Friday, April 20, 2007

Speaking of Numbers

In a blog article, a liberal satellite radio personality named Cenk Uygur recently suggested that our outrage in response to unjust killings ought to be directly proportional to the total number of victims of such killings.

Cenk says that the number of people killed on Monday at Virginia Tech is tiny in comparison with the number of people who have been killed in Iraq since the war began. Therefore, he argues, we ought to be far more angered and disturbed by the war in Iraq than by the Virginia Tech killings. Based on the aforementioned premise, Cenk says that those who believe that the war in Iraq has been worthwhile are "adept at rationalization".

Cenk seems to be particularly adept at comparing apples to oranges and pretending that there aren't significant differences between two superficially similar situations.

The only person who could be legitimately described as an aggressor and a threat during the Virginia Tech incident was the criminal, Seung-Hui Cho (or Cho Seung-hui, as he has sometimes been called).

That's vastly different from the situation in Iraq, inasmuch as many of the people killed during the Iraq war (including those who were fighting U.S. troops on behalf of an evil tyrant named Saddam Hussein) were in the process of trying to to kill other human beings at the times of their deaths. It would seem to me to be more than a bit disingenuous for Mr. Uygur to compare the two situations. If I were the parent or sibling of one of the slain Virginia Tech students, I believe that I'd be more than a little bit offended by Mr. Uygur's apparent inability to tell the difference between an enemy combatant or a suicide bomber and an innocent college student who died solely because he or she was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Some would also argue that using the Virginia Tech incident in order to score political points is a bit insensitive, considering that the families of many of the victims of that killing have not had adequate time in which to mourn their dead.

Nevertheless, regardless of how one feels about the timing or appropriateness of Cenk's argument, it is an interesting argument which raises equally interesting questions.

Cenk's argument is particular interesting because he goes beyond the literal numbers and argues that we should also consider the emotional impact of a death in a particular country by comparing how that death compares to the overall population of a given country.

Based on his premise, the death of a person in a country of 500 people would be twice as devastating to the residents of that country as the death of that same person in a country with a population of 1,000 people.

That premise is highly debatable. In real life, the emotional impact of a person's death has a lot more to do with how intimately involved people were with that particular person and how much they liked or disliked the person than with anything which can be measured numerically.

In real life, people sometimes develop close attachments to people who don't even live in their own countries. Conversely, they often fail to develop such attachments with their nearest neighbors.

Therefore, I frankly think that Cenk's idea of "emotional equivalency" is inane. He's trying to measure things which cannot be measured empirically, or which (at the very least) cannot be measured using his crude method of measurement.

Nevertheless, in this article, I'll discuss his idea in order to see how that idea is applicable to the topic of this article.

Since Cenk is apparently into numbers, I would like to suggest that he compare the total number of people killed by violence in Iraq since the war there began with the total number of unborn children killed by legal abortion in the United States ever since the war on the unborn began in January of 1973.

According to a statistics page on the National Right to Life site, the number of abortions since Roe v. Wade in 1973 is 48,589,993.

Some might object that the NRLC is a "biased" organization, but their carefully documented figures were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and from the Alan Guttmacher Institute, neither of which could be accused of being biased in favor of the pro-life cause.

Historically, the Alan Guttmacher Institute has been the research arm of Planned Parenthood.
So if you have a problem with the statistics shown on the NRLC web site, take it up with the CDC, the Alan Guttmacher Institute and Planned Parenthood.

Cenk says that the war in Iraq can be blamed for an average of 85 deaths per day. Cenk further argues as follows:
In Iraq today, 85 people were killed or found dead. The United States is more than ten times as large as Iraq. The 85 dead among 26.7 million Iraqis is the equivalent of 955 killed in a population of 300 million Americans.

And this is an average day in Iraq. Some American politicians go around pretending that Iraq is just fine and that we are making lovely progress in that country. Imagine if there 955 people killed in open warfare in this country - everyday!
If Cenk's literal figure of 85 per day is correct, then the Iraq war has taken 31,025 human lifes per year, in an average year of 365 days per year.

Since the Iraq war has been going on for just slightly longer than 4 years, that would mean that the total number of fatalities from that war were slightly more than 124,100 people in all. Now, that figure seems a bit high to me, based on figures I've seen elsewhere (on liberal web sites, no less). But let's give Cenk the benefit of the doubt and assume that the high figure is correct.

A little bit of math (done in Excel) reveals that 124,100 is .26% of 48,589,993. One fourth of one percent, in other words.

Logically, if Uygur is correct in thinking that one's anger and outrage over unjust killings should be directly proportional to the total number of victims, then the American war against unborn children should make us approximately 400 times as angry as the war against Iraq.

But of course, we're still talking about literal numbers. Cenk says that we should also consider the number of deaths in proportion to the total population, in order to fully understand the emotional impact of such deaths.

If Cenk's premise is correct, the emotional impact of losing those 31,025 in Iraq is comparable to the emotional impact Americans would feel if we had lost an average of 955 people per day, or 348,575 people per year.

If 85 deaths in Iraq have the same devastating emotional impact as 955 deaths would have in the U.S. (as Mr. Uygur claims), then each death in Iraq is the emotional equivalent of roughly 11 deaths in the United States.

That would mean that it would take 4,324,764 deaths in Iraq for those deaths to have the same emotional impact in Iraq as 48,589,993 deaths in the United States, if indeed emotional value is something which can be calculated solely on the basis of the percentage each death represents in relation to the total population of a given country.

At a rate of 85 deaths per day (the literal number mentioned by Cenk Uygur in his article), it would take 50,880 days, or approximately 139 years, for the number of deaths in Iraq to equal 4,324,764 deaths.

Of course, that's assuming that Cenk's whole "emotional equivalency" theory is valid. And it's assuming that not one more abortion ever occurred in the United States during those 139 years. In reality, even though the annual abortion rates have gone down some, people are still aborting unborn children in this country at a rate which makes the rate of war-related deaths in Iraq seem ridiculously trivial in comparison. If the status quo regarding war-related deaths in Iraq and abortion related deaths in the U.S. were to both remain the same, Iraq would never catch up.

It also bears mentioning that one Wikipedia article says that the entire population of Iraq is 26,783,383. If the number of Iraqis killed during the Iraq war matched the number of unborn children killed in the U.S. since 1973, there would be no more Iraqis. With no more Iraqis, it would be a bit pointless to try to calculate the emotional impact of yet another death in relation to the overall population of Iraq, since the country would have no population.

In fact, it would take approximately 1.8 times the entire population of Iraq in order to equal the 48,589,993 unborn childen who have died in the U.S. as the result of legalized abortion. During the past 34 years, American abortionists have killed enough people to almost completely populate two countries the size of Iraq.

Any way you look at it, whether you buy into Cenk's "emotional equivalent" argument or not, the number of people who have actually been killed in Iraq since the war began is absurdly miniscule in comparison with the number of people killed legally in U.S. abortion clinics.

(Keep in mind, also, that the figures from the CDC and the Alan Guttmacher Institute don't even include the young women who were told that legal abortion was a "safe procedure", only to be severely injured or killed in those clinics due to poor sanitation and other manifestations of incompetence.)

Now, I know what you're probably thinking. You're thinking that I'm the one who's comparing apples to oranges. You're thinking that it isn't appropriate to compare the deaths of people who have already been born to the deaths of people who are still in utero. And that's understandable, because the only way that one could argue with any plausibility that it wasn't valid to compare the number of abortions to the number of deaths in Iraq or Virginia Tech would be to base your argument on the classic liberal claim to the effect that unborn children are not really human beings, or that they are, at the very least, merely "potential" human beings.

The latter phrase, by the way, amounts to linguistic sleight of hand. If an unborn child is in actuality a human being, then by definition, there's no need to add the qualifying word "potential" to the statement. If someone calls an unborn child a "potential human being", he's really saying that the unborn child isn't really a human being yet. So why not just say that? Because science has advanced quite a bit since abortion was legalized 34 years ago, and most pro-choice people now know that if they just flatly stated that unborn children weren't human beings or that unborn children were not biologically alive, they would sound like idiots.

Unborn children are indisputably members of the human species. (Just check their DNA if you don't believe me.) Unborn children are indisputably biological life forms from the moment of conception. Unborn children are not "potential" human beings who are "potentially" alive. They are not "potential" anything. They are what they are. They are human beings, and they are alive, until evil people decide that they are entitled to snuff out those human lives.

But some people say that it isn't enough to merely be human and alive. Such people claim that it's necessary to manifest certain traits (which unborn children ostensibly don't display) before one can lay claim to the right to life. That argument was advanced during the years prior to Roe v. Wade by a Stanford professor named Michael Tooley. His line of thinking led him to entitle that essay "In Defense of Abortion and Infanticide". Notice, particularly, the last two words in that title. If that doesn't send chills down your spine, it's because you have no spine.

