On Tuesday, Daily Wire Editor-in-Chief Ben Shapiro thoroughly dismantled a pro-abortion thought experiment posted by comic and author Patrick S. Tomlinson that went viral on Twitter. In response, Tomlinson tried to dismiss Shapiro’s reasoned, meticulous response by vaguely saying Shapiro somehow “missed the point” — ironically proving that Tomlinson actually “missed the point” of the entire debate — and then, predictably, Tomlinson blocked Shapiro.
In a series of tweets posted Monday, Tomlinson lays out a thought experiment that he claims “destroys” pro-lifers’ argument that “life begins at conception.” Tomlinson claims that in “ten years” of presenting this thought experiment to those who want to protect unborn lives, “no one has EVER answered it honestly.” Here’s Tomlinson’s entire thread in paragraph form:
Whenever abortion comes up, I have a question I’ve been asking for ten years now of the “Life begins at Conception” crowd. In ten years, no one has EVER answered it honestly. It’s a simple scenario with two outcomes. No one ever wants to pick one, because the correct answer destroys their argument. And there IS a correct answer, which is why the pro-life crowd hates the question.
Here it is. You’re in a fertility clinic. Why isn’t important. The fire alarm goes off. You run for the exit. As you run down this hallway, you hear a child screaming from behind a door. You throw open the door and find a five-year-old child crying for help. They’re in one corner of the room. In the other corner, you spot a frozen container labeled “1000 Viable Human Embryos.” The smoke is rising. You start to choke. You know you can grab one or the other, but not both before you succumb to smoke inhalation and die, saving no one. Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos? There is no “C.” “C” means you all die.
In a decade of arguing with anti-abortion people about the definition of human life, I have never gotten a single straight A or B answer to this question. And I never will. They will never answer honestly, because we all instinctively understand the right answer is “A.” A human child is worth more than a thousand embryos. Or ten thousand. Or a million. Because they are not the same, not morally, not ethically, not biologically. This question absolutely evicerates (sic) their arguments, and their refusal to answer confirms that they know it to be true.
No one, anywhere, actually believes an embryo is equivalent to a child. That person does not exist. They are lying to you. They are lying to you to try and evoke an emotional response, a paternal response, using false-equivalency. No one believes life begins at conception. No one believes embryos are babies, or children. Those who cliam (sic) to are trying to manipulate you so they can control women. Don’t let them. Use this question to call them out. Reveal them for what they are. Demand they answer your question, and when they don’t, slap that big ol’ Scarlet P of the Patriarchy on them. The end.
In a response published on Daily Wire, Shapiro demonstrates that Tomlinson’s supposedly pro-life “eviscerating” argument is fundamentally flawed.
“Let’s put aside Tomlinson’s obvious douchiness; the commenters on the Twitter thread are properly puzzled,” writes Shapiro. “That’s because Tomlinson is correct that we all have a moral instinct: to save the five-year-old. But he’s wrong if he thinks the hypothetical proves that embryos aren’t human life or potential human life, and therefore of no value.”
Shapiro, who answers directly that he would and should save the 5-year-old child’s life, lays out four reasons that Tomlinson’s supposedly original thought experiment, while “interesting,” is ultimately worthless. Shapiro argues that 1) “moral instinct does not always mean correct moral decisionmaking”; 2) the pro-abortion thought experiment “does not reveal the value of embryonic life”; 3) “most pro-lifers freely admit the supreme value of already-born human life, but that doesn’t make prenatal life valueless”; and 4) the whole thought experiment simply isn’t reality: “the case of pro-abortion advocates isn’t a choice between a five-year-old and a thousand fetuses. It’s a case of killing a fetus, by itself.” (Read Shapiro’s full rebuttal here.)
After claiming to have gotten “another thousand” followers by the time he woke up Tuesday morning, Tomlinson eventually saw Shapiro’s rebuttal and tweeted, “Watch @benshapiro prove the point while missing it entirely. It’s really a sight to see,” with a link to Shapiro’s article.
Proving that he does not fully understand Shapiro’s response or the implications of his own argument, Tomlinson responded to Shapiro’s initial tweet of his article by writing, “Exactly. You would save the 5 yr old. Thank you for proving the point.”
The responses online to Tomlinson’s claim that Shapiro somehow proved his point was brutal, with even pro-abortion followers slamming Tomlinson for failing to understand the discussion he had started. At first Tomlinson replied but then quickly disappeared:
Tomlinson went on to block Shapiro on Twitter.
A few more examples of responses to the Tomlinson-Shapiro exchange: