Investigating NFP: The Great Embryo Killer? (Part I)

"If all of Alcorn’s 780 million pill users were to switch to the rhythm method, then these converts would be causing, in his own words, the deaths not of tens of thousands, but of millions of unborn children."

Bovens has pulled a switcheroo here. Alcorn referred to "780 pill cycles per year", not 780 million pill users. I hate to drag out the old 28-day cycle myth, but since we don’t know how long each pill user’s cycle would normally be, we have to guess based on averages. So, a 28-day cycle works out to about 13 cycles per woman per year. That works out to 60 million pill users per year, not 780 million.

Alcorn states that if even .01% of the 780 pill cycles per annum involves chemical abortion, the result could be 78,000 chemically induced abortions. What I do not know, and the FDA do not say, is how often emergency contraception (EC) acts by preventing implantation. Perhaps one of my astute readers can help out with some statistics. My instincts tell me that EC acts as an abortifacient more often that the Pill, since it is not taken in time to affect cervical mucus consistency and it will not always be taken in time to prevent ovulation. Then again, Bovens demonstrates well how wrong instincts can be. Dr. Whitty takes issue with using the .01% figure at all.

The article’s use of Alcorn is open to question. He proposed an “infinitesmal” small proportion (0.01%) of pill-use cycles resulting in a conception lost due to pill use, to provide a minimum statistic for purposes of illustration and contrast. Bovens takes Alcorn’s minimal estimate and uses it as if it were fact in regard to embryo loss on the combined oral contraceptive pill, so that his supposed “loss” with use of the rhythm method seems huge by comparison. What is known is that older formulations of the pill allowed breakthrough ovulation in 2-10% , (4,5) or 4.7% (6) of cycles, and about 27 cycles per 100 women per year in later studies (7). Progesterone preparations have higher ovulation rates, and the IUD still higher. Recording or calculating a ‘conception and loss rate’ for these cycles is another matter.

Having used what he believes to be sound reasoning to implicate NFP in avoidable embryo deaths, Bovens then entertains some possible pro-life responses. Since there’s little actual reasoning in his arguments, I’d just as soon skip his charicatures of pro-life rebuttals. However, since they involve subtle changes to his arguments and could easily stand on their own, I’ll briefly address them, if only to highlight his slight of hand.

Read Part II of "The Great Embryo Killer?"

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About Funky Dung

Who is Funky Dung? 29-year-old grad student in Intelligent Systems (A.I.) at the University of Pittsburgh. I consider myself to be politically moderate and independent and somewhere between a traditional and neo-traditional Catholic. I was raised Lutheran, spent a number of years as an agnostic, and joined the Catholic Church at the 2000 Easter Vigil. Why Funky Dung? I haven't been asked this question nearly as many times as you or I might expect. Funky Dung is a reference to an obscure Pink Floyd song. On the album Atom Heart Mother, there is a track called Atom Heart Mother Suite. It's broken up into movements, like a symphony, and one of the movements is called Funky Dung. I picked that nickname a long time ago (while I was still in high school I think), shortly after getting an internet connection for the first time. To me it means "cool/neat/groovy/spiffy stuff/crap/shiznit", as in "That's some cool stuff, dude!" Whence Ales Rarus? I used to enjoy making people guess what this means, but I've decided to relent and make it known to all. Ales Rarus is a Latin play on words. "Avis rarus" means "a rare bird" and carries similar meaning to "an odd fellow". "Ales" is another Latin word for bird that carries connotations of omens, signs of the times, and/or augery. If you want to get technical, both "avis" and "ales" are feminine (requiring "rara", but they can be made masculine in poetry (which tends to breaks lots of rules). I decided I'd rather have a masculine name in Latin. ;) Yeah, I'm a nerd. So what? :-P Wherefore blog? It is my intention to "teach in order to lead others to faith" by being always "on the lookout for occasions of announcing Christ by word, either to unbelievers . . . or to the faithful" through the "use of the communications media". I also act knowing that I "have the right and even at times a duty to manifest to the sacred pastors [my] opinion on matters which pertain to the good of the Church, and [I] have a right to make [my] opinion known to the other Christian faithful, with due regard to the integrity of faith and morals and reverence toward [my and their] pastors, and with consideration for the common good and the dignity of persons." (adapted from CCC 904-907) Statement of Faith I have been baptized and confirmed in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. I, therefore, renounce Satan; I renounce all his works; I renounce all his allurements. I hold and profess all that is contained in the Apostles' Creed, the Niceno- Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed. Having been buried with Christ unto death and raised up with him unto a new life, I promise to live no longer for myself or for that world which is the enemy of God but for him who died for me and rose again, serving God, my heavenly Father, faithfully and unto death in the holy Catholic Church. I am obedient to the Magisterium of the Catholic Church. That is, I promote and defend authentic Catholic Teaching and Faith in union with Christ and His Church and in union with the Holy Father, the Bishop of Rome, the Successor of St. Peter. Thanks be unto Thee, O my God, for all Thy infinite goodness, and, especially, for the love Thou hast shown unto me at my Confirmation. I Give Thee thanks that Thou didst then send down Thy Holy Spirit unto my soul with all His gifts and graces. May He take full possession of me for ever. May His divine unction cause my face to shine. May His heavenly wisdom reign in my heart. May His understanding enlighten my darkness. May His counsel guide me. May His knowledge instruct me. May His piety make me fervent. May His divine fear keep me from all evil. Drive from my soul, O Lord, all that may defile it. Give me grace to be Thy faithful soldier, that having fought the good fight of faith, I may be brought to the crown of everlasting life, through the merits of Thy dearly beloved Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen. Behind the Curtain: an Interview With Funky Dung (Thursday, March 03, 2005) I try to avoid most memes that make their way 'round the blogosphere (We really do need a better name, don't we?), but some are worth participating in. Take for instance the "interview game" that's the talk o' the 'sphere. I think it's a great way to get to know the people in neighborhood. Who are the people in your neighborhood? In your neighborhod? In your neigh-bor-hoo-ood...*smack* Sorry, Sesame Street flashback. Anyhow, I saw Jeff "Curt Jester" Miller's answers and figured since he's a regular reader of mine he'd be a good interviewer. Without further ado, here are my answers to his questions. 1. Being that your pseudonym Funky Dung was chosen from a Pink Floyd track on Atom Heart Mother, what is you favorite Pink Floyd song and why? Wow. That's a tuffy. It's hard to pick out a single favorite. Pink Floyd isn't really a band known for singles. They mostly did album rock and my appreciation of them is mostly of a gestalt nature. If I had to pick one, though, it'd be "Comfortably Numb". I get chills up my spine every time I hear it and if it's been long enough since the last time, I get midty-eyed. I really don't know why. That's a rather unsatisfying answer for an interview, so here are the lyrics to a Rush song. It's not their best piece of music, but the lyrics describe me pretty well.