When we start setting up a gauntlet of arbitrary conditions people must meet before they deserve to be given the same fundamental rights as other human beings, we open a Pandora's box which has the potential to lead to even greater evils than we have experienced thus far.

Of course, you can feel free to ignore sound principles of logic. That's your prerogative,

Feel free to believe the classic liberal claim that the unborn child is an undifferentiated "blob", and to ignore the contradictory evidence available to anyone who bothers to look at a 3D ultrasound image of an unborn child in utero.

Feel free to parrot the classic line to the effect that a woman has the right to "control her own body" and to conveniently ignore the fact that the body which is killed during an abortion is the body of a different human being, with his or her own gender and his or her own unique genetic code.

Feel free to ignore the ample scientific evidence cited by Dr. Thomas Verny in his book The Secret Life of The Unborn Child, in support of his claim that unborn children are capable of cognitive development, emotional development and even communication while they are still in the womb.

Feel free to ignore the fact that Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Jesse Jackson have all acknowledged that human life begins at conception, in spite of the fact that they all describe themselves as "pro choice".

Feel free to rationalize the killing of helpless unborn children by talking about how important legal abortion ostensibly is if we are to preserve gender equality and all of those other things which our society apparently values more highly than it values human life. And ask yourself if those same arguments would hold any water if one used them in order to rationalize the killing of newborn infants.

Feel free, as good and loyal liberals, to continue to parrot all of the classic pro-abortion arguments, despite the fact that most of those arguments wouldn't hold enough water to fill a thimble.

But don't expect me to be impressed by such stupid arguments. I regard legal abortion as America's holocaust --- a holocaust which has taken far more human lives than Hitler ever dreamed of taking.

Like it or not, it is primarily the Democratic party which has been responsible for the continuation of that holocaust.

George Bush is not perfect. The Republican party is not perfect. In some respects, both have been a real disappointment, especially for pro-life people such as myself. But at least the Republicans have given lip service to the idea that unborn children deserve protection, which is a lot more than most Democrats have done.

Could I find fault with the way Bush has handled the war in Iraq? Sure. After all, I'm hardly a big fan of war. When I was called before my local draft board shortly after graduating from high school in 1974, I successfully persuaded them to grant me official status as a conscientious objector. I based my arguments on the scriptures.

My views on war have become a little bit less extreme over the years, but only a little bit. I still regard war as a method of last resort. I still think that American leaders of both parties are far too quick to resort to warfare without adequately exploring all of the peaceful alternatives first.

But the bottom line is that the tragedy of war (in Iraq and elsewhere) pales in comparison with the tragedy of a practice which has taken nearly 50 million innocent human lives. I will never knowingly vote for someone who does not acknowledge that legal abortion is a national tragedy which must be opposed and brought to an end. If my only choice during the next national election is to vote for a pro-choice Democrat such as Barack Obama or a pro-choice pseudo-Republican such as Rudy Giuliani, I may just choose not to vote at all.

(Who would I vote for, if given the chance? Alan Keyes. So far, he's the only well-recognized person I know of who actually seems to have some integrity when it comes to the most important moral and ethical issues of the day.)

Cenk Uygur and his fellow liberal broadcasters describe themselves as "young Turks". In light of the fact that they side with the political party which promotes legal abortion, I think that nickname is particularly fitting.

After all, as one article at Wikipedia reveals, the original Young Turks are said to have been responsible for what has often been described as "the Armenian Holocaust", the "Great Calamity" or the "Armenian Massacre". Maybe it's just me, but I personally wouldn't have chosen to name my own group after such people, anymore than I would have called my group "the Hitler Youth" or "the Red Brigade".

But who knows? Maybe the sort of people who would describe themselves as liberals (thereby allying themselves with the defenders and perpetrators of legal abortion) have no problem with the idea of identifying with people who perpetrated evil acts against the Armenian people.

It bears mentioning that the original Young Turks were apparently Muslims and most of their Armenian victims seem to have been Christians. Make of that what you will, but I am personally inclined to suspect that Cenk Uygur's inexplicable admiration for the original Young Turks plays a role in terms of motivating him to speciously argue that killing Iraqi soldiers and fanatical suicide bombers during the course of a war designed to liberate that country from the evil tyranny of Saddam Hussein is morally equivalent to the acts of a madman who recently killed 32 innocent Virginia Tech students for no apparent reason other than his belief that they were rich and spoiled.

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