Human Life Review, Spring 1982 — If most people retain anything of their first philosophy course, it is likely to be the convenient distinction between “facts” and “values” that was fashionable during the heyday of logical positivism. According to this still popular doctrine, we cannot derive “ought” from “is.” An impassible gulf separates them. On one side are provable, objective realities; on the other, merely subjective preferences. Or: on one side science, on the other religion, esthetics, ethics.
In these terms, a notable change has occurred in the abortion debate. The advocates of legal abortion used to claim the facts. While their cause was in the ascendant, their constant theme was that “the question when life begins is essentially a moral and religious question, not a scientific one.” Nobody could say, they held, when, as a matter of fact, life begins.
This is no longer so. The ardent feminist of the New York Times editorial page, Soma Golden, has recently written: “It is not the facts of life that divide the country; it is the value of life from its earliest moments.”
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Miss Golden was ridiculing the Senate hearings on the Human Life Bill; she called it, on her own authority, “constitutionally questionable and intellectually vacant.” But her words were actually a tacit confession that the hearings had succeeded in making the point — the factual point — they had set out to make.
Indeed Miss Golden was forced to fall back on the dogma of positivism that facts have nothing to do with values — a dogma which, as its critics have always pointed out, fails its own test. Is the statement, “facts have no relation to values”…