Over the course of the last few weeks, I have been preparing for an abortion debate at Marquette University. It was supposed to take place in the Alumni Memorial Union (Ballroom E) at 7pm on March 1, 2012. Now, it appears that I will be giving a speech on abortion instead of participating in a debate. Nonetheless, the speech is free and open to the public. Come join us, please.
Earlier this semester, Maggie Gervase, of the Marquette College Republicans, managed to get Professor of Theology Dan Maguire to agree to debate me. Later, she sent him this e-mail to confirm the format of the debate:
Hi Dr Maguire, I just want to touch bases and make sure we’re on the same page for the debate on March 1st. It’s coming up fast and we are very excited to be hosting the event! Your opponent will be Dr. Mike Adams from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. The debate will be a 20-20-10-10 format; each opponent will get twenty minutes to present their argument and ten minutes for a rebuttal followed by a question/answer wrap-up. Please let me know if you will need a room for preparation beforehand and I will see what I can do to get one adjacent to the ballrooms. Also let me know if you will be needing anything else! Thank you again for offering to do this, we really appreciate it and look forward to it!
We were all eager to hear back from Professor Maguire. I was especially eager to get his approval of the format. I wanted to get that out of the way so I could then request to speak first at the debate. That would allow professor Maguire to speak last. The order of presentation is important, by the way. It dictates which of two very different debate tactics I will use against any given opponent. Professor Maguire’s response was, therefore, important. When it arrived it was ultimately disappointing:
Maggie, I just looked up Dr. Mike Adams and found he is a psychology-criminology professor. I am a theologian presenting theological arguments. I would not try to debate Dr. Adams in psychology/criminology since it is not my field. Similarly he would not want to debate me in theology since he is not a theologians [sic] and could not argue a theological position with professional competence. We would be skew lines. So when you find a theologian who wants to debate me, as was done at Notre Dame, get back in touch. Dan Maguire.
Professor Maguire’s excuse for backing out of his commitment to debate me is dishonest for at least two reasons:
1. He has previously made, in public, an argument for abortion that is not theological. Specifically, he argued that, even if human, the unborn is not a person, which means the unborn are not citizens deserving of equal protection. This is an argument based on the 14th Amendment. Clearly, he is stepping into the constitutional arena, despite his claims to remain safely on theological ground.
2. In the 1990s - at Marquette University, no less – Professor Maguire debated the issue of capital punishment. Unsurprisingly, he took the anti-death penalty side. Later, he was also featured on a Marquette panel arguing specifically in favor of government run-health care. In neither case did he debate a theological issue from a strictly theological position relying strictly upon his theological training.
The fact that Professor has no special degree in criminology reveals his mendacity. What degree would specifically qualify him to oppose the death penalty? And why invoke the lack of a criminology degree – selectively, mind you – in order to get out of debating a criminologist on abortion? And, since he has held himself out as an expert on health care why not debate abortion? Isn’t that a health care issue?
Of course, Maguire lacks two things that are worth noting. He lacks a degree in any health care related discipline. He also lacks the courage to defend his views against a worthy opponent. Since Professor Maguire obtained his doctorate when I was only four years old, he has had plenty of time to prepare his arguments on abortion. This issue is obviously meaningful to him. That is why he speaks to friendly audiences in support of abortion-choice.
Of course, Professor Maguire has a right to abort a debate we have been planning for nearly nine months. But he does not have a right to be respected for his intellectual honesty and moral consistency. Those traits of his have not yet fully formed. And tenure protects him from presenting viable arguments outside the womb some call the Ivory Tower.