Examining Ten Universal Principles

Fr SpitzerThere was a theist on Twitter who was demanding that theists watch this 2 1/2 hour video by Father Robert Spitzer, claiming it would convince us all that God was real.  Um… no.  Not going to happen.  However, that doesn’t mean Spitzer might not have something worth listening to so I selected another of his videos, this one an hour long, that I will deconstruct and see if he has anything worth saying.  Of course, if you want to sit through the original 2 1/2 hour video and give a report for the class, you’ve got more patience than I do, Gunga Din.

Now to begin with, this isn’t my first time hearing about Spitzer, I may have even read a couple of things that he’s written but for the life of me I can’t tell you what it might have been, it was that forgettable.  However, this is the first time watching him speak and, sad to say, he’s not the greatest public speaker in the world.  I’m not either, I admit that, but considering how hard the theist above pushed his stuff, I thought he’d be more erudite.  As I’ve watched his video, called Ten Universal Principles, I’ve made some notes and I’ll go back and clean things up, but in general, as you’re watching the video, things happen in this order.  Unfortunately, Spitzer never lays out these ten principles in any organized format, he says he’ll talk about things later and many times, never does.  Organization is not his strong suit.  Please note that while the original video suggested dealt with his claims that God is real, this is not about that subject.  I have found another, much shorter, video that I will be addressing in the future.  If he can’t make his points that God is real in a half-hour, why should I watch him stumble around for 2 1/2 hours trying to do it? So let’s begin.

He immediately fails by asserting “natural rights”, something I’ve spoken about many times in the past. No such thing, sorry.  And you’re not on videotape either.  Join 2012, which is when this video was made.  However, I will address his specific claims and debunk them along the way.

This is generally a “pro-life” video although he’s throwing libertarianism and religion into it as well.  That’s okay, I haven’t addressed abortion very much recently anyhow.  I find it funny that his anti-abortion position is generally supported only by the argument from personal incredulity, that he cannot understand how anyone could not adopt his position because he doesn’t understand any other way to look at it.  He also asserts that everything is a conspiracy, that it’s designed to “get” him and his followers.  He also falls for a fallacy that I’ve come to call the “good old days” fallacy, where he clings tenaciously to something that was true in the past as a means of claiming it must still be true today.  Now I’m a conservative, but there are conservatives and there are fanatics and I think he falls into the fanatical category.  He’s so enamored with the Founding Fathers and what they wanted that it borders on hero worship.  He desperately wants what they said to be true forever and it’s not necessarily so.  There are plenty of things that they thought, just a few hundred years ago, that are simply absurd by today’s standards.  Most of his arguments are based around his modern-day theology and the things that he simply wishes were true, therefore he quotes from people in the past who also thought they were true as his justification for believing that it actually is true.  That’s fallacious on the face of it.

He starts to talk about objective truth, again a subject I’ve addressed in the past, and starts asserting that the most “truthful” opinion ought to win the day.  Of course, he’s a Catholic priest and Christianity in general has not been demonstrated to be the most “truthful” opinion, that goes a lot toward the absurdity of his claims already. In fact, if you remember that simple fact throughout his talk, it becomes painfully clear how irrational his position is.  He wants to apply it to abortion but not to his religion.  He also starts claiming that the Founding Fathers believed in objective morality, which is another thing they were simply wrong about.  Whether they believed in it or not doesn’t mean it’s actually so, so much of what he does within this video is base hero worship and appeals to popularity and authority.  What more can you expect from a priest though?

So why does he bring these things up?  Because it’s all he’s got to support his beliefs, that’s why.  He says that the concept of inalienable rights is true, but why does the Catholic church object to gay marriage then?  If people are inherently equal, how can you grant rights to one group while denying it to another?  It seems that rights are only inalienable when he wants them to be.  It’s painfully obvious that his idea of rights has nothing to do with his choice of a religion and he’s totally blinded to that fact.

He then starts arguing that “pre-born” humans, ie. fetuses, are claimed by pro-choice people as “not fully human”. Sorry, I’ve never seen anyone argue that.  Clearly, on the basis of their genetics, a fetus is human.  It’s just not a protected human.  Of course, Spitzer goes on to point out the horrible Dred Scott decision that blacks were only worth 3/5 of a white person, but entirely ignores similar decisions made within his own church.  One only has to look at the long, bloody history of the Catholic Church to see how many times they have treated non-Catholics as less than human.  Hypocritical much?  Of course, later he goes on to say that we  can sequence the DNA from a fetus and it’s fully human.  Yup.  So what?  We can sequence the DNA from your appendix and it’s fully human too, but we have no problem taking it out and disposing of it if it causes us problems.  He  complains that the Supreme Court has never reconsidered Rowe vs. Wade based on our knowledge that a fetus is human, but they never made the decision based on the humanity or nonhumanity of the fetus in the first place.  That was never even a consideration.  It was decided based on the rights of the woman to control her own body.  Besides, Catholics don’t give a damn about human beings who are born, they’re only too happy to let human beings in Africa pass along AIDS and other diseases because they can’t allow their members to use condoms.  Don’t give me this “but it’s human!” nonsense.

He argues that not all opinions are equally valid and I agree with him, as far as that  goes.  However, he never rationally justifies his own opinion and provides evidence that his opinion is more likely true than anyone else’s, he just repeats that this is how things have always been done, therefore this is how things should always be done and that’s not a valid argument.  It isn’t the opinion that explains the most data that wins, he doesn’t believe that because he remains a Christian and Christianity doesn’t actually explain anything.  More properly, it’s the opinion that CORRECTLY explains the most data wins.  His explanations are simply wrong.  He compares Einstein to Newton and concludes that Einstein is more correct than Newton.  That is true, but there are still things that Einstein got wrong that we know better today and in another 50 years, there will be things that we don’t know that our future selves will have figured out.  So how is this guy claiming that everything the Founding Fathers believed is still right today when the advance of human thought happens constantly?  None of the people he references as his authorities have lived in the past 200 years.

The law of non-contradiction?  You mean like that God of yours who you think is all-knowing, all-powerful and all-good, yet allows evil in the world?  Contradiction?  Ah, whenever you have contradictions, you know they’re wrong.  Like in the Bible for instance?  No?  He thinks you should seriously discount any contradictory statement, yet he doesn’t want to do that with his own religious beliefs.  And this is the guy they put up to make an argument against abortion?  Seriously?

He correctly states that a child can sue, or someone can sue in their name, for things that happened to them in utero.  That’s correct.  Notice that a fetus cannot sue, only a born individual can sue.  Why doesn’t he recognize the absurdity of his statements?  He talks about evidence and correctly identifies objective evidence as something that everyone can see.  Then he starts talking about post priori evidence and goes entirely sideways.  He claims that A² + B² cannot be C^4, but that’s not based on evidence but on definition.  Mathematics operates by definitions, not by evidence.  Let’s look at the operator “+”.  It operates in a particular way because we, as humans, have agreed that it operates in that way.  If two people who have never been exposed to mathematics in their lives were to come across the “+” symbol on some deserted island somewhere, they could never use evidence to discover it’s purpose.  It wouldn’t mean anything and there is no way to determine it’s proper use without it being explained.  He clearly doesn’t understand math or science.  He said that one legislative body argued that ∏ was too large a number and therefore they were going to round it off at 3.2 and the engineers complained that if they did that, all of the bridges would just fall down.  Of course they wouldn’t!  Passing a law doesn’t change reality!  Reality doesn’t care if some group of idiots claim ∏ is 3.14159 or 47.  What a moron.

