This week, Scott Rae and guest co-host Rick Langer discuss:

Episode Transcript

Scott: This week, how China miscalculated its way to a baby bust. France enshrines abortion in its constitution. Leaks from a scientific professional society expressing skepticism about gender-affirming treatments and the new technology that may someday enable two men together to conceive a conception of an embryo. These are the stories we'll discuss today on the Think Biblically Weekly Cultural Update. We'll also answer some of your questions. I'm your host Scott Ray, and sitting in for Sean who's on the road speaking is my colleague, Rick Langer. We're coming to you from Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. Rick, thanks so much for sitting in for Sean. Really glad to have you with us.

Rick: Yeah, thanks for inviting me, Scott.

Scott: Here's story number one, China's baby bust and some United States statistics on the importance of marriage and bearing children. Rick, what's the story here and why does it matter?

Rick: Well, it's really interesting to look at the events in China over the last like four decades because they instituted the one child policy back in the 19, I think it was the 1970s even. And they were concerned at the time for economic growth and development and they were feeling like the overpopulation burdens kept everyone in poverty. So, they instituted these kinds of draconian measures to moderate population growth. And those draconian measures ultimately worked in terms of decreasing the population. And I don't know if there was a causal connection but they definitely modernized their economy. Well, all of a sudden people are beginning to look and going, wait a minute, where's the babies? By around 2010 or thereabouts, people were beginning to predict that China would see a drop in population by, I think their first prediction is by the year 2035. And lo and behold, that drop in population began in 2022 and is beginning to arc over in levels that are simply jarring. If you were to look, there's a bell shaped curve in this article in the Wall Street Journal about this. And if you think about a bell shaped curve, it kind of begins down at zero and it ends down at zero. And what happened to China's population is it grew from about between four and 500 million, which is of course a huge population in one sense, but China's a huge country. And this is in the 1970s. It peaked at about 1.4 billion. It's beginning to drop in the arc now is that within 80 years it will be back down to about 500 million. Wow, that's quite a drop. That is a catastrophic drop. Here's a comparison for you. In Europe, in England, there was a catastrophic season of the Black Plague and particularly in England that led to devastating economic consequences. Whole cultivated fields were shut down because there was no one to work them. The number of people who died in the Black Plague was about 30% of the population. Right now, China is on an arc to eliminate three times that percentage of population. And they're in a panic. And the irony is that now coming up with positive incentives, first they eliminated the one child policy, then the two child policy was its replacement. Now, they're just plain incentivizing people to have more kids and they're paying people to have kids. And it's a crisis. But the weird thing is it's not just China. Same thing has already happened in Japan. Japan is further ahead along this line. Korea right now has the lowest fertility rates in the world, which are about 0.8 children for every two adults. And zero population growth is 2.1 for every two adults. So they are dropping by a factor of three generationally in population. A big part of this, Scott, is because people are becoming more wealthy, more concerned with wealth, becoming far less concerned about family and children. And that's a bad choice for a culture.

Scott: Yeah, so children, I mean, the Bible's really clear that children are a gift. But in the ancient world, they were a gift, primarily in terms of being economic assets. And that's not true today. The economic system has changed.

Rich: They aren't in the same way. And we've become, we've replaced a lot of functions. Children used to be the social safety net. They used to be social security. They used to be a whole pile of things for a family. Even if it didn't make you wealthy, it was just like the basic needs of human life.

Scott: Now, you found statistics in the United States also that have some pretty interesting things to say about this, too.

Rick: Well, the interesting thing is it's the exact same arc that is happening here in terms of the expectation and desire for children, which has become the problem, for example, in China, Korea, places like this. It isn't that they have legal preventions anymore, but there's a cultural disdain or disregard for children. So, in the United States right now, I just saw this interesting survey. So, white, black, Hispanic, Asian, they're doing a cultural comparison of parental expectations. All of those groups, between 88 and 90% of the people in those groups, want their children, their next generation to be financially independent and have jobs or careers that they enjoy. So, basically 90% of everybody wants that. You know what the percentage of, for example, white parents are who want their kids to grow up and get married and have children? 17% and 16% on those two things.

Scott: Wow, that's quite a difference.

Rick: Well, and it's a change of heart that's disturbing to me and it's interesting to think what is the value we place on marriage, on procreation, and when we talk about being pro-life, there's a whole lot more to that than being anti-abortion, so to speak. And the thing that we have stopped as a culture, stopped appreciating and valuing is simply the role of being parents, the role of our children marrying, the role of our children having children.

