Abortion Debate with Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute

Although we both look like luminescent ghosts, here is the video from my debate with Scott Klusendorf of the Life Training Institute on March 29th. My general feeling is that my performance was good, but not spectacular. I was trying to do a number of things in this debate which pro-choice advocates rarely seem to attempt, and I am more happy with the outcome of some of my strategies than others. I will write a full rundown of the debate, complete with debating tips for pro-choice debaters, as soon as I can.

Scott was a worthy opponent: charming, funny, well-spoken, and quite charismatic. Sadly, after the debate he accused me of lying regarding his views on abortion and the death penalty, which made the experience more acrimonious than it should have been. Happily, he retracted fully that claim after discussion with me on his blog.


About James Croft

James Croft is the Leader in Training at the Ethical Culture Society of St. Louis - one of the largest Humanist congregations in the world. He is a graduate of the Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, and is currently writing his Doctoral dissertation as a student at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is an in-demand public speaker, an engaging teacher, and a passionate activist for human rights. James was raised on Shakespeare, Sagan and Star Trek, and is a proud, gay Humanist. His upcoming book "The Godless Congregation", co-authored with New York Times bestselling author Greg Epstein, is being published by Simon & Schuster.

  • Kip’ Chelashaw

    The key conversation in this debate came at about the 1hr 13min mark and I for one am glad you flailed in your response to the questioner…

    Kip. C

    • TempleoftheFuture

      Hi Kip,

      I listened again to that section of the debate, and I don’t see that I flailed at all. I found it a difficult question to answer, partly because the questioner would not stop speaking to hear my answer (he interrupts a number of times while I try to respond), partly because he changes the parameters of the question while I was responding, and partly because he completely misunderstood my argument from the start, so I was surprised to be asked the question at all. What you cannot hear in the recording is the chair of the debate repeatedly asking the questioner not to interrupt and restate his question multiple times.

      I think, given the situation, I answered the question consistently and honestly. The question “At which point during the deterioration of someone’s brain do they effectively cease being a person?” is extremely difficult to answer, but if you are posing that question you have already agreed by implication that at some point living human bodies can be non-persons. And therefore you grant my position on abortion and not Scott’s.

      What precisely is wrong with that response?

  • Kip’ Chelashaw

    Hello James

    Thanks for the reply.

    I’ve watched the interview again and I think your flailing comes across in 2 ways

    1) By your repeatedly saying “it’s an extremely difficult question to answer” and at one point hesitating (1:15:50ff). Most people know it’s difficult question but what is your precise answer as to where we are to draw the line

    2) By failing to establish what the ultimate criteria is for where you would draw the line. At some point in the interview, you say that a foetus before 20 weeks/brain dead people do not have the capability to sustain life – says who? What is your ultimate basis for saying this?



    • TempleoftheFuture

      Again, I plead not guilty! I point out that I believe it a difficult question precisely because my opponent does NOT think these questions are difficult, but takes an extremely simplistic position with no internal coherency. The repeated assertion that these are complex and difficult medical and moral questions is absolutely necessary in a political environment ruled by over-simplistic absolutism on this matter.

      As for the criteria, I outline them in my opening argument – no fetus before 20 weeks has sufficient brain architecture to support an individual human person. This is accepted medical fact and even Scott does not deny this. Furthermore, my case is won already if we are down to a discussion of where to draw the line. If there is a line to be drawn anywhere during the developmental process then abortion is not always immoral – which is my position.