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Media bias

Proverbs 18:17: the antidote to Fake News

In the era of, not so much fake, but exaggerated, partisan, and selectively reported news, how can we discern the truth of a matter? God shows us the way in Proverbs 18:17, where we are told the first to present his case seems right until a second comes and questions him. What does it look like, to put this verse into action? Let’s take a classic example from the US gun debate. In the early 1990s Emory University medical professor Arthur Kellermann told Americans that owning a gun was associated with a 2.7 times greater risk of being murdered. Kellermann shared that in his study of three metropolitan areas they had found three-quarters of the victims were murdered by someone they knew, and nearly half by gunshot wounds. That raised the question of whether having a gun in the house might increase rather than decrease a person’s chance of being murdered. The New York Times, and other media outlets, spread these findings far and wide. But was the anti-gun case as compelling as it seemed? To find out, we have to continue on and hear from the critics – the first has presented his case and now we need a second to come and question him. Critics noted that Kellermann’s study showed an equal risk increase associated with owning a burglar alarm. National Review’s Dave Kopel pointed out, this study overlooks “the obvious fact that one reason people choose to own guns, or to install burglar alarms, is that they are already at a higher risk of being victimized by crime…. Kellermann’s method would also prove that possession of insulin increases the risk of diabetes.” The National Rifle Association wanted people to understand that a study of homicides couldn’t give a good measure of how effective guns could be for personal protection. "99.8 percent of the protective uses of guns do not involve homicides," explained NRA spokesman Paul H. Blackman, but instead would involve brandishing the weapon to hold off an assault, or perhaps firing the weapon to scare or wound the assailant. The first presenter might have had us thinking guns clearly needed to be banned. But that was only half the story. Even after hearing from the critics we don’t have the full picture – veteran newsman Ted Byfield once noted that to provide every side of a story we’d need more ink than exists in the whole of the world – but by hearing the two sides argue it out we have a much better picture. God tells us in Prov. 18:17 that if we hear only one side – even if it’s our side – then it’s likely we’re going to miss something. So if the truth matters to us we want to give even our opponents a hearing. At least the thoughtful ones (Prov. 14:7).

Pro-life - Abortion

The Supreme Court did not find a right to abortion

Is the “right” to abortion found anywhere in Canada’s Charter of Rights? To hear Prime Minister Justin Trudeau talk of it, you would think so. He regularly refers to abortion as a “right,” as do other abortion activists. In doing so, they are attempting to equate abortion with other Charter rights, such as freedom of expression and the liberty of the person. Many equate the supposed “right to abortion” with section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which recognizes:

Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of the person and the right not to be deprived thereof except in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.

They then cite the Supreme Court decision in R v. Morgentaler (1988) as the source of this “right” – this is the decision that struck down Canada’s legal restrictions on abortion. But a careful reading of Morgentaler does not support the conclusion that Canadian law includes a right to abortion. That’s an important point for Christians to understand and be able to explain to others. While there are no legal restrictions on abortion in Canada, there are no constitutional or judicial reasons that there couldn’t be. To equip us to make that point, we’re going to take a close look at the Morgentaler decision and then at Section 7 of the Charter of Rights. The scope of the 1988 Morgentaler decision When looking at the Supreme Court’s dealing with section 7 in the 1988 Morgentaler decision, we need to make two notes. First, while five of the justices struck down the 1969 abortion law being challenged, they did so for three separate reasons. This means that while they agreed that the previous abortion law was unconstitutional, their reasons varied. Drawing conclusions from the decision must then be done with qualifications and by drawing from the various reasons. Second, the legal question of the rights of a pre-born child was deliberately sidelined by the Supreme Court and left to be determined by Parliament. The Supreme Court Justices understood that their role was limited to evaluating Parliament’s specific legislative framework (which then required pregnant women to obtain permission for abortion from “Therapeutic Abortion Committees”), not the general topic of abortion. Chief Justice Dickson, quoting Justice McIntyre, put it this way:

“the task of this Court in this is not to solve nor seek to solve what might be called the abortion issue, but simply to measure the content of s. 251 [the previous abortion law] against the Charter.”

Section 7 and women in the Morgentaler decision The 1988 Morgentaler decision struck down the previous law on the basis that it interfered with the “life, liberty, or security” of the person in a manner that was not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice – they said the abortion law of the time violated section 7 of the Charter. The interests considered were not solely those of women choosing to have an abortion, but also the physicians who performed unauthorized abortions and faced imprisonment under the law. In terms of what rights women had to abortion, Chief Justice Dickson (writing with Justice Lamar) didn’t address the issue, focusing instead on the procedural elements of the law and the impact of the Therapeutic Abortion Committees on women’s health. Meanwhile, Justice Beetz (writing with Justice Estey) held that Parliament had carved out an exception to a prohibition on abortion, but had not created anything resembling a right to abortion. He explicitly stated:

“given that it appears in a criminal law statute, s.251(4) cannot be said to create a ‘right’ [to abortion], much less a constitutional right, but it does represent an exception decreed by Parliament.”

Justice McIntyre (with Justice La Forest) similarly concluded that, except when a woman’s life is at risk:

“no right of abortion can be found in Canadian law, custom or tradition, and that the Charter, including s. 7, creates no further right.”

Justice Wilson, writing alone, gave the most expansive definition of women’s interests under section 7, finding that the guarantee of “liberty” included “a degree of personal autonomy over important decisions intimately affecting their private lives.” This idea of autonomy of “choice” for women was not endorsed by the other six justices and was not without limits, even in Justice Wilson’s own estimation. Ultimately, the 1988 Morgentaler decision: did not assume a right to abortion did not create a right to abortion, and cannot be interpreted as implying a right to abortion. Current Supreme Court Justice Sheilah Martin notes that although they struck down the abortion law in 1988:

“the Supreme Court did not clearly articulate a woman’s right to obtain an abortion… and left the door open for new criminal abortion legislation when it found that the state has a legitimate interest in protecting the fetus.”

All the justices in the 1988 Morgentaler decision agreed that protecting fetal interests was a legitimate and important state interest, and could be done through means other than the law at that time. Even understanding section 7’s “liberty guarantee” as including the freedom to make “fundamental personal choices” does not end the debate, especially when such a choice directly impacts another person’s Charter guarantees. While the courts have failed to extend Charter protection to pre-born children to date, they have consistently affirmed Parliament’s ability to legislate protection of fetal interests. Unlike the Supreme Court, which is limited to hearing individual cases based on a confined set of facts, Parliament is able to hear from a variety of voices and act in a way that considers broader societal interests. The Supreme Court has shown deference to Parliament knowing that Parliament is in a better position to make such determinations. While Parliament has considered various legislative proposals that would create a new abortion law, none of them have passed, leaving Canada with no abortion law. Canada is the sole Western nation without any criminal restrictions of abortion services. Every other democratic country has managed to protect pre-born children to some degree. So Canada stands alone in leaving the question unanswered – not because there is a right to abortion, but because of the inaction of Parliament. As we defend life from its earliest stages, it is important to understand where Canada is as a country and what changes need to be made to our law. While there is much that can be improved in Canadian law, we do not have to fight a pre-established Charter right to abortion. It should be our goal, and the goal of Parliament, to recognize the societal value in protecting vulnerable pre-born children.

Tabitha Ewert is Legal Counsel for We Need a Law. For the extended version of this article, along with extensive references, see We Need a Law’s position paper “Under Section 7 Abortion is not a Charter right.” 

Movie Reviews, Pro-life - Abortion, Watch for free

Some pro-life arguments are not pro-life arguments

Editor's note: the short pro-life film Crescendo is very well done – it is compelling, emotional, and has wonderful musical accompaniment. It’s very clear why it has won so many awards.  But this pro-life film is also notable for what it is missing, or, rather, what it gets wrong. As Rob Slane explains below, while the argument in the film is a common one in pro-life circles, it is a message completely at odds with the truth. https://youtu.be/CafJJNETvqM

*****

Have you ever heard the Beethoven argument against abortion? It runs something like this:

"If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already – three who were deaf, two who were blind and one who was mentally retarded – and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion? You would? Well congratulations – you just killed Beethoven!"

I have heard this argument used many times as an argument against abortion and I must say it tends to leaves me with a thoroughly unappealing taste in my mouth. The problem with it is that in trying to establish the dignity of human life by using the idea that you might end up killing a genius if you abort babies, the argument ironically ends up completely undermining the dignity of human life. That's not what we believe The reasoning behind this little nugget is that by killing the unborn, you might just kill someone who, had you let them live, would have been great and who may have possibly brought great joy and happiness to millions. But the subtle subtext behind this argument is that the value of human life can be measured by success, or accomplishments, or by a person's genius. This contradicts the whole pro-life argument, which is based on the principle that all human life is special and of great value, not because of what a person may or may not do, but rather because each person is made in the image of God and so is automatically sacred – irrespective of future accomplishments and successes. Human dignity does not come from us. Ours is an objective dignity, given to us by our Creator and not by ourselves. It is not earned on the basis of what we do or by what we achieve, and it cannot be forfeited by reason of our sin. It is true that we often appear to do all we can to forfeit this dignity by our sinful nature and behavior, yet no amount of sin can alter our status as bearers of the Imago Dei, so we remain the possessors of great value. All sin does is to highlight how far we fail to live up to the dignity that God has given us. The proper perspective Having said this, I don't think we ought to abandon this line of reasoning completely. With a little tweaking and tinkering here and there, it could be used to good effect. Something like this:

"If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one who was mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion? You would? Well congratulations – you just killed Mrs. Dorothy Anne Tweed of 55 Jameson Street, Edinburgh, Scotland.