Scott: And the idea that our children might pass on the faith to the next generation as well, like we've tried hard to do.

Rick: Sure.

Scott: And this has economic consequences if we're not replacing the people who are dying off. Because as we know throughout the Western world, the population of people, the baby boomers are becoming the geyser boomers. And the number of people over the age of 65, it'll be the highest percentage of that population in the history of our civilization in the West and with a shrinking population that's got to provide that safety net. And we do it socially instead of by extended families, like was done in the ancient world. Those have really significant economic consequences. One of the things that the Pew Research cited that you pointed out, the difference between how men desire for children and women desire for children in some of these ethnic groups. And in some of these ethnic groups, it's actually the women who are less inclined to have children than the men are. I found that a very striking conclusion they reached.

Rick: Well, this is one of the things in our cultural moment, because I think of a lot of a history of dismissing or discounting the value of women or isolating them only to being of value in terms of being mothers or something like that. It's like most cultural movements, we have a correction and then we have an overcorrection. And it seems like we've moved into a point where the only marker of success or flourishing meaningful life for a woman would be to have career validation of their personhood, so to speak, as opposed to familial parenting. If you're only a mother, it's only being a mother and it seems to be diminished in that way. And we have a hard time kind of staying on the horse. We fall off on one side, we fall off on the other and we can't find a place for riding the horse.

Scott: Yeah, one more comment on this and then we'll move along. I've told my students for years that I thought that the Genesis mandate to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth had been fulfilled many times over with the earth's population approaching now 8 billion. I still think an argument can be made for that, but in some parts of the world, the replacement population is not being provided. And so, I think the mandate to be fruitful and multiply and replace ourselves for economic reasons might still be in effect today.

Rick: People have been saying that that mandate has been—the first recorded one I've remember reading was by Eusebius, the church historian in 300 AD saying we filled the earth, this is all care, so we don't need to worry about this. We can be active life, we can go move into the contemplative life. And the bottom line is every generation needs to reproduce itself or else you no longer are filling whatever you're filling now.

Scott: That's right.

Rick: So, yeah.

Scott: All right, story number two. On Monday of this week, France put the right to abortion in its constitution. And they are the first country in the world to have abortion actually in their constitution, even though it's been legal in France since the mid 70s. This was overwhelmingly a clue by both legislative houses earlier this year. And the final step was taken early this week to actually amend their constitution with a quote guaranteed freedom for abortion. Interestingly, it did not use the stronger language of rights for which some groups had contended. As you might expect, the Catholic church strongly opposes this saying quote, “In an era of universal human rights, there can be no right to take a human life.” For some time, the French president had maintained that amending the constitution for this was unnecessary. But with the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade in 2022 and leaving the matter to the States, this started the process for France to actually put abortion rights in their constitution because they were fearful that they might follow the US where quote fundamental rights were taken away. Interestingly, when the amendment was passed the same day, the Eiffel Tower was lit up with the phrase, “my body, my choice.” The followup to this was on Wednesday, the French president announced that he will back legislation for quote, “Aid in dying measures to become legal in France.” And I think lots of people observing this think that that's not an accident. Rick, your thoughts on this?

Rick: Well, there's a couple of things that hit me immediately. And the one, your conclusion about adding to this is aid in dying. And I think there's this sense in our current moment that we want control over everything and we want consequences for nothing, so to speak. So, if I'm going to have control over whether or not I have children, I don't wanna be the person who has to bear that by having to exercise personal control, by not having sex or unprotected sex or whatever it might be. But rather I kind of want to assure no matter what I have done, I can still get the outcome I desire. My desires are kind of cut off from my responsibility. And I don't ever wanna have to have something that I don't want. And I think this is true on the back end of life as well. Because I, well, we're both, Scott, at the age where we begin to see the back end of life is getting a little closer and you begin to see people who are suffering with hardship.

Scott: Speak for yourself. (laughing)

Rick: Fine, but I don't think we like those things and we wanna have in effect a right to not experience that. And I'm like, you know, that right isn't, that's not reality. You know, human life has challenges at every step along the way. And I think we don't wanna have to face and own those.

Scott: I made a couple of observations on this just right off the bat. I think what's on the Eiffel Tower, that my body, my choice is a logical fallacy with the premise, the first premise of that is false. The premise that underlies that is that the fetus is actually part of the woman's body. And I think that that actually is biologically false because it has a different genetic code, roughly half the cases it has a different gender. And it confuses being dependent on the mother and being part of the mother's body. And those are two different things. And every, I mean, every woman who's had a baby will know that even when the baby is born, the degree of dependence on the mother only changes very slightly.

Rick: Sometimes up to age 18, it's a rather slow transition.

Scott: Nothing like that. Second, I think it is true that all of us have a right to bodily integrity. And a violation of that would be battery under law. That's why physicians, for example, can't administer treatments to adults when adults say to stop. But that presumes that the fetus is not a person, which is the heart of the debate. And if it's my body, my choice, it actually depends on what is being chosen. It depends on what the choice is. And so, in that sense, I think this is a question begging argument that's made where it assumes the conclusion and reasons in a circle to get there. Any other thoughts on this?

Rick: Yeah, I think you're exactly right on that point. And it is an interesting phrase like you point out, my body, my choice. And it is disregarding the existence of a fetal body in that reference. It's as if there's only one body involved. And this has been a central part of the abortion debate all the way, but I did my dissertation on an article by Judith Jarvis Thompson about the quote, plugged in violinist. And the assumption is somebody plugged this violinist into you one night, you don't even know it's happening, and only you can sustain his life for nine months. And you're suddenly going, wait a minute, what about my privacy? What about the autonomy over my body? And the challenge is always there's two bodies involved in this. And that is a tragic thing to overlook.

Scott: Yeah, and I would suggest that contrary to what Thompson presumes, pregnancy is not analogous to imprisonment.

Rick: Yes.

Scott: So, that's one place where we can start.

Rick: There's a variety of comparisons to pregnancy in that article, it's striking.

Scott: I say that's another story for another conversation. All right, here's, I think one final thought on this from a Christian worldview, of course, it's not my body. You know, my body doesn't belong to me. You know, Paul is very clear in 1 Corinthians, in 1 Corinthians 6 that we've been bought for a price, with a price our body's not our own. And we are obligated to glorify God with our body, not to glorify ourselves. So, I think from a biblical perspective, that the idea that we have this sort of universal autonomy is clearly not true, because our autonomy is subject to the Lordship of Christ and his ownership of our lives and particularly our bodies.

All right, story number three, this is a leaked document, which normally I don't take particularly seriously, but this one I am taking a little more seriously from a group called WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health. Reveals some pretty alarming things about what's taking place in the world of gender dysphoria treatment and gender reassignment, treatments with hormones and surgeries and things like that, particularly with minors. And so, Rick, tell us a little more about what this story is about and why this matters.

Rick: Well, there's, one of the things that you just pointed out at the end there, Scott, about how much of this pertains to the treatment of minors, I think was one of the things that was really striking to me. And some of the things that were leaked in the quotes are very revealing in this regard. For example, in one video, a doctor acknowledged that patients are sometimes too young to fully understand the consequences of, in this case, its puberty blockers in hormones that might have an impact on their long-term fertility and things like that. They're making a choice at age 12 or 14 or 16 that will have consequences for the rest of their life. And his comment is that it's always a good theory that you talk about fertility preservation with a 14-year-old, but I know I'm talking to a blank wall, one Canadian endocrinologist in this case commented. And I read that and I thought, yeah, I remember me when I was that age. I had no interest in marriage. I wasn't thinking about fertility; it just was not on my horizon. I remember thinking through most of college that, ah, I don't know about this. And when I thought about getting married, did I wanna have kids? And you just don't know what you don't know, especially when you're 12 years old. And these are the bulk of the people that they were beginning to treat here were people in this under 18 in particular age group where consent is so hard to get for normal things. And in a lot of medical conditions, we don't even say a minor can consent. They assent to a procedure and some other person has to do the consent for them. Yet this has become kind of a normal process there. So, that was one of the big things that they had there. Another interesting thing was kind of the arc of therapy. The people who came into this clinic were common people, I got something, follow-up thing about this study was the CAS interim report. So they did a study on this clinic. Some of their findings included comments like this, the mix of young people presenting to this service is more complex than as seen previously with many neurodiverse and/or having a wide range of psychopathology and mental health needs other than just their gender dysphoria. So, these people were coming in many with four or five different mental health issues. Once the gender dysphoria was identified, all they did was give them puberty blockers. They no longer continued with counseling. It became the only issue they treated them for. In the absence, some of these, for example, with neurodiversity, about 2% of the UK population is somewhere on the autism spectrum. 33% of the patients in this cohort were people with autism. So, you realize you have a wildly disparate section of the population that have very, very different issues than merely gender dysphoria. Without minimizing gender dysphoria, you're just like, "Wait a minute, "what about everything else?"

