, but when Republicans took control of congress in 1994, they eliminated federal funding for prisoner education. From McDonald's comments above, I assume that he approved of this legislation and prefers that chances of recidivism be increased by releasing uneducated prisoners back into society with decreased means of supporting themselves without resorting again to criminal activities.

    Over the years, I have learned to admire McDonald's Christian attitudes.

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). We don't believe in the death penalty for every crime, but for those crimes where the crime warrants such a penalty then [sic] yes [sic] we do.

    As noted above, I also approve of the death penalty in such cases, but I no longer inconsistently argue that the abortion of zygotes and early embryos constitutes killing persons.

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). Jeffrey Dahmer, after he was convicted of his crimes, became a Christian, but even he said that he deserved the death penalty.

    By coincidence, just a few days before beginning my reply to McDonald's article, I happened to notice a TV program on the history channel in which Dahmer's conversion was discussed. It had resulted from visits by a Church-of-Christ preacher, who later baptized Dahmer by immersion, so I suppose McDonald will have to say that despite the heinous crimes that Dahmer committed, he died in a "saved" state and will consequently be saved eternally unless he committed other "sins" after his baptism. I suppose having to admit this galls McDonald, but I would like for him to answer a couple of questions.

    1. After Dahmer's baptism by a Church-of-Christ preacher, did he deserve to receive "three hots a day and a place to sleep"?

    2. If not, what would have been the obligations of Christians to "visit" Dahmer in prison"?

    McDonald:

    1. (continued). He tried to get them to put him to death for what he had done, but the liberals wouldn't allow that.

    McDonald previously spoke of mantra's having become a "buzzword" for atheists. Have readers of his articles noticed that liberal is a buzzword that he often uses as if the mere act of saying that "liberals" believe this or "liberals" believe that is sufficient to prove the "liberals" wrong? At any rate, I would like for him to clarify his statement above. Is he saying that even if a murderer undergoes a conversion with all of the right, Church-of-Christ trimmings, he should still be put to death? If so, is he saying that God may forgive murderers but McDonald won't?

      McDonald:

      1. He says that we generally oppose Gun [sic] control laws like those in Canada, England, and Japan where deaths from gunshots are rare compared to those in the U.S. Yes, we have more deaths from gunshots, but it isn't because we don't have gun control laws such as is found in those countries. For years we had no gun control laws, but we still had guns.

    The United States has never had "gun control laws such as is found in those countries." Gun control laws in England, Japan, France, Australia, and other countries are nationwide laws. Hence, someone in London or Tokyo or Paris can't circumvent control laws in the cities they live in by just going over to another city or province to buy guns there and bring them back to their residences. Chicago, for example, has gun control laws that are circumvented by gun stores that operate just across the city limits, which permit residents of Chicago to travel short distances to buy guns and take them back into Chicago. Until guns are banned nationwide in our country, as they have been in nations like those mentioned above, those who chant mantras like, "Gun control doesn't work," have no real way of knowing how effective a nationwide ban would be in reducing gun deaths.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). In the home that I was raised in, we had several guns.

    Here we go again with more of McDonald's anecdotal "evidence." He seems to think that because no undesirable consequences came from gun proliferation in the home he grew up in, then there will be no undesirable consequences of it in other homes. He reminds me of the people who argue that seatbelt laws are ridiculous because they grew up riding in cars without seatbelts and never suffered any injuries, or those who argue that smoking isn't dangerous to health because they have smoked for fifty or sixty years without having any health problems like cancer, emphesema, strokes, or heart attacks. Such anecdotal argumentation ignores the fact that despite the experiences of those who so argue, thousands and even millions of others died or were seriously injured in car accidents that had no seat belts, and millions have suffered health impairments and death from smoking.

    McDonald prides himself on his knowledge of logic, but he has apparently never heard of the fallacy of inadequate sampling. He resorts to it every time he uses anecdotes about his mother, wife, son, or himself.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). All were used for hunting and all of us knew that they were not toys to be played with. We knew that when you killed something that [sic] it was dead and was going to stay that way.

    If guns had existed in the first century AD and had been used to execute Jesus, then it wouldn't have been true that "when you killed something... it was dead and was going to stay that way," would it? Why can't McDonald apply his common-sense comment above to the myth of the resurrection?

    I couldn't resist making that comment.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Back when parents cared enough to teach their children not to play with guns we didn't have all the problems we have today.

    Once again, McDonald is arguing by assertion. He cited no statistics at all to support his assertion that "(b)ack when parents cared enough to teach their children not to play with guns we didn't have all the [gun] problems we have today," so he again gave me nothing to reply to. That aside, is he so simplistic that he believes that the more than 30,000 annual gun deaths in the United States are caused primarily by those whose parents didn't care enough to teach them not to play with guns? If he will bother to do such a drastic thing as actually research before he asserts, he will find in the matter of gun deaths in the United States that only about 1500 of the 30,000 result from accidents involving firearms, so there is certainly more to this problem than failures of parents to teach their children not to play with guns.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). I had a loaded weapon for 11 years in my home every day. My son knew where it was and that it was loaded. He never touched it because he knew that it was not a toy. He didn't allow any of his friends to get near it, [sic] he never told them where it was. He knew that it would kill and that he couldn't play with it. He has a 12 ga. shot gun [sic] and it stays in its bag until it is needed.

    Once again, McDonald has resorted to anecdotal evidence, apparently on the assumption that what is true of him is generally true. The links given above will show, however, that even though they are statistically only a small percentage of the total, several hundred anual gun deaths in the United States result from accidents.

    McDonald's comments about guns are just another part of the smoke screens that he laid down throughout his article. In the beginning of my article, I referred briefly to widespread support for the death penalty and opposition to gun control among opponents of abortion only as passing, introductory references to their inconsistency in calling themselves "pro-life." Instead of trying to show that the so-called "pro-life" stance on abortion is morally logical, McDonald has so far spent his time flinging assertions and relating anecdotes that do nothing at all to prove consistency in "pro-life" opposition to abortion while simultaneously supporting laws that result in the killing of those who are undeniably persons.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). The problem isn't that we have guns in our country, [sic] the problem is that we don't have parents who care enough to instruct their children not to play with them.

    This is more argumentation by assertion, which offered no supporting evidence at all that gun problems in our country would go away if parents just cared enough to instruct their children not to play with guns, so there is nothing here for me to reply to. The fact that McDonald's assertions almost always turn out to be contrary to verifiable reality gives us reason to conclude that this assertion likely has no more credibility than his others.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). As far as the criminal activities go, if you take guns out of the hands of the citizens the only people who will have guns will be the police and the criminals.

    Ah, yes, the old, simplistic when-guns-are-outlawed-only-outlaws-will-have-guns mantra. The fact that this would also be true of countries like Canada, Japan, England, and France, which have reduced deaths by firearms to single- or double-digit lows by banning guns nationwide doesn't seem to faze McDonald.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). The criminals outgun the police 1000 to 1.

    Here is more argumentation by assertion for which McDonald gave no support at all. In this case, if the assertion is true, it would be a good reason to ban the general ownership of guns, wouldn't it?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). The police carry glock 40's, at best, while the criminals carry Uzis.

    So why not pass a federal law that would ban Uzis and assault rifles nationwide?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). As far as the conceal carry issue is concerned most of the people I know were against that law and voted it down in Missouri.

    So? This does what to prove that so-called "pro-lifers" are consistent in opposing abortion while simultaneously opposing attempts to curtail the proliferation of guns?

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Had it not been for [the] National Rifle Association pushing money into our state congress it would have stayed down. Most Missourians don't want the law, and most don't carry weapons. It has nothing to do with whether or not we are pro-life, [sic] it has to do with money and business.

    So if this has nothing to do with the "pro-life" position on abortion, why has McDonald wasted so much of our time airing his views about guns? Well, all of his comments so far have had almost nothing to do with trying to prove that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes the "murder" of "persons." These comments have just been a part of his smoke screening.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). But I do believe that the Constitution of the United States guarantees us the right to bear arms.

    Well, that position ignores the fact that this "right" was prefaced with an absolute phrase that modified the "right" to bear arms by tying it to the need at that time for a well-regulated militia, which need has since been eliminated by maintaining a standing army. McDonald is so linguistically deficient that he wouldn't understand how absolute phrases function in English, so I won't even try to explain it to him. Suffice it to say that the second amendment doesn't refer to a right to bear guns; it refers to a right to "bear arms." Arms are weapons, so if the constitution grants an unrestricted right to "bear arms," it would entitle citizens to own machine guns, bazookas, hand grenades, grenade launchers, cruise missiles, and even nuclear weapons. If not, why not?

    I wonder if McDonald would be able to relax in a society that allowed citizens to own their own nuclear bombs.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). If you take that freedom away from us, what other freedoms will you take?

    Ah, yes, the old slippery-slope argument, which, in effect, says, "Give them an inch, and they will take a mile." In this fallacious way of reasoning, one claims that if A is done, then B will follow, and then C, D, E, etc., but no proof of such inevitability is offered. That McDonald's slippery-slope fears in the matter of gun control are probably unjustified can be seen in the fact that democracies like France, England, Australia, Japan, etc. have banned firearms without any other removal of basic freedoms following as a consequence.

    Before leaving this point, I will wonder aloud if McDonald had any slippery-slope fears about further erosions of freedom that might follow the Bush administration's intrusions into long-standing basic rights to privacy. I doubt that he did.

      McDonald:

      1. He says "'Pro-lifers' generally favor the unprovoked war against Iraq, which, as I write this, has resulted in the deaths of some 1500 American soldiers and over 100,000 Iraqis."

    The total of American deaths has now reached almost 4,000, and over 20,000 have suffered permanent wounds like missing limbs and eyes, spinal cord and brain injuries, and posttraumatic stress disorders, which leave them unable to reenter society after their military service and consigns many of them to homeless lives. George W. Bush and his daughters, nephews, and nieces, of course, have not suffered and will not suffer any of these deaths, injuries, or fates.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Unprovoked? What planet has he been living on the last several years?

    As we will soon see, McDonald's misguided belief that Iraq was involved in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center gives us cause to wonder what planet he has been living on. The time he has spent on my passing introductory comments about pro-life inconsistencies in matters related to gun control, the death penalty, and the war in Iraq makes us wonder when, if ever, he is going to give us scientific evidence that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes "murdering" persons. As we will eventually see, he never once offered any such scientific evidence.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Let's set aside the fact that Hussein aided and abetted the terrorists for years before the final attack came on this country in 2001.

    While he is speaking of "setting aside," McDonald needs to be informed that he is setting aside the fact that even the Bush administration, as noted above, eventually admitted that Hussein had not had anything to do with "the final attack... on this country in 2001." The fact that McDonald seems unaware that Bush has now admitted this makes us wonder just how much attention McDonald pays to current events and news.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Let's set aside the fact that even Bill Clinton and John Kerry, both, admitted that Hussein was a threat to this country

    This is another argument by assertion for which McDonald offered no proof. I don't doubt that both Clinton and Kerry were suspicious of Hussein's regime, but since it was being successfully contained, Clinton apparently saw no need to launch a "preemptive" war, which, as noted above, Bush's own father had earlier said would bog the United States down in unwinnable urban guerilla warfare that would bring heavy casulaties and expenses to our country.

    Father knew best, but Junior obviously didn't listen to him.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Let's set aside the fact that Hussein was guilty of mass-murder on the grounds that certain people of the Middle East disagreed with him either religiously or politically.

    McDonald should not "set aside" the obvious fact that it would be both militarily and monetarily impossible for the United States to rid the world of dictators who have been guilty of mass murder and other atrocities.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Hussein also refused to cooperate with the U.N.'s efforts of inspections for Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD) time and again.

    McDonald again shows his ignorance of current political events. When Bush launched his war against Iraq, UN inspectors, with Hussein's permission, were conducting inspections for WMDs and had found none.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Depolomacy [sic] only goes so far and when it runs its course, as it did with Hussein, harsher methods have to be taken.

    Since UN inspections were being conducted in Iraq when Bush started the war, diplomacy had obviously not yet run its course. McDonald is showing an incredible igorance of current events and news.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). It wasn't as if Hussien [sic] knew nothing about what was going to happen.

    Since the United States routinely warns countries of "dire consequences" if they pursue certain activities, as Bush has done to North Korea and Iran regarding their development of nuclear weapons, why should Iraq have taken U. S. threats any more seriously than other countries have? At any rate, Bush's war against Iraq, while taking no actions against Iran and North Korea, if anything, has communicated to so-called "rogue nations" that developing their own nuclear weapons will guarantee that the United States will not intervene in its internal affairs.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). If memory serves, he was given a deadline to allow the U.N. inspectors back in for a complete inspection. He refused to meet the deadline.

    Well, memory apparently doesn't "serve" McDonald, because Hussein was allowing UN inspectors into Iraq. If McDonald had done such a radical thing as actually research the topic before mouthing off about it, he would have learned that David Kay was in charge of these inspections. Time has proven that the inspectors were right in saying that they could find no WMDs in Iraq.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). He could have stopped this war before it ever started, but he didn't want to.

    On Sunday, January 27, 2008, Sixty Minutes aired an interview with FBI agent George Piro, who had served as Hussein's interrogator during his imprisonment. Over a period of seven months, so Piro claimed, he won Hussein's confidence, which enable him, among other things, to learn that Hussein had "miscalculated Bush's intentions," as the quotation below from the Sixty Minutes interview specifically states.

    "As the U.S. marched toward war and we began massing troops on his border, why didn't he stop it then? And say, 'Look, I have no weapons of mass destruction.' I mean, how could he have wanted his country to be invaded?" Pelley [the interviewer of Piro] asks.

    "He didn't. But he told me he initially miscalculated President Bush. And President Bush's intentions. He thought the United States would retaliate with the same type of attack as we did in 1998 under Operation Desert Fox. Which was a four-day aerial attack. So you expected that initially," Piro says.

    Piro says Saddam expected some kind of an air campaign and that he could survive that. "He survived that once. And then he was willing to accept that type of attack. That type of damage," he says.

    "Saddam didn't believe that the United States would invade," Pelley remarks.

    "Not initially, no," Piro says.

    Needless to say, someone who spent seven months in the company of Hussein, conversing with him in fluent Arabic, should know more about Hussein's reasons for ignoring U. S. threats to invade than a fundamentalist preacher from the backwoods of Missouri.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). George Bush [sic] Sr. [sic] should have finished him off when he had the chance during his term, [sic] if he had he might have been re-elected.

    As shown above, Bush, Sr., correctly said that taking Desert Storm to Baghdad to topple the regime of Saddam Hussein would have mired the United States in unwinnable urban guerilla warfare. Unfortunately, Bush, Jr., failing to heed this warning, has led us into the very thing that his father said would happen if the U. S. attempted to affect a regime change in Iraq. As for why Bush, Sr., was not reelected, the success of Desert Storm had brought him a 90% approval rating, which he lost when the United States slipped into a recession. That, the collapse of the Soviet Union, and the independent candidacy of Ross Perot, which siphoned away 19.7 million votes, many of whom were Republican, threw the election of 1992 to Bill Clinton. Although voters considered foreign policy to be Bush's strongest point, this was eclipsed by relative peace in the Middle East and the fall of the Soviet Union, so voters evidently considered the success of Bush, Sr., in foreign affairs less important than the economic recession that had happened on his watch. I am confident that historians and political experts will agree that these factors accounted for Bush's defeat far more than his failure to take Desert Storm all the way to Baghdad.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Hussien [sic] went looking for a fight.

    If anyone "went looking for a fight," it was Bush and his neocon cronies, who fabricated excuses to invade Iraq. The Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization, recently released a report that documented 935 false statements that Bush and his cabinet members had made to win public support for the invasion of Iraq. Of these lies, 532 of them were made by Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell, and White House press secretaries Ari Fleischer and Scott McClellan to deceive the public into believing that Iraq had WMDs and ties to al-Qaeda. Bush himself lied 28 times about Iraq's connections to al-Qaeda and 232 times about Iraq's possession of WMDs. These lies have so far brought the deaths of almost 4,000 American soldiers and the permanent injuries of over 20,000 others.

