Numbers vs. Meaning

A friend on Facebook posted a link to this chart on Allen B. West’s website.

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The implication from the article is that Obama’s leadership and policies have resulted in an unnecessarily high casualty rate in Afghanistan. But what Allen ignores in this little presentation is that these numbers are not matched to “the surge” strategy put in place in late 2009 through 2011. So the numbers of casualties increased, but so did the number of troops deployed in theater. This is why a raw number is less useful than a percentage rate. Just another example how data can be made to fit a story instead of being used to impart knowledge.

The Problem of Wasted Souls

So, I got lost in a little thought experiment recently. If you believe we have souls, a natural question is when do we get a soul? I think most people would answer at conception, although I admit it’s possible some would say at birth or some other time. But then I’m left pondering the turn over rate for souls, because somewhere around 30% of pregnancies end in spontaneous abortion. Sorry for being morbid about it. But it just seems weird to me. I mean, it almost seems like a corollary to the problem of evil – the problem of wasted souls.

Certainly I think a soul would have inestimable value. And conception seems to be the most defensible point for something special like that in the process of creating a new human. But then you end up with the question of why God is pumping a third of these valuable souls into little zygote bodies that are then killed without ever having anything we could meaningfully call a “human experience”. I guess you could rationalize that these souls would go to Heaven as a way to console yourself, but that seems to open up the uncomfortable question of when it’s better to send someone on their way to Heaven than to let them live their life. I mean, if spontaneously aborted babies go to Heaven, wouldn’t that imply that artificially aborted babies go to Heaven too? If you’re upset by the latter, how can you not be equally upset by the former?

The other obvious alternative is to declare a soul as coming sometime after conception. But when? Birth seems like the next likely candidate, but then the artificial abortion sword cuts the other way – without a soul, it seems like an argument could be mounted that a pregnancy is just a “lump of flesh” until it’s birthed (or viable, or whatever). Not a situation that some people seem comfortable with.

So, I guess neither scenario seems to make much sense to me in the abstract. I’d be interested to hear what my more spiritual readers think.