New World Man He's a rebel and a runner He's a signal turning green He's a restless young romantic Wants to run the big machine He's got a problem with his poisons But you know he'll find a cure He's cleaning up his systems To keep his nature pure Learning to match the beat of the old world man Learning to catch the heat of the third world man He's got to make his own mistakes And learn to mend the mess he makes He's old enough to know what's right But young enough not to choose it He's noble enough to win the world But weak enough to lose it --- He's a new world man... He's a radio receiver Tuned to factories and farms He's a writer and arranger And a young boy bearing arms He's got a problem with his power With weapons on patrol He's got to walk a fine line And keep his self-control Trying to save the day for the old world man Trying to pave the way for the third world man He's not concerned with yesterday He knows constant change is here today He's noble enough to know what's right But weak enough not to choose it He's wise enough to win the world But fool enough to lose it --- He's a new world man...
2. What do you consider your most important turning point from agnosticism to the Catholic Church. At some point in '99, I started attending RCIA at the Pittsburgh Oratory. I mostly went to ask a lot of obnoxious Protestant questions. Or at least that's what I told myself. I think deep down I wanted desperately to have faith again. At that point I think I'd decided that if any variety of Christianity had the Truth, the Catholic Church did. Protestantism's wholesale rejection of 1500 years of tradition didn't sit well with me, even as a former Lutheran. During class one week, Sister Bernadette Young (who runs the program) passed out thin booklet called "Handbook for Today's Catholic". One paragraph in that book spoke to me and I nearly cried as I read it.
"A person who is seeking deeper insight into reality may sometimes have doubts, even about God himself. Such doubts do not necessarily indicate lack of faith. They may be just the opposite - a sign of growing faith. Faith is alive and dynamic. It seeks, through grace, to penetrate into the very mystery of God. If a particular doctrine of faith no longer 'makes sense' to a person, the person should go right on seeking. To know what a doctrine says is one thing. To gain insight into its meaning through the gift of understanding is something else. When in doubt, 'Seek and you will find.' The person who seeks y reading, discussing, thinking, or praying eventually sees the light. The person who talks to God even when God is 'not there' is alive with faith."
At the end of class I told Sr. Bernadette that I wanted to enter the Church at the next Easter vigil. 3. If you were a tree what kind of, oh sorry about that .. what is the PODest thing you have ever done? I set up WikiIndex, a clearinghouse for reviews of theological books, good, bad, and ugly. It has a long way to go, but it'll be cool when it's finished. :) 4. What is your favorite quote from Venerable John Henry Newman? "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt." 5. If you could ban one hymn from existence, what would it be? That's a tough one. As a member of the Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas, there are obviously a lot of songs that grate on my nerves. If I had to pick one, though, I'd probably pick "Sing of the Lord's Goodness" by Ernie Sands.

15 thoughts on “Investigating NFP: The Great Embryo Killer? (Part I)

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  4. Tom Smith

    Actually, this guy probably isn’t a real philosopher. He didn’t talk about an “embryo qua embryo,” or describe his argument as “mutatis mutandis, standing,” or discuss how the argument is “apodictic, a fortiori.” He didn’t talk about how the “entelechy-enabling abient behavior, ex hypothesi,” is “formally rooted in essence.” Clearly, not only is this man not a philosopher, but he is a poor arguer, inter alia. Cetris paribus, this guy sucks.

    Sorry, I couldn’t resist an opportunity to bash philoso-babble.

  5. Pingback: Ales Rarus - A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Investigating NFP: The Great Embryo Killer? (Part II)

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  12. HEWHitney

    The discussion is below anyone’s expectation of reasonable articulation.

    Bovens is a respected medical ethicist. The criticisms are (at least not so identified) by untrained individuals, obviously limited to Catholic definitions.

  13. Funky Dung Post author

    “The discussion is below anyone’s expectation of reasonable articulation.”

    But a critical comment offering no substance whatsoever meets those expectations?

    “Bovens is a respected medical ethicist.”

    Since when are appeals to alleged reputation adequate substitutes for rational debate in science, medicine, or philosophy?

    “The criticisms are (at least not so identified) by untrained individuals, obviously limited to Catholic definitions.”

    Untrained? Perhaps. I’m certainly no expert. However, attacking my lack of formal training does nothing to refute my arguments. I have attempted to refute Bovens in a rational and methodical manner. Either treat me likewise or bugger off. Drive-by “You’re wrong” comments unsupported by at least an attempt at sound reasoning are a waste of everyone’s time and will not be tolerated a second time.

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