    The database of Bush lies compiled by the Center of Public Integrity is a matter of record that McDonald can access by just Googling "935 lies." The fact that McDonald's perceptions of the war in Iraq run so contrary to known facts shows that he is one of the millions of gullible Americans who allowed themselves to be misled by Bush and his cronies. Since Bush's lies and deceptions have been widely reported by the media, we have to wonder if McDonald has read a newspaper or listened to any newscast besides Fox News within the last two years.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Now while he didn't have and [sic] assembled "WMD's" that we have found, he had all the ingredients for "WMD's" in close proximity so that the weapons, themselves, could have been quickly assembled when needed.

    I assume that everyone noticed that McDonald cited no evidence at all in support of this assertion, which runs contrary to what is now known about Iraq's weapons program prior to the U. S. invasion. The more he says, the more McDonald shows that he is one of the many who continue to believe some of the 935 lies, even though they have been exposed in various media.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). I wonder what Mr. Till thinks all that "saran gas," [sic] was for, [sic] that they found in Iraq?

    Saran gas? Oh, I know, I know. McDonald meant to say "sarin gas." Exactly where was this found? Fox News and other media sympathetic to the Bush war had a field day when an unexploded artillery shell in Iraq was found to contain serin gas, but as former UN inspector Scott Ridder reported in the Christian Science Monitor, this was determined not to be part of a secret cache of WMDs but a "dud" that had been fired "long ago" when Iraq did have WMDs. The evidence gathered before and after the U. S. invasion indicates that Hussein had dismantled his WMDs in compliance with UN demands.

    The longer I go in replying to McDonald's article, the more I wonder how one person could be as misinformed in current events as he obviously is.

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). I wonder that Mr. Till thinks all of those barrels of chemicals, [sic] that were found, [sic] were for? Fertilizer?

    And just where were "all of those barrels of chemicals" found? They must have been in the same secret cache with the "saran gas."

      McDonald:

      1. (continued). Yes, we have lost over 1500 soldiers in this war,

    Uh, that total is now almost 4,000, which doesn't even include the more than 20,000 who have been permanently crippled or maimed by serious injuries.

      McDonald:

        and I lament every man and woman who has given his or her life for this cause.

    Yeah, right. I wonder if he "laments" every Iraqi citizen who has been killed in this war to eliminate WMDs that didn't exist.

      McDonald:

      1. I lament every man and woman who has been injured in this war.

    Yeah, sure. Does he lament every Iraqi citizen who has been crippled or maimed during and after the U. S. invasion? I am sure he does.

      McDonald:

        I pray for every man and woman who serve in our military.

    This section of McDonald's article reads like a page out of a Bush speech. How many times have we heard him say that his "heart goes out" to the families of those whose sons, daughters, husbands, wives, etc. have been killed in the war? How many times have we heard him say that they are "in our prayers"? Bush's hypocrisy is enough to make a truly sympathetic person gag, so I assume that McDonald understands what I think of his hypocrisy.

    His hypocritical reference to how he prays "for every man and woman who serve in our military" reminds me of the often-seen bumperstick that says, "Pray for our troops." Since we can assume that at least some who flaunt this bumpersticker do pray for our troops, we have to wonder about the efficacy of prayer. If frequent prayers for our troops kept the casualty number down to almost 4,000, we can only wonder how many would have been killed if no one had prayed for them.

      McDonald:

        But just remember one thing, [sic] they are over there as volunteers.

    Shades of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who in a speech to constituents said that they should "remember these [soldiers killed in Iraq] are not draftees" but "full-time professional soldiers"! I guess McDonald thinks that all of those dead soldiers that he "laments" are less lamentable than if they had been draftees.

      McDonald:

        We have no draft, which is exactly what would have happened if Kerry had been elected.

    Exactly how does McDonald know this? Kerry, who was a volunteer for duty in Vietnam saw the folly of U. S. involvement in a foreign civil war and returned home to oppose it. He ran for president on a platform to end the war in Iraq, yet McDonald somehow knows that if Kerry had been elected president, he would have instituted a draft. Where did McDonald get this information? He probably got it in the same place where he learned about the "saran gas" and "barrels of chemicals" that were found in Iraq.

      McDonald:

        Yes, there have been over 100,000 Iraqi deaths (innocent and guilty) because of this war.

    I wonder if McDonald "laments" any of them.

      McDonald:

        However, these numbers don't even begin to come close to the number of deaths that have taken place each year since 1973 (at least one and one half million), in this country alone, as a result of abortion. I don't see Mr. Till shedding any tears for them. I don't see him lamenting for these innocents.

    This is another fallacy of false analogy. The Iraqis who have been killed during and after the U. S. invasion of their country were undeniably persons. McDonald has yet to prove that abortion constitutes "murdering" persons. Anyway, I have to wonder what he is arguing here. Is he saying that killing Iraqis isn't wrong, because abortions have killed 1.5 million people? Even if we assume that abortion does constitute murder, that would in no way make the killing of thousands of Iraqis right, or perhaps McDonald's twisted logic makes him think that one wrong will make another wrong right. If so, I will remind him that he has yet to produce any scientific evidence that killing zygotes and early embryos constitutes killing persons.

      McDonald:

      1. I don't see Mr. Till shedding any tears for them. I don't see him lamenting for these innocents.

    To be "innocents," they would first have to be persons. When McDonald presents scientific evidence that zygotes and early embryos are persons, the same as the thousands of Iraqis who have been killed in Bush's war, I will lament them then. As for shedding tears, I probably wouldn't shed any even if McDonald could prove that aborted zygotes are "persons," because I am not the kind of person who publicly shows his emotions. Just out of curiosity, I would ask him to tell us how many times he has cried (shed tears) over abortions that have taken place in our country? A hundred times? Fifty? Twenty? Ten? Once? How many?

      McDonald:

      1. All I see him doing is saying, "Well, its a woman's choice."

    When has McDonald heard me say this? I don't remember ever having said this. Maybe McDonald can quote where I said it, but maybe pigs will fly someday too.

      McDonald:

      1. Now he can say that these aren't deaths all he wants, but the fact remains that "life begins at conception!"

    Well, no, it doesn't. As I have repeatedly shown, "life" begins long before conception, or perhaps McDonald thinks that life can come from nonlife, i. e., from nonliving gametes. If so, I wonder if he parrots that old creationist argument against evolution that says that life cannot come from nonlife.

      McDonald:

      1. So he can call us whatever he pleases, but the fact is, we are pro-life and pro-birth.

    I certainly wouldn't deny that McDonald is "pro-life and pro-birth" in the sense that these terms are used in the abortion controversy, but the mere fact that he and millions of others are "pro-life and pro-birth" in no way proves that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy is morally wrong in that it kills "persons."

      McDonald:

      1. He is "pro-death" except where it comes to confessed convicted murderers or terrorists, then he thinks they shouldn't have to die. Kill an innocent baby, but don't kill a guilty murderer, and don't kill a terrorist! That's Till's motto!

    As I repeatedly pointed out above, I do not oppose the death penalty in cases where guilt of atrocious crimes can be established beyond the shadow of all doubt. As for whether abortion in the early stages constitutes "(k)ill[ing] an innocent baby," that is a claim that McDonald has yet to prove, because he has presented exactly no scientific evidence at all that would estabish that zygotes and early embryos are persons. He seems to think that hurling insults like his statements above constitutes proof of his position.

    Till:
    Life begins at conception: This has almost been a mantra that is chanted by those who oppose abortion, but it is a scientifically incorrect belief. Life really begins before an actual pregnancy occurs. An ovum, for example, is alive in the ovary before it is expelled into a fallopian tube to wait for a possible rendezvous with the sperm cell that will fertilize it. That sperm cells are alive is obvious to anyone who has ever watched them "swimming" under a microscope. This is all true, anti-abortionists will say, but gametes or reproductive cells are only "potential persons" but do not become actual persons until the two come together. I will ask readers to keep this thought in mind, because I will return to it later after we have looked at some rather intriguing scientific information about these "actual persons" that exist in the womb after the two gametes have united.

    McDonald:
    A mantra is defined as "[Skt, sacred cousel [sic], formula, fr. manyate he thinks; akin to L mens mind--more at mind] (1795): a mystical formula of invocation or incantation (as in Hinduism); also; WATCHWORD2" (Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, p. 757). When people like Farrell Till say that "life begins at conception: This has almost been a mantra that is chanted by those w[h]o oppose abortion" they are in fact saying that it is nothing more than an incantation of a mystical formula such [as] the Hindus chant in their worship and prayer services.

    No, Farrell Till does not say this, because he was not using the word in the sense that McDonald quoted above but using the sense it has acquired in English, as the second definition quoted below from the American Heritage Dictionary now recognizes.

    1. Hinduism A sacred verbal formula repeated in prayer, meditation, or incantation, such as an invocation of a god, a magic spell, or a syllable or portion of scripture containing mystical potentialities.

    2. A commonly repeated word or phrase: "Today's edutainment software comes shrinkwrapped in the magic mantra: 'makes learning fun'" (Clifford Stoll).

    When an opponent debating McDonald uses a key word, he has a longtime habit of picking one of its multiple definitions from a dictionary--which isn't the definition the opponent intended--and assigning that meaning to the opponent's usage of it. In all my years of debating him, he apparently never has come to understand that words with multiple definitions mean what the user intended and not what the reader would like them to mean. McDonald's comment above indicates that he is still playing the same old game that in the past has accomplished nothing for him but to prove his linguistic ignorance. When I said that "life begins at conception" has become a mantra of abortion opponents, I was saying nothing more than it is a commonly repeated word or phrase that they use. Even the definition of mantra that McDonald quoted above noted that it can mean watchword. If McDonald will consult his dictionary, he will find that watchword means a "rallying cry" or "slogan." That was how I was using mantra.

    McDonald:
    They have to make the phrase sound as absurd and ridiculous as they can in order to propogate their cause.

    Calling the phrase a mantra communicates nothing except that it is an expression that is repeated with regularity.

    McDonald:
    The word "mantra" must be the new "buzz word" for atheists, [sic] I seem to be hearing it a lot.

    Is there something wrong with using a word correctly?

    McDonald:
    The phrase is nothing close to being a mantra,

    Is McDonald saying that "life begins at conception" isn't close to being an often repeated phrase? If so, I suggest that he Google the phrase. If he will do that, he will get 112,000 hits. That would not happen if the phrase had not been often repeated.

    McDonald:
    but it is the truth.

    Actually, it isn't the truth. As I showed above, life begins before conception. I doubt that any biologist would deny that the female gamete [ovum] expelled from an ovary is alive before it unites with the male gamete [sperm], which is also alive even before it is ejaculated. Hence, "life" obviously begins before conception.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till tries to make an argument showing that the ovum and sperm cell is alive, and by this trying to show that first stages of the human is alive, but is not life.

    What! I was trying to show that the first stages of the human is alive but is not life? I wouldn't be stupid enough to argue that something that is alive is not life. I was merely showing just how misguided pro-lifers are in saying that "life begins at conception." They are making a claim that is obviously wrong. Life begins even before conception, but the "life" that exists in the womb at the moment of conception is not a "person," just as the "life" existing in the gametes is not a "person." As the scientific data that I cited show--which McDonald has yet to address--what exists in the womb at conception and even for some time thereafter is not a "person." The issue is whether abortion in the early stages of pregnancy kills a person. McDonald says it does, but the scientific evidence says that it doesn't.

    McDonald:
    There is a difference and even Farrell Till knows this. All cells, of the body are alive, my hair follicles are alive, my skin cells are alive, but none of them are LIFE.

    How does one deal with such ignorance as this? If the cells of McDonald's body were not life, then he would not be alive. He is quibbling here, because he knows that he cannot satisfactorily explain away the scientific data I cited to show that a zygote at the moment of conception although certainly alive is not a person.

    McDonald:
    When the sperm enters the egg and is nucleated life begins,

    No, life began long before this, because if the sperm and egg were not alive prior to the union of these two gametes, then no union would take place. McDonald is apparently using the term nucleate in the sense of gametic union, but nucleate means "to form a nucleus." A Textbook of Anatomy by American Authors clearly states in its embryology section that the male gamete has a nucleus. Each time it is used in the quotation below, I have emphasized nucleus in bold print.

    The spermatozoa are the result of modification of the spermatids. Each of these latter is at first a round cell with a rather large nucleus, near which lies the centrosome. Gradually this cell elongates, the nucleus takes up a position near one extremity, an axial filament develops in the cell-body, the centrosome comes to lie behind the nucleus, and, as a result, there is produced the mature spermatozoön, a body measuring in length about 1/500 inch, and consisting of (a) a pyriform head composed of the nucleus of the original spermatid, surrounded by an exceedingly thin layer of protoplasm, (b) of a "middle piece," immediately behind the head, and representing probably the centrosome of the spermatid, (c) of the tail derived from the cell-body of the spermatid, and composed of an axial filament surrounded by a sheath of protoplasm, somewhat variable in form, though usually simply cyclindrical; and (d) of a terminal filament, which is the end portion of the axial filament.

    The biological process described here in the process of spermatozoa formation could not occur unless life was in the cells. If McDonald, whose scientific knowledge has been repeatedly demonstrated to be woefully deficient, would bother to consult reputable sources, he would see that all cells have a nucleus. Since the male and female gametes are both living cells before they unite to form a zygote, then they both have a nucleus. This is a scientific fact that McDonald could easily verify by Googling terms like "ovum nucleus" and "sperm nucleus." Either term will give him thousands of hits.

    McDonald:
    it is not just alive, but it is a life.

    If it is alive, then it is life, and if it is life, it is alive. McDonald is shamelessly quibbling to try to conceal his inability to address the scientific data cited in my article.

    McDonald:
    This is not a potential life, [sic] it is life.

    Here is another straw man. I used the expression "potential life" in my article only in reference to the way that pro-birthers use it. Otherwise, when I used the word potential, it was used with person or individual or some equivalent, as the following quotations from the article clearly show.

    Till
    That sperm cells are alive is obvious to anyone who has ever watched them "swimming" under a microscope. This is all true, anti-abortionists will say, but gametes or reproductive cells are only "potential persons" but do not become actual persons until the two come together.

    By the time, I met the nursing student who eventually changed my position on abortion, I had completed a required college course in general biology in which a unit in human reproduction was explicitly presented, so I knew about the scientific principles that produced multiple identical births, but I didn't know that sometimes after a zygote divides to form potential twins, they will fuse, for some reason also not known, to form a single zygote again, which will later be born as one person. That came as a surprise to me, but what was even more surprising to me was the phenomenon known as "chimerism."

    The conclusion that this leads to is not at all compatible with the pro-birth view that a "person" exists at the moment of conception, because if chimerism had occurred in the example just mentioned, neither Jenna nor Barbara Bush would have been born but a single individual who would have been a gentic composite of the two originally separate zygotes; therefore, it follows that neither Jenna nor Barbara Bush existed in the early stages of their mother's pregnancy. What existed was simply the genetic materials that had the potential to develop into two persons. In their case, that potential was realized, and they were eventually born as two separate persons, but when chimerism occurs, that potential is lost through fusion of the two zygotes. An actual documented example of chimerism will illustrate how chimerism in early pregnancy will merge two potential individuals into just one. In the case just linked to, "Jane," the woman discovered at the age of 52 to be a tetragametic chimera, had been born after her mother had conceived nonidentical or fraternal female zygotes that merged to form just one person (the "Jane" who later became the subject of the study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine). As this article reported, however, hermaphroditic chimerism sometimes results from the fusion of male and female zygotes.

    If anything can make the pro-birth movement reassess its position that abortion in even the early stages of pregnancy is murder, the scientific information summarized above should certainly give them pause to reconsider. No single human being can divide him-/herself into identical twin persons, and no two human beings can fuse their bodies into a single person. It must follow, then, that what is in the womb at the time of conception and even shortly thereafter is not a person but only a potential person or persons.

    This brings us back to a point that was introduced earlier: at the time of conception, only a potential person exists but not an actual person in the sense that I am a person and those of you reading this are persons. If, for example, the mother of "Jane," referenced above, had had an abortion while nonidentical (fraternal) zygotes were in her womb, this would not have killed "Jane," in the sense that the person "Jane" existed at that time. Instead, the abortion would have terminated two zygotes, which at the time had had the potential to become two persons. "Jane" as a person, however, never existed until the two zygotes had amalgamated to form a tetragametic chimera, which was later born as the one person "Jane."

    By using the expression "potential life," McDonald distorted my position to leave the impression that he was addressing my argument, but my argument was never that "potential life" exists at the time of conception but that the zygote resulting from the union of the female and male gametes was a potential person. In the paragraph quoted below, I did use the expression "potential life" but only to address the pro-birth view of what exists when conception occurs.

