Debate: Is Abortion Murder?

Over the course of the past six weeks or so I had been engaged in a debate with Justin Sheiber of Reasonable Doubts, the topic of which is: “Is Abortion Murder?”  Justin sent me the invite through social media and I gladly accepted.  In many circumstances I might be hesitant to accept such an invitation because the topic of abortion is often an emotional powder keg and many times no head way is made.  Having discussed various issues with Justin, I knew this would be a charitable exchange with a strong desire to make sure our thoughts were carefully planned.  I also had confidence that Justin would not use questionable tactics, such as ‘abortion is legal therefore it isn’t murder’.  This debate was to explore the true moral implications of abortion and not the semantics of legalese.

My argument was not very different from ones I make when deconstructing the pro-choice view.  Essentially, I made the case that from the moment of conception a new human life has begun.  Many people aren’t aware that this is no longer opinion and has been established incontrovertibly by medical science.  I then argued that 1) murder is the intentional taking of human life without proper justification. 2) Elective abortion intentionally takes human life without proper justification.  3) Therefore, elective abortion is murder.

Justin’s argument was more philosophical in nature.  He argued that the reason murder is wrong is because we all have an ideal background desire for a future like ours. We deprive people of that future when we kill them. He claims this desire is fundamental to our understanding of killing.  He granted that this desire need not be a conscious one, that it obtains even as a background desire that we don’t need to be thinking about knowingly.  A minimum requirement for a person to have this desire, even hypothetically, one must have a minimally functioning brain, which is not possible before a certain level of maturity.  Since the vast majority of abortions are performed prior to this ability to hold even as a background desire, the desire to not be killed, the vast majority of abortions are not murder.

Comments

  1. By what moral standard does Justin decide that depriving people of the future is wrong? And by what moral standard does he decide that it is okay to deprive someone of the right to a future if they are not cognizant of that desire yet?

    Sounds to me like it’s just an opinion.

  2. “I want my future, therefore you shouldn’t deprive me of it”??? Hmmm… Seems to me, we have a debate over why murder is wrong.

    Not to mention, how his ideas seem to differ from any number of reasons pro-choice folks give in defense of abortion.

    John’s definition of murder perfectly describes abortion. Fertilization is the beginning. It just is. It was for me, John, and Justin. This debate would not be happening had there not been a couple of eggs fertilized by a couple of sperm cells.

    Forget the future. Justin and John’s PAST would not have occurred were it not for their respective conceptions (fertilizations). We’ve deprived millions of potential adults of their childhoods… Their pasts.

    What a twisted world we live in, that this is even up for debate.

  3. C2C,

    I’ve lamented in the same manner many times. With a left that insists they’re all about science, it is inconceivable that anyone would not get the issue here is one of lives being terminated. It just shows how fallen mankind is.

  4. John,

    Just listened to the podcast and frankly, I think you did a fantastic job of wasting your time. Justin seems to be just another psuedo-intellectual, which, in this case, simply means another with a cheap rationalization dressed up to appear thoughtful. The problem with the pro-abort side is their constant use of subjectivity in the making of their arguments. They do not have any true line of demarcation between when is a person worthy of respect and protection and when one has not quite reached that point.

    Murder, by dictionary definition, is often described as the illegal taking of a life. Even in OT times, this seems to be the case if we consider God’s will to be what is legal or illegal in His eyes according to His Law.

    But the definition you use is what determines the law. No justification for the taking of a given life is basically what makes it murder. Justifications for the taking of any human life are few, and only preserving the life of the mother when the pregnancy threatens it is the only true justification for abortion, albeit with the caveat you mention: the goal isn’t to kill the child but to save the mother.

    You did a great job. Kudos to you.

  5. John is right. This desire angle is a weird extension of the sliding scale of justification. It just doesn’t make much sense. It seems that it could be used to justify infanticide if we reasonably deduce the actual stage of development in which this desire emerges (say, 6 months?).

    Very strange new criterion. This seems to be a seriously flawed attempt in the continuing flailing grasps for defending what should be obvious to be wrong.

    • C2C

      You should read some of the comments at the Reasonable Doubts page in the link. Some of them make me want to wretch.

      • I read them. Same old moral ignorance and willful disregard for science. It’s funny that because some mothers’ lives will end if not for an abortion seems to justify all abortion. Even after you argued that that exception IS justifiable, they act like you didn’t say it.

        Why do they want it so desperately? Who gains?

  6. Hello. I usually read the blogs over where the Reasonable Doubts blog is posted. I mostly just read there, though; I’m not an active poster.

    I think what Justin was attempting to insert into the dialogue was “why is murder wrong”. Any reasonable person would agree murder is wrong without needing to deliberate; but beyond the knee-jerk reaction “of course its wrong”, he is attempting to illustrate what makes it wrong. Being an Atheist, he doesn’t ascribe to the “divine command” theory of morality; if you reject that notion, then you need to have some other justification for what makes it wrong, for what reason it triggers our moral intuition.

    It looks to me like he was riffing off of the notion of consequentialism: that an act can be determined as moral or immoral based on the consequences of that action. By the way in which he defined it as being wrong, it carries different consequences for an early-term fetus than it does for a more fully developed human.

    I feel though that he didn’t give enough of an argument in depth to justify his definition, at least to anyone who isn’t able or interested in filling in the blanks for him — and that really is his responsibility anyway. Perhaps this was due to the time restraints of the debate; however, on the face of it I felt he made a very weak consequentialist argument, and could have done a better job.

    • Hi Toby

      Thanks for the thoughts. I think you may be giving justins argument too much credit. I don’t assign any religious reasoning in my argument, and if you browse the abortion tab, you’ll see none of my arguments employ God or the Bible.

      Justins basic argument was that the reason murder is wrong is because we done want to be murdered. I think that violates every intuition we have. I illustrated this by giving examples of abusing dead human bodies which have no desires whatsoever.

      When we define our rights by subjective and flexible standards, they can be adjusted any time we need someone to fail to reach the standard.

  7. That was a typically morbid thread by the pro-aborts. Lots of them go for the “parasite” / bodily autonomy argument. I asked if they would judge this woman not guilty of any crime or moral wrong as long as she slit the infant’s throat and stabbed her before the umbilical cord was cut or while she was breast feeding — http://onlineathens.com/local-news/2012-11-14/athens-woman-slit-infants-throat-after-giving-birth

    “Cassandra Elyse Norwood cut the throat of her newborn son almost immediately after giving birth two weeks ago in her eastside Athens home, according to Athens-Clarke police arrest warrants.
    The death was apparently premeditated, according to the warrant, which states that Norwood “did unlawfully and with malice aforethought cause the death of Baby Norwood … by cutting the throat of the infant and stabbing it in the abdomen almost immediately after it was born.”

  8. Hello John,

    My comments were more in the way of a (perhaps unnecessary) background explanation of where he was coming from. I was thinking more of the other commenters than you specifically.

    On a personal level I’m somewhat conflicted over the issue of abortion. Without getting into too fine detail, the gist of it is for me that I find problems (other than medical emergencies) with taking it off the table completely as an option available to women.

    > Justin’s basic argument was that the reason murder is wrong is because we [don’t] want to be murdered. I think that violates every intuition we have.

    I’d have to disagree with that, though. In much of my life, my knowledge or determination of what is right or wrong, at least when I have a moral dilemma involving other people, involves empathy. Obviously it doesn’t end there on its own, but that’s where the evaluation begins for me.

  9. One of my last comments was simply pointing out how most “pro-choicers” (although those are officially extinct now that the Democrats are requiring unrestricted taxpayer-funded abortions) agree with pro-lifers on nearly everything outside of 1st trimester abortions — informed consent, parental notification, waiting periods, 2nd and 3rd trimester abortions, “partial-birth abortions” (i.e., infanticide), etc. — http://media.hotair.com/greenroom/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/abortion-consensus-gallup.gif

    One of the commenters — perhaps your debate partner? — isn’t even sure why murder is wrong outside the womb. I’m glad just to have a forum to expose that level of Romans 1 rebellion and let the middle ground decide.

    Glad you were able to use that forum. It is almost too easy to just refute their sound bites with facts and logic then watch them resort to straw men, equivocations, red herrings and their personal favorite, ad hominem attacks. Just an extended play concession speech on their part.

  10. I’d like to know whether a pro-choice person would change their mind if they believed that a zygote is a human being. They claim not to believe the science, so what would they have to hear? They only ever say that it’s not a human being. Do we need to prove that a zygote is a person, instead of denying personhood’s relevance? What would make them turn?

  11. I’m curious why you guys keep insisting that science only supports the anti-abortion side of the debate. Scientific arguments can be made that support both sides.

    There is no scientific basis for the existence of a soul, for example, but there is no scientific basis for the existence of subjectivity, either, which makes it difficult to ascertain concepts such as the “sanctity of life.” Science alone can’t tell us whether a human life is worth more or less than a rock. We value each other for social, emotional reasons that have very little to do with science.

    To the extent that we do have anything approaching a scientific definition of personhood, it would most likely rest in our understanding of the brain. That being the case, it’s important to point out that neocortical development, which scientists believe makes emotion and cognition possible, does not begin until the late second or early third trimester of pregnancy. That suggests that embryos and first trimester fetuses do not possess the necessary criterion for a designation of personhood, although they do indeed possess the necessary criterion for life, much as a skin cell exhibits life.

    If we can’t determine an essential personhood, then we can’t call it murder, but we CAN say that abortion terminates life.

