William Lane Craig defends Akin’s “legitimate rape” comments

Readers  Reginald Selkirk and Brad alerted me to the fact that William Lane Craig defended Todd Akin’s comments about “legitimate rape.” (If the video doesn’t work, try the link to the audio below it.)

Technically, if you listen carefully, you can hear Craig admitting that Akin’s comments were wrong. But he focuses on how terribly unfair the media has supposedly been to Akin, claiming there had been a “literal feeding frenzy” and describing pro-choice critics as “like hyenas.” (XKCD aside, I lol’d at a 60-something scholar misusing the word “literally.”) The very last sentence of the podcast was Craig saying “I do think it’s a shame that he’s been tried and condemned in the kangaroo court of the pro-choice media.”

Craig says (credit to Brad for transcribing this):

It has the implication that a rape that is not accompanied by the sort of physical brutality that would stop a pregnancy isn’t real rape. Its not genuine rape. And that is, I think, morally objectionable, and wrong.

But then insists Akin didn’t really mean to give that implication, and this was just the result of trying to say in a sound bite something that couldn’t be said in a sound bite. Akin, according to Craig, didn’t mean to say that rape without physical brutality isn’t real rape, he just meant to make a claim about one particular kind of rape. However, if Akin’s remarks are read in context, it’s pretty clear that this rationalization doesn’t hold up:

Interviewer: “Okay, so if an abortion can be considered in the case of, say, tubal pregnancy or something like that, what about in the case of rape? Should it be legal or not?”

Akin: “Well, you know, uh, people always want to try to make that as one of those things, ‘Well, how do you – how do you slice this particularly tough sort of ethical question.’

“It seems to me, first of all, from what I understand from doctors, that’s really rare. If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.

Given that the interviewer’s question was “what about in the case of rape?” the only way Akin’s comment makes even a limited amount of sense is if what he meant to say is, “rape rarely results in pregnancy, full stop” (and therefore women who claim to have gotten pregnant from rape are probably lying). It makes no sense to say “some kinds of rape rarely result in pregnancy,” because then the interviewer’s ought to follow up with, “uh, but what about all the cases of rape that aren’t in that category?”

Craig also tries to defend the scientific accuracy of what he imagines Akin said, citing unnamed experts who’ve supposedly said that the percentage of pregnancies from rapes involving “physical brutality” is much less than one percent. Because Craig doesn’t cite his source, it’s hard to refute this claim, but my money’s on Craig relying on a fellow fundamentalist pseudo-scholar who’d never be taken seriously in mainstream academia. (Wikiedia’s article “Pregnancy from rape” is excellent here, and leaves me even more pissed off at Akin and Craig.)

There’s a general point to make about Craig here. Most of the time, he sticks to making claims that won’t immediately turn off reasonably well-educated, decent people. But oh my god is he willing to traffic in almost any kind of fundamentalist pseudo-intellectual garbage when it’s convenient for him. This is something I plan on writing more about in the future.

Finally, I’ve given up on actively seeking out things Craig has written to read, but if you want to see more posts like this in the future, feel free to send me links so I can blog about Craig without going through the trouble of wading through huge amounts of crap to find the few things that actually are worth some attention.

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