I have recently been forcibly reminded of a minor flaw in my character- the extreme contempt with which I regard all arbitrary rules. For this reason I must necessarily believe in the existence of non-arbitrary rules. Are there philosophies that permit abortion and hold that there are non-arbitrary moral rules? Yes. Are these philosophies internally consistent and not inconsistent with our experimental observations of the universe? No. And since internal consistency and harmony with the results of observation are the two other things that I look for in a philosophy, there I must part company with the Sikhs and Dr Ahmadinejad et al. There are of course philosophies that are internally consistent and not contradicted by the universe which would allow abortion: the philosophies of moral relativism.
Which brings me to the Pope's speech at Regensburg. It is really about how a philosophy needs to be internally consistent and not inconsistent with observations of the universe, but that those two things are not enough. He was talking about how faith (that there are absolute rules) must be combined with reason (those rules have to make sense). These are the two things that need to be believed before anything else is possible. Science accepts these two things, without explicitly saying that is what it is doing. They are the assumptions you have to make before you can begin doing science. I don't think the Pope's philosophy is entirely internally consistent or in harmony with experimental evidence, but he is entirely correct to say that is how a philsophy ought to be. The bits of his speech that have caused all the trouble are where he is talking about religious philosophies that reject these as values. But he spent more time discussing the irreligious philosophies that reject the other half of the equation.
Quote number one from the Pope, on what happens when we reject absolute morality:
It is man himself who ends up being reduced, for the specifically human questions about our origin and destiny, the questions raised by religion and ethics, then have no place within the purview of collective reason as defined by "science" and must thus be relegated to the realm of the subjective. The subject then decides, on the basis of his experiences, what he considers tenable in matters of religion, and the subjective "conscience" becomes the sole arbiter of what is ethical. In this way, though, ethics and religion lose their power to create a community and become a completely personal matter. This is a dangerous state of affairs for humanity, as we see from the disturbing pathologies of religion and reason which necessarily erupt when reason is so reduced that questions of religion and ethics no longer concern it. Attempts to construct an ethic from the rules of evolution or from psychology and sociology, end up being simply inadequate.
Quote number two from the Pope, on what this rejection means to the relation between the West and Islam:
In the Western world it is widely held that only positivistic reason and the forms of philosophy based on it are universally valid. Yet the world's profoundly religious cultures see this exclusion of the divine from the universality of reason as an attack on their most profound convictions. A reason which is deaf to the divine and which relegates religion into the realm of subcultures is incapable of entering into the dialogue of cultures.
Which is sufficient unto the moment.