    I must admit that I didn’t like Justin’s arguments in the debate, but John didn’t exactly offer anything new to the discussion, either. The abortion debate still seems to come down to the same thing: deciding which is more important, the woman’s autonomy or the potential personhood of the embryo.

    Unfortunately, the anti-abortion position always seems to drift back to the woman’s sexual “irresponsibility” for getting pregnant when she didn’t want to be, which is an irrelevant tangent.

    • JCarr

      Thanks for the thought. But why must “personhood” be achieved? It is far too fluid and adjustable. Why isn’t being a human being enough to prevent someone from killing you for matters of convenience? In other words, why must one be human and…?

  12. John –

    There’s the rub. Pro- and anti- abortion positions ultimately can’t agree on what is considered a human being. Does being human mean possessing the capabilities of consciousness and awareness, or is it just the external shell that matters? Or are both required? Is the shell a human being even if “personhood” never develops? I would argue that “personhood” is NOT fluid and adjustable. It is measureable.

    In my view, for example, the essence of a person resides in their minds; their body is the shell that allows the mind-person to exist. Therefore, if the mind is “dead” but the body is still alive (Terri Schiavo, for example), then the person is gone. Allowing the body to die or live won’t change that fact….and in this case, unlike a pregnancy, the shell isn’t keeping itself alive by feeding on someone else’s body. Is keeping the shell alive the moral thing to do, even though the person is gone, or is it the moral thing to remove life support or even euthanize the shell, thereby relieving loved ones of huge emotional and financial burdens that are psychologically damaging to their health?

    By the same token, a developing embryo that hasn’t yet formed a brain can hardly be called human. Even the outward appearance isn’t indistinguishable from many other animal embryos. It is a developing human life, certainly, but personhood, the essence of being human, isn’t there yet. Once human life begins, at its most basic cellular level, does that automatically preclude any measures that would end that life? I think one side is arguing from a position of “life” while the other is arguing from a position of “personhood,” so compromise is probably unreachable.

    You asked “why must one be human and …?” My response would be thus: if we are to make abortion illegal (consider it murder, in other words) and force a woman, who has just discovered she is pregnant and doesn’t want to be, to carry the pregnancy to term regardless of consequences to her physical or mental health, life circumstances, or future plans, we have to come to some justification of why the life of the human-“nonperson” is of greater value than the autonomy of the human-“person.” The burden of proof, so to speak, rests in the anti-abortion camp, considering that abortion is currently legal.

    To simply exist…well, that’s not enough. Quality of life is important too.

    I won’t go into detail about my work, but today it was my unpleasant experience to be present when a 7-month-old baby died of complications from FAS (Fetal Alcohol Syndrome). The mother, a twenty-year-old woman with MANY issues, had wanted to have an abortion, knowing perfectly well that not only was she not capable of being an adequate mother, but her drug and alcohol use was a serious risk to the embryo. She gave in to her parents’ pressure, however, and carried the pregnancy to term. They were adamantly opposed to abortion, insisting that the pregnancy was God’s will. The baby spent its entire 7 months of life in pain, most of that time in the cold, sterile environment of a hospital. She (the baby) never really had a chance.

    You term abortion the killing of another human being for “convenience,” suggesting that if abortion is okay, then another person killing me because I was inconveniencing them is equivalent. The key word there is “person.” Life shouldn’t be the sole criteria; personhood should be. Otherwise, there is no equivalency.

    In any event, it is extremely difficult to suggest to another human being that they have no control over their own bodies. A far, far better approach to reducing abortions is to push a solid, comprehensive sex education program for teens, every year, starting in 7th grade, complete with all the information they need about contraception…and make contraception free and easily available to everyone. If we reduce the unintended pregnancies, we reduce the number of abortions. Since over half of the pregnancies in the US are unintended, this approach would drastically reduce abortions and…probably put to rest these debates…;)

    Apologies for the long post, but I work with so very many young women in lower SES conditions that struggle with this very issue that reducing this debate to simplistic terms just seems a bit callow. It just isn’t as black and white as many on both sides try to paint it, and classifying abortion as murder will cause more problems than solve them.

    • Here’s the thing JCarr

      What makes someone human is not a set of experiences or capabilities. It’s membership in the human family. We are human in virtue of the kind of being we are. Now, pro-abortion advocates add experiences and capabilities to the list of things that make someone human, or what life means.

      And as a point of fact, an embryo looks exactly like a human at that stage in life. We all looked like that at one point. It’s a part of the development process. There isn’t anything abnormal about how one looks at say, 8 weeks gestation. Don’t you think it’s a tad disingenuous to expect an immature human being to look and act like a mature human being? I do.

      “personhood” and its qualities are an arbitrary set of criteria. No one has the same list, no one holds the same hierarchy in importance to the criteria on the list. You know why? Because there’s no necessary reason that any or all of them are required for determining whether someone has the right to not be killed by their mother.

      There is no difference between a prebirth human being and a postbirth human being except their location and level of maturity.

  13. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    FYI As the Bible states there is NO life until The FIRST Breath IS taken and as the First Breath can NOT be taken until AFTER Birth, then according to the Bible, Abortion can NOT be Murder.

    (And if you do not know what is in the Bible, do not waste both of our time due to your ignorance by challanging me. IF it were not in the Bible, I would not say it was.)

  14. JCarr, That’s a terrible story about the FAS baby. The mother should be prosecuted, as surely as any drunk driver guilty of killing someone in an accident should be. Or should she be? The harm caused by her drinking was done to a mere non-person growth, right? Once it became a “person”, her actions stopped hurting the child. Right?

    You see, personhood didn’t matter in that case, did it? She harmed the human being that became a harmed infant person. The truth is that she harmed the same thing. The zygote, embryo, fetus she harmed in the womb WAS the human being that suffered later. Just as the fetus that existed in the mid-70s was the same human being who is arguing with you now.

    Personhood is not a natural stage. It’s a man-made bureaucratic category. And whether or not it comes with measurable thresholds is irrelevant. If a thing can “become” a person, we should protect it and give it that chance.

    In the woman’s case, an abortion would have prevented suffering. So would ceasing drinking. Is that too much to ask? Well, yes! She is not capable of it, apparently. But that doesn’t mean she should have the easy out of killing the human SHE made. She is responsible for her actions. The sex that created the baby, the drinking, and the care of the born infant.

    Abortion is a liberal cause, because it takes the requirement of responsibility out of the equation. It’s sad that we have to lower moral standards to accommodate reckless behavior. It’s sad that saying “WE expect you to act in accordance with certain standards” has become… What? Hateful? What’s wrong with liberals? Seriously.

  15. “There’s the rub. Pro- and anti- abortion positions ultimately can’t agree on what is considered a human being.”

    Your foundation is flawed. Science couldn’t be more clear: A new human being is created is fertilization. Your position seeks to find elusive definitions of which human beings are protected from being killed because they are unwanted.

    “I’m curious why you guys keep insisting that science only supports the anti-abortion side of the debate. Scientific arguments can be made that support both sides.

    There is no scientific basis for the existence of a soul, for example, ”

    That is true but hardly meaningful to the conversation. Souls are immaterial, so by definition there can be no scientific basis. Also, we aren’t making our claims based on the existence of the soul. Using that definition, atheists would say that 93rd trimester abortions were OK.

    “Science alone can’t tell us whether a human life is worth more or less than a rock. We value each other for social, emotional reasons that have very little to do with science.”

    But the right to life isn’t based on whether you think at given point in time and based on your subjective criteria whether a human being gets to live.

    “To the extent that we do have anything approaching a scientific definition of personhood, it would most likely rest in our understanding of the brain.”

    That is impossible. Personhood is a philosophical, immaterial construct and science, by definition, can’t address it.

    “If we can’t determine an essential personhood, then we can’t call it murder, but we CAN say that abortion terminates life.”

    Yes, and what kind of life? Human life. Which is why it is immoral 99% of the time.

    And you can call it murder in over 30 states — unless mommy is paying a trained 3rd party to have it done:

    CALIFORNIA CODES
    PENAL CODE

    187. (a) Murder is the unlawful killing of a human being, or a
    fetus, with malice aforethought.
    (b) This section shall not apply to any person who commits an act
    which results in the death of a fetus if any of the following apply:

    (1) The act complied with the Therapeutic Abortion Act, Chapter 11
    (commencing with Section 25950) of Division 20 of the Health and
    Safety Code.
    (2) The act was committed by a holder of a physician’s and surgeon’s
    certificate, as defined in the Business and Professions Code, in a
    case where, to a medical certainty, the result of childbirth would be
    death of the mother of the fetus or where her death from childbirth,
    although not medically certain, would be substantially certain or
    more likely than not.
    (3) The act was solicited, aided, abetted, or consented to by the
    mother of the fetus.
    (c) Subdivision (b) shall not be construed to prohibit the
    prosecution of any person under any other provision of law.

    Got that? It is murder unless the mommy consents, then it is no crime at all. Morally benign. A parking violation yields a far greater judgment.

    • Would the pro-aborts prefer that killing a wanted fetus not be considered murder? If the unwanted fetus’s non-person status makes killing it a non-issue, then we should just tell the (potential?) mother “Oh well. Them’s the breaks!”.

      eMatters, you’re right. Killing a wanted fetus is murder, but its wanted status CANNOT be WHY it’s murder. It’s non-person status is why they SAY it’s NOT murder!

      Which is it? It can’t be both! It’s ALWAYS murder! Unless it’s an accident. Then it’s either tragic, or manslaughter.

      The laws have contradicted themselves only after it was decided that irresponsible women need an out.