    Till:
    When confronted with scientific information like this, I suspect that many in the pro-birth movement would claim that even though abortion in the early stages of pregnancy doesn't kill an actual person, it is still immoral, because it kills a potential person, but that is a position fraught with so many problems that no reasonable person would try to defend it. As I pointed out earlier, there is "potential life" in the gametes (ovum and sperm) before actual fertilization occurs. All that is necessary for a person to be born is the union of the two gametes, followed by a pregnancy carried to term. If, then, the destruction of "potential life" by abortion is immoral, why wouldn't birth control methods that prevent fertilization from occurring also be immoral? Both prevent the development of "potential life" into an actual person. Catholics, of course, will argue that birth control is immoral because it prevents potential life from developing, but even they are not consistent, because they allow abstinance as a morally acceptable method of birth control. If, however, there is immorality in preventing "potential life" from developing into actual persons, even birth control by abstinance would be immoral, because it too prevents "potential life" from developing into actual persons. To be consistent, then, those who argue that birth-control methods that prevent "potential life" from developing into actual persons is immoral would have to take this position to its logical end and argue that women who realize that they are ovulating have a moral obligation to seek out males to help them make the "potential life" within them into actual persons. If not, why not?

    If McDonald is going to contend that the destruction of "potential life" as he is defining it is immoral, consistency would require him to oppose birth-control methods, because they all prevent persons developing from the "potential life" that is obviously present in the male and female gametes. We will see him try to dance around this problem.

    McDonald:
    Now whether it will be one person or two will be determined by whether the zygote separates and stays separated or if it reunites.

    Obviously so, but this does not address the problem summarized below.

    1. Opponents of abortion claim that a person exists at the moment of conception.

    2. If this is so, then they necessarily believe that a zygote is a person.

    3. If a zygote is a person, then when it does divide to form two zygotes, there would be two persons in the womb.

    The problem that McDonald never explains is where the second person came from. Notice that McDonald's statement immediately below doesn't resolve this problem.

    McDonald:
    If it reunites it will be one person, but if it stays separated there will be more than one.

    If I understand what he is saying, McDonald is claiming that when a zygote, which he contends is a person, separates, it becomes two zygotes or, in other words, two persons. As I just asked above, where did the second person come from? He didn't explain. He further said that if "it" [the zygote] reunites, it will be one person, but it is a singular pronoun, so if the zygote separates, "it" is two persons, not just one, so they would be the appropriate pronoun to use in referring to the two. At any rate, that the one zyogote has become two zygotes or persons is a position that McDonald's line of reasoning necessitates. Now if one zygote [person] separates to form two zygotes [persons] and then these two zygotes [persons] reunite to become one zygote [person], what happened to the second person?

    That is what McDonald never explained or even tried to explain.

    McDonald:
    Now what follows is Mr. Till wanting to show us how life is not there until certain things have happened.

    Readers will undoubtedly notice that I never said anywhere in the quotation below that "life is not there until certain things have happened." As the various quotations above, taken directly from my article, clearly show, I very emphatically stated that life exists in the male and female gametes even before conception occurs. My position throughout the article was that a person doesn't exist "until certain things have happened," so this is another example of McDonald's distortion of my position to set up a straw man to distract attention from his inability to reply to the scientific data that I cited.

    Till:
    The problems of identical twins and embryonic amalgamations: The nursing student mentioned pointed out in our first conversation that she had an identical twin sister. I wondered about the relevance of this until she asked me to divide myself into two identical persons. Her point, I soon realized, was that a blastula or zygote, the hollow sphere that forms with the union of the female and male gametes, will sometimes (for reasons not yet known) divide to form two identical zygotes, which will usually pass through the different stages of pregnancy to be born as identical twins. Sometimes one or both of the identical zygotes will divide again to form triplets or quadruplets, and in even rarer instances, a third division of one of the zygotes will occur to form identical quintuplets. A year after I was born, the Dionne quintuplets, the only known case of identical quints who survived childhood, were born in Canada. I remember seeing them in newsreels shown at the movies when I was growing up, but I really didn't know what was meant when they were referred to as identical quints. By the time I met the nursing student who eventually changed my position on abortion, I had completed a required college course in general biology in which a unit in human reproduction was explicitly presented, so I knew about the scientific principles that produced multiple identical births, but I didn't know that sometimes after a zygote divides to form potential twins, they will fuse, for some reason also not known, to form a single zygote again, which will later be born as one person. That came as a surprise to me, but what was even more surprising to me was the phenomenon known as "chimerism." The definition below from TheFreeDictionary.com explains what chimerism is.

    McDonald:
    The problem with student nurses is the same problem we have with students in every field. A preacher student, for example, gets a little knowledge and automatically he assumes that he has all the answers.

    My article didn't cite the student nurse as an authority on embryology. It merely mentioned her as the one who had directed me to scientific data that clearly dispute the pro-birth claim that a person exists at the moment of conception. Although her information proved to be correct, the data that I cited were derived from articles written by embryologists and other scientists who were obviously qualified to speak with authority on the subjects of twinning and embryonic amalgamation. I defy McDonald to show where I even implied in the article that opponents of abortion should abandon their position on the authority of a student nurse.

    This is another example of McDonald's huffing and puffing at straw men rather than actually trying to address the scientific data I cited.

    McDonald:
    One of the biggest let downs I ever had was right after I came out of two years of intinsive [sic] training at Brown Trail [School of Preaching]. I came out with the idea that I was going to go out and win the world to Christ in just a little while. I soon found out that I didn't know near [sic] enough to do what I needed to do to even begin winning the world for Christ.

    As an ex-preacher who graduated from Bible college with similar views, I am familiar with the feeling that McDonald just described. However, it is completely irrelevant, because the scientific data cited in my article came from books and articles written by credentialed embryologists and not from a student nurse. McDonald is still swinging away at straw men. He does so because he cannot satisfactorily address the scientific data cited in my article.

    McDonald:
    After 27 years I am still finding that I don't have all the knowledge that I need to complete the work that God has given me to do.

    Hmm, I wonder why "God" gave McDonald more work than he could do. Anyway, those who read McDonald's articles, such as the ones that he contributed to our written debate, will see that the modesty implied in his statement above is atypical of his general attitude. Time and time again in the Errancy forum, he contended that experts in biblical Greek and other fields were wrong when they stated positions that disagreed with his. Those occasions are too numerous to document here, but members of the Errancy forum will know what I am talking about. They will remember that no matter what reputable evidence was presented to prove McDonald wrong, he would never admit that he was.

    Modesty just isn't one of McDonald's traits. For example, those who read the debate exchanges linked to above will see him claiming to know the meanings of passages quoted from the Qur'an and the Book of Mormon better than Islamic and Mormon scholars who disagreed with his takes on the passages.

    McDonald:
    A student doctor thinks he has enough knowledge to diagnose (really what he does is misdiagnose) a person's illness.

    McDonald continues to flail away at his straw men. The scientific data that I cited in my article was quoted from books and articles written by qualified scientists and embryologists and not by student doctors or nurses. That aside, even if I had presented no scientific opinions in my article but what a student nurse said, that would in no way prove that her opinions were wrong, but perhaps McDonald has spent so much time trying to discredit her because he is ignorant of the universally recognized logical axiom that says that the truth or falsity of a claim is independent of its source.

    McDonald:
    I had a resident doctor (one who had graduated medical school, and was serving his internship) try to tell me that I did not have any sign of a stroke on the left side of my brain and that I had never had a stroke. However, my regular neurologist (who had been practicing and teaching for 30 years) said that I did and even showed it to me on my MRI.

    I assume that everyone has noticed that McDonald is big on anecdotal "evidence." He always seems to know of some example from his personal life that will prove his position or disprove his opponents' positions. The example that he just cited is a good example of the fallacy of inadequate sampling (as were his comments above about welfare cheaters). The fact that one intern misdiagnosed a patient's ailment is no proof that interns in general are unable to make correct diagnoses. If I used McDonald's anecdotal logic, I could argue that emergency room nurses are qualified to diagnose ailments, because some years ago I went in the middle of the night to the local emergency room with severe abdominal pains. The nurse on duty--who happened to be one of my former students when she was in nursing school--told me she was sure that I had kidney stones. She made a call to a physician, told him my symptons, and asked permission to give me an injection for the pain. The physician authorized the injection, which brought me immediate relief from the pain. The accuracy of the nurse's "diagnosis" was later confirmed, so I guess my anecdotal evidence would prove that nurses are qualified to diagnose the ailments of emergency-room patients.

    McDonald:
    Now I am not running this nursing student down,

    I am sure he isn't.

    McDonald:
    but the fact is, she does not know everything.

    And neither does McDonald's neurologist know everything. If the facts could be known, I suspect that he has at times made incorrect diagnoses.

    McDonald:
    Student nurses, doctors, preachers, police officers, et. al., should not be involved in giving absolute information because they don't know absolutely if they are correct or not.

    Well, actually no one should ever be involved in giving absolute information--unless, of course, he is a Church-of-Christ preacher--because no one can know absolutely if he is correct or not. I made Church-of-Christ preachers exceptions to this, because McDonald once said in a written debate with me that he would never debate a subject that he was not absolutely sure about. I guess, then, that McDonald is arguing that even though he can give "absolute information" and "know absolutely" that he is correct, no one else can.

    McDonald:
    Now I am sure that this person thought she had enough knowledge of what moment life began with her and her sister.

    McDonald continues to punch away at his straw men. I don't recall that the student nurse ever, at any time, even implied that she thought that the divided zygote, which eventually developed into her and her sister, was not alive at the moment of conception. She was simply giving me information that she considered inconsistent with my view, at the time, that abortion kills a person, even if it is done in the earliest stages of pregnancy. McDonald continues to evade the issue posed by the title of my article: Does a Person Exist at the moment of Conception?

    McDonald:
    The issue is not whether the zygote divides and then refuses itself, the issue is; [sic] when does life begin.

    No, that is not the issue. My article was very clear in stating that life begins even before the time of conception, so the issue is not when life begins but when the life in the womb becomes a person.

    McDonald:
    Life begins at the moment of conception.

    If it does, then it would necessarily follow that the male and female gametes were not alive before conception occurred. I challenge McDonald, then, to explain to us how life could come from gametes that are not alive. I have seen him argue the old creationist position that life cannot come from nonlife, so perhaps he would like to tell us if he has changed that position and now believes that life can come from nonliving gametes.

    McDonald:
    Till continues... [sic]

    Till:
    In zoology a chimera is an animal which has (at least) two different populations of cells,which are genetically distinct and which originated in different zygotes. In biology, a zygote is the result of fertilization. That is, two haploid cells--usually (but not always) a male sperm cell and a female ovum or ovule--merge into a single diploid cell called the zygote. The zygote then undergoes multiple cell divisions in gametic and sporic meioses (see biological life cycles) to become an embryo.

    Chimerism may occur naturally during pregnancy, when two nonidentical twins combine in the womb, at a very early stage of development, to form a single organism. Such an organism is called a tetragametic chimera as it is formed from four gametes—two eggs and two sperm. As the organism develops, the resulting chimera can come to possess organs that have different sets of chromosomes. For example, the chimera may have a liver composed of cells with a second set of chromosomes. This has occurred in humans, though it is considered extremely rare, but since it can only be detected through DNA testing, which in itself is rare, it may be more common than currently believed. As of 2003, there were about 30 human cases in the literature, according to New Scientist.

    This website has links imbedded that give definitions of scientific terms such as zoology, zygotes, and gametes. Most readers will probably be familiar with these terms, so I will focus on the meaning of chimera, which is partly clarified by its origin. In Greek mythology, Chimera was a fire-breathing monster, who was the offspring of Typhon and Echidna. Descriptions of it varied. Some said that the Chimera had the head of a lion, the body of a goat, and the hindquarters of a dragon or serpent. Others say that it had two heads, one of a lion, the other of a goat, and the body of a serpent. The fact that this mythological creature was thought to be a composite of different biological creatures is the reason why its name was used to describe the fusion of nonidentical zygotes in pregnancies that would ordinarily result in the birth of fraternal (nonidentical) twins but instead produce single births that are composites of two genotypes. George W. and Laura Bush, for example, have well known nonidentical or fraternal twin daughters, who are therefore as genetically different as if they had been born from separate pregnancies, as most sisters and brothers are. If, however, chimerism had occurred in the early stages of their mother's pregnancy, the separate zygotes would have fused to form a single embryo, and when the pregnancy had run its course, the child born would have been neither Jenna nor Barbara but a genetic composite of the two.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till thinks that "chimerism" is proof that there is no life in the womb at conception.

    No, Mr. Till does not think that there is "no life in the womb at conception," and Mr. Till has never implied that life isn't in the womb at conception. Mr. Till, as explained several times above, recognizes that life is in both the male and female gametes before conception occurs. Mr. Till thinks that a person is not in the womb at the time of conception, and as we go through McDonald's comments below, I will ask readers to notice that he continues to fight straw men in order to evade the scientific data that are inconsistent with the pro-birth claim that a person exists at the moment of conception.

    McDonald:
    Just because the zygote divides and then sometimes refuses does not mean that there is no life in the womb.

    No, it doesn't. Life was in the womb even before the zygote(s) divided and/or refused, but that life was not a person. If McDonald continues to argue otherwise, let him explain to us (1) where the second person came from when the zygote divided and (2) where either the first or second person went to when the zygotes refused. Watch him continue to evade this problem in his simplistic view of conception.

    McDonald:
    All it means is at this point the number has not yet been determined.

    It hasn't? Then does this mean that a zygote is not a person? If McDonald says that a zygote is a person, and if an impregnated female has only one zygote in her womb, there is only one person there. The number, then, has been determined at the moment of conception. If not, why not? If after this one "person" [zygote] divides into two zygotes [persons], then there would be two persons in the woman's womb. The number was determined when the zygote divided. If not, why not?

    What exactly does McDonald mean? Well, we will see immediately below that he is so confused that he admits that he doesn't really know what he means.

    McDonald:
    I don't know how this determination is made, and I don't know if anyone else does either,

    Here are some true or false questions for McDonald to answer. If he does not answer them, we will assume that his answers are true.

    1. The zygote that forms at the moment of conception is a person.

    2. If this zygote divides to form two zygotes, then both of these zygotes are persons.

    3. If these two zygotes fuse again to form just one zygote, then one of the two persons that had earlier existed vanished somewhere.

    If McDonald does say that number 3 is true, what are his answers to these questions.

    1. What happened to the person that vanished when zygotic refusion occurred?

    2. Did this vanishing second zygote [person] die?

    3. If so, how could it have died if the living substance of the second zygote simply refused with the other one?

    4. Did the original zygote have a "soul"?

    5. Did the second zygote, which split away from the first, also have a "soul"?

    6. If so, where did this second "soul" come from? Can "souls," like zygotes, divide?

    7. Where did it go when refusion occurred?

    8. If refusion does not occur and the two zygotes remain separated to form eventually identical twins, will both of these twins have a "soul"?

    9. If so, where did the second "soul" come from?

    I am simply trying to get McDonald to see that there are serious problems in his simplistic view of when life in the womb becomes a person. I should realize by now that trying to get McDonald to see inconsistency in his religious opinions is a futile undertaking, but I can always try.

    McDonald:
    but the fact that the zygote does split and sometimes refuse (something I learned in 8th grade Biology)

    Yeah, I'll bet he did learn this is eighth-grade biology. I wonder why he didn't learn in eight-grade biology that the female and male gametes are living cells, which would each have a nucleus as all cells do.

    McDonald:
    [but the fact that the zygote does split and sometimes refuse (something I learned in 8th grade biology) does not mean that life is not present.

    It certainly doesn't, because a zygote is a diploid cell, which forms at the moment of fertilization from the two haploid (male and female gametes) cells. Each haploid cell contains half of the number of chromosomes that the normal human body has, so each haploid cell will have 23 chromosomes. When the two haploids unite in fertilization, a diploid cell is formed that will have 46 chromosomes. Each haploid has a nucleus, and when the two unite, a single nucleus forms from the fusion of the two haploid nuclei. The union of the gametes (haploids) could not take place to form a living diploid cell (zygote) unless the gametes were alive before the union (fertilization) occurs.

    Didn't McDonald learn that in eighth-grade biology?