"What? You've never heard of Mrs. Tweed? Did you expect to hear that a somebody had been killed off, rather than this nobody? Maybe Beethoven or Einstein, for instance? Well sorry to disappoint you. I have to admit that Mrs. Tweed's resume doesn't look quite as impressive as Ludwig's. No choral symphonies to be found! No string quartets! No fate knocking at the door at the start of an awesome fifth symphony!

"Yet despite not being one of the greatest geniuses the world has ever known and despite her clear lack of musical accomplishments, I am confident that Mrs. Tweed is as fully human as Ludwig ever was and has as much right to life as Ludwig ever did.

"So tell me – would you consign her, along with millions of others just like her, to death just because they aren't Beethoven?"

Rob Slane is the author of “A Christian & an Unbeliever Discuss: Life, the Universe & Everything” which is available at Amazon.ca here and Amazon.com here.

Science - General

Amazing green meat-eaters!

The first thing a student of nature learns, is that it is fatal to generalize – an exception can be found to almost any general rule. Most of us, for example, would define animals in terms of food capture – they go out and get their food – and we'd define plants as sedentary manufacturers of their own food, using sunlight for energy. Nevertheless there are plants that dine on animals: quite the reverse of the expected! Tempting embrace Probably the most famous meat-eating (carnivorous) plant is the Venus Flytrap. In scientific jargon it is named Dioneae after Dione, mythical mother of Venus, goddess of love. This is an apt name when one considers how the plant lures and catches victims. The trap consists of two fringed lobes, seemingly hinged by the midrib, at the end of each leaf. The lobes are bright red in the sun and they exude sweet scents to attract the unwary insect. Once a suitable insect has landed on the trap, it snaps shut in a fraction of a second. Interlocking "teeth" prevent escape of the victim. The more it struggles, the more tightly the trap closes. The leaf now releases a slimy fluid which contains enzymes able to digest protein. Then, once the meal has been digested, the fluid containing the new nutrients is reabsorbed into the leaf. Dry once again, the leaf opens and the victim’s empty shell falls away. The trap is again ready for business. [caption id="attachment_5383" align="alignright" width="560"] PROMINENT "TRIGGER HAIRS" – 3 ON EACH SIDE – SPRING THE TRAP![/caption] Clever, clever, clever! How does the leaf surface "know" when a suitable victim has landed on the trap? Prominent hairs on the surface of each lobe are trigger mechanisms. Raindrops and small insects fail to spring the trap. Two hairs must be touched, or one hair moved twice in order to produce closure. This ensures response only to large insects, not useless small ones. How is the message of a suitable victim translated into slit-second action? No one really knows. An electric charge has been shown to flash over the leaf surface as the trigger hairs are stimulated. One guess suggests that the charge produces a rapid change of some chemical, from soluble to insoluble (eg. from sugar to starch), in the cells of the upper half of the leaf. Water then moves into the lower leaf cells which now contain relatively more dissolved solids. These cells swell, causing the leaf lobes to move together. This sounds plausible but slow. Obviously it is not the final answer. One would suppose so specialized a plant would have many less complex relatives. Such is not the case. The genus contains only one species. Even this species is very restricted in its occurrence. The plant’s natural habitat is sandy soil within 100 miles of Wilmington, North Carolina. Except for another genus with a single species, there are no similar plants. So many important parts It is conventional scientific wisdom that the trapping mechanism of Dionaea developed in response to nutrient-poor soil conditions. It is difficult however to imagine how transitional forms could exist. If the sweet aroma did not attract insects, the trap would be useless. Without rapid closing, or without teeth on the lobe edges, the insect would escape. Without suitable gland cells to release and absorb digestive fluids, all the rest would be useless. It is easy to see why Darwin called the flytrap ‘the most wonderful plant in the world’! It is more difficult to understand how he could have presumed evolution of such a precise mechanism. Natural selection could not select for traps which lacked any one component of the system. Only the fully developed system, produced by the Creator, can account for these amazing plants.

This article first appeared in Creation Science Dialogue, Volume 8, Number 1, 1981, and is reprinted here with permission. Dr. Margaret Helder is the author of “No Christian Silence on Science” which we review here, and you can buy here.

AA
Movie Reviews, Watch for free
Tagged: featured, free to watch online

8 free films for your study group

I was asked this past month if I had any recommendations of free online films that might be good material for a study group. Well, there are certainly some great ones to choose from! What follows are a number of films that will give viewers plenty to discuss. With one exception they are all an hour or shorter, leaving plenty of time for discussion. And perhaps the two shortest ones – just 15 minutes each – could be paired together to foster two smaller, but related, discussions.