Scott: Yeah, I've got a couple of thoughts on this. There are some questions that have been raised about the credibility of this organization, but it has had a significant influence over the standard of care for transgender treatments. It's had significant influence in the UK, for example, and some hold that was actually partially responsible for the closure of the major UK gender treatment clinic, which will take place at the end of this month.

Rick: Yeah.

Scott: It's been targeted for some time, but it actually closed at the end of March of this year. In fact, some of the criticism of this WPATH group comes from their alleged unwillingness to speak out publicly on the things that were discussed in private forums. And these leaked documents came out of these private forums that were involved in their internal discussions. I think this may be due to the social pressure that exists throughout the Western world to affirm gender affirming treatments. With, I think, with very little questioning. We talked about this about a month ago when the editorial came out of the New York Times on this, that described a number of people who had had gender reassignment treatments, hormone treatments. As teenagers, now we're young adults and we're looking back on it with regret.

Rick: Yeah.

Scott: Yeah, but I think that social pressure can be hard to resist for many physicians and several European countries. The UK and Denmark, last week we talked about a study that came out from Finland on this. They've taken a much more cautious approach to gender transition treatments than has been so far done in the US. And that's where I think the value of this may become because that was true, the WPATH organization does have activists as well as medical personnel in this. But it is medical personnel who are speaking candidly about some of their reservations, about the speed with which these gender reassignment treatments have become mainstream.

Rick: One other thing that was interesting in the discussion around this was the language of a "professional consensus." This is part of what WPATH was producing as guidelines, they were working to develop guidelines for doing these treatments that were meant to be based on best research and professional consensus on how things should be treated. And this is where this CAS interim report and various other contexts as well have evaluated this. And the continuing theme is the absence of good research on this issue. Insufficient data, no data, or oftentimes data that is not supportive of the kinds of interventions that actually have been given, which is exactly why many European countries, as you mentioned, have not gone as far and as rapidly as that. But what gets really hard is when you can't question. Just what you were talking about before, you can't ask the questions, so, therefore you don't actually develop a consensus because you can't talk about it. You can't speak the other side's view.

Scott: Yeah, we would encourage our listeners too for this. As we do with all of our news stories that we talk about, we give a link to the sources that we use to come up with the content that we use in the discussion. And we'd encourage you to read some of these stories on your own, and Rick, we'll have the report, the CAS report that you mentioned, a link to that as well, available for our listeners. So, you can read up a little bit more on that. We encourage you to do that. Any other thoughts on this?

Rick: No, I think we've done it. [laughs] We solved the problem, Scott, this is perfect.

Scott: Yeah, this is great. Wait a minute, and we can operate under that illusion for as long as we'd like to. Here's story number four. Technology that could enable two men to conceive an embryo. This was done in mice and experiments at the Oregon Health Sciences University. The beginning of this process is actually similar to what's involved in human cloning. Here's what they did. They took a donated woman's egg, hollowed out the nucleus, and took the shell of the egg. They tossed the nucleus away, but they wanted the shell of the egg, and using the skin cells of one of the male mice, replaced the egg's nucleus with the nucleus from that skin cell. They then prompted the skin cell to shed half of its chromosomes, similar to what's done in normal cell division, and then they fertilized the egg with the sperm from the other male mouse, and it successfully formed a mouse embryo. The researchers maintain that it'll be sometime before we know if this can be applied to human beings, because there are lots of hurdles still to overcome for that, but they were encouraged with the progress of creating an embryo in animals from two males of the same species. Now, this is not exactly reproduction without women, since the embryo must be implanted in a womb in order to produce a live birth, and it's not exactly fertilization without women, since it does take a donated egg from a woman to start the process. But in theory, it would enable two men to reproduce, each one having an equal genetic contribution to the child, and it would enable two men to reproduce without hardly any genetic contribution from a woman. The reason I say hardly any is because of mitochondrial DNA, there's a slight bit of that that comes from the egg that the embryo is housed in. And I would say this is a further movement that takes us away from the notion of procreation and moves us further down the road to what, I think would be better termed as reproduction of human beings. So,the immediate benefit for this, it seems, is for two gay men to both be able to produce a child with equal genetic contributions. And so, if, for example, a gay couple reproduces like this, and then they split up, for example, you would have the same sort of custody debate that you would have over a married couple, a heterosexual couple who had had a child and divorced and then had the same sort of custody type of dispute. Your thoughts on this? Let's see you solve this one in the next 60 seconds.