    McDonald:
    All this means is that the number of people hasn't been determined as of yet.

    And that necessarily means that the zygote, although obviously alive, is not yet a person. If it were a person, then division could not afterwards occur to form two zygotes that will eventually develop into two persons (identical twins). McDonald is not addressing this problem. He prefers to fight straw men.

    McDonald:
    That will be determined down the road.

    If "the number of people" resulting from the union of the two haploid cells "will be determined down the road," then the zygote [diploid] formed from the union of the two is not yet a person. If not, why not? Maybe McDonald can find an eighth-grade biology textbook that will shed some light on this problem that is inconsistent with his claim that an act of abortion in the early stage of pregnancy kills a "person."

    McDonald:
    The example that this student nurse used about Till cutting himself in half and then reforming himself is absurd

    The student nurse didn't challenge me to "cut myself in half" and reform myself. She challenged me to divide myself into two separate persons. Notice the part that I have emphasized in italic print in the quotation below from my original article.

    Till:
    The nursing student mentioned pointed out in our first conversation that she had an identical twin sister. I wondered about the relevance of this until she asked me to divide myself into two identical persons. Her point, I soon realized, was that a blastula or zygote, the hollow sphere that forms with the union of the female and male gametes, will sometimes (for reasons not yet known) divide to form two identical zygotes, which will usually pass through the different stages of pregnancy to be born as identical twins.

    If McDonald would bother to read what his opponent says, maybe he wouldn't look so silly trying to "answer" it. If his distortion of the student nurse's challenge was intentional, then this is just another one of his straw men that he has set up to distract attention from his inability to address the scientific data cited in my article.

    McDonald:
    [The example that this student nurse used about Till cutting himself in half and then reforming himself is absurd] and has no bearing (as far as an example is concerned) on this case.

    It is very relevant to the case, because the fact that neither I nor any other person can divide into two genetically identical persons whereas zygotes can is clear evidence of what I said in my article.

    Till:
    No single human being can divide him-/herself into identical twin persons, and no two human beings can fuse their bodies into a single person. It must follow, then, that what is in the womb at the time of conception and even shortly thereafter is not a person but only a potential person or persons.

    If this conclusion does not follow from the evidence, let McDonald use his eighth-grade biology to show us why it doesn't. He must understand, however, that the conclusion does not follow just because he says that it doesn't.

    McDonald:
    If Mr. Till was [sic] to cut himself in half, he would die.

    I appreciate the admission that McDonald ignorantly made here. I certainly cannot "cut [myself] in half" without killing myself, and I cannot divide myself into two genetically identical persons. This is all solid evidence that I am entirely different from a zygote in a womb. Zygotes can divide into genetically identical zygotes, and I understand that the genetical material in a zygote can even be "cut" into two parts in the laboratory, after which in each case the two parts would develop into two different persons. Zygotes, then, are obviously different from what I am.

    If not, why not?

    McDonald:
    There would be no putting him back together again, he would just be dead.

    McDonald is dead right about this; therefore, he has admitted that a zygote in a womb is something entirely different from what I am. I am a person; the zygote isn't. It is just a potential person. This poor guy apparently can't see that he is defeating his own position.

    McDonald:
    The zygote can divide itself and on occasion refuse itself without death occuring [sic],

    A person, however, cannot divide himself and on occasion refuse, so once again McDonald has admitted that a zygote in a womb is something entirely different from a person like McDonald or me.

    McDonald:
    but a fully formed being cannot do that because of the level of development it happens to be in.

    Which again proves that a person is something entirely different from a zygote in the womb. McDonald is so scientifically ignorant that he didn't even realize what he was admitting.

    All through his "reply" to this section of my article, McDonald missed the point entirely. The number of births that may result from a zygote that forms from the union of the male and female gametes is not the issue. The issue is the fact that after this union occurs the zygote is obviously something radically different from a person like McDonald or me. That difference is evident from the fact that a zygote can divide into two or more zygotes and sometimes even fuse to become just a single zygote again. A person like McDonald can do neither. Two nonidentical zygotes rather than remaining separate to form fraternal twins will sometimes fuse or amalgamate to form a single embryo, known as a tetratametic chimera, which will be a genetic composite of both of the original zygotes. In other words, as noted in the quotation above from my article, this amalgamated embryo will contain the genetic material from four gametes (two contributed by the male parent and two contributed by the female) rather than just two. The ability of separate zygotes to fuse like this is a trait that persons do not have. I, for example, could not fuse with my brother to form just one person who would be a genetic composite of both of us, and McDonald cannot fuse with one of his brothers to form just one composite person. The fact that zygotes do have the ability to do this and fully developed persons don't is clear evidence that a zygote is something different from a person. If not, why not?

    I could have used other zygotic abilities to illustrate that zygotes are different from persons. Sometimes when couples are unable to conceive children naturally, they will seek the assistance of fertility clinics. Sometimes this assistance will be done through in vitro fertilization. In this process, ova will be harvested from the female's ovary, fertilized by sperm taken from the male, and then transferred to the female's uterus. Because impregnation by this process will fail more times than it will succeed, fertility clinics will usually harvest additional ova, fertilize them in vitro, and then freeze them in liquid nitrogen for future use if the couple so desires. Frozen embryos can be stored indefinitely, as this link will explain, and then used later, sometimes even years later. This biological fact has caused some countries to legislate how long frozen embryos can be kept. Southern Australia, for example, will allow them to be "stored" for ten years.

    The fact that zygotes and embyros in this early stage of development can be kept in suspended animation through a freezing process and later implanted without any damage to the infants that develop from such pregnancies points out another trait that indicates a substantial difference in zygotes and persons. If the technology had existed back in the 1930s, the zygote that I developed from could have been frozen in liquid nitrogen for, say, ten years and then implanted in my mother's womb so that I would have been born in 1943 instead of 1933. Needless to say, if I were to be immersed in liquid nitrogen now, I would be immediately killed. Therefore, what I am now is something substantially different from the zygote that I developed from. If McDonald expects to have any success in arguing that abortion even in the early stages of pregnancy kills a "person," he is going to have to address the issue of obvious differences in zygotes and persons.

    Till:
    The conclusion that this leads to is not at all compatible with the pro-birth view that a "person" exists at the moment of conception, because if chimerism had occurred in the example just mentioned, neither Jenna nor Barbara Bush would have been born but a single individual who would have been a gentic composite of the two originally separate zygotes; therefore, it follows that neither Jenna nor Barbara Bush existed in the early stages of their mother's pregnancy. What existed was simply the genetic materials that had the potential to develop into two persons. In their case, that potential was realized, and they were eventually born as two separate persons, but when chimerism occurs, that potential is lost through fusion of the two zygotes. An actual documented example of chimerism will illustrate how chimerism in early pregnancy will merge two potential individuals into just one. In the case just linked to, "Jane," the woman discovered at the age of 52 to be a tetragametic chimera, had been born after her mother had conceived nonidentical or fraternal female zygotes that merged to form just one person (the "Jane" who later became the subject of the study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine.) As this article reported, however, hermaphroditic chimerism sometimes results from the fusion of male and female zygotes. A case of this reported in The New England Journal of Medicine [338 (3):166-169] told of a child who had been born with an ovary on one side and a testis on the other. Genetic studies showed that the child had two lines of cells, one 46XX (female) and one 46XY (male). The conclusion of these studies was that the child had resulted from the fusion or amalgamation of two separate zygotes. Had the amalgamation of the zygotes not occurred, two children, one male and the other female, would have been born, but the amalgamation resulted in a single hermaphroditic birth.

    McDonald:
    The conclusion of all of this does not mean that "life begins at conception" is incompatible with true science or is in error. When we say that "it is a child, not a choice" we are saying nothing more than there is life there.

    The issue is not whether "there is life there" but whether the termination of that life would be the killing of a "person." When an ovary expels an ovum into the fallopian tube, "there is life there," but would killing that ovum be the same as killing a "person"? If not, why not? When a spermatozoön is ejaculated into the female uturus, "there is life there," but would the use of spermicides to kill that life be the same as killing a "person"? If not, why not? Whatever "why not" McDonald may give in answer to these questions, it cannot be a claim that life is not in the ovum and spermatozoön, because they obviously are alive. If, therefore, McDonald says that killing a live ovum or a live spermatozoön is not morally wrong, by what process of logic is he able to say that killing the same genetic materials in their fused or zygotic stage is immoral?

    An ovum has 23 chromosomes, which contain genetic material from the female. A spermatozoon has 23 chromosomes, which contain genetic material from the male. If McDonald is a typical opponent of abortion, he will say that there would be nothing morally wrong with an act of intervention that killed both of these gametes when they were just a millimeter apart in the female uterus. If, however, the spermatozoon should close that millimeter and unite with the ovum to form a diploid cell [zygote], which would then contain 46 chromosomes or all of the genetic material of both gametes [hyploid cells], an act of intervention that killed the diploid cell [zygote] at that moment would be an immoral act. When they are a millimeter apart, they can be killed, but when that millimeter has been closed, the diploid composite of the two cannot be killed without committing a grievously immoral act. Why the difference?

    That is the real issue, and McDonald is evading it by setting up straw men that distort or misrepresent the position that I took in my article.

    As for saying, "It is a child not a choice," the mere act of saying this would not make it true if McDonald intends for the word child to mean person in the sense that he and I are persons. I would certainly agree that abortion in the later stages of pregnancy would constitute the killing of a child, but if a "morning-after" pill should terminate a recently formed zygote, that would not constitute the killing of a child, because, as repeatedly noted above, a zygote is obviously something different from a "person."

    McDonald:
    Whether it is one child or two or more, will be determined later on in the pregnancy, but the fact remains that at least one child does exist at conception.

    The more McDonald says, the more he shows his inability to reason logically. If the number of children [persons] to be born from the zygote that forms from the union of two gametes "will be determined later on in the pregnancy," then, as I showed above, the zygote is something entirely different from a person. If McDonald were taken into a maternity ward and shown all of the babies in the basinets, he could count them to determine how many persons have been born. On the other hand, he cannot look at a zygote formed in a test tube by in vitro fertilization and determine how many persons will develop from it if it should ever be implanted in a womb. One would probably be a good bet, but he cannot definitively determine that only one will be born, because the zygote could divide in the womb and form more than one. He can, however, look at a newborn baby and say definitively that this is just one person and that the genetic composition of this baby will never be more than one person.

    These are scientific facts that are inconsistent with the pro-life claim that a person exists at the moment of conception. A person does not exist at that moment. Only a zygote, which has the potential to develop into one or more persons, exists, and nothing more than that can be claimed.

    All this aside, the issue, as I showed above, is not the number of persons who may eventually be born from a single zygote; the issue is that zygotic abilities to divide into two or several zygotes or to fuse again into one and to remain unharmed indefinitely in a frozen state is clear evidence that a zygote is not a person.

    McDonald:
    At least one person does exist at conception.

    I assume that everyone has noticed that McDonald has done nothing except argue by unsupported assertion but has offered no scientific evidence at all in support of his assertion that a zygote in the womb is the same as a person. If "(a)t least one person does exist at conception," then McDonald is saying that a zygote is a person. Where is his scientific evidence to support that claim?

    I referred above to babies in a maternity ward, who can be counted to determine how many there are. The fact that McDonald cannot determine how many babies will develop from a newly formed zygote clearly shows that a zygote is something entirely different from a person. Even in the later stages of pregnancy, sonograms can be used to determine how many babies are in the womb, but a sonogram of a zygote cannot determine how many persons may eventually develop from it. This and other zygotic characteristics, such as the ability to remain indefinitely in a frozen state, constitute clear evidence that a zygote is something radically different from a person.

    McDonald:
    There is no need to say "is is [sic] either a child or children, not a choice." That would be like my filling out a job application and coming to the question "How many children do you have living at home" and me [sic] putting "I don't have children, [sic] I have one child" [sic]

    McDonald continues to flail away at his straw man. As I have repeatedly stated, the issue is not how many children may eventually be born from a single zygote. The real issue is that zygotic differences, such as the ability to divide, fuse, and remain unharmed in a frozen state--none of which a person can do--are evidence that zygotes are not persons.

    As for the question about children on a job application, let's imagine a young couple seeking assistance from a fertility clinic. In addition to the in vitro zygotes that are implanted in the wife's uterus, the couple agrees to let the clinic freeze ten zygotes for future use in case the first attempt at impregnation fails. If the first attempt does fail, and the husband filled out a job application before a second attempt at impregnation, what would he say about the number of children he had? Would he say that he had ten? I seriously doubt that he would, but according to McDonald's logic, the ten frozen zygotes at the fertility clinic would in reality be persons. That is the kind of silliness that results from McDonald's "logic."

    Even the language used by pro-birthers betrays what they really think about what is in the womb before birth. If an opponent of abortion, whose wife is pregnant with their first child, should be asked if he has any children, I doubt that he would say, "Yes, I have one in my wife's womb." He would instead say something like, "Not yet, but we are expecting our first one." Such language as this tacitly recognizes that what is in the womb is not yet considered to be a person. The situation here is somewhat the same as if McDonald should go to a nearby farm, which has both hens and roosters, and buy a dozen fertilized eggs. If someone seeing him carrying his purchase should ask what he had in the basket, I doubt that he would say that he had a dozen chickens in it.

    McDonald:
    If I answered this way, the employer would most likely decide that if I was that idiotic there would be no chance of me [sic] ever being able to do the job for which I was applying.

    McDonald is still flailing at his straw man. The issue, as I have repeatedly explained, is not at all concerned with the number of offspring that may result from a pregnancy but with whether a zygote in the womb is the same as a person who has either been born or is still in the womb in the late stages of pregnancy. The evidence that I have now cited several times indicates that the two are not even close to being the same, and McDonald has repeatedly danced around that evidence.

    McDonald:
    Many people, in the church of Christ, have mistakenly argued that an elder must have a multiplicity of children because of the statement "having his children in subjection with all gravity" (1 Tim. 3:4), and that if all he has is one child he cannot serve as an elder.

    Having come from a Church-of-Christ background, I am familiar with that controversy, as I am also familiar with many of the petty doctrinal disputes in this church, but it is irrelevant to the matter that McDonald is supposed to be addressing. The issue is not the number of children who may eventually be born from the union of one ovum and one spermatozoon. The issue is whether the zygote that results from that union is the same as a person. I have repeatedly cited scientific data that show the two are not at all the same. McDonald has cited no scientific evidence at all in support of his claim that abortion even in the earliest stages of pregnancy is the same as killing a person.

    McDonald:
    The problem is, [sic] that the word children can be used to mean either one child or many children, but at least one child is essential.

    Well, actually, children is the plural of child, so it technically denotes more than one child. In situations like the one McDonald mentioned, when someone is asked how many children he has, his saying, "I have one," is nothing more than an elliptical expression that is always understood to mean, "I have one [child]," even though the word child isn't directly stated. In English, we can use most nouns in the same elliptical sense. If someone asked a one-car owner how many cars he had, he wouldn't say, "I don't have cars; I have one car." He would instead say, "I have one," and the elliptically singular car would be understood in his answer.

    Anyway, when I was still in the Church of Christ, I sided with those who took the view that the statement in 1 Timothy 3:4 was intended to mean that an elder of the church should have children and not just one child, because the obvious intention of this requirment was to increase the chances that an elder would be qualified to keep peace and unity in the congregation. That intention of the requirement was evident in the very next statement: "For if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how can he take care of God's church" (v:5). If a person had had the experience of successfully raising more than one child, an endeavor that would have required settling disputes and keeping sibling rivalry under control, he would be more likely qualified to keep peace in the congregation than would someone who had successfully reared only one child.

    This controversy in the Church-of-Christ, then, isn't nearly as cut and dried as McDonald tried to make it sound, but, as I said earlier, a petty dispute in McDonald's church is irrelevant to the issue he is supposed to be discussing, because that issue has nothing to do with the number of persons who may be eventually born from a single zygote. The issue is whether the zygote and a person are the same. I have shown scientific evidence that they are too different to be considered the same. McDonald has told a few anecdotes and related a doctrinal dispute in his church, but he has given us no scientific evidence at all to support his position on abortion.

    McDonald:
    This is all that we are saying when we say "it is a child, not a choice." We are simply stating that it is at least one child, and it is not a woman's choice.