It’s hysterical when he starts talking about ethics and says that ethics must be based on objective truth and cannot be based on incomplete evidence.  You know… like Christianity?  It’s not based on objective truth nor is it based on incomplete evidence, or any objective evidence at all, yet there he sits with that ridiculous collar.  He proposes three “rules” that he claims must be true.  The first is the law of non-maleficence, which in modern terms might be spelled out as “don’t be a dick”.   It says not to do things to others that you would not want done to yourself.  Okay, I can accept that, it’s really part of enlightened self-interest.  If I had been aborted as a fetus, I never would have been born and I therefore never would have had any experiences.  There’s no net loss there, I never would have known that I existed, nor that I was missing anything by not existing.  So had I been aborted, I never would have known about it.  Is there a problem there?  I don’t think so.  He claims that the Supreme Court ignored this principle but I don’t think that’s justifiable.  It all comes down to how you define harm.  He apparently defines harm as anything that causes an individual, even a potential individual, not to exist.  By that definition, God is the biggest abortionist out there, ending more than 130,000,000 pregnancies by miscarriage every year.  Why isn’t God immoral?  I also think that we ought to allow people to commit suicide for whatever reason they want, especially for people suffering from agonizing disease.  Is that immoral?  I think it’s a lot more harmful to force people to continue to live an unwanted life in pain than to just let them die.  Besides, Catholic doctrine has traditionally said that any fetus that dies before birth goes straight to heaven, you’d think that they’d be advocating abortion if they want to save these poor, innocent souls.  He talks about how horrible it was that the American Indians were enslaved and slaughtered early in our country’s history, why does he not mention that Catholics and other Christians were at the forefront of that teaching?  He says that if you meet someone who doesn’t want to limit the harm that they do to you, you ought to run because you’re dealing with a sociopath.  Want to know where many of those sociopaths work?  The Catholic Church!  Let’s be honest, it was Christianity in general that taught that it was Biblical to enslave the blacks.  It was Christian churches that taught that blacks were inferior to whites.  Why doesn’t Spitzer bring this up?  He’s playing to his audience, of course and they don’t want to be reminded of inconvenient or unpleasant truths.

He claims that the hierarchy of rights means that the right to life overrides the right to liberty, yet he goes ahead and ignores it when he says that if you’re dead, you have no liberty.  Then neither right is fundamental, is it? If you’re dead, you don’t need liberty.  However, we recognize the importance of already born individuals over those that are not yet born.  A born woman has greater rights, no matter what those rights may be, than a non-born fetus.  That’s how our society works.  That’s why we don’t force women, at gunpoint, to receive prenatal care.  That’s why we don’t make it illegal for women to eat the wrong things while they are pregnant, or make it illegal for them to smoke or drink alcohol.  If we valued all rights equally, we would.  Why don’t we see the Catholic Church supporting laws that would require women to act for the health and welfare of their unborn fetuses? Because they know it would never fly in the modern world and they’re not willing to put their money where their mouths are.  They’re too busy paying sex abuse lawsuits.  Let’s be honest, the Catholic Church only cares about women as brood mares to pump out more little Catholics to fill their pews and to be molested by their priests.  He won’t admit it because it’s not a nice thing to admit to but it’s still true and Spitzer is an idiot.

Next comes the “principle of full human potential”, which again, Spitzer entirely ignores the history of the Church he belongs to.  He claims that personhood has always been associated with human beings, yet he’s spent this entire time arguing that we didn’t treat American Indians like they were people, we didn’t treat the blacks like they were people, so clearly he’s just wrong.  He might think that we *SHOULD* have done that but he can’t argue that we actually have.  Wishful thinking doesn’t make things so.  I also think it’s hysterical that he keeps talking about Sepulveda as though he was some horrible, awful person.  Sepulveda was a Catholic, yet Spitzer never acknowledges this because, again, it’s not what his audience wants to hear.

He says that the human being is not decided by growth, yet that’s easily and demonstrably wrong.  We determine many different rights based on age and development.  American teenagers cannot legally drive until they are 16. They do not get the right to vote until they are 18.  They cannot drink in most areas until they are 21.  All of these things are determined by age and growth.  Now they’re not seen as rights but, like it or not, rights and laws are essentially the same thing.  His idea that they must legally get rights now that they would get in the future is laughable.  When are we going to start handing out driver’s licenses for 3-year olds?  You can’t deny them that, they’ll get it sometime in the future!  He also says that we cannot deny them justice because they’re waiting on the brink.  Okay, let’s start charging all minors as adults then.  We cannot deny them adult justice because they’re waiting on the brink, after all.  Does this idiot listen to himself?