Rick: So, I have two different thoughts. You talked about the move from procreation to reproduction, I think is a term that you use. And it was interesting even hearing the language that you were using to describe the procedure, hollowing out, removing something, taking something from here, putting it there, it's honestly, Scott, that's manufacturing language. It is a production language. And it just naturally carries the connotations of commodification and not merely, it's increasingly removing procreation from its human context, and particularly its familial context. It becomes a third party sort of an item in activity. And I'm concerned about this just all across the board. It isn't just an issue with the same sex contributor complications, but these kinds of things, the more it becomes removed from the context of a covenant relationship, from the context of a family, I think the more problematic it becomes. So, this is one general issue I have. In the particular case, as you mentioned, this is a bit like Dolly. And one of the things, Dolly, the sheep that was cloned, one of the interesting things about that is you were talking about the small contribution of the woman's egg in the mitochondrial DNA. Well, the bottom line is that a woman's egg has not just mitochondrial DNA, but it has all the organelles required for the existence of a living cell. And for the first three or four days of human life, that new life with a new genetic material is entirely dependent on the old genetic material and all the old organelles in the woman's egg. So it's like that woman's egg is a little baby factory at the outset, and they play a bigger role. So when you start messing with cloning, you're messing with the factory, not just inserting and removing DNA. And Dolly was a tough cell. I think, what was it? 276 failed attempts at a successful clone before he had one success. And if it's a sheep, maybe we don't care that much. Maybe we aren't that attached to our sheep. But to human beings, you're saying, what do these failures look like? What do you do with the failed? And this is very, very disturbing thing about cloning technology, is it's not nearly as clean as we imagine it.

Scott: Yeah, and we don't hear a lot of talk about human cloning today. Part of the reason for that is because there are, we just haven't been able to overcome the technological hurdles that are necessary to do this, which might suggest that there could be something intrinsic to the process that's problematic, that's preventing this from taking place.

Rick: And I'm somewhat grateful, I'm very grateful, I should say, that I think there is a visceral resistance to human cloning. The comment I just made about maybe we don't care so much about our sheep, maybe we don't care that much about a mouse, I think that's true. I think we do care a lot more about a human being. The thought of what happens if you produce a kid like some of the failed molly attempts after, or dolly attempts after dolly, they tried to produce another sheep that way. And it was one that would, you know, it grew and developed, but it had lung problems, it would hyperventilate, it would pass out. It had all these other things. And you're picturing what happens if I had a three-year-old kid who had cloned who was doing that? It just, there's something visceral, I think for most of us, Christian and non-Christian alike, that has kept us from doing a lot of that human cloning research.

Scott: Yeah, and I think there, you know, as you think about why somebody would want to do human cloning, I can't think of hardly any moral acceptable reasons why somebody would want to do this in the first place. And I think that's one of the reasons that it has not taken off like everybody thought it would. Because they're just, the demand for it has just not been, it has just not been significant at all. Especially relative to the cost to be involved. So anyway, I would encourage you all to keep your eyes open on this. And we'll see where this goes. We're not encouraged by this technological progress quote, because it requires moral and theological assessment as well, which Rick has given you some of that.

Rick: Yes, all change is not progress.

Scott: No. And you know, thankfully this may be one area where moral reflection might be a little bit ahead of where the technology might be. So wouldn't that be nice for a change?

Rick: It'd be nice if it could stay that way.

Scott: All right, you ready to answer some questions?

Rick: I don't know. Let's find out.

Scott: We've got some really good questions here. I so appreciate our listeners continuing to send in really good, thoughtful questions. All right, this is the first one. You recently discussed a deep fake pornographic image. We talked about this last week and their injurious nature. This was the story we had from the middle school in Beverly Hills, California, where artificial intelligence generated faces were put, faces of students in the school were put onto naked bodies. Especially when targeting real specific individuals. However, in many states, such deep fakes are not explicitly outlawed. I think in most states they are not. This scholar says, "I think you missed the opportunity to extend your conversation and discuss the harm of fictional images that generative AI enables. With technology continuing developing, there could be a world where child pornography is entirely AI generated. This being so, shouldn't all pornographic images of children be outlawed, real and fictional? If so, what might be the legal grounding for that? From a Christian worldview, AI generated porn images are reprehensible and immoral. However, since culture and media largely oppose a biblical sexual ethic, it seems difficult to imagine them outlawing such things." Rick, what do you think? (Rick laughs)

Rick: You want me to solve that?