      The law needs to catch up to the truth.

  16. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    Poor John,

    Proving he does not know what the Bible says about there not being any life until the FIRST Breath is taken.

    And tell me John, do you actually think you know more about what the Bible says than do the Former Ministers and now Atheist leaders, Dan Barker and John W. Loftus do?

    Last John, I did not get the informantion about what the Bible says from any of my multi millions of American Atheists.

    (Most of whom were Christians.)

    Nope, I got it from logical, intelligent informed PRO-CHOICE Christians.

  17. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    Poor Glen,

    First, I do NOT care what other passages in the Bible say.

    Second, as I did not write any of the many CHILDISH MYTHS taken from other religions which then became part of the Bible, I have no clue why it says what it does.

    Next. I do know those, who instead of wasting their time in attempting to do what many, many others have been totally, in over 15 years of my being on the internet, unable to do which is to prove me to be either logically or factually wrong about anything I comment on (and their never ever suceeding) taken the time to simply google for the information, they would find their answers.

    Like in this instance, had John or you simply googled “bible stating there is no life until first breath is taken.” you would have found some 2,470,000 entries for it.

    And the odds are very high, some of them quote the Bible passages which say it.

    ta ta

    “Very Seldom Wrong”

    Neil

  18. Reinhardt makes a childish attempt to use Scripture against the moral position of life. I Googled exactly what he suggested and came up with Genesis 2:7, which reads (KJV):

    “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

    This passage shows God creating man at a mature point of human development rather than putting him through the process the rest of us must endure. To suggest that this passage is a Scriptural indication of life beginning at one’s first breath, or that one is a person when one draws it, is laughable at the level of professional comedy. If atheists and/or abortion supporters are actually trying to use this passage to support the heinous practice, it shows the lengths to which they are willing and eager to go to show how vacuous and lacking in pride they are.

    I am sincere in my hope that Reinhardt continues to provide this comic relief in the future as I can’t wait to hear more evidence that he is “very seldom wrong”.

    My sides are killing me.

  19. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    YOUR SIDES KILLING YOU? GOOD, I HOPE YOU DIE SOON!

  20. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    The first website which came when I googled what you said you googled was:
    http://joeschwartz.net/life.htm

    And to QUOTE it.

    The bible tells us when a fetus becomes a living being.

    “Many people think a human being is created at the time of conception Yet this belief is not supported by the bible. The fact a living sperm penetrates a living ovum resulting in the formation of a living fetus does not mean the fetus is a living human being.

    According to the bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath.

    After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”.

    Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.

    In Job 33:4,

    “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

    Again, to quote Ezekiel 37:5&6, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones:
    Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”

    In Exodus 21:22 it states if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine; it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense.

    According to the bible, destroying a living fetus does not equate to killing a living human being even though the fetus has the potential of becoming a human being.

    One can not kill something which has not been born and taken a breath. This means that a stillborn would not be considered a human being either.

    Of course, every living sperm has the potential of becoming a human being although not one in a million will make it; the rest are aborted. .

    God has decreed, for one reason or another, that at least one-third of all pregnancies shall be terminated by a spontaneous abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy and that a number will be terminated after the first trimester.

    It would appear God does not have any more regard for the loss of a fetus than he does for the loss of a placenta or a foreskin despite the fact these were living tissue as the result of conception.

    In a number of versions of the bible, one of the commandments in Exodus 20 that was spoken by God to Moses states: “You shall not kill”.

    According to the Mosaic text, this should read “You shall not murder” since the bible has commandments stating that people shall be put to death for a number of different offenses.

    Exodus 21:17 states:

    “Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.” There are other capital offenses in Exodus 21. Of course, the commandment “You shall not kill” is not present in the commandments written by God on the stone tablets.

    For those who are not familiar with the commandments on the stone tablets placed in the Ark of the Covenant, they are enumerated in Exodus 34.

    The popular ten commandments enumerated in Exodus 20 were spoken by God to Moses who then relayed them to his people; they were never written.

    There is nothing in the bible to indicate that a fetus is considered to be anything other than living tissue and, according to scripture, it does not become a living being until after it has taken a breath.”

    SO, I AM PROVEN TO BE CORRECT AGAIN

    TA TA

    NEIL

  21. “First, I do NOT care what other passages in the Bible say.

    Second, as I did not write any of the many CHILDISH MYTHS taken from other religions which then became part of the Bible, I have no clue why it says what it does.

    Nope, I got it from logical, intelligent informed PRO-CHOICE Christians.”

    Wow. If I wanted to be dishonest and pose as a bizarre, hateful, illogical pro-choicer, I still wouldn’t dare to be as extreme as Neil R. I hope he is very vocal about his beliefs. In his own way he does great things to advance the real, biblical Christian worldview.

  22. Neil C. Reinhardt says:

    LOOK JERK

    I TELL THE TRUTH!

    YOU DO NOT LIKE THE TRUTH, TOUGH!

  23. Reino,

    You continue to inject meaning into Scripture that is not there. God formed man from inanimate material and caused him to come alive by breathing life into him. That is distinctly different from one drawing one’s first breath. That very same life God breathed into Adam flowed from him to his offspring on through the ages. Each of the passages you cite in trying to make your lame and foolish misinterpretation sound rational points to the same concept of God giving life to all of us. None of them imply any of those people drawing their first breaths and because of doing so had then become human or persons or worthy of protection against murder.

    The Bible does not say anything about “destroying a living fetus does not equate to killing a living human being”, because it does not make a distinction between the born and unborn in that manner whatsoever. It does not say that those who are born are living and those who aren’t yet born not living, nor does it say that only those who have passed through the birth canal are human beings. This is nonsensical crap from people too lazy to come up with a real argument to rationalize their defense of abortion.

    It’s amazing that one your age has such a problem with identifying truth. If you think there are any single point you’ve made that stands out as a deal breaker for your position, please point it out and I’ll be happy to explain why you’re wrong again. I was going to go through each of them here, but that would take too long. So I challenge you to pick one you think is especially, uh, true, and I’ll educate you.

  24. I have to admit I’ve occasionally thought about creating an alternate internet identity so that I could say stuff like this Neil C. R. dude. Y’all have to admit it would be kind of fun.

  25. (Note:this is in response to a brief email exchange me and John have already had.

    To give it context it is in response to John agreeing to the following regarding his position:

    “When it comes to the morally relevant features that qualify something as being in the category of a “living human being” it is required that the subject be alive (by which I am assuming you mean something along the lines of having an active metabolism or some other biological activity) and that this subject must have a unique genetic code that is never-the-less categorizable as belonging to the species Homo Sapiens.”)

    The reason I wished to clarify your position is due to the fact that, when considered, these criteria are rather problematic, and in my opinion fail to represent one’s usual intuitions and common understanding regarding moral determinations.

    For instance, in many states (in the USA at least) if a subject qualifies for criteria of “brain death” they are considered legally dead. This is one reason why it has been adopted in philosophy and elsewhere the category of “personhood.”

    A brain dead subject is still a living human being under a minimal understanding of the concept. They undergo basic metabolism and are obviously still genetically human, yet are not considered to have the rights associated with a fully functioning and conscious human being (to be clear I am not setting these as my criteria for personhood).

    If you have better terminology to distinguish between a biologically active, genetically human subject that would none-the-less not be accorded standard human rights, feel free to use it and let me know. I really don’t care what terms you use, as long as we are able to communicate the appropriate concepts.

    So what is it that affords one the rights of personhood? It is cannot be merely one’s genetic makeup or biological activity, as the brain-dead individual possesses both of these, yet is widely recognized to not qualify for the protection of personhood.

    Quadriplegic’s personhood is not considered nullified or at all diminished despite having usually massive portions of their physical bodies removed. In addition the limbs once removed aren’t afforded the rights of personhood.

    However if one’s brain is removed, even if the body is kept alive, it is recognized that (despite having lost much less physical tissue) that the remaining body is no longer a “person” in the relevant sense.

    Some are tempted to see the relevant feature as consciousness that unifies these examples of personhood. However this does not explain cases of unconsciousness, whether sleeping, coma, etc.

    To me it makes sense that the most obvious factor in determining personhood is personality. By this I am referring to the collection of factors that make an individual unique, not just genetically, but in the senses relevant to the forming of relationships and an being active member of society.

    Although currently not possible, it seems to me generally agreed upon that if one’s brain was removed and placed into a new body, the “person” would remain with the brain as the organ that stores memory, forms opinions, instigates actions, etc. therefore it seems vital to have a functioning active brain in order to possess the qualities associated with personhood.

    My account has the benefit of accounting more fully and naturally with widely agreed upon moral principles and responses, where as the criteria you presented does not.

    As the zygote is a single undifferentiated cell, it certainly does not possess any of the elements required for a personality, and hence personhood. Exactly when that event would occur is a matter to debate separately, but I feel I have convincingly established that whenever that point is, it is definitely significantly post fertilization.

    I am intentionally narrowing my argument to the applied ethical question of abortion, as the question of meta-ethical foundations for morality in general is a significant topic in its own right, and so deserves it’s own desperate debate.

    Thank you for your time.

  26. “As the zygote is a single undifferentiated cell, it certainly does not possess any of the elements required for a personality, and hence personhood. Exactly when that event would occur is a matter to debate separately, but I feel I have convincingly established that whenever that point is, it is definitely significantly post fertilization.”