    I don't think that what anti-abortionists mean when they say, "It is a child not a choice," is misunderstood by anyone, but, again, what they mean is not the issue. The issue is whether what they mean in saying this is scientifically accurate. Is a zygote in the womb the same as a "child" in the sense that the child is a "person." I could say of an ovum that it is a child not an ovum and mean by this that the ovum is a person, but my simply saying this wouldn't make it so.

    McDonald:
    Till continues...[sic]

    Till:
    This case had resulted from in vitro fertilization, where several zygotes were implanted in the mother, but hermaphroditic chimerism in humans has been known to occur in otherwise normal impregnations. Dr. Mehrdad Rahmaniyan has documented a case of "a true hermaphroditic chimera" that had the same 46XX and 46XY karotypes as in the in vitro case documented above. The XX cell line was in 80% of the body and the XY in the other 20%. Instead of having an ovary on one side and a testis on the other, Rahmaniyan's case had "ambiguous genitalia," a small phallus and a "pseudo-vaginal perineal hypospadias" and "a bifid scrotum containing gonads." The results of an analysis of the chromosomes showed that the child was a chimera, with the cell lines described above, that had resulted from the fusion of two embryos.

    McDonald:
    We will not deny what chimerism is or that it does happen.

    Well, I certainly hope that he won't deny that it happens. Besides its being a verifiable scientific fact, he has known about it ever since his eighth-grade biology class.

    McDonald:
    This may well end up as a birth defect when fully formed.

    Well, of course, chimerism is a birth defect, but this is again besides the point. The fact that chimerism happens indicates very clearly that a zygote is not a person. Two fraternal zygotes can fuse to form a chimera (a composite of the genetic materials in both zygotes), but two persons cannot fuse to become one person. That is the issue, and McDonald is continuing to evade it.

    McDonald:
    Is it a possibility that this may be a cause of multiple personality disorders?

    I am not qualified to say, but let's just suppose that chimerism is indeed the cause of multiple personality disorders. How would that prove that a zygote is a person? The fact that chimerism even occurs scientifically indicates that zygotes are not persons. That is the issue, and McDonald continues to dodge it.

    McDonald:
    However, this “chimerism” was done at such an early development that it was possible to do this.

    I appreciate again McDonald's admission that what is in the womb in the early development of pregnancy is not the same as a person. Is he so intellectually dense that he just can't see that what he just said concedes my argument that the zygotic substance in a womb is not the same as a person?

    McDonald:
    However, it is not possible to do this with a fully grown person.

    No, it isn't possible for fully grown persons to fuse into just one, so I thank McDonald again for conceding that zygotes are not the same as persons.

    McDonald:
    This, in any case, does not negate the fact that at least one life is involved in this case.

    As I have repeatedly noted, the number of persons who may result from a single zygote or from fraternal [two] zygotes is not the issue. The issue is whether zygotes are the same as persons. I have cited scientific evidence [zygotic division and amalgamation] that clearly indicates that they are not the same, and McDonald has yet to show that this evidence does not support my position that what is in the womb in the early stages of pregnancy is not a person.

    McDonald:
    It does not negate that at least one person is involved.

    McDonald is begging the question. The issue is whether a "person" is in the womb (or the test tube) at the moment of conception. The issue is not how many persons may eventually be born from the union of one male and one female gamete. By saying that "at least one person is involved," McDonald is assuming that zygotes are "persons," so he is begging a question that he is obligated to prove. What is his scientific evidence that at least one "person" exists at the moment of conception? I trust that he will excuse us for not automatically thinking that the unsupported assertions of a fundamentalist preacher have to be scientific truth.

    McDonald:
    This person may have a birth defect (an ovary on one side and a testis on the other), but that does not mean that at least one person was involved.

    McDonald often has difficulty expressing himself clearly, so I won't be so unkind as to hold him to the literal meaning of what he just said. He apparently meant to say that a chimeric birth does not mean that at least one person wasn't involved. At any rate, I trust that readers are having no difficulty seeing how McDonald is begging a question that he needs to prove. Admittedly, an act of conception, whether it be the conception of one zygote or two, will likely result eventually in the birth of one or two persons, but that is not always the case. Sometimes a single zygote will divide to form more than one potential person, but the fact that refusion can occur after this initial division is clear scientific evidence that the zygote is not a person. Otherwise, the division and refusion could not have occurred. Sometimes when two zygotes [fraternals] are conceived, they will fuse into just one zygote to develop eventually into just one tetragametic person. The fact that this fusion can occur is clear scientific evidence that zygotes are not yet persons. If not, why not? McDonald has yet to answer that question.

    McDonald:
    That does not mean that at least one life was involved.

    No (as I just noted above), it doesn't mean that "at least one life was involved." McDonald, of course, meant to say that chimerism does not mean that one life, at least, wasn't involved, but I have found that he often has difficulty expressing himself clearly. As I have repeatedly shown, he also has difficulty even understanding what the issue is. That issue is not how many eventual "lives" are involved in an act of conception. The issue is whether the zygote that exists at the time of conception is the same as a person. The fact that zygotes can divide and refuse, whereas persons can do neither, is clear scientific evidence that zygotes and persons are not the same.

    Why won't McDonald address the real issue?

    McDonald:
    All this means is that, in such a case, a person may be born with a severe birth defect or even multiple personalities

    The condition of the person that may result from chimerism is irrelevant to the issue, because the issue is not what may eventually result from zygotes, chimeric or otherwise, but whether zygotes are the same as the persons who are eventually born when pregnancies run their full course. McDonald has admitted that chimerism occurs, so the fact that it does occur is evidence that zygotes, which have the ability to divide and fuse, are not the same as persons, who can do neither.

    This is the issue that McDonald continues to evade.

    McDonald:
    (you understand that I am not a psychiatrist or psychologist [sic] so I don’t know).

    Indeed, we do know that McDonald is neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist. We also know that he is not a scientist, so what he thinks about zygotic division and amalgamation carries no weight at all. Before he says that I am not a scientist either, I will say that I have not tried to argue my position by just appealing to what I think (as he has done throughout his "reply" to my article). I have cited and documented scientific evidence compiled by experts in the fields of embryology and genetics, and that is the difference in our approaches to the issue of abortion. He has yet to cite even a single bit of scientific datum that would prove that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy would be the same as killing a person.

    McDonald:
    This might also explain “bi-polar” disorders in many people.

    McDonald, by his own admission, is not qualified to diagnose disorders, but I do find it typically inconsistent of him to attempt to do so immediately after he had dismissed the opinions of two people with medical backgrounds, i. e., the student nurse and physician serving his internship, as individuals unqualified to dispense scientific information. This inconsistency aside, McDonald is still beating away at his straw man. Whether chimerism causes bipolar disorders or multiple personalities as he has theorized is not at all the issue in this controversy. The issue is whether zygotic tissue in the womb is the same as a person.

    McDonald:
    However, no one would say that at least one person was not involved in the pregnancy.

    Well, at least, he finally worded the statement correctly by including the not that he twice omitted in making this same intended assertion, which he has yet even to try to support, but I can't understand why he would say that no one would say that at least one person was not involved in the pregnancy. The whole premise of my article was that scientific data clearly dispute the claim that zygotes are persons, so I have said and am still saying that no persons are yet involved in the early stages of pregnancy. Although they have the potential to develop into persons, they are not yet persons in the zygotic or early embryonic stages of pregnancy. If they were persons, they would not be able divide, refuse, and survive immersion in liquid nitrogen.

    McDonald:
    In some cases, in some animals, this is a natural built in defense mechanism. Certain animals are born with both male and female organs. Such is the case with female hyenas. They have both, [sic] the female part is functional [sic] the male part is not, but it is there as a defense mechanism so that other animals will think that they have come across a male.

    McDonald may see the relevance of the pseudo penis in female spotted hyenas, but I don't. For starters, this is a characteristic that all female spotted hyenas have. It isn't an abnormality in this species, so it doesn't result from chimeric fusion of two zygotes and is therefore not a case of true hermaphroditism. Chimeric hermaphroditism in humans is, however, an abnormality, which results when two fraternal zygotes, one with the XX chromosomes and the other with the XY, fuse in the early stages of pregnancy to eventually produce one rather than two persons. I suppose McDonald thought that he could score points with his readers by in effect saying, "Hey, look at me; I know that female hyenas have nonfunctional penises," but this fact about hyenas in no way proves that a human zygote is the same as a person. This is just another one of McDonald's straw men that he has set up to distract attention from his evasion of the real issue: Is a zygote a person?

    McDonald:
    In humans, this would be a birth defect, but that in no way argues that life does not happen at conception.

    McDonald continues to punch away at his straw man. I have never stated that "life does not happen at conception." I have, in fact, stated several times that life begins long before conception. The ovum expelled from the female ovary is alive or "has life in it"--whichever way McDonald wants to state it--and each spermatozoon in the male ejaculation is alive, so life begins well before conception. Since both the female and the male gametes [haploids] are alive, the diploid cell [zygote] that forms when the two gametes fuse is also alive. The issue is not whether life "happens at conception," because life "happens" even before conception. The issue is whether the diploid cell [zygote] is a person.

    McDonald is obviously evading that issue.

    Till:
    If anything can make the pro-birth movement reassess its position that abortion in even the early stages of pregnancy is murder, the scientific information summarized above should certainly give them pause to reconsider. No single human being can divide him-/herself into identical twin persons, and no two human beings can fuse their bodies into a single person. It must follow, then, that what is in the womb at the time of conception and even shortly thereafter is not a person but only a potential person or persons.

    I could have also said that no person can be immersed in liquid nitrogen and survive the experience, so this is just another zygotic characteristic not possessed by "persons," which proves that a zygote in the womb is not the same as a person

    Now watch McDonald continue to evade this issue.

    McDonald:
    This will not make “pro-life” people see that abortion is not murder.

    I said that the scientific information summarized in my article should make the pro-birth movement reassess its position that abortion in even the early stages is murder, and that reassessment has happened. I have received emails from readers of my article who have told me that they changed their anti-abortion views. Others have told me that the information in my article has made them less emphatic in their opposition to abortion. Within the pro-birth movement, however, there will always be some who will not be the least swayed by scientific evidence that disputes their position. McDonald is one of those. On the website where he posted his "reply" that I am now answering, there is an article by McDonald's son Thomas on the age of the earth. The son, who was indoctrinated to so believe, took the position that "the Earth can be no more than a few 1,000 years old." Why does the son believe this? Why, the Bible tells him so.

    When readers who don't know Jerry McDonald see him speaking about scientific matters, they should understand that the kind of science he believes in opposes the scientifically confirmed theory of evolution and geological discoveries that show the earth to be not just thousands but billions of years old. It wasn't at all surprising to me, then, that the scientific data cited in my article did not move McDonald in the least to reassess his position on abortion. Once McDonald makes up his mind on a religious issue, no amount of evidence will budge him an inch from it.

    McDonald:
    All it does is shore up our belief that abortion is murder.

    It may have "shore[d] up" McDonald's belief that abortion is murder, but as I just mentioned, emails that I have received from others tell me that it has caused some to reevaluate their views and some to change them entirely. Not everyone is a hardheaded Church-of-Christ preacher who would never change any view on anything.

    McDonald:
    In such cases it may be the murder of two persons, not just one.

    I wonder if McDonald meant here that aborting a single zygote that would have divided to form twins had it continued to develop would constitute the murder of two persons.

    McDonald:
    This, in no way, gives us pause to reconsider our position.

    Well, of course, it didn't in any way give McDonald pause to reconsider his position. Nothing will ever give McDonald pause to reconsider his position on anything. When he publicly states a position, it is set in stone, and he won't change it regardless of how much irrefutable evidence may be presented to show him wrong. Members of the Errancy forum who are familiar with McDonald's inflexible obstinacy will understand what I mean.

    McDonald:
    It should, however, give the pro-abortionist pause to reconsider.

    Why should it give pro-abortionists pause to reconsider? I urge readers to notice carefully the reason that McDonald gave below.

    McDonald:
    No fully formed person can divide himself/herself into twins and no fully formed person can refuses [sic] their [sic] bodies [sic] into a single person.

    This is the reason why pro-abortionists should reconsider their position? As I have shown throughout my original article and in this response, the fact that zygotes can divide and refuse whereas no fully formed person can do either is scientific evidence that zygotes are not persons. If zygotes are not persons, then why is it morally wrong to terminate them? Is it morally wrong to terminate the female gamete or the male gamete or both before they can fuse to form a diploid cell [zygote] containing the genetic material in both gametes? If not, then why would it be morally wrong to terminate the diploid cell [zygote] after the fusion has occurred?

    That is the issue that McDonald is still evading.

    McDonald:
    As has already been stated, at the point of conception life is present.

    As has already been stated, life is present well before the point of conception. If life is present well before the point of conception, why would intrusions that kill the haploid gametes before the point of conception be morally acceptable but intrusions that kill the diploid cell after conception be morally wrong? At the moment of conception, the diploid cell consists of nothing more than what was in the haploids.

    That is the issue that McDonald continues to evade.

    McDonald:
    However, we don’t know how many lives are present until the formation that will determine this is complete.

    For the umpeenth time, I must tell McDonald that the number of eventual "lives" [persons] that may develop from an act of conception is not the issue. The issue is whether the zygote at the moment of conception is a person. McDonald continues to evade that issue.

    McDonald:
    This does not mean that there was no life.

    For the zillionth time, I have to tell McDonald that no one with even a smattering of scientific knowledge would deny that life is present at the time of conception. I have repeatedly shown that life is present well before conception. Rather than just running through it again, I will refer readers to the information cited above, which shows that life does not begin at the point of conception but long before the act of conception occurs.

    McDonald:
    All it means is that the number of lives has not yet been determined.

    For the bizillionth time, I have to tell McDonald that the number of "lives" that may result eventually from a single act of conception is not the issue. Readers can go here and here and here and here to see that I have painstakingly tried to explain to McDonald that the issue is not the number of persons who may eventually be born from an act of conception. The issue is whether zygotes are the same as persons who are eventually born when pregnancies run to full term.

    McDonald:
    This isn’t a potential life, [sic] it is life.

    When have I ever said that zygotes are not "life"? Rather than repetitiously running through the information again, I will just refer readers to my comments above where I clearly showed that life is present even before the time of conception. How does McDonald expect anyone to take him seriously when he is so obviously misrepresenting my position? I have never said or even implied that there is no life in zygotes when they are conceived. I have said only that scientific data establish that zygotes are very different from persons who have already been born.

    Why won't McDonald address the real issue? He may be scoring points with pew-warmers in the Church of Christ who sit in open-mouthed awe at everything the preacher spews from the pulpit, but he is scoring none at all with critical-thinking readers who can see that he is obviously fighting straw men rather than addressing the real issues.

    McDonald:
    It isn’t a potential person; it is a person (at least one).

    McDonald continues to argue by assertion. A zygote is not a person just because McDonald asserts that it is. I have cited scientific information that leads to the conclusion that zygotes are not persons. What is McDonald's scientific evidence that they are persons?

    McDonald:
    It isn’t a fully formed body;

    No, it isn't. It is actually just a microscopic speck of genetic protoplasm, so it certainly has no "fully formed body." How does this admission help McDonald's case?

    McDonald:
    it is a potential body or bodies.

    Oh, I see! It a "potential body" but not a potential person because it is already a person without a body. Why couldn't I see this?

    McDonald:
    That won’t be determined until later.

    The formation of the body won't be determined until later, but personhood was determined at the moment of conception. Can McDonald really not see how silly his position is?

    McDonald:
    The fact that a fully formed body is not present has nothing to do with whether or not a person (life) is present.

    I guess McDonald expects us just to take his word for this, but if he doesn't mind, I would like to see his scientific data that would prove that a person exists at the moment of conception, even though it has no "fully formed body." A zygote at the moment of conception has no brain either, yet McDonald expects us to think that this bodiless, brainless speck of protoplasm is still a "person."

    McDonald:
    If so,

    But McDonald presented no scientific evidence to prove that this is so. He simply asserted that it was. Members of the Errancy forum know that McDonald prides himself on being knowledgeable in the field of logic, but despite that self-proclaimed expertise, he apparently doesn't even know what the fallacy of argumentation by assertion is. He seems not to understand that nothing is true just because he asserts that it is. If he has scientific information that would prove that a person exists at the moment of conception, let him present it.

    McDonald:
    [If so,] then it would logically follow that the more fully formed the body is, the more of a person it is.