Click on the titles below to reach the films, as well as longer reviews, some of which also include discussion questions.

I survived “I Kissed Dating Goodbye”
78 min. / 2018

Josh Harris has been in the news lately for publicly turning his back on God. But before he kissed his wife, and his God goodbye, he was best known for his book I Kissed Dating Goodbye. This documentary, made last year (shortly before Harris’ apostasy) takes a look at the impact of his book, the purity culture it was a part of it, and the question of what it looks like to date like a Christian.

Revolutionary
60 min. / 2016

The mild-mannered Michael Behe doesn’t seem like a “revolutionary.” But his idea of “irreducible complexity” – that there are some cellular machines that could not come about by the step-by-step process that evolution assumes – has driven evolutionists batty. And in telling his story, this documentary tells us the history of the Intelligent Design (ID) movement he helped start.

Now, the ID movement isn’t specifically Christian. They are focused on making the case for an Intelligent Designer and don’t get into who that Designer is, which means they never give God the credit He is due. But they have done some good work poking holes in evolutionary theory. So if you want to learn more about ID, there is no better, and no more succinct introduction than this one.

But as well done as this is, I will add it needs the listening audience to already be interested in the topic of evolution vs. creation. If they are not, then Revolutionary‘s talking heads – as brilliant and engaging as they are – probably won’t be enough to grab their attention.

Euthanasia documentary
15 min. / 2016

This is an important film, showing how euthanasia has been executed in Belgium, where it has been legal since 2002. But the documentary is fundamentally flawed in that it is an entirely secular presentation. What that means is that, as good as it is at pointing out problems, it can’t ever get at the root cause. And that root cause? Once a culture denies that our lives our not our own, but God’s, then life is going to be devalued. If we are not made in the very Image of God, then why is every human being’s life precious? The world doesn’t have an answer to that question. And because they have no answer, any safeguards they erect have no real foundation – they aren’t dug into solid rock. Thus they won’t be able to hold us back from sliding ever further down the slippery slope.

So this could make great discussion fodder for how avoiding mention of God is not simply cowardly, but ineffective.

Crescendo
15 min. / 2014

This is an incredibly well done pro-life drama that makes the point that Beethoven’s mother had every earthly reason to abort him. And then it asks us to imagine what the world would have lost if she had. But, like the film above, there is a fundamental flaw in this argument worth understanding. Our worth does not come from our potential. What if Beethoven had been disabled, and could never have made any of his music? Is the film saying that they aborting him would have been okay?

This is another example of what happens when we try to ground our arguments on anything other than God’s Truth. We end up saying things that just aren’t true. Better to stand on the Bible, because regardless of whether we win or lose in the short term, we know we are standing on Truth.

The Fool – The true “Banana Man” story
60 min. / 2019

This is the true story of evangelist Ray Comfort and how he was mocked by atheists the world over for a silly joke he made that fell flat. But even as Ray was brought low, God was using Ray’s humiliation for His own purposes: these same atheists started inviting Ray onto their shows, podcasts, and stages and they let him say anything he wanted. It’s a sometimes funny, always intriguing story about how God can use even fools like us.

Audacity: Love can’t stay silent
50 min. / 2015

This is a Christian drama about homosexuality that has decent but admittedly not great acting. But the message it preaches is one we have to wrestle with: what does it mean to love our homosexual neighbor? That God clearly condemns homosexuality has got to be one of the hottest of hot button topics today, so how can a Christian, on the one hand, be winsome, and on the other, speak God’s truth on this topic too.

And this question can be extended quite naturally to, what does it mean to love my non-Christian neighbor?

Babies are murdered here
54 min. / 2014

This must-see is first and foremost an encouragement for anyone sitting on the sidelines to get active and start saving the unborn. Where the film gets controversial is in the producers’ argument that we must name the sin that is going on behind clinic doors. They want Christians to start using stark, clear terms, like “murder” and “murderer” to clearly and accurately identify these shameful deeds. This should get some discussion going!

2081
27 min. / 2009

This is a dystopian film set in 2081 when everyone is now, finally, equal thanks to the work of the Handicapper General. She, along with her agents, ensure that strong folks are burdened with weights, smart people are burdened with headphones that repeatedly blast sounds to disrupt their thinking, and beautiful people are forced to wear ugly masks. And thus, now, everyone is on the same level as all others.

This would be a great one to watch and consider questions about the problem of poverty as opposed to the problem of income inequality, what it means to be covetousness, what sort of equality the world is after, and what sort of equality God requires.

A few other possibilities didn’t make the list because there were either on the long side or were a lecture rather than a film. But if you are looking for more great material worth wrestling with and discussing, you’ll want to consider “Tactics in defending your faith,” “How to answer a fool,” “Science uprising,” and “Fearfully and wonderfully made.”


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