    The personhood criterion is completely arbitrary in the sense that it is made up to rationalize away the scientific fact of the unborn being human beings and to justify her destruction, and it is simultaneously ridiculously vague in that no one can draw a clear line as to when it begins. Some would say it is when the brain forms, which is very early, and some “ethicists” such as Peter Singer say it is well after birth.

    And even if you buy the pro-abortion “personhood” distinction, if you really aren’t sure whether you are crushing and dismembering an innocent human being then of course you should err on the side of caution. That is, unless your entire argument is completely disingenuous and you are just trying to find a clever way to justify murder. I’ve noticed a glaring lack of consistency with nearly all pro-abortion arguments. Even those who pretend to wring their hands over when personhood “really” begins rarely, if ever, fight against later term abortions.

  27. I’m still waiting for you or anyone to argue why:
    –only persons have rights and not human beings
    –why its not completely arbitrary
    –why this particular distinction between human beings and persons is at all important
    –and why this personhood criteria is only discussed and deemed relevant when discussing abortion.

  28. I am a little disheartened that none of the responses yet seem to have responded to any of what I actually argued… The responses for the most part seem to have already been addressed in my original comment.

    In order to not simply repeat myself, I will do my best to expand in my response and maybe try to address it from other angles.

    In the future it would be nice if responses actually took into account what I said to some degree and responded specifically to that.

  29. @eMatters,

    “The personhood criterion is completely arbitrary in the sense that it is made up to rationalize away the scientific fact of the unborn being human beings and to justify her destruction, and it is simultaneously ridiculously vague in that no one can draw a clear line as to when it begins.”

    I think this is an incorrect characterization of the development and arguments surrounding the term “personhood.” I would be fine with discussing this from a social and historical perspective, but those concerns are largely irrelevant when it comes to the topic at hand.

    As I clearly stated, I have no problem if you prefer to use the term “human being” where I used “person” or “personhood.” What term or terminology you wish to use is largely irrelevant. So if you would prefer another set of terms, could you please tell me what terms you would use to distinguish between a biologically active and genetically human individual who is none-the-less usually not afforded the rights of a full active member of society… Such as someone who is brain dead.

    • Even if a brain dead person is not afforded all the rights of an “active” member it’s irrelevant to whether one can just take it upon themselves to kill them just because of the inconvenience they are causing.

      Have you considered whether a brain dead person is denied all their rights (not afforded) or that they simply cannot freely autonomously exercise them?

      Keep in mind also that if it seems that an argument of yours is seemingly ignored, it may be because it has already been answered somewhere else. For example, your original question as to why a skin cell was treated differently than a fertilized egg was answered in the post, Get A Life, Part 2. After I linked it to you there wasnt anything more to add.

  30. @eMatters,

    “Some would say it is when the brain forms, which is very early, and some ‘ethicists’ such as Peter Singer say it is well after birth.”

    The fact that people have differing arguments, positions, etc. regarding the beginning of, what I will still refer to as, “personhood” (until I am provided with a useful alternative) does not mean obviously that all arguments and positions on this topic are invalid.

    Although I think Singer is often unfairly demonized, I also differ from his positions significantly and I am not terribly interested in defending someone else’s arguments with whom I disagree.

    “And even if you buy the pro-abortion ‘personhood’ distinction, if you really aren’t sure whether you are crushing and dismembering an innocent human being then of course you should err on the side of caution.”

    I agree. My argument so far was simply trying to establish that the criterion of personhood should not be set at fertilization. An argument that if successful would have important implications for the moral permissibility of various forms of birth control and early termination practices such as the use of Plan-B.

    If people accept my argument as formulated so far I could continue on to arguing for what would be the most reasonable and defensible period in which to allow elective abortions to take place.

    “That is, unless your entire argument is completely disingenuous and you are just trying to find a clever way to justify murder.”

    I try to adhere to the principle of charity when discussion/debating a topic, especially when it is with someone with whom I disagree. As such I hope you would agree that it is best to discuss topics on their merits and not to engage in personal attacks or assumptions that the other person is being intentionally disingenuous or deceitful.

    I have no desire to apologize for or justify the actions of murderers, or to encourage needless murder. I am attempting to advocate for what I see as the most consistent and logically defensible moral position.

    If you intend on thinking the worst of me without evidence or justification, it is probably best not to continue on this topic together.

    “I’ve noticed a glaring lack of consistency with nearly all pro-abortion arguments. Even those who pretend to wring their hands over when personhood ‘really’ begins rarely, if ever, fight against later term abortions.”

    I am not entirely sure as to what the above means or is arguing. I too find glaring inconsistencies among those who advocate for elective abortions… I also similarly find such inconsistencies among those opposing such abortions. Unfortunately I feel it is very common for me to find people with who’s conclusions I generally agree, but with who’s reasoning I am at odds.

    As for later term abortions I would just point out that past ~20 or so weeks the vast majority are performed solely for extraordinary medical purposes, such as to save the mother’s life.

  31. @ John Barron:
    “I’m still waiting for you or anyone to argue why:
    –only persons have rights and not human beings”

    I addressed that in my original comment above. As I define it a “human being” or something referable to as human is any subject that has an active metabolism and is a member of the species Homo Sapiens genetically. However it doesn’t make sense to say that something is afforded personal rights simply by virtue of possessing these features as I demonstrated. A brain-dead individual no longer has a “right to life.” In light of this it is actually imperative for you to explain how a zygote without brain activity (or even a brain) possess a right to life that a fully grown human in a similar state does not. Why would it be morally permissible to pull the plug on an adult individual without a functioning brain, but not permissible to do so with an individual that not only does not have functioning mental activity, but has NEVER had any such activity. Why is it that we place special emphasis on the brain above any other human organ or system? Why don’t we do everything we can to keep an arm alive for its own sake? There is clearly a distinction between active human cells and a person with a personality. There is a reason why you would certainly be more devastated if a close friend was decapitated as opposed to only losing a foot… And it is not because it would ruin their good looks, it is because their brain is the seat of their personality (even if you are a dualist you must admit that a physical person cannot continue to exist without a functioning brain even if you believe they exist in another state). No brain, no person.

    “–why its not completely arbitrary”

    I am not sure what exactly is arbitrary about it? Is it arbitrary that we consider someone without a head dead, and a person with a head alive? As far as when precisely abortion becomes immoral is a discussion I haven’t touch upon yet as I have just trying to establish that terminating a fertilized egg is not murder first. I do not consider my criteria for when to set the demarcation arbitrary either, even if they are not perfectly clean cut, but unfortunately many things in life are not.

    “–why this particular distinction between human beings and persons is at all important”

    In my original message as well as this one I have presented a case arguing as such, if you have a disagreement with any of my premises or logic feel free to point out with what and where you disagree.

    “–and why this personhood criteria is only discussed and deemed relevant when discussing abortion.”

    The narrowness of something’s terminology has no bearing on the validity or soundness of an argument, so I am not sure why this is relevant. In addition it is factually incorrect. Although terminology has not been uniform throughout history, philosophers, ethicists, etc. have long discussed and debated issues related to personhood and by virtue of what faculties and/or properties, etc. is accorded rights. This includes discussions such as what should the criteria for death be, what physical mental factors restrict one’s freedom of choice, such as in the case of children, etc.

    Again, this seems entirely irrelevant and off topic however.

    I hope you don’t consider this “fisking” as you present a specific list of issues you said had not been addressed.

    • Youre simply wrong that a brain dead person doesnt have a right to life, morally speaking. You seem to equivocate the law with morality in that since we allow taking the lives of brain dead people, and a fetal human or zygote is essentially in the same state, it is ok to take the life of a thing that is the same as a brain dead “person”

      The arbitrariness is because people have different standards by which someone meets this bureaucratic idea of what personhood consists of. Some people’s criteria is more loose, some more strict. And thats the point. Depending on who you need to fail the test is where you can set your limit.

      Lastly the point I was making with my last question is that no one cares about the distinction between human beings and persons until they want to kill one in the womb. In no other venue does anyone make any differentiation whatsoever.

      Why do you or anyone feel it necessary to want to kill a human being but not a person? Does it really make a difference? Could you dismember a living brain dead non-person with a clear conscience?

    • Here’s the thing about “human being” vs “person.” In the mind of liberals the distinction is made for what they perceive as “rights”: human beings don’t have rights – persons do. Which is why the statement that a human with no brain activity in a coma is no longer a person.

      Yet, they fight for “personhood” rights for apes and dolphins, etc. “They worship and serve the creature, rather than the creator.”

  32. @John Barron:

    “Have you considered whether a brain dead person is denied all their rights (not afforded) or that they simply cannot freely autonomously exercise them?”

    I am not sure what you mean by “cannot freely autonomously exercise them.” I am not talking about rights that necessarily need to be actively exercised. There is a difference between someone who is comatose and must necessarily relinquish some aspects of self-determination and autonomy and someone who has no brain, or a non-functioning brain.

    For instance if someone has no brain they do not have a right to life (expressed legally by being declared “clinically dead), or a right to life-saving treatment, etc. their body is no longer a person.

    Certainly there are certain aspects of respect and ownership etc. that apply to one’s body after they pass on, but this is of a wholly different kind than the rights of personhood afforded a functioning living human, is it not? I have never done a poll, but I do not think this would be a terribly controversial claim.

    “Keep in mind also that if it seems that an argument of yours is seemingly ignored, it may be because it has already been answered somewhere else.”

    I understand the desire to avoid having to repeatedly re-answer questions, and I am glad to be directed towards an answer or explanation already posted elsewhere. I hope you can appreciate my position as well, as although I have been reading through posts you have made on this topic, it is not realistic that I will be able to significantly peruse the more than 800 hits that appear when I google occurrences of the term “abortion” on your blog.