    The more of a person it is? Is McDonald actually arguing that there can be partial persons? If so, what scientific information can he cite to support this argument by assertion? I will remind him here that he often appeals to the "law of excluded middle" in classical logic, as he did below in arguing that every statement is either true or false and that there is no "middle ground." In replying to this below, I showed that this "law" is seriously questioned by many modern logicians, but since he appealed to it, he is stuck with it. Let him explain to us, then, how a zygote or embryo in the womb could become "more of a person" as it becomes "more fully formed." If the claim that a zygote or early embryo is a "person" is a true statement, then by McDonald's own logic, there would be no "middle ground" by which it could become "more of a person" as it continues to develop.

    As for McDonald's penchant for arguing by unsupported assertions, readers should be tolerant of his way of "debating." He is so used to spewing assertions from the pulpit and having them unchallenged by the pew-warmers in his congregation that he seems to think that he will be believed no matter where he directs his assertions.

    McDonald:
    What about Terri Schiavo? She had a fully formed body, but she wasn’t treated as a person, she was treated as a vegetable and finally murdered.

    Here is another fallacy of relevance, which more specifically is a fallacy of false analogy, i. e., drawing conclusions from the comparison of objects that are too unlike to support conclusions derived from the comparison. Terri Schiavo was not a zygote. She was a person who had gone through all of the stages of pregnancy and had then been born, so even if she was "finally murdered," as McDonald asserted without supporting evidence, what was done to her would in no way prove that zygotes are persons.

    By coincidence, I was in Sarasota, Florida, when Terri Shiavo was taken off life support, so I know that an autopsy performed after her "death" confirmed the diagnosis of medical experts who had said that her brain was dead. The fanatical beliefs of the Bible-thumping fundamentalists parading in the streets at that time cannot remove the fact that when the brain is dead, the person is dead, but, as I just said, McDonald's reference to Terri Schiavo is a fallacy of false analogy, because she was not a zygote at the time of her "death," so even if removing her from life support was appallingly immoral, as McDonald apparently thinks, that would not prove that zygotes in wombs are persons.

    McDonald:
    This does not mean, however, that life does not exist.

    Does McDonald mean that Terri Schiavo's brain death did not mean that life did not exist in her? If so, what is his point? Life exists in an inflamed appendix in a person's abdomen, but the surgeon who kills it by removing it from the body commits no immoral act. McDonald just can't seem to understand that it takes more than just "life" to make a person. As I have repeatedly noted, there is life in male and female gametes, but they are not persons, and I don't think that even McDonald would go so far as to say that they are persons.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till wants to use the word “person” from the reference point of you and me. We are fully formed persons.

    No, not necessarily. I think I have been rather clear in stating that the unborn in late stages of pregnancy are persons in the sense that I have been using the word person. This fact has been scientifically verified by the survival of infants who were born prematurely. My position is simply that zygotes and even embryos in early stages of pregnancy before vital organs--and especially brains--have formed are not yet persons. Would McDonald actually say that tissue without a brain, even though it is alive, would be a "person"? If so, what is his scientific reason for so saying? I asked what his scientific reason for so saying is. I am not at all interested in what his religious reason is.

    McDonald:
    We have our own personality, and we have our own body.

    Actually, we have our own personalities and our own bodies. I could never accurately express just how glad I am that my personality is not the same as McDonald's. On the basis of what he reported in the Errancy forum, I understand that he has a bodily affliction that I am happy not to have, so I am also glad that we have separate bodies. Anyway, McDonald is not helping himself at all here. Zygotes do not have personalities, because they don't even yet have brains. How could something, even though it may be alive, be a person if it doesn't have a brain?

    McDonald:
    However, that does not mean that our life didn’t come into existence until after all of the processes that would make us one person happened.

    Well, actually, as I have repeatedly shown above, McDonald's "life" began even before he was conceived in his mother's womb, because the gamete [haploid cell] that she contributed to his formation was alive before it united with the gamete [haploid cell] that his father contributed. The paternal gamete was also alive, so "life" was everywhere in the process.

    McDonald continues to flail at straw men. The issue is not when life begins but when that life becomes a person. He obviously doesn't want to address that issue, probably because he doesn't know how to address it. He formed an anti-abortion position on the basis of what he wrongly thinks that the Bible teaches, just as he formed anti-evolutionary and young-earth beliefs on the basis of what is in the Bible, and no amount of verifiable scientific evidence is going to budge him from any of those beliefs.

    McDonald:
    Life was present at conception.

    Yes, it was, and life was in the gametes [haploid cells] that united to form the zygotes that eventually became us, but neither one of us was a person during these gametic stages.

    McDonald:
    However, it wasn’t until all the processes were completed that it was determined whether there would be one, two or more of us.

    As I stated umpteen times above, the number of births that may result from a single zygote or fraternal [two] zygotes is not the issue. The issue is whether zygotes and persons are the same. I have presented scientific evidence that they are not; McDonald has presented no scientific evidence that they are.

    McDonald:
    Till continues...

    Till:
    This brings us back to a point that was introduced earlier: at the time of conception, only a potential person exists but not an actual person in the sense that I am a person and those of you reading this are persons. If, for example, the mother of "Jane," referenced above, had had an abortion while nonidentical (fraternal) zygotes were in her womb, this would not have killed "Jane," in the sense that the person "Jane" existed at that time. Instead, the abortion would have terminated two zygotes, which at the time had had the potential to become two persons. "Jane" as a person, however, never existed until the two zygotes had amalgamated to form a tetragametic chimera, which was later born as the one person "Jane."

    McDonald:
    If Jane’s mother had received an abortion before the zygote went though all the processes, then the woman would have been guilty of murdering at least one person; who was later named “Jane.”

    By using the singular word zygote, McDonald showed that he doesn't even understand that "Jane" was born a tetragametic chimera, which means that two separate zygotes were conceived in her mother's womb, each resulting from the union of a male and female gamete. Sometime after the conception, these separate zygotes, instead of developing as they do in normal pregnancies to produce fraternal twins, fused to form one zygote containing the composite genetic material from all four gametes, and then proceeded to develop into "Jane," who was only one person rather than the two that are usually born when two separate ova are fertilized in the womb by separate male gametes. If, as McDonald claims, each of the two zygotes at the moments of conception were "persons," then if "Jane's" mother had received an abortion at that time, she would have "murdered" two persons, not one. "Jane" could not have been "murdered" by an abortion at that time, because "Jane" didn't exist until the two zygotes fused and the resulting chimeric pregnancy ran its course. How can someone who doesn't exist be murdered?

    McDonald:
    Jane was not Jane until she was born,

    Well, not even I would go that far. From what I have said above, I assume readers understand that I think that persons exist in the late stages of pregnancies. "Jane" would have been "Jane" at, say, the seventh month of gestation, or even earlier, and had she been born prematurely, she could have survived. I am, however, in agreement with what I think McDonald meant to say. "Jane" did not become "Jane" until after the amalgamated zygote had gone through stages that caused the chimeric embryo to develop a body and vital organs like the heart, liver, brain, etc., and especially the brain. I can't conceive of how there could be a brainless person, since the brain is the seat of knowledge, personality, senses, and the autonomic nervous system, which regulates breathing, heart rate, and all involuntary bodily functions, but maybe McDonald can explain to us how a person could exist before such traits have developed in the unborn.

    McDonald:
    but she was still a person

    Notice again that McDonald is arguing by assertion. What is his scientific evidence that "Jane" was a person before the development of attributes that make one a person? He didn't say; he just said it. He gets away with just asserting in the pulpit, so he thinks he can get away with it here too.

    McDonald:
    and was still a life.

    Well, if McDonald means that the substance that later became "Jane" was alive at that time, he is right, because I have repeatedly noted that life is present long before the time of conception, but if he meant "life" in the sense of a person like him or me, I will have to insist that he give us more than just his mere say-so. The scientific evidence I have cited indicates that his assertion is wrong, and he has yet to counter it.

    McDonald:
    Her being born and being named did not make her a person because she was a person long before that.

    McDonald's argument by assertion has long since become like a broken record. He has yet to cite any scientific evidence to support his assertion that zygotes are persons.

    McDonald:
    Had the woman had the abortion before the zygotes divided then Jane still would have been murdered.

    McDonald's language again indicates that he doesn't even understand what happened in "Jane's" case. He spoke of zygotes "divid[ing]," but no zygotes divided in this case. Fraternal [two] zygotes for some reason fused to become one rather than remaining two. He expects us just to accept whatever he says, which is that a person exists at the moment of conception, but he doesn't even understand the science involved in tetragemetic chimerism. Normal births result from one zygote that goes through the stages of pregnancy to produce one person. If the female ovulates two ova, which are then fertilized by separate male gametes, each of the zygotes formed will then develop into fraternal twins in normal pregnancies. In "Jane's" case, something went awry, and two separate zygotes, each formed by the union of different male and female gametes, fused into one chimeric zygote to produce eventually "Jane," whose body contained the genetic material of not just one male and female gamete but two of each. McDonald has yet to explain how abortion before the two zygotes had fused would have murdered "Jane," since the woman named "Jane" resulted from the fusion of two zygotes. How could an abortion before this fusion occurred have murdered someone who never would have existed had the two zygotes not fused? Furthermore, if, as McDonald claims, terminating a zygote would be the same as murdering a person, why wouldn't an abortion by "Jane's" mother before the two zygotes had fused in her womb have been the "murder" of two persons and not just "Jane"?

    This issue is obviously much more complex than McDonald thinks it is, and he cannot resolve it by simplistically chanting, "There was life there." No one denies that "life was there." The point of controversy centers on when that "life" becomes a person. As I have repeatedly noted, there is life in both male and female gametes, but not even McDonald would say that these are persons. Hence, it takes more than just "life" to make a person. McDonald has yet to address this issue.

    McDonald:
    From conception the only difference between the born and the unborn is one of development.

    If this is so, then the only difference between the born and the not-yet-conceived is simply one of development, because the substances that cause conception [male and female gametes] are alive before conception occurs. After their union, further "development" occurs to eventually produce a person.

    McDonald:
    Jane’s body had not been formed until all the determining factors were complete, but Jane’s life was present.

    I can be brief here, because McDonald is just chanting a variation of his mantra. I have repeatedly noted that "life" is present well before conception occurs, so it takes more than life to make a person. Furthermore, if the person who became "Jane" resulted from the fusion of two separate zygotes and if a zygote is a "life" in the sense of a person, then two lives [persons] were present when the conceptions occurred in the womb of "Jane's" mother. If not, why not?

    McDonald:
    That is what would have been taken.

    Not if each zygote is a person. McDonald claims that each zygote is a person and so abortion is the same as killing a person. If that is so, then if "Jane's" mother had had an abortion when the two zygotes in her womb had not yet fused, she would have "murdered" two persons and not just one. If not, why not?

    If McDonald says that an abortion at that time would have constituted the murder of only one person because only one person was born as a result of this pregnancy, he will surrender his position that every zygote formed at the moment of conception is a person. If not, why not?

    Do any readers think that McDonald will ever see that his position on abortion is fraught with serious problems?

    McDonald:
    After the life is taken, the personality means precious little.

    After the life is taken, there wouldn't even be a personality. I know of no evidence that either a zygote or an early embryo could even have a personality, because personality develops from the experiences that a person has in life. These experiences are "recorded" in the brain, so there would be no way that a brainless zygote could have a personality.

    Does McDonald ever think before he speaks or writes?

    McDonald:
    Till Continues...

    Till:
    "Twinning" presents a similar problem for the pro-birth movement. At the time of fertilization, one zygote exists, so if it is true that a "person" exists at the "moment of conception," abortion would "kill" only one "person," but if the aborted zygote happened to be one that would divide later to become twin zygotes that would eventually be born as two persons, did the abortion somehow kill two "persons"? If so, what rationale is used to reach that conclusion?

    McDonald:
    Yes, if a woman has an abortion and the zygote would have become two people, then she would be guilty of murdering two people.

    I asked for a rationale from those who would say that the abortion of a zygote that would have later divided to form twins would constitute a double "murder." Notice now what McDonald gave as his rationale.

    McDonald:
    Why? Simply because she stopped the pregnancy that would have resulted in two different lives.

    McDonald claims that a zygote is a "life" or a person, but the one zygote in our example was not two zygotes, even though that one zygote may have later divided into two had it been allowed to do so. McDonald, then, is actually arguing that a "life" exists before a zygote forms, so would he say that the killing of a female and a male gamete that would have later united to form a zygote also constitutes "murdering" a person?

    Just look at what this kind of reasoning would lead to. If someone killed Male X and Female Y, who if they had not been killed would have later married and had five children, then the person who killed X and Y didn't murder just two persons but seven. If he is right in what he said above, why would this X-and-Y scenario not also be true?

    McDonald:
    However many lives, though, would have been born is not the issue.

    No, it isn't. The issue is whether a zygote is a person. I wish McDonald would address this real issue instead of wandering all around it.

    McDonald:
    The issue is that she took at least one life when she received her abortion because there was at least one life at that point.

    If a zygote is a person, and if "Jane's" mother had had an abortion while two not-yet-fused zygotes were in her womb, she would have "murdered" two persons, not just one. If not, why not? Can McDonald really not see how inconsistent he is?

    McDonald:
    The issue also is not whether or not the life is conscious.

    No, it isn't, because a zygote has no brain and can therefore not possess consciousness. The issue is whether that zygote is a person. McDonald says that it is, so he needs to explain how unconscious "life" can be a person.

    McDonald:
    The issue is that life is present and in an abortion at least one life is taken.

    Readers know by now that I have repeatedly said that "life is present" even before two gametes unite to form a zygote. If mere "life" makes a person, as McDonald at times seems to be saying, then that claim would require him to say that ova [female gametes] and spermatozoa [male gametes] are persons. He apparently can't see that his line of argumentation would require him to oppose all forms of birth control, which result in the death of "life" that is present in these gametes.

    McDonald:
    Here is something that I would like to see Mr. Till answer. If a woman becomes pregnant, she knows she is pregnant and she wants to keep the baby. One day, as she goes to get into her car, a man comes out of nowhere and takes her and throws her to the ground and in grabbing for her car keys he kicks her in the stomach killing her child, is the man guilty of murder?

    As a former teacher of college writing, I find the fractured syntax in McDonald's writing irritating to read. For the life of me, I can't understand how someone who writes as if he had never taken an English course can seriously expect people to think that he is qualified to speak with any authority on a scientific subject like embryology. Anyway, let's suppose that in wrestling for the car keys, the man in his hypothetical example causes the woman to fall and suffer a fatal injury to her head. That wouldn't be murder, would it? Isn't murder an act of deliberately killing someone? I am not a lawyer, but I think in a case like this, the attacker would be guilty of involuntary manslaughter, which is death that results from reckless or negligent conduct when there is no intention to kill. McDonald sees the world in black or white, i. e., right or wrong, so he may think that killing someone unintentionally is murder, but I doubt that many legal experts would agree with him.

    As for whether causing the woman in his example to miscarry would constitute even involuntary manslaughter, that would depend on the stage of her pregnancy. If she were only in the earliest stages of pregnancy, for reasons repeatedly stated above, the miscarriage would not constitute the killing of a person because no "person" was yet in her womb. If, however, she were in late stages of her pregnancy, say, the sixth or seventh month, my personal opinion is that the man should be held responsible for an act of involuntary manslaughter.

    McDonald:
    Can he be brought up on charges of 2nd degree murder or 1st degree manslaughter?

    So even McDonald recognizes the difference in murder and manslaughter, but my comments above answered his question.

    McDonald:
    If so, why?

    As I explained above, causing the woman to miscarry in the earliest stages of pregnancy would not constitute the involuntary manslaughter of a person, because, as I have repeatedly shown, no person yet existed. If, however, the man's actions had caused death at a time when the child was viable enough to survive outside the womb, I do think that there should be grounds for charges of involuntary manslaughter.

    McDonald no doubt thinks that his strict anti-abortion views are consistent with the Bible, but even his inspired, inerrant "word of God" would not agree that the circumstances that he described above would constitute "murder." The Bible decreed death for those who killed others.

    Leviticus 24:17 Anyone who kills a human being shall be put to death.

    Elsewhere, however, the Bible speaks more leniently of the man who would cause the very kind of injury to a pregnant woman that McDonald hypothesized in his example above.

    Exodus 21:22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman's husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine.