Scott: It's all yours, man.

Rick: All right, great, thank you. A couple of quick comments I want to make about this. Number one is, I absolutely agree that it is, I think it is likely that we will have AI generated pornography that will be indistinguishable attractive to people from, as compared to real life stuff. I mean, just the art seems to be headed that way. So, I think it is a very legitimate thing to be concerned about. The one thing I would say about that, is that it isn't entirely clear to me the implication that we can't come up with pornography laws or the only reason pornography laws might be enacted to prevent this would be because of biblical worldview concerns. I agree that my biblical worldview would make me oppose this, but I'm always a fan of saying it's fine for me to have that biblical view, but I also need to be concerned about my culture at large. And if I'm going to do that, I need to be thinking more broadly for my line of argument to support the laws. And I think if you were to look, let me just read some things about obscenity laws from the Miller decision, Supreme Court decision. This is, I don't know, 30 or 40 years ago, but it describes the grounds that prevent obscenity from being on the case is that the test is whether an average person applying contemporary adult community standards finds the matter taken as a whole to appeal to period interests, erotic, lasciviousness, abnormal, unhealthy, degrading, shameful, morbid interest, in nudity, sex, or excretion. I don't usually like reading phrases like that, but there you have it. Second criteria when the average person applying contemporary adult community standards finds that the matter depicts or describes sexual conduct in a patently offensive way, and it describes a little bit more of that. And then a reasonable person taking matters as a whole finds it to lack any serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. Those are the rules that guide our obscenity laws, and they aren't specifically appealing to a biblical standard, but rather the standard of the average adult. Now, you may feel that's a pathetic standard, but that is what we currently have for normal human pornography and obscenity and things like that. And I don't see any reason why those couldn't apply, actually, to AI-generated images as well.

Scott: Yeah, I think as long as they are virtually indistinguishable, we ought to treat them the same way. And now that may be different than things that are animated, cartoonish types of things. I'm not quite sure what to do with that, but the purpose of these AI-generated images is to be indistinguishable from the real thing. And I think if that's the case, and I think we're not just headed there, we already are there, then I think our listener is right. All pornographic of children should be outlawed, whether they are real or AI-generated.

Rick: Yes, they should be treated the same way. They should. And I think we have a pretty deep moral consensus about child pornography that I think ultimately comes from a Christian worldview with children being created in the image of God and having intrinsic dignity that can't be taken advantage of and can't be exploited. But I think just in general, the notion that you're doing harm to children by exposing them to this, by having them participate in this against their will, those things I think are clearly harmful to children. And they should be, I think, a matter for the law. They're not only immoral, but they should be illegal. And I think they probably will be illegal in fairly short order, it seems to me.

Rick: And the reason I read some of those standards is that none of those actually apply are grounded in the, for example, in adult pornography, in a violation that is done to the actor or actresses who are involved in the making of it. It is just a general thing about obscenity and this is a thing that we don't wanna have. And I think the AI-generated stuff is designed to escape one of the side effects, it escapes the harm that comes to the actors who participate in pornography, be they adults or children, because both tend to be harmed. And that's, I think, part of the concern. And my observation is simply, that's a legitimate worry, I think. But the point is there's a lot of other reasons we have used to prevent, to put boundaries on pornography and obscenity and things like that. We don't do a great job of it at present with human beings. So, I'm not really happy about all this, but my guess is AI stuff will fall in similar categories.

Scott: Yeah, I'd encourage all listeners to watch for the laws. I think laws are gonna be formed on this. I could see bills being in different legislatures before the end of this calendar year on this. All right, you ready for another one?

Rick: I think so.

Scott: Okay, this one comes from another listener that says, "I'm an anesthesiologist in Sacramento with a Bible degree from Wheaton." More power to you. “It's my field and OB/GYNs have been, it is my field and anesthesiologists and OB/GYNs that have been responsible for facilitating abortions. My personal practice has been limited, so I don't have to deal with that personally. But I'm reading that many obstetricians and anesthesiologists are leaving states that have enacted an abortion ban, like Idaho. What do you think will be the impact on the medical world and the culture at large if the trend of doctors leaving abortion banned states continues?”