    If you require me to have a thorough knowledge of all your posted material before commenting or discussing, than I unfortunately would have to bow out.

    “For example, your original question as to why a skin cell was treated differently than a fertilized egg was answered in the post, Get A Life, Part 2. After I linked it to you there wasnt anything more to add.”

    I wasn’t referring to that question. I was more referring to the fact that the responses I have gotten claim I had not addressed things I clearly did address in my initial post.

    I consider it legitimate to disagree with my arguments or direct me elsewhere to where they have already been addressed, but to claim I have not even presented an argument while simultaneously ignoring those very arguments is rather different.

    I had no problem with you referring me to the posting in regards to clarifying what you consider to be the relevant moral distinctions between somatic cells and a zygote. Although I thought you did not clearly present your position in that post, you seemed to agree with my interpretation of it.

    In response to that I explained why the reasoning behind those criteria were flawed and problematic. Arguments for which I have yet to see a response, which is fine, I can’t force you to rebut my argument, and if you have already addressed it elsewhere I would be happy to take a look.

  33. As an aside I would just like to agree that many of the comments and responses on the Reasonable Doubts page to be very poorly reasoned and often very bad arguments with which I in no way agree.

    To be honest I often disagree with the arguments of people supposedly on “my side” almost as much as I do with those presented by the “other side.”

  34. “John Barron:
    Youre simply wrong that a brain dead person doesnt have a right to life, morally speaking.”

    I hope you are not too surprised that I am not terribly swayed by your merely asserting I am wrong.

    “You seem to equivocate the law with morality in that since we allow taking the lives of brain dead people, and a fetal human or zygote is essentially in the same state, it is ok to take the life of a thing that is the same as a brain dead ‘person'”

    I am unclear, are you claiming I am equivocating between current law and morality? Between a zygote and someone who is brain dead? Or both?

    I made what seems to me a reasonable assumption that terminating the life of someone who is brain dead is ethically permissible, I don’t think I anywhere claimed that it was permissible BECAUSE it was legal. I was instead using a common tactic of drawing upon what people in general consider morally acceptable in order to extrapolate to other moral intuitions.

    I am doing so partly as to avoid the topic of meta-ethics which is a separate debate in my opinion. I was merely trying to present situations that seem morally relevant in order to tease out fundamental principles on which we might be able to agree.

    Do you not agree that it is morally permissible to remove the life-support of someone who is brain-dead?

    I would be curious as you are a self-described conservative who you think should pay for the very expensive and indefinite medical care of these individuals who will ever regain consciousness? Especially as medical technology improves it will likely be ever more possible to maintain essential bodily function despite the patient being completely incapable of regaining any mental activity. Do think it is morally obligatory that we should set up very expensive and ever increasing storage houses for these legally dead individuals?

    If you instead meant that I was equivocating between the brain-dead and zygotes, it may be helpful to review some material on what fallacies of equivocation actually mean.

    It is not equivocation to present analogies and comparisons between situations that share certain relevant features. In fact that is one of the MOST central tools used in debate and argumentation. You could accuse me of using a false analogy and present your case for why they are disanalogous in some relevant fashion, but that would be different than equivocation and would require that you actually explain where the difficulty lies.

    “The arbitrariness is because people have different standards by which someone meets this bureaucratic idea of what personhood consists of. Some people’s criteria is more loose, some more strict. And thats the point. Depending on who you need to fail the test is where you can set your limit.”

    Saying that people have disagreements on a topic is not an argument against my position. There are disagreements on many moral, ethical, and legal issues, it does not logically follow from this that all law, ethics, and morality is arbitrary.

    I presented a case for my criteria should be preferred to yours. Fitting more closely general intuitions and facts regarding a wide variety of situations. If my reasoning is faulty feel free to address where I am incorrect or present my case in a flawed manner.

    “Lastly the point I was making with my last question is that no one cares about the distinction between human beings and persons until they want to kill one in the womb. In no other venue does anyone make any differentiation whatsoever.”

    And I responded that this assertion was not only false, but irrelevant. Since it is irrelevant (i.e. unrelated to question of the morality of elective abortion) I don’t know how much time I am interested in spending debating this, however if you find it vitally important for some reason I suppose I could. I would just point out that I did in fact present examples of other subjects which involve questions of personhood.

    Though I am not an intuitionist, and prefer to base moral and ethical arguments upon rational and sound propositions, I will say that even on a purely intuitive level it strikes me as rather odd that one would consider the death of a single cell as murder. I find it also hard to believe that someone would appeal to something’s genetic uniqueness and metabolic activity as the relevant factors in determining someone’s worth as a “person.” Would it the the case that prior to the discovery of genetics and modern biology no one possessed a rational argument for the rightness or wrongness of murder, infanticide, abortion, etc.? That seems odd as well.

    I am curious, what exactly do you find so disgusting and disconcerting about the idea of terminating a single celled zygote (the permissibility of which is all I am trying to currently establish with you)? Are you honestly disgusted by the loss of unique genetic information?

    My position is simply that up to a certain point there should be no moral or legal prohibition against elective abortion as no one is necessarily harmed in the process and the various considerations of the parents take precedence, and I have yet to see a good rebuttal to why this should not be the case.

    “Why do you or anyone feel it necessary to want to kill a human being but not a person? Does it really make a difference? Could you dismember a living brain dead non-person with a clear conscience?”

    I have yet to argue for anything beyond the termination of a zygote which requires no dismemberment, although this could almost trivially be extended to a blastocyte. I think it matters very much whether one is killing a person as opposed to an impersonal collection of cells. Although I have never been in the position to chose as such, I see no reason to be remorseful about the lose of a single or small collection of undifferentiated cells. It seems odd to me that anyone would have a sense of remorse about such an act unless they had some prior belief about ensoulment or some other similar belief that fertilization has some supernatural properties or implications. I similarly do not feel remorseful when I am around women who are menstruating, despite the fact that it involves the termination of a genetically human gamete.

    Also when it comes to dismembering a brain-dead individual it would largely depend on their prior wishes and desires, a good reason for keeping a living will.

    Do you feel you could cremate someone with a clear conscience?

    Again I would like to thank you for your time and if you feel you have a reasonable response I would like very much to hear it.

  35. I’d like to respond.

    While I am hesitant to imply I favor terminating the life of a brain-dead individual, it is not difficult at all to see a vast distinction between such an individual and a human zygote. Assuming the parallel is the inability of either to feel or the lack of self-awareness, the brain-dead individual is assumed to have no chance of recovery and then may be allowed a natural death by removing extraordinary life support means. (This, by the way, was not what happened with Terri Shaivo, who was denied basic nourishment and actually starved to death.) My father-in-law, who was not brain-dead but instead suffered from advanced ALS, approved the removal of such extraordinary means—all the things to which he was hooked up—in order to allow his condition to run its course if that is what it was going to do. In his case it did. But he acknowledged the extreme possibility that he would linger for some time without the machines.

    But a zygote is not sick, not injured and not in any more extraordinary a situation than any of us were at one time. It is not maintained by extraordinary means. Its mother’s womb is where it is supposed to be and to remove that relationship unnaturally would be the same as murdering a baby by leaving it alone in the woods without its mother. The zygote will feel and become self-aware. It will store and recall memories, make relationships, and live life. Thus, the comparison between the two is false by virtue of the assumption that the reason for the lack of brain function is equal or irrelevant. It is neither.

    You say, “I will say that even on a purely intuitive level it strikes me as rather odd that one would consider the death of a single cell as murder.” But we don’t consider it to be merely a single cell, but a human being who is only at the single cell stage of development. We consider it this way because it the fact of it. That “single cell” is a fully developed human being at that particular stage of development. That is, at that stage of development, that dude (or chick) is only a single cell, but fully human, or rather, fully a human being, a person. You, on the other hand, are making a subjective assessment based on superficial aspects of that person’s current state of being.

    As to how anyone might feel about terminating a person at that stage of development, that is hardly relevant to the fact that it is fully a human being, a person that is being put to death. Few people shed too many tears for the deaths of millions of people killed, murdered or who have passed away all over the world, even while knowing that it happens daily. That doesn’t mean that there are moral implications involved with any of them, some being permissible and other not. We don’t need to feel anything about the murdered to acknowledge that their murder was wrong.

    “I similarly do not feel remorseful when I am around women who are menstruating…”

    Why would you? A gamete, an ovum or sperm, is not a person.

    I don’t think John’s question regarding dismembering a brain-dead person requires the dead person’s wishes to make a judgement as to whether or not you would have a problem doing it. I’m guessing here, but I think John’s question is simply, could you do it? The person is still “alive” but brain-dead. By your comments, one could infer no issue with simply cutting the person up, still breathing, heart beating, either by machine or not, but brain-dead the whole time. Do you find a moral problem with doing so? I would guess that the prior instructions of most people would include no action until they are completely dead.

  36. @marshalart

    I greatly appreciate your carefully considered response. I am aware that discussing issues about which one often feels great passion is not easy. There have definitely been topics and discussions in which I have had great difficulty resisting the instinct to resort to name calling even when I know it would just be childish :)

    As I had already been writing about some additional issues I had with John’s criteria I will save them for after my response to your recent comment.

    “While I am hesitant to imply I favor terminating the life of a brain-dead individual, it is not difficult at all to see a vast distinction between such an individual and a human zygote.”

