Contradictions of the 'Godly'

RECEIVED Mon., Jan. 12, 2004

Hello editors,
   When one has experience debating religious fundamentalists, one commonly hears contradictory statements. So it didn't surprise me to hear Alanda Ledbetter claim that articles on fundamentalists' Web sites about abortion are "not necessarily" influenced by their religious beliefs, only to go on and admit that her position is held by people like herself because they "are godly" ["Postmarks," Jan. 9]. The ideological opposition to abortion among religious fundamentalists is no secret. To claim the ideology isn't there when it threatens to hamper one's scientific street cred is dishonest.
   Why is "godliness" automatically a point in someone's favor? Lots of godly people do nice things. But Paul Hill felt he was godly, and so, I suspect, did Eric Robert Rudolph. The 9/11 terrorists had a five-page list of instructions and prayers in which the word "God" appeared 88 times. So much for godliness as a résumé item.
   Citing one study from Finland is an example of confirmation bias. This is a fallacy in which a person with a preconceived belief seeks only evidence that appears to confirm the belief, and ignores disconfirming evidence.
   I agree with Ms. Ledbetter's suggestion about doing a comprehensive study among women who've had abortions to find out the truth. However, that would take an attitude of open-minded scientific inquiry by folks who weren't working from the conviction the truth was something they already had in the bag.
   Her final remarks ("This country is full of a lot of expensive speech instead of free speech, and that is going to change") are baffling. After all, the Chronicle is allowing both Ms. Ledbetter and her critics to exercise their free speech, so why complain? But I imagine it is hard for free speech to get the same airtime as the "expensive speech" being pushed by well-funded religious right organizations.
Martin Wagner
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