Well, I got a couple of comments on this and then, Rick, I'll let you weigh in on this, too. Part of the issue is that in some states that have restricted abortion, the guidelines are unclear. The guidelines were made by legislators, not so much by physicians who are practicing in the field. For example, with ectopic pregnancies, with unborn children, with genetic anomalies that are inconsistent with life or that's threatened to the mother's life, the criteria that govern when abortion would be legitimate under the law are just not clear. Ectopic pregnancies, for example, I think is a moral case in which abortion would be justified. Because with an ectopic pregnancy, when the unborn child implants in the fallopian tube as opposed to the uterus, it is an immediately life-threatening situation for the pregnant woman. And usually the treatment that's done is that there's a little snip that's made in the fallopian tube that allows the embryo to fall out of the tube and bleed into the rest of the body where it naturally miscarries. And the reason I think that that would be morally acceptable is if you lose the mother, you can lose the baby, too. There's no way to save the embryo and if the mother doesn't survive it as well. So, if my choice is between saving one life that is sacred as opposed to saving none, I'm gonna save one. And it may be that it's also the case that unborn children have genetic anomalies that are inconsistent with life. They won't make it through pregnancy and birth. I mean, guidelines are unclear about that. The criteria for when the mother's life is threatened is sometimes unclear in the law in some of those states. And some of the cases that we've talked about on our weekly cultural update in the past illustrate how the law is simply not clear. In other cases, I think it's that obstetricians and anesthesia all simply take issue with the law and choose to practice elsewhere where the law is more in keeping with their views. And I suspect that those are the people that our listener is writing about. And I think this will impact the availability of abortion services, but it may also impact the availability of just normal obstetric services in some of those states where the law is more restrictive. So, I think in states where the law and the criteria are not clear, it's incumbent upon lawmakers to work in conjunction with physicians to make sure that the guidelines are clear and unambiguous so that we avoid issues where you don't have to have issues come up in the first place. Rick, your thoughts on this?

Rick: Yeah, I agree with you very much on this. If you read a little bit more about the Idaho story, what you mentioned at the end there is exactly part of the concern is that you have OBGYNs who are basically, they're especially high risk pregnancies of which there's a multitude of those that people want to keep the baby, but they need special interventions or challenges in doing that. And so, they perform a very valuable function. They are not just people who perform abortions, but as part of what they do, as you mentioned with ectopic pregnancies and certain other things, they are the people who are doing that. And if they suddenly realize I can't practice this without being subject to manslaughter laws or things like that, they begin to think, well, I can't really practice in this state. And this is actually a good broader illustration of an issue that we need to be careful of because laws, writing laws, laws are always a blunt instrument and you never know what the unintended side effects of it are. So, a law like this that you write originally for the sake of saying, hey, we really want to protect unborn children is wonderful, but then you have a weird side effect that you didn't really foresee and was not the intention that suddenly you can't care for women in high risk pregnancies because the doctors leave the state because of, as you mentioned, either how the law was worded or the fact that it left things, I guess, ambiguous, such a people didn't feel like they had the freedom to practice. So, I'm a big fan of using the law very carefully and understanding that we're probably never going to get a perfect correlation between law and morality. And so, at some point, you're going to have to accept the fact that laws are blunt and do more than you want to do. So, you have to be careful how you implement them.

Scott: I think that's part and parcel of living in a fallen world.

Rick: It is.

Scott: Where the law has educational value, but you're right. It is a very blunt instrument and sometimes it does produce unintended consequences.

Rick: Same thing happened in Alabama with the IVF issue where suddenly IVF's saying, well, we're going to have to shut down. And the side effect of a law that was intended to be again, an abortion law, it was a Supreme Court decision, I guess, in the case of Alabama Supreme Court. But it suddenly had a bunch of people saying, wait a minute, we want to be able to preserve IVF treatments, but the way this has been carried out, it is in effect making it impossible for that to happen. And I think IVF is a troubled moral practice. I mean, it's complicated anyhow, but it's another example of how the blunt instrumental law intervenes in the middle of that and in very, very complex and often unfortunate ways.

Scott: Yeah, and I want to listen to hear us correctly on this that we both are in favor of laws that would protect unborn children.

Rick: Absolutely.

Scott: Yeah, so we have no issue with restricting access to abortion because we hold that unborn children have the right to life from conception forward. And that's a fundamental civil right that the law ought to protect. But it does lead to some things that we didn't anticipate and complicate things.

All right, one final question. This is from a listener who recently left our beloved city of San Francisco after watching its horrific decline once drugs were decriminalized. This has to do with a podcast we have with Christina Dent just recently on her suggestion that some of the drug laws were actually causing more harm than they were benefiting and should be changed. Addicts on the streets increasing homelessness, rising crime, human trafficking, violence have great compassion for drug addicts and believe the Christians should donate to effective treatment organizations. However, regarding decriminalization, there are many considerations. Does criminalization lead some people to choose treatment? Does decriminalization lead to an increase in addiction? See Portland and San Francisco. How do we balance the rights of adults to do drugs with the rights of children to be safe from drugs? If it's not immoral to take drugs, if the drug use leads to a predictable immoral behavior, where we draw a moral line.

Okay, I'll take a first crack at this and then Rick, you can weigh in on this, too. I think what Christina meant here, I'm thinking the last part of this, her statement, it was not immoral that drugs themselves and the ingestion of drugs are morally neutral. I think what she meant by that is that the drugs themselves, most of them have beneficial as well as harmful uses and that ingesting them can be beneficial as well as harmful. It depends on the intent for which one is using the drugs and for which one is ingesting them. For example, take fentanyl, for example. Fentanyl is a very effective tool for pain management, for patients who have just come out of surgery, for example, but it's properly dosed. It's done in small manageable doses by trained personnel who know what they're doing with it. Fentanyl for getting high is completely, the attention is completely different. And so, it's the intent that I think in most cases tells us what is morally responsible and not so much. Now, it's true, that the war on drugs has essentially been a failure and the cost, like Christina pointed out, is much higher than we actually realized. And this is, I think she's looking at things for minor drug possession without the intent to distribute, things like that for which people are, which that is criminalized, people go to jail that disrupts their families, makes it impossible for them to get jobs and to recover from recovery once they do get into recovery. But I think criminalization does lead some people to choose treatment because they would rather choose treatment than go to jail. And decriminalization does lead to an increase in addiction. I think the examples of Portland and San Francisco are cases in point. And it is true. Adults have the right to do drugs. You know, if you wanna trash your body like that, morally speaking, you have the right to do that, but children, not so much because children can't consent to this in the same way that adults do. And I think even consent is compromised once the drugs are so addictive that I think you lose the ability to consent at some point. Rick?

Rick: This is another example in some ways of the complexity of laws and the fact that they're kind of blunt instruments. They often do a whole lot more than what you intended them to do. And the discussions we've had in our country recently about decriminalizing drugs have constantly been plagued by this. So, in 2021, Oregon enacted Measure 110 that decriminalized drugs throughout Oregon. They fast-forward to January of this year. The Oregon governor declared a state of emergency in Portland due to the increase in drug overdose and public drug use. And then just last month in February, they passed a bill through the House and Senate in Oregon decriminalizing drug use. And I don't know what'll happen. I don't think the governor signed the bill yet, but I think it's likely that she will. And the thing I would say, I think it makes a fair bit of sense to ask the question what the actual outcome of the prohibition or the criminalizing will be. So, for example, in the United States, what was it, the 19th Amendment that was prohibition? So, we prohibited alcohol. If you think about it, we didn't have any kind of cultural funding for that. People still wanted alcohol. And so, you had a huge market for it. And so most of the names of criminals that everybody knows, people like John Dillinger, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, were all a byproduct in effect of prohibition because our culture wanted the alcohol anyhow. And so you had these terrible crime problems. And so we ended up saying prohibition didn't work and we legalized alcohol. I don't know ahead of time what happens when you decriminalize drugs. And so, when things happen, like when Oregon decided that, I'm kind of open to say, well, will it benefit or will it not? You discovered in this case, I think a lot of jurisdictions have discovered when you legalize things, everything from marijuana on up, you often have a bunch of these really negative unintended consequences. You don't always know that ahead of time. I just would love to see us be responsive to a mistake, to simply say, you know what, we legalized this. It hasn't worked the way we thought it would. We need to change it back. And it seems like that revision is very, very hard for us to do. But I think it would be way better off if we were quick to be able to say, we can do that. We were wrong.

Scott: That's a good word on that, thanks. We'll let that be the last word on the subject. And on our weekly cultural update for this week, we're so glad you joined us for this. Rick, thanks so much for sitting in for Sean on this. Great stuff, great conversation on these various news stories and the questions that were sent in. This is brought to you by Talbot School of Theology at Biola University. If you have questions that you would like us to answer on this or comments that you would like to make or guests that you would like us to consider on our regular podcast or issues you'd like us to take up, please feel free to email us at That's If you would be interested in studying further on issues like this and having these kinds of conversations with our faculty, you might consider our program, our Masters in Christian Apologetics, our Masters in Philosophy, both that can be done fully online. Look up in order to learn more. That's in order to learn more. Thanks so much for being with us and remember, think biblically about everything.