    I would agree. There are significant factors to consider regarding the fact that the body of a brain dead individual belonged to the deceased and should be cared for as such, where as a zygote is not a person and thus has no independent rights from the mother.

    “Assuming the parallel is the inability of either to feel or the lack of self-awareness, the brain-dead individual is assumed to have no chance of recovery and then may be allowed a natural death by removing extraordinary life support means.”

    The parallel is greater than that. The essential analogy is the lack of personal identity. An undifferentiated blastocyte or zygote has no current personal identity just as a brain-dead individual does not. Moreover the zygote has never had a personal identity. Unless you want to argue one’s DNA somehow accounts for a significant identity, a claim which requires one accept odd consequences and conclusions.

    “(This, by the way, was not what happened with Terri Shaivo, who was denied basic nourishment and actually starved to death.)”

    I don’t believe I ever said it was, real life court cases are often contain complications and many participants and involve a detailed examination that need not necessarily take place here.

    “My father-in-law, who was not brain-dead but instead suffered from advanced ALS, approved the removal of such extraordinary means—all the things to which he was hooked up—in order to allow his condition to run its course if that is what it was going to do. In his case it did. But he acknowledged the extreme possibility that he would linger for some time without the machines.”

    That kind of decision is never easy. He is lucky that he was able to make that choice, another good reason to create a living will. There are many people who unfortunately become unable to communicate and are thus unable to make their wishes known.

    Although not entirely related to the current debate, and I hope I am not addressing a topic that is too personal, but I am curios whether you saw that as a form of suicide and and an ethical choice or not?

    “But a zygote is not sick, not injured and not in any more extraordinary a situation than any of us were at one time.”

    I am not sure what something’s ordinariness or general health has to do with “human rights” or “personhood” (whichever you prefer to use).

    ” It is not maintained by extraordinary means.”

    Again not sure why something’s ordinary or extra-ordinariness is relevant.

    “Its mother’s womb is where it is supposed to be and to remove that relationship unnaturally would be the same as murdering a baby by leaving it alone in the woods without its mother.”

    Do you have an argument to support that claim? I have provided my argument as to why they are far from equivalent. Removing a zygote or small clump of undifferentiated cells is far from leaving an infant to starve outside. Also it seems as if you fall into the naturalistic fallacy about some of these issues. Something’s “naturalness” by it’s self does not make it moral. A cancer may come about “naturally,” that does not mean we are obligated to let it run its course. A sperm and egg tend to “naturally” find one another and create an offspring, that does not mean we are obligated to engage in continuous intercourse.

    “The zygote will feel and become self-aware. It will store and recall memories, make relationships, and live life. Thus, the comparison between the two is false by virtue of the assumption that the reason for the lack of brain function is equal or irrelevant. It is neither.”

    I will some day stop breathing and undergo cardiac arrest… Does that mean I am currently equal to a dead man? Obviously not. The fact that a zygote will eventually BRING ABOUT a being capable of recalling memories, developing relationships, etc. does not have any hearing on its current abilities. It is not that I zygote “has trouble” developing a relationship, it is a single cell devoid of any personal identity to even have a relationship with… There is no “person” there to have a relationship with.

    Anytime one makes comparisons and analogies there will be differences… If there weren’t it would no longer be a comparison or analogy. The point I am trying to draw out is what are the relevant feature that we are really concerned with when it comes to protecting human rights. Is your primary concern the loss of unique genetic material? Is it the desire to maintain basic cellular metabolism? I would be very surprised I either of these were really the factors that you think makes humans distinct and each individual a unique personality.

    Granted genetics have a strong influence on one’s development, but no one considers the genetic material itself uniquely personal in the sense that every genome need be preserved.

    Maybe a brief description of some bizarre conclusions that as far as I see would necessarily result from the ethical reasoning that you seem to endorse.

    Let us say we are in the womb and observe a single sperm about to come into contact and fertilize an egg.

    Now at this point (correct me if I am wrong) you would not shed a single tear, feel a twinge of the conscience, or an ounce of empathy for either the sperm or egg. A million such sperms and eggs could be killed and it wouldn’t have any moral implications. I will point out in our scenario that left unabated this sperm will likely develop into an fully formed infant… But as of now they are merely impersonal living human cells carrying a set of genetic material.

    Some point immediately at or shortly after the egg and sperm come into contact (I don’t know if you have a specific stage of fertilization in mind), something significant happens making these immediately prior impersonal cells into a subject afforded all the basic human rights afforded any new born.

    Any attempt to prevent this single celled zygote from developing or termination is murder. This includes the occasional outcome of using many forms of birth control.

    Now let’s say this zygote undergoes a round or two of divisions to form a small set of undifferentiated cells. Now the termination of that initial cell is murder, but as soon as it divides, another identical cell (or even the very same cell) could be eliminated and that would not be murder… Unless you claim EVERY single cell is a “human being” for the purpose of moral evaluation, which would have rather crazy implications.

    So one second a single cell is a “human being” which it is moral unjustified to terminate, and then a second later it is just another cell capable of termination without remorse… The exact same identical cell.

    Now one cannot tell from a zygote exactly how many “persons” will develop. It could separate into identical twins, triplets, etc.

    So again we are observing this cell, it divides and thus becomes expendable… But what if it separates off from the rest of the blastocyte creating the potential for an identical twin. Now I am assuming you would consider terminating this separated cell murder… Again, despite being physiologically identical it has traveled back and forth from personhood, to non-personhood, to personhood… And if it divides again, back to non-personhood.

    At least that is what I would presume, despite the fact it doesn’t line up with criteria and conditions I have been presented. What I was presented with was that the relevant factors were that the zygote is genetically human (I criteria met by every single cell in your body), has an active metabolism (a criteria met by every single form of life, including the sperm and egg as well), it is genetically unique (something not true of an identical twin after division, and in fact only true of the initial zygote, but also true of various tumors, cancers, and any cell that has undergone genetic mutation).

    So again if one tries to be consistent with these principles one has to accept a bizarre understanding of what it essentially means to be human… Principles that would declare a cell a human being, as long as it is not a member of a collection of identical cells… At which point (though nothing specific to the cell itself has changed) it becomes a non-person, apparently do the context within which it exists.

  37. Well, that’s unfortunate. I was hoping these thread comments would be something other than a relentless dedication to begging the question. I say that in all seriousness – I was hoping people would take the issue so seriously that they would be motivated to make an argument. I appreciate john’s engagement on this topic even though he also falls to the question-begging temptress.

    The fact that people keep asserting that the category of human being includes moral status suggests very few actually listened to my criticisms of this position.

    • Justin

      People have heard your criticisms of the assertion that human beings belong in a moral category and dismiss them because they run counterintuitive to everything we know. In fact, it seems that to believe otherwise is something you have to talk yourself into, it doesnt come naturally. To argue against human beings being in a moral category, such that it is wholly intuitive that they hold inherent value is to argue that 2+2 equals somethig other than 4. It’s not bull-headedness, it’s something properly basic and so obvious that arguments against inherent human value are taken with a grain of salt.

  38. @John Barron,

    So no response to my arguments? Or is your response “I am just right because it is properly basic no matter how strange and counter-intuitive the conclusions end up being!”

    • I don’t know what else to offer. I’ve gone over your arguments in previous posts and briefly here. I’m thoroughly unconvinced by them, in addition to the fact that they run completely counter intuitive to all experience. You insist my view results in strange and problematic conclusions, but thats only if you presume your view to be true about value and human beings.

  39. By the way (in general I am not a fan of the term “properly basic” and other reformed epistemology type lingo) 2 + 2 = 4 is in no way a properly basic statement. It is not something that is “true” despite lacking any argument or justification.

  40. @John Barron:

    “I’ve gone over your arguments in previous posts and briefly here.”

    Could you point me to where you have addressed my arguments?

    I just re-read your responses and a few of your posts and fail to see any counter-arguments to the majority of issues I raised.

    “You insist my view results in strange and problematic conclusions, but thats only if you presume your view to be true about value and human beings.”

    Actually the majority of what I have done is start by assuming your view is CORRECT and see if there is any way that it could be made to make sense in a way anyone would be able to actually reasonably accept.

    For example the criteria you agreed to in regards to the moral category of “human being” makes no sense.

    ““[T]he morally relevant features that qualify something as being in the category of a ‘living human being’ it is required that the subject be alive […] and that this subject must have a unique genetic code that is never-the-less categorizable as belonging to the species Homo Sapiens.”

    Taken as written I only see a couple of possible interpretations of what this could mean.

    The first is what you agree to be absurd. That each genetically human cell represents a genetically individual human being and thus it would be immoral to destroy ANY human cell.

    A second interpretation is basically equally absurd, that only a genetically unique cell qualifies as a “human being” for ethical purposes. This would mean ONLY zygotes, the initial stages of a tumor or cancer, etc. would qualify as a human being, not you or I.

    A third interpretation involves altering the criteria slightly. Something must be a genetically distinct contiguous organism. This one is not quite as obviously wrong, yet it still is. This would mean only one out of a set of identical twins, triplets, etc. would be a “human being,” and again various tumors and cancers would qualify. In addition it does not explain why a living head and torso has a right to life, but a living disembodied arm does not, and in fact makes no distinction between any set of human cells.

    If you have another more reasonable interpretation feel free to explain it, or point me towards a previously written explanation. Alternately if you would prefer to provide an alternate framework, feel free.