    The Bible, then, obviously recognized that the killing of an unborn child was not as serious an offense as the killing of someone who had already been born. The latter offense brought a death penalty; the former brought only a monetary fine.

    From past experiences with McDonald, I know he will argue that the passage in Exodus 21:22 was saying that if the men injured the woman sufficiently to cause a miscarriage, the responsible one would have to pay a fine for the injury to the woman if "no further harm follow[ed]" in the sense that the child survived the premature birth, but that puts a very unlikely spin on the verse, which I don't need to elaborate on here. Readers interested in seeing the absurdity of this interpretation of Exodus 21:22 can read "Abortion and the God of the Bible," where I analyzed the verse in its context to show that this spin is not just unlikely but also inconsistent with various other biblical passages in which the Hebrew god Yahweh obviously showed no regard at all for the unborn.

    McDonald:
    In a recent episode of “Without A Trace” Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio (who plays the girl friend of FBI special agent Jack Malone—Anthony LaPaigla) is, on the show, pregnant with Jack’s baby. She is kidnapped and as the kidnapper goes to kill her she says [sic] “Wait…it isn’t just me that you will be killing. I am pregnant.” Because of this fact, the kidnapper decides to allow her to live. Why? Because she has a life inside of [sic] her.

    McDonald has so far argued by assertions, anecdotal opinions, and now he is resorting to appeals to what fictional TV characters possibly thought. For the sake of argument, let's just assume that this fictional kidnapper did decide to spare the life of the pregnant woman because he thought that "she ha[d] a life [in the sense of a person] inside her," what would this prove except that the fictional kidnapper thought that she had "a life [person] inside her"? What this fictional character may have thought would not in any way prove scientifically that zygotes and embryos in the early stages of pregnancy are "persons." The national news media have given wide coverage to the case of a marine who killed his girlfriend who was eight months pregnant and then fled to Mexico. If the actions of the fictional character whom McDonald just referred to proves that zygotes and early embryos are "persons," would the case of the marine who fled to Mexico prove that a fetus just a month before birth is not a "person"? In my many debates with McDonald, I have found that his inability to think logically almost defies comprehension, and his appeal to what happened in a fictional TV program, as if it somehow constituted scientific proof, illustrates just how illogical he can be.

    McDonald:
    Now at this point, because she has just found out that she is pregnant, there is no way of determining whether or not it is going to be one child or two. The kidnapper knows this, but it is understood that at least one life is involved.

    Let's assume that this fictional kidnapper did think that "at least one life [was] involved." So what? I have cited scientific data to support my present view that zygotes and early embryos are different from "persons," but McDonald can cite in support of his position only what fictional characters may have thought. What kind of evidence is that?

    McDonald:
    Realizing that this is just a T.V. show,

    I suggest that McDonald consult a grammar book to find out what dangling participles are.

    McDonald:
    [Realizing that this is just a T.V. show,] it does show that when a woman decides that she wants to keep the child, it is a baby.

    Let's see now if I have this right. A zygote is a person (so McDonald says), and when a woman is in the early stages of pregnancy and doesn't know whether she "wants to keep the child," the embryo in her womb is what? Well, McDonald says that it is a person, because it was a person at the moment of conception, so what did he mean when he said that if she should decide that she "wants to keep the child, it is then a baby"? What did the decision to "keep the child" have to do with making it "a baby" if it was already a "person"?

    This is typical McDonald logic.

    McDonald:
    However, in this episode the woman hadn’t even decided that she wanted to keep the child.

    So if she hadn't even decided that she wanted to keep the child, it wasn't yet a baby, was it?

    I'm just trying to get McDonald to see just how illogical he is.

    McDonald:
    There have been actual cases where a [sic] people have been tried for murder for killing an unborn child while killing the mother. The person has been tried and convicted of murdering not only one person, but two.

    It would have helped if McDonald had specifically cited some of these "actual cases." Did he have in mind the murders of such women as Laci Peterson and Lisa Underwood? If so, these were cases of women who were murdered in the latest stages of pregnancy, the one eight months and the other seven, so prosecutors were able to file double-murder charges against their killers. On the other hand, there have also been cases where prosecutors, trying people accused of killing women in earlier stages of pregnancy, have sought to file double-murder charges but were not legally allowed to do so. The murder of Lori Hacking was one such case. She was murdered by her husband when she was just five weeks pregnant, so since her pregnancy was in this early stage, her husband could be changed with only one noncapital case of murder. Anyway, since when do court cases determine with undisputed reliability what scientific fact is? Courts have almost universally ruled that creationism should not be taught in public schools because it is not science. I seriously doubt that McDonald agrees with those decisions.

    McDonald:
    Also, there have been cases where a woman, or a girl, was brought up on charges for aborting her baby with whatever tools she had. The problem was that she didn’t have the money to go to an abortion clinic. So, she was brought up on charges and convicted.

    McDonald's anecdotal argumentation continues. He cited no specific examples in this latest anecdotal appeal, so I have no specifics to reply to. In view of Roe v. Wade, I seriously doubt that there have been any cases like he described of women who were charged and convicted of inducing abortion in their early stages of pregnancy, so if he was referring to cases of self-induced abortions in late pregnancies, these would be irrelevant to my position that zygotes and early embryos are not yet "persons." For the sake of argument, let's assume that there have been cases where women have been prosecuted and convicted for inducing abortion in the early stages of their pregnancies. How would this prove scientifically that zygotes and early embryos are persons? McDonald can't seem to recognize the difference in legal fact and scientific fact.

    McDonald:
    Why is it that if a woman decides to keep the child it is a baby, but if she doesn’t want it and she can afford an abortion it is not a baby, [sic] it is not a child?

    Why is it that McDonald can't recognize the difference in scientific relevance and anecdotal irrelevance? What women may individually think has nothing to do with scientific reality. If a woman knows that she is in an early stage of pregnancy and wants the pregnancy to continue so that she can eventually have a baby, the wanting to maintain the pregnancy would not scientifically make the zygote or embryo in her womb a "person." McDonald is so emotionally attached to his anti-abortion opinions that he can't reason logically.

    McDonald:
    Why is it that if a woman does not have the money for an abortion and does not go to a clinic where she can get it done for nothing, and does it herself that [sic] she is guilty of murder, but if he [sic] does go to a free clinic or does have the money and goes to a regular clinic, he [sic] is not guilty? Why is that?

    See what I mean about McDonald's fractured syntax? Anyway, until McDonald cites actual cases of where women have been convicted for self-induced abortions in the earliest stages of pregnancy, he has given me nothing to reply to here. I personally think that he has allowed his imagination to run wild here so that he is confusing cases of women who have been convicted after giving birth unassisted and then killing their babies with imagined cases of women who have had self-induced abortions and then been convicted for doing so. Until he can cite an actual case of the latter, I can only assume that he is imagining cases that never really happened.

    McDonald:
    Till continues...

    Till:
    When confronted with scientific information like this, I suspect that many in the pro-birth movement would claim that even though abortion in the early stages of pregnancy doesn't kill an actual person, it is still immoral, because it kills a potential person, but that is a position fraught with so many problems that no reasonable person would try to defend it. As I pointed out earlier, there is "potential life" in the gametes (ovum and sperm) before actual fertilization occurs. All that is necessary for a person to be born is the union of the two gametes, followed by a pregnancy carried to term. If, then, the destruction of "potential life" by abortion is immoral, why wouldn't birth control methods that prevent fertilization from occurring also be immoral? Both prevent the development of "potential life" into an actual person. Catholics, of course, will argue that birth control is immoral because it prevents potential life from developing, but even they are not consistent, because they allow abstinance as a morally acceptable method of birth control. If, however, there is immorality in preventing "potential life" from developing into actual persons, even birth control by abstinance would be immoral, because it too prevents "potential life" from developing into actual persons. To be consistent, then, those who argue that birth-control methods that prevent "potential life" from developing into actual persons is immoral would have to take this position to its logical end and argue that women who realize that they are ovulating have a moral obligation to seek out males to help them make the "potential life" within them into actual persons. If not, why not?

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till can give us all the information in the world about chimerism and twins and so forth, but none of that will come close to proving that life does not begin at conception.

    Once again, McDonald is evading the real issue. I have pointed out so many times above that "life" begins well before actual conception that I don't even need to link to it again. Life is in both the male and the female gametes before they unite to form a zygote, so where "life" begins is not the issue. The issue is whether a zygote at the time of conception, which is nothing more than a diploid cell consisting of the genetic material that was in both haploid cells [gametes], is a person. McDonald has yet to give one iota of evidence that zygotes are persons.

    Watch him continue to evade this issue by punching away at straw men.

    McDonald:
    Whether there will be one, two or six persons that are born, the fact is that however many there will be, their lives began at the moment of conception, and no student nurse is going to be able to change that fact.

    No, "life" begins before the moment of conception, and no Bible-thumping preacher is going to change that fact by ranting, "It's a child, not a choice."

    McDonald:
    The issue has nothing to do with “potential persons.” The issue has to do with “life” itself. Before two people come together and have sexual relations they cannot have a pregnancy. If there is no pregnancy there is no life.

    McDonald continues to argue by assertion. If there if no "life" until there is a pregnancy, then McDonald's logic will force him to say that gametes are not alive. If not, why not?

    I assume everyone is noticing that he is completely evading my argument that the logic of the pro-birth movement would ultimately require them to accept the Catholic position that even birth-control methods are immoral because they prevent "potential lives" from being born. We will see him talking below about his personal sex life with his wife, but we won't see him explaining why his position would not logically require him to oppose birth-control methods that kill the life that is in gametes.

    McDonald:
    My wife lost our first child due to complications of the pregnancy (we still don’t know what happened). She almost lost Thomas.

    As noted below, an estimated 20% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortions. That is a curious stastic for a reproductive system that was created by a god who presumably hates abortion. It sounds as if Mrs. McDonald's first pregnancy was a part of "God's" statistics.

    McDonald:
    She was never able to get pregnant again. The first pregnancy involved a life. It died! The second pregnancy involved a life. It lived, [sic] and became our son.

    "It" lived and became McDonald's son? Is McDonald saying that at the moment of conception, this second "life" wasn't a person, i. e., his son, but only an "it"? Is he saying that the "life" that his son has was not first present in the gametes of his mother and father?

    McDonald:
    There has been no third pregnancy, [sic] thus [sic] there has been no life.

    There may have been no pregnancy, but there was certainly "life." Otherwise, the McDonald gametes were all dead.

    McDonald:
    This is so elementary that I am amazed that I would have to explain it to someone who is obviously as educated as Farrell Till.

    That life exists in gametes before they unite to form zygotes is so biologically elementary that I am amazed that I have to explain it to someone even as educationally deficient as McDonald obviously is. I guess this elementary biological fact was not included in McDonald's eighth-grade biology class.

    McDonald:
    My wife and I continued to have relations, but there was no pregnancy, so there was no life.

    There is no need to repeat my comments above. If McDonald doesn't know that before pregnancy, "there is life" in the gametes that cause the pregnancy, he needs more help than I can give him.

    McDonald:
    There was potential life, but no life.

    If there is no "life," then the gametes must be dead. If not, why not?

    McDonald:
    That is the issue, not whether or not one or more people are involved, but whether at least one life is involved.

    McDonald continues to fight his straw man as if the number of persons who may be eventually born from a single zygote, or even multiple zygotes, is the issue. That is not at all the issue. The issue is whether zygotes are persons. I have cited scientific evidence that disputes the pro-birth claim that they are persons. McDonald, as I just noted above, has not cited even one iota of scientific evidence that would prove that zygotes are the same as persons. He has argued by assertion, personal anecdotes (as if the sexual habits of his wife and him prove anything scientifically), and appeals to fictional TV characters and imaginary court cases, but he has cited no supporting scientific evidence. Zygotes can divide, fuse, redivide, and survive being frozen indefinitely in liquid nitrogen. Persons like McDonald and me can do none of these, so why do these dramatic differences in zygotes and persons not scientifically indicate that zygotes are not persons? McDonald has yet even to attempt to answer this question.

    I assume that everyone noticed that in all of his comments above, McDonald also didn't try even once to address my argument that the "logic" of the pro-birth movement would inevitably lead to accepting the Catholic position that even methods of artificial birth control are immoral. I suppose he is so used to having pulpit audiences accept without question anything he says that he has never learned how to reply to opposing views.

    McDonald:
    Till continues...

    Till:
    I hope that the scientific information presented in this article will cause those in the pro-birth movement, who tend to see life as either black or white or right or wrong, to reexamine their views and recognize that the abortion issue is far more complex than they have previously thought. In national and state elections, many will vote against their interests in other issues just to elect those who are opposed to abortion. History, however, is not on their side, because the unfortunate reality of abortion has existed for centuries and will continue to exist no matter what the pro-birth movement may be able to accomplish legislatively. Regrettably, the problem of abortion is not going to go away, so those who vote as if it is the only important issue in elections do themselves a disservice if they put the one issue of abortion above all other problems like education, health insurance, employment opportunities, outsourcing, and various other social problems that an obsession with abortion is causing many to deemphasize.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till can hope for many things, but the fact is all this scientific information he has presented does not come close to proving that life does not begin at conception.

    McDonald still continues to punch away at his straw man. No one has said that "life" is not present at conception. As repeatedly noted above, both female and male gametes are alive before they unite to form zygotes, so life actually begins well before conception occurs. If McDonald is using the word life to mean person, then he should cite scientific evidence that would prove that "life" in the sense of "personhood" begins at the moment of conception. He has yet to do that. He apparently can't understand that nothing is scientific fact just because he asserts that it is.

    If life as McDonald is using the word means person, then he needs to answer these questions.

    1. Why can a zygote divide into two or more zygotes, but a person cannot divide into two or more persons?

    2. Why can separate zygotes fuse into just one zygote, but two persons cannot fuse into just one person?

    3. Why can zygotes remain alive indefinitely in liquid nitrogen, but persons cannot survive being frozen in liquid nitrogen?

    Until McDonald satisfactorily answers these questions, he has done absolutely nothing to prove scientifically that zygotes are persons.

    McDonald:
    Whether it is one life, [sic] or more than one, at least one life is present.

    I have repeatedly shown that "life is present" even before conception occurs, so no further comment is necessary here. If McDonald is saying that the "life" present at this time is a person, let him present the scientific evidence that would confirm it.

    McDonald:
    It is a "black and white" issue!

    Why? Just because McDonald says that it is?

    McDonald:
    There is no middle ground, and the law of excluded middle states that either life is present at conception or life is not present at conception.

    McDonald will always wag the "law of excluded middle" into his "debates." I have repeatedly tried to get him to see that this is a theory in classical logic that many modern logicians reject. After he brought this "law" up in our written debate, I took the time in an editorial insertion to try to educate him to recogniz weaknesses in this black-or-white way of looking at issues. Those who take the time to check this link will see that it contains other links that seriously question the soundness of the "law of excluded middle."

    I will agree that "life is present at conception," and I have explained several times above why I agree with him on this point. McDonald's usage of life is what makes his appeal to the law of excluded middle meaningless, because this law says that every precisely worded statement is either true or false, but precision is not in his statement that "either life is present at conception or life is not present at conception," because the meaning of life is ambiguous in this statement. McDonald has yet to define the word, but he appears to be using life to mean person, so until he defines the word life, he can make no appeal to the law of excluded middle. Life, as I have repeatedly agreed, is certainly present at conception in the sense that what is in the womb is alive and not dead, but the "life" that is in the womb at this time is not a person. It is a zygote, and the scientific evidence that I have repeatedly cited clearly proves that a zygote is not a person.

    If McDonald wants to appeal to the law of excluded middle, I will follow his example and say that a person is not in the womb at the time of conception. I am using the word person in the sense that I have used it throughout my articles on the subjection of abortion. I use it to mean a human organism, known scientifically as homo sapiens sapiens, in the sense that babies in maternity wards are organisms of the homo sapiens sapiens species. With the word person precisely defined, I can say that my statement above is either true or false: A person is not in the womb at the time of conception. Proving that my statement is true would be as simple as taking zygotes of different species, one of which was obtained by in vitro fusion of human gametes, putting them alongside a newborn baby, and then letting McDonald see both the zygotes and the baby to choose from the display the two who are "persons." If he is unable to pair the zygote obtained by in vitro fusion of human gametes with the newborn baby, then he should recognize that a zygote is obviously not a person in the same sense that the baby is a person. If he can't see this, he needs more help than I could ever give him.