The very nature of “natural rights”, or rights that exist for an individual by their very human existence, are absurd and plainly non-existent.  Go to Iran and declare yourself to be an atheist and see how far your “natural rights” get you.  He talks about Suarez and his ideas on rights, he recognizes that people have to have ownership over themselves, yet he doesn’t want women to have ownership over their bodies.  Huh?  Then he goes on to declare that the Founding Fathers recognized that rights were self-evident and somehow different from the rights that were declared by the British government.  How is that the case?  The British Monarchy declared rights, now the American Founding Fathers are likewise declaring rights.  Instead of having them come from an authoritarian body though, they’re declaring them to magically exist floating around in the aether somewhere.  How is that any different?  He says that the Founding Fathers never enumerated these “inalienable rights” in the Constitution because they feared that if they spelled them out, somehow the government might try to take them away, but if they don’t enumerate them, and there is no list of these magical “inalienable rights” anywhere, how can anyone argue that they actually have them?  Dumb, dumb, dumb.  Then he complains that the Supreme Court went to the Constitution to see if these rights were there.  Dude, have you read the Constitution?  That’s what the Supreme Court does!  That’s it’s job!  It interprets cases in light of the Constitution!  Are you insane?

Seriously, it’s hard to imagine a bigger hypocrite than Father Robert Spitzer.  He simply asserts claims that he cannot back up, insults people that disagree with him, etc.  His arguments are very, very bad.  It’s really quite ridiculous that anyone with half a brain listens to this fool.

I’m sorry, but if this is the best this guy can do on a subject like abortion, how can I expect him to do any better on science?  And seriously, for anyone who watched this video, did it seem to you that through a lot of it, he sounded on the verge of tears?  He spent a lot of time all choked up, I was expecting him to break down crying at any moment.  Why?  Because all he has are feel-good arguments and emotional claims.  He isn’t practicing logic or reason, every single one of his claims are emotional in nature, what he wants to be true rather that is actually true and this leads me to my final observation.

I thought at first that he was arguing the “is-ought” fallacy, until I realized he’s really arguing the reverse, the “ought-is” fallacy.  He thinks things ought to be a certain way, therefore he simply states that they actually are that way without justifying his statements.  That’s just as fallacious.  If I thought there should be flying cars, that doesn’t mean there actually are flying cars.  Just because he wants the moral landscape to be the way he describes doesn’t mean it actually is that way.  This is a common tactic for theists, they assert that they have the truth and that everyone else knows it too.  It’s the basis for those absurd “you really know God is real, you’re just lying about it” nonsense that we see out of theists regularly.

And by all means, go buy his book.  He pushes it enough.  I counted at least four times in the video and could have missed a couple more.  Go see for yourself.

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yc5E9lEMuKg’]

It should come as no surprise that comments are disabled for the video, which is no surprise.  Granted, YouTube comments are usually a cesspool, but there’s nowhere that you can go and publically post comments on Father Spitzer’s views.  That’s why I have to write a blog post about it.  I was hoping to see others pointing out the same problems with his claims but since whoever put up the video has chosen to restrict that, I guess I’ll just have to act on my own.

In the end, I am not at all impressed with the performance of Father Robert Spitzer and I’m not sure why anyone else would be either.  Maybe those who have a preconceived notion of reality, those who aren’t interested in actual evidence or non-emotional claims, might think this guy has his shit together but it’s laughably untrue.  He didn’t convince me that the “pro-life” side has any valid claims or ideals, especially from a secular perspective, it was the same nonsense that religion pulls all the time, the empty claims and the unjustified beliefs.  Too bad I expect more than that and too bad Spitzer is utterly unable to deliver.

Unlike the YouTube channel, your comments are welcome here.

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