    I then went on to show that, despite having not yet been given a reasonable account of “person-” or “human-hood” (whichever you prefer) that if I attempt to follow what I think you would desire as the general outcome of your position, that it still leads to bizarre conclusions. Namely that as I pointed out a single cell that for all practical purposes remains identical through time could become a human being, then cease to be a human being, then become human being again, only to finally cease being a human being once more. Thus, though the character of the cell is continuous, the destruction of it would be both murder and morally permissible depending solely on its position in relation to other cells.

    Interestingly you actually refute your own position at one point while offering nothing to support in its place.

    You stated:

    “What’s more, everyone is technically ‘just a mass of cells’. A newborn, a teenager, even the defender of abortion. What makes the statue of David valuable, is not strictly the bare materials. It is not just a chiseled slab of marble. I’m sure Michelangelo discarded the shards of marble as he fashioned his masterpiece. The shards are of the same material as the finished statue. But does it then follow that because the shards can be discarded without moral concern, that the statue can also be destroyed because it is of the same materials as the shards? The statue of David is more than its physical parts, it is more than a piece of marble. It is an end in itself. In the same way, a human being is more than its components.
    This is why the one offering the ‘skin cell’ defense of abortion misses the point. There is a difference between the parts and the whole even though they share a common factor, dna.”

    Although I think it might not be the best analogy, it highlights the point that an individual part of a human being is not a human being. Just because a cell is genetically human does not mean it possess the rights of a fully grown human being. You point out that individual body parts, arms, legs, etc. are not human beings and then fail to present a coherent explanation as to what aspects DO make something a human being from a moral perspective (because you know it would undercut your case agains abortion?) A human being is not a single cell, but a collection of many cells establishing a certain relationship and character. A single cell has no personal identity, no thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, preferences, etc. and that is true whether it is a single somatic cell, or a single embryonic cell.

    Now if you wish to claim that your position does not need to be defended, that it just IS true and it is impossible for you to accept otherwise, that is fine. Just don’t pretend that this is some sort of argument or justification that anyone else need except as it lacks any rational support through argumentation and appeals to standard concepts of humanity.

    There are other arguments I have presented without receiving a counter-argument and other arguments I could present but I feel this is likely enough for the time being.

    Thank you for your time.

    • Ok, help me help you. If you could summarize what it is you’d like to to address and I will make sure to do that. Please make it succinct. These long comments are difficult to address in any exhaustive manner because it just becomes an essay contest back and forth, if you know what I mean.

      But I have a question that hopefully can be quickly answered. Is it ok to maim a fetus in the womb prior to the “personhood” develops? Basically, in the time you believe it is morally acceptable to abort, is it also morally acceptable to say, clip the arms or feet off the fetus, presuming it will live and be birthed?

  41. Thanks John,

    I know my comments tend to be long, but I often and just trying to make sure I am as thorough and clear as possible so that I don’t have to repeatedly return to the same arguments and for clarification.

    I will do my best to limit the length of this post.

    In my previous post I explained that as far as I can tell, no matter how one interprets your criteria of “unique,” “live,” and “human” you come up with bizarre conclusions such as destroying any human cell is murder.

    Could you explain how you would be able to consistently interpret it, or give another set of criteria you find has more explanatory power?

    Secondly, a single embryonic cell can for all practical purposes remain identical over a period of time. As best I can tell you would likely have to commit to the position that an embryonic cell could become a human being, then cease to be a human being, then become human being again, only to finally cease being a human being once more. Thus, though the character of the cell is continuous, the destruction of it would be both murder and morally permissible depending solely on its position in relation to other cells.

    Do you accept this view? Why or why not?

    • Ok, Austintx.

      This was addressed in the post I directed you to, Get a life, Part 2. Let me quote the relevant section in case you missed it:

      This argument makes the logical fallacy of composition. It wrongly implies that, that which is true of the parts is true of the whole. It is presumed that because a skin cell shares a common feature (dna) with the whole body (dna) that one is just as valuable — or non-valuable — as the other. Since we can destroy a skin cell with moral benignity, we can therefore destroy an entire human embryo with the same moral benignity. But a skin cell is merely one piece of a greater complete thing that does not depend on a total amount of parts for its value.
      A car, for example, is not a car until a sufficient amount of parts are assembled and operational. Its value is dependant on the total sum of its parts. A car with no engine, or no wheels is not a car, and is valuable only in so far as the individual parts have value. A human is not assembled piecemeal like a car. The embryo is a self-contained organism which, left unmolested will develop on its own through all the stages of life: fetus, infant, toddler, teenager, and adult.
      Because a human being is not merely a sum of its parts, it maintains its identity through development and maturity. Through each stage of development, a human doesn’t become more human; it maintains the kind of thing it is as it becomes more mature. As such, when someone loses a limb, or has an organ or tooth removed, they remain who they are — because the parts of the human being are not essential to their identity.

      So no, destroying a single human cell is not murder because it is not a complete human being the same way a fertilized egg is a complete (but immature) human being.

      Youre going to have to reword your last paragraph, maybe I’m a little slow tonight, but I dont understand the point you’re making.

  42. @john,

    “Is it ok to maim a fetus in the womb prior to the ‘personhood’ develops?”

    It would be immoral if the mother was planning to carry a child to term.

    “Basically, in the time you believe it is morally acceptable to abort, is it also morally acceptable to say, clip the arms or feet off the fetus, presuming it will live and be birthed?”

    This would also be immoral. It would be immoral in the same way that it would be immoral for a women planning to have children to take a pill that would interfere with her ovaries in such a way that her future child/children will suffer from awful birth defects such as lacking limbs, blindness, what-have-you. The fact that her children haven’t yet even been conceived doesn’t diminish the ethical responsibility.

    Does that answer your question?

    • So its ok to kill a fetus because it’s not a “person” but its not ok to injure something that isnt a person? Now that doesnt make sense. On what grounds is it immoral? If its not a person, its not a person.

  43. John Barron:

    “This argument makes the logical fallacy of composition. It wrongly implies that, that which is true of the parts is true of the whole. It is presumed that because a skin cell shares a common feature (dna) with the whole body (dna) that one is just as valuable — or non-valuable — as the other. Since we can destroy a skin cell with moral benignity, we can therefore destroy an entire human embryo with the same moral benignity.”

    I did not miss this part. I never make this argument so I am not sure why you think it is relevant. In fact I agree that this would be a compositional fallacy if one where to make that argument.

    A large portion of the rest of what you wrote I have not much of a disagreement with. I agree that a human is more than a sum of its parts and materials in the sense you seem to mean. I believe I in fact quoted a portion of this in defending my position.

    Could you please respond to my question as written?

    “So no, destroying a single human cell is not murder because it is not a complete human being the same way a fertilized egg is a complete (but immature) human being.”

    A fertilized egg IS a single cell, so this statement is self-contradictory. And you actually have to make the case that a zygote is in fact a complete human being in the relevant ethical sense. To me it is a zygote, a single cell that will eventually develop into a person, human being, )whatever you wish to call it) in the moral and relevant understanding of the term. I get the impression that sometimes after merely asserting something to be true, without subsequent argument defending its truth value, that you feel your job is complete. Usually defenses of arguments attempt to begin from non-controversial propositions and work their way up to the issue in contention. Either that or they attempt to refute a proposition by showing it leads to absurdities or contradictions, I don’t see much of either here.

    “Youre going to have to reword your last paragraph, maybe I’m a little slow tonight, but I dont understand the point you’re making.”

    It was just my attempt at putting a portion of my previous comment more succinctly.

    Let us say we are sitting in a womb observing a zygote (obviously a thought experiment :) if I were to terminate that zygote; you would say to me that I had committed murder.

    Let’s say that I don’t eliminate the zygote and it then divides into two separate and identical cells. Now if I kill just ONE of those cells, I have not committed murder because I have not terminated the embryo, despite the fact that there is physically no difference between that cell that is according to you NOT a human being, and the previous cell that IS a human being.

    Now let us say I don’t kill that second cell. Instead it separates from the original cell in the fashion an identical twin does. Now I presume that you would say that that EXACT SAME CELL that immediately prior it was morally permissible to kill, is now impermissible murder.

    In other words it is only impermissible to kill an individual cell if it is not located in close enough relation to other identical cells… Odd if I do say so myself… Unless I got something wrong you wish to point out.

    “So its ok to kill a fetus because it’s not a ‘person’ but its not ok to injure something that isnt a person? Now that doesnt make sense. On what grounds is it immoral? If its not a person, its not a person.”

    I pointed out a counter example in my response. Just because you have not YET injured a person does not absolve one of moral responsibility.

    Let us say a woman attaches a time bomb to a crib set to go off in 1 year. After setting up this time bomb she gets pregnant and 9 months later gives birth, after which she places the child in the crib. Is she not culpable when the infant is blown up simply because the harmful act was set up prior to her existence? Of course not. If you do something intentionally to harm a child, whether that child is only a sperm and an egg, a zygote, etc. it is immoral, is it not?

    As I already stated, if a woman takes a drug SHE KNOWS will deform her future child, is she not responsible because that child does not currently exist?

    • Austintx

      It seems you either don’t understand what I said, which is unlikely, or you are unaware that medically speaking the egg, once fertilized, though only a single cell briefly is a genetically complete whole. The skin cell, or muscle cell or bone cell is a part within the whole human being. So while I can lose a skin cell, or an entire finger for that matter and remain me, if my whole body were destroyed, I have been destroyed. Likewise when the zygote is destroyed the whole human being it is, is destroyed.

    • So I think I understand your position to be then, it is OK to kill a non person, just not to maim one. That doesn’t sound strange to you?