    McDonald:
    You can't have it to where life is and life isn't present at conception.

    I agree. Tissue is either alive or it is dead, but McDonald continues to evade the real issue. "Life" is in the womb at the moment of conception, but is that "life" the same thing as a "person"? If so, let McDonald present scientific evidence that it is. A person's body consists of billions of individual cells. A zygote, however, is just one cell. How, then, can a one-celled zygote be the same as a multi-billion celled human organism? That is the issue that McDonald has yet to address.

    McDonald:
    Chimerism does not prove that life is not present at conception.

    When did I ever say that "life is not present" in either chimeras or individual zygotes? I have never said that. "Life" is in an appendix, but surgically removing an appendix would not constitute killing a person. Such comments as the one above is why I entitled this article "Smoke Screens and Straw Men," because all McDonald did throughout his article was to lay down smoke screens and fight straw men. What is his proof that a living zygote at conception or a fused chimera (after conception, of course) is the same as a person?

    McDonald:
    All it proves is that there may be more than one life involved, but the fact is life (itself) is present at the moment of conception.

    All I need to say here is what I have said umpteen times above. The number of lives or persons that may eventually be born from an act of conception is not the issue. The issue is whether zygotes are the same as persons. McDonald continues to huff and puff at his straw man.

    McDonald:
    I believe that education, health insurance, employment opportunities, etc., are all important issues when selecting a president, senator, representative or a governor. However, abortion, homosexuality, [sic] embryonic stem cell research are also important issues.

    The Bible does condemn homosexuality, but the Bible also condemns religious freedom in that it ordered the killing of those who worshiped gods other than Yahweh (Deut. 13:6-16; 17:2-7). These passages are so repugnant to our modern ideas of religious tolerance and freedom that preachers and Bible teachers rarely even mention them in sermons and Bible classes, and certainly no politician who wants to be elected to public office in the United States would dare advocate that kind of religious intolerance. What the Bible may teach, then, isn't necessarily what politicians and voters may personally believe, no matter how much both may talk about "biblical principles and values." No matter how biblically appalling McDonald and his ilk may think homosexuality is, scientific studies so far indicate that homosexuality is biological and not the simple matter of choice that radical fundamentalists like McDonald think that it is. Aside from the fact, as noted above, that the Bible didn't condemn abortion but actually condoned it in cases when husbands suspected their wives of infidelity, the scientific evidence that I have so far cited in my articles on abortion clearly shows that zygotes and embryos in the early stages of pregnancy are not persons, so McDonald's voting decisions that he based on opposition to homosexuality, abortion, and stem-cell research were rooted in both ignorance and his misinterpretations of primitive ignorance in the Bible.

    McDonald:
    I did not go to the election polls with my mind made up that whoever took my position on abortion was going to be the one that I voted for. I would not vote for a pro-abortionist,

    Can't McDonald see the inconsistency in his statements above? He didn't go to the polls with his mind made up that he would vote for whoever took his position on abortion, but he would not vote for a pro-abortionist. If he would not vote for a pro-abortionist, then he went to the polls knowing that he would vote for the candidate that took his position on abortion. That aside, nothing of what he just said here would in any way prove that zygotes are the same as persons.

    McDonald:
    but there were other issues that I felt needed to be addressed. The war against terrorism was a big issue for me.

    And so McDonald voted for Bush, who has recognizably done more to put our country in danger of terrorism than any other American president.

    McDonald:
    Employment, health insurance, etc., were all important issues.

    Is this why McDonald voted for a candidate who had made no commitment to securing health insurance for the uninsured? Is this why he voted for a candidate whose chickens are now coming home to roost as the country is beginning to realize the economic consequences of his favor-the-rich policies? For the life of me, if employment and health insurance were so important to McDonald, I can't understand why he would have voted for George W. Bush.

    McDonald:
    I did not want the democrat nominee in the White House because i [sic] knew that if John Kerry go [sic] into the White House the job situation would be much worse than what it is.

    I wonder how McDonald knew that this would happen if Kerry had been elected. He didn't say, of course, because it is much easier to assert than prove.

    McDonald:
    I watched Bill and Hillary Clinton promise health insurance to all, right up at the elections, but they never did anything about it after the elections were over.

    Can McDonald possibly be this politically ignorant? The Clintons tried to get a national health insurance program enacted, but it was blocked mainly by Republicans, who consider public health insurance dirty words. If McDonald doesn't know that, he certainly isn't qualified to speak on political matters.

    McDonald:
    We have social problems, but I am 53 years old and I have served (in the military) under both Democrat and Republican Presidents, and neither one was able to resolve these social problems.

    There will never be a president or congress who will solve all social problems. Nevertheless, during the Clinton administration deficit spending ended, and a huge surplus was passed along to the Bush administration, which promptly ended it and left the nation wallowing in the largest public debt of any administration. If McDonald considers this an improvement, I pity his sense of judgment.

    None of this, of course, in any way proves that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes "murder" of persons.

    McDonald:
    I believe that when we go to the polls again, we should consider abortion, homosexuality, embryonic stem cell research, the war effort, as well as all the other things that need to be considered.

    I will certainly consider all of this too. No candidate who intolerantly opposes homosexuality because of biblical ignorance will receive my vote as will no scientifically ignorant candidate who opposes stem-cell research and abortion at all stages of pregnancy. Someday the world will benefit from the outcome of stem-cell research, and people like George Bush, who so diligently opposed it and held back its progress, will be viewed like the religious ignoramuses who opposed the scientific discoveries of Galileo and Copernicus on the grounds of what they ignorantly believed the Bible taught on these issues. McDonald, of course, won't be so remembered, because he isn't even known now outside of the backwoods of Missouri where he has spent most of his life preaching for an obscure fundamentalist sect. He will live his life in obscurity, die in obscurity, and be forgotten.

    McDonald:
    In Matthew chapter 23 Jesus was condemning the Pharisees for overlooking important issues such as caring for their parents in their old age while making sure that they were exactly right on the amount of money that they gave the temple, and he said "Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mind [sic] and anise and commin [sic], and have omitted the weighter matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: for these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone" (Matthew 23:23). Yes, finances are important! Foreign policy is important! However, there are more weighty matters that need to be dealt with such as the issue of the sacredness of human life and the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman. These are the weightier matters that Mr. Till (and those like him) would have us ignore on Election Day.

    I found it rather ironice that McDonald appealed to one of the very passages that I quoted in my article "The Morality of the Christian Right."

    Till:
    Our interest, of course, is in the principles of Christianity that evangelicals disregarded in order to support a presidential candidate who had given lip service to "moral values" that they considered important enough to justify their betrayal of "weightier matters" of their religion. Throughout the rest of this article, I will be borrowing this term, which Jesus used in condemnation of the Pharisees of his time, who legalistically emphasized relative minor precepts of their religion over those that Jesus said were "weightier matters of the law."

    Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint, dill, and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. It is these you ought to have practiced without neglecting the others. 24 You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel!

    Any reasonable person who knows what the New Testament teaches about the obligations of Christians has no difficulty recognizing that fundamentalist evangelicals flagrantly disregarded the weightier matters of Christianity in order to vote for a candidate who they thought would accommodate their beliefs about less important matters like abortion, same-sex marriages, and prayers in school. These evangelicals will no doubt be horrified to hear me refer to these beliefs as "less important matters," but Jesus himself said in the passage quoted above that justice, mercy, and faith were "weightier matters of the law" than strict observance of the command to tithe, which the Pharisees were so legalistically observing that they included in their tithes even herbs like mint, dill, and cummin. I intend to show that the emphasis that evangelicals are placing on matters like abortion, same-sex marriages, and public prayers and displays of Christian symbols amounts to a pharasaical tithing of mint, dill, and cummin to the neglect of far weightier matters of Christianity.

    We have already noticed above some passages where Jesus emphasized love, mercy, kindness, and such like over strict observance of ceremonial laws and customs, but we will be seeing similar texts as we go along. Doing good to one's neighbors and enemies and helping the poor are foundation principles of the religion that Jesus established, but before we look at these, let's first notice that no Christian who sincerely practices his religion can consider "the less important matters" mentioned above equal to such principles as love, mercy, justice, kindness, etc.

    Abortion: I have already shown in "Abortion and the God of the Bible" and Does a Person Exist at the Moment of Conception?" that the "pro-birth" view that abortion at any stage of pregnancy constitutes the murder of a "person" and violates God's law has no scientific or biblical basis in fact, so I will refer readers to those articles if they are interested in examining the morality issues involved in the abortion controversy so that I can concentrate here on showing that sometimes Evangelicals will obsessively oppose abortion to the neglect of a weightier principle that requires Christians to care for the poor. Jesus put a great deal of emphasis on this principle. When a young man came to Jesus and asked what he needed to do to "have eternal life," Jesus told him to keep the commandments not to kill or commit adultery or steal or bear false witness and to honor his father and mother and to love his neighbor as himself. When the young man said that he had observed all of these things, Jesus then told him to sell all that he had and give it to the poor (Matt. 19:21). The writer of James said that the religion that was "pure and undefiled" was to "visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction and to keep oneself unspotted from the world" (James 1:27). Surely no one can read passages like these and deny that caring for the poor is a primary obligation of Christians.

    I will say more later about obligations that the New Testament imposes on Christians to care for the poor, but first I must explain what this obligation has to do with the issue of abortion. I would never simplistically claim that there is only one reason why women obtain abortions, but surely even those in the pro-birth movement would agree that economics is at least one factor in this social problem. At least some women seek abortions for fear that they will not be economically able to care for more children. The federal poverty level for a family of four is $18,400, and 12 million children in the United States live in families whose incomes fall below this level. If we assume that the pro-birth movement has dissuaded at least some women in low-income families who were considering abortion as an option--and surely this is a safe assumption--there are at least some children now living in poverty because of pro-birth proponents. These children, then, are here now because of those who advocate the pro-birth view, but what are these advocates doing to see that these children whose births they are at least partly responsible for receive their basic needs? I certainly know that fundamentalist groups engage in charitable works, but if they were doing as much as the New Testament quotations cited above impose on them, there surely wouldn't be 12 million children living in poverty in a country that boasts of being a "Christian nation."

    I said much more in this article to show that Evangelicals who put more importance on legalistic adherence to their views on homosexuality, abortion, and stem-cell research than to their clear biblical obligations to care for the needs of the poor are modern Pharisees, whose opposition to homosexuality, same-sex marriages, abortion, and stem-cell research constitutes tithing of mint, anise, and cumin to the neglect of "weightier matters," such as assisting the poor and downtrodden. Those who take the time to read the article from which I just quoted will see that I supported my views with evidence rather than mere assertions of my personal beliefs, as McDonald has done throughout his article.

    McDonald:
    Mr. Till wants us to believe that abortion was the only issue we considered, but he is just as wrong about that as he can be.

    As I noted above, I never said that their anti-abortion view was the only issue that Evangelicals considered in casting their presidential ballots. This link will show that I said that their opposition to abortion played a "key role in their voting patterns" and was "largely responsible for returning to the White House a 'president' who half of the citizenry believe has been reckless and at times downright incompetent in both domestic and foreign affairs." McDonald either has reading comprehension problems or else he is deliberately distorting what I said in the article that he was presumably "answering."

    Incidentally, my article from which the quotation above was taken was written when only half the country disapproved of Bush's administration. At this time, February 2008, his public disapproval rating is now above 60% in most polls. To those who now disapprove of him, I can only say that they got what they deserved by being so ignorant in their voting patterns.

    McDonald:
    Abortion might have been the only issue he considered (if he voted for Kerry) when he voted during the last election,

    This wasn't even close to being even the major reason why I voted for Kerry.

    McDonald:
    because Kerry stood in favor of abortion and Mr. Till wants abortion so bad [sic] that he would vote for cowardly traitors like Clinton (who took off and went to school in England so he wouldn’t have to go to Viet-Nam,

    Unlike George W. Bush, who avoided combat duty in Vietnam by using family influence to gain acceptance into the Texas Air National Guard, which at the time was known as the Champagne brigade, which served as a draft refuge for sons of the rich and politically influential? To get into the "Champagne brigade," by the way, Bush was jumped over the names of 500 who had already applied before him to join this air national guard. As the link just given will show, Bush was accepted above these other applicants even though he had scored in the bottom 25 percentile of those who took the entry exam. Furthermore, he stated on his application that he did not want to be stationed overseas.

    Before McDonald talks about the cowardice of Clinton, he should get his facts right about Bush. Instead of laying down smoke screens about irrelevant issues like Clinton's alleged cowardice, he should also focus on trying to prove that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes killing persons.

    McDonald:
    under the guise that he didn’t believe in killing—funny thing about that is how hard he tried to get us into war when he was President, when it didn’t involve the possibility of him [sic] getting killed.

    I don't recall Clinton's trying hard to "get us into war when he was president," so I don't know what McDonald is referring to here. The war in Bosnia started in 1992, and Clinton was widely criticized for not intervening until 1995. Then when he did send U. S. troops, none of whom were killed, he was widely criticized by Republicans. Is that McDonald's idea of Clinton's trying hard to get us into war "when it didn't involve the possibility of [his] getting killed"? At any rate, any hypocrisy on Clinton's part about war during his adminstration couldn't even compare to the way that Bush has been hypocritical in sending troops off to be killed after he himself had evaded combat duty during the Vietnamese war.

    McDonald:
    I wonder where his sensibility to killing was then?),

    Perhaps Clinton's "sensibility to killing" was manifested in his long delay in sending U. S. troops to Bosnia.

    How do Clinton's actions in the Bosnian war in any way prove that abortion in the early stages of pregnancy constitutes killing "persons"?

    McDonald:
    and Kerry because they took his position on abortion.

    Who are the they here? The antecedent of this pronoun is so vague that I have no idea whom McDonald was referring to, so he gave me nothing to reply to.

    McDonald:
    It seems that he just can't get enough of the slaughter of innocent lives.

    He who? Clinton? Kerry? Me? Who? A frustrating thing about replying to McDonald's articles is trying to figure out at times what he even means.

    McDonald:
    Don't kill a guilty person who has committed murder,

    I am not opposed to the death penalty, although I will say that the number of death-row inmates who have been found innocent since improvements in DNA analysis has given me pause to reconsider my view on the death penalty. I referred to general approval of the death penalty among Christian fundamentalists, while simultaneously opposing abortion, as just an example of their inconsistency.

    McDonald:
    but kill an innocent baby (or innocent babies) so that a woman can live her lascivious lifestyle and not have to put up with the baby that comes as a result of it.

    All women who seek abortions don't do so in order to "live... lascivious lifestyles." By implying that they do, McDonald is arguing by stereotyping, as he did above in characterizing women on welfare as cheaters. He also continues to argue by begging questions that he is obligated to prove. Is a zygote or embryo in the early stages of pregnancy an "innocent baby"? If so, McDonald needs to present scientific evidence that it is. I have repeatedly cited scientific evidence that shows that zygotes and early embryos are not persons. He has presented no scientific evidence that zygotes are persons. He apparently prefers to beg questions and fight straw men rather than present evidence in support of his position.

    McDonald:
    I don't understand why Mr. Till says that abortion is regrettable because if there is no life at conception, if no person is involved, then what is so regrettable about it?

    When did I ever say that "there is no life at conception"? I have repeatedly stated that there is "life" well before conception occurs, but McDonald apparently prefers to fight straw men rather than address this issue.

    Why is abortion "so regrettable"? That is easy to answer. Even though it doesn't constitute killing a person, abortion prevents a potential person from developing and eventually being born. Birth control, however, does the same thing, so if abortion is morally wrong, why wouldn't birth control also be morally wrong?

    Many regrettable things occur in life. That is just the way that life is. The American Academy of Family Physicians claims that spontaneous abortion before the fifth month of gestation affects an estimated 20% of pregnancies. I find that also regrettable. I wonder if McDonald does too. If so, perhaps he could tell us if spontaneous abortions, which occur by the natural laws created by his god, are also immoral. At least maybe he can tell us why, if abortion is so terribly immoral, his god Yahweh created a reproductuve system that causes a fifth of pregnancies to terminate spontaneously.

    McDonald:
    I pray that Mr. Till will take the time to respond to this.

    Well, his prayer has been answered.

    McDonald:
    We will gladly print his response.

    After I have proofread this article, checked all of the links, and posted it on the TSR website, I will send a copy to McDonald so that he can keep this promise.

     


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