  44. @John
    ,

    I am pretty sure I have understood what you have argued and presented so far. We both agree about the skin cells, bone cells, etc… That is not what I was speaking of. I am talking about the very first stage of fetal development. First you begin with a single celled zygote. You consider killing this zygote murder, correct?

    Then this zygote divides into two cells. Now if you kill only one of the two cells you are no longer committing murder because there are two and killing one won’t prevent the other from continuing to divide and produce a perfectly healthy child, right?

    Now the two cells that were being killed were essentially identical, yet one was murder simply because it was the sole cell, and the other was not simply because it had a copy of itself… So killing the exact same thing can be murder… The not murder.

    Now if we go back to the two cells immediately after the zygote’s division in which it is okay to kill one or the other, just not both, what if these cells separated in the process responsible for producing identical twins. Now correct me if I am wrong, but killing either of the two same cells we just had previously would now again be murder… Even though when the cells were together it would have not been.

    But then what happens if these divide? Well again there will be two cells in each embryo, there by making the elimination of a single one no longer murder.

    Is there anything wrong with the above description of you ethical perspective? If so, what and why?

    It might help to include at least some direct response to the scenarios I present as it seems sometimes the responses don’t end up addressing the subject and it might help if they contains responses to the direct questions and propositions I have presented. Thanks.

  45. @John,

    “That doesn’t sound strange to you?”

    It should not be strange, unless you think it is impossible for an immoral act to have its negative consequences in the future rather than instantaneously?

    Is it strange that a time bomb is immoral even though it harms no one immediately upon being set, only later?

    • Once again, in the case of a time bomb or an apple tree sappling, we are all able to see that though what it is now is only “potentially” a thing that will do something that you would say makes it what we know it to be: a food producer, an exploding device. To disarm a ticking time bomb is to prevent it from exploding. You would likely recognize the moral obligation one would have to treat a ticking timebomb in a certain way, BECAUSE OF what it will become. You’d be crazy to say, “Oh sure, it’s 99.9% likely to explode later, but what it is NOW is not an exploding device. It hasn’t achieved ‘explosion-hood'”.

  46. I posted this under another comment thread here, but as you may have not seen it there, I will post it here.

    It describes the fact that if you subscribe to the view that the morally relevant human being begins at conception, then you would likely be committed to the idea that identical cells could exist, the death of one being murder, and the death of another not.

    –Maybe a brief description of some bizarre conclusions that as far as I see would necessarily result from the ethical reasoning that you seem to endorse.
    Let us say we are in the womb and observe a single sperm about to come into contact and fertilize an egg.
    Now at this point (correct me if I am wrong) you would not shed a single tear, feel a twinge of the conscience, or an ounce of empathy for either the sperm or egg. A million such sperms and eggs could be killed and it wouldn’t have any moral implications. I will point out in our scenario that left unabated this sperm will likely develop into an fully formed infant… But as of now they are merely impersonal living human cells carrying a set of genetic material.
    Some point immediately at or shortly after the egg and sperm come into contact (I don’t know if you have a specific stage of fertilization in mind), something significant happens making these immediately prior impersonal cells into a subject afforded all the basic human rights afforded any new born.
    Any attempt to prevent this single celled zygote from developing or termination is murder. This includes the occasional outcome of using many forms of birth control.
    Now let’s say this zygote undergoes a round or two of divisions to form a small set of undifferentiated cells. Now the termination of that initial cell is murder, but as soon as it divides, another identical cell (or even the very same cell) could be eliminated and that would not be murder… Unless you claim EVERY single cell is a “human being” for the purpose of moral evaluation, which would have rather crazy implications.
    So one second a single cell is a “human being” which it is moral unjustified to terminate, and then a second later it is just another cell capable of termination without remorse… The exact same identical cell.
    Now one cannot tell from a zygote exactly how many “persons” will develop. It could separate into identical twins, triplets, etc.
    So again we are observing this cell, it divides and thus becomes expendable… But what if it separates off from the rest of the blastocyte creating the potential for an identical twin. Now I am assuming you would consider terminating this separated cell murder… Again, despite being physiologically identical it has traveled back and forth from personhood, to non-personhood, to personhood… And if it divides again, back to non-personhood.
    At least that is what I would presume, despite the fact it doesn’t line up with criteria and conditions I have been presented. What I was presented with was that the relevant factors were that the zygote is genetically human (I criteria met by every single cell in your body), has an active metabolism (a criteria met by every single form of life, including the sperm and egg as well), it is genetically unique (something not true of an identical twin after division, and in fact only true of the initial zygote, but also true of various tumors, cancers, and any cell that has undergone genetic mutation).
    So again if one tries to be consistent with these principles one has to accept a bizarre understanding of what it essentially means to be human… Principles that would declare a cell a human being, as long as it is not a member of a collection of identical cells… At which point (though nothing specific to the cell itself has changed) it becomes a non-person, apparently do the context within which it exists.

  47. Austin,

    While a fertilized egg is indeed a single cell, it is also a complete human being at the earliest stage of development. Any other single cell of an adult human being is merely a single cell. You must also consider what it actually is, not what it is superficially. To say it is merely a single cell is simplistic and superficial. It is not merely a single cell. Conversely, a single skin cell, for example, will always only be a skin cell. It will never develop (at least not on its own) into a fully formed person. A fertilized egg, while being a single cell for the moment, is a fully formed human being. It is what it is supposed to be and look like at that particular stage of human development.

    Regarding the first cell division of the zygote, obviously you would be damaging, if not killing the person. I cannot seem to find any info, nor can I formulate the right query to find any info, that discusses the possibility of what you hypothesize. As identical twins originate during the initial period of cell division, it would seem, then, that it is possible dividing the first two of the initial cell division would result in twins, if each of the cells survive the process. Thus, to destroy one of the cells is akin to killing a twin.

    However, and again it is only speculation, I might assume that destroying either of the two initial cells would result in one of two possibilities:

    -The surviving cell would continue to divide and do so until the minimum required for the blastocyst to form.

    -The surviving cell would only go as far as that one cell was determined to go, leaving only half the required cells for the blastocyst to form and thus would likely be flushed from the body as a miscarriage. This means you would have killed a human being by destroying one of the two cells of the zygote’s initial division.

    Getting to your response to my last comment, you seem to like to state as true that which is not confirmed to be true. In that response, you made this statement:

    “There are significant factors to consider regarding the fact that the body of a brain dead individual belonged to the deceased and should be cared for as such, where as a
    zygote is not a person and thus has no independent rights from the mother
    .”

    First of all, the part about the brain dead person makes no sense. So what if his body “belonged” to the deceased (it still does “belong” to him until he is legally confirmed to be deceased)? That has nothing to do with the hypothetical presented by John. One must address it as if the brain dead person exists in a void without family or connection to anyone else. The question simply speaks to the morality of dismembering a person who is brain dead, won’t feel it, won’t know it is happening, isn’t aware of himself or anything else. By your standard, it is only a body, a carcass and nothing more. (This, of course, assumes that there is no possibility of resuscitation.)

    As to the emboldened bit, as an example of the “true” statements you make, you cannot simply say that the zygote is not a person to make the case that it is not a person and thus no murder has taken place. The argument involves whether or not a zygote is a person, and you haven’t made that case as yet. That it is not a person has not been established. Your reasons for your position are totally subjective. Ours are based on the fact that one cannot exist without having gone through the process of having been a zygote at the first moment of life. It must be a person due to the process by which it came about, a process that is employed to bring about a new generation.

    You do it again with the angle regarding “personal identity”. It exists in the zygote and did in the brain dead individual. That it is yet to be realized by the zygote and no longer will be by the dead guy is another subjective line drawn to allow for termination of either when convenient to do so. In other words, this line of demarcation is not factually established, either, simply because you prefer it to be. You have not proven a tie between such a condition and personhood.

    “… but I am curios whether you saw that as a form of suicide and and an ethical choice or not?”

    It could be argued that employing extraordinary life support measures when dying is likely without them is denying God His authority. But that aside, allowing one’s condition to run its course rather than insisting on the burdens of sustaining one’s life is suicide in the loosest sense of the word. It’s a recognition that the measures taken are futile and delaying what is more than inevitable. If it is suicide, it is akin to falling on a grenade or taking a bullet for someone else and thus ethical, if not moral.

    ““But a zygote is not sick, not injured and not in any more extraordinary a situation than any of us were at one time.”

    I am not sure what something’s ordinariness or general health has to do with “human rights” or “personhood” (whichever you prefer to use).

    ” It is not maintained by extraordinary means.”

    Again not sure why something’s ordinary or extra-ordinariness is relevant.”

    The point has to do with the attempt to compare the zygote with a brain dead person. Measures meant to sustain the life of the latter are extraordinary, as in not needed by the average person to maintain his life. The zygote’s location is where it is meant to be and its means of support is not extraordinary, but rather is natural and what every person has gone through in their beginning. It is not entirely honest to insist there is no distinction that makes a difference.

    “Removing a zygote or small clump of undifferentiated cells is far from leaving an infant to starve outside.”

    It is exactly the same. In each case you are depriving a human being of nourishment and shelter, leaving a person to fend for itself when clearly it can’t. Both are dependent upon the mother for survival, and since the zygote derives its nourishment from the mother, you are indeed starving it by removing it.

    I’m not using “natural” to determine morality. I’m using it to dispel the false comparisons you make between the unborn and brain dead people and what each is going through to live. The immorality is in that attempt, where the plain distinctions are ignored in favor of superficial comparisons used to justify the abortion.

    And here you set up another bad comparison. A cancer is indeed a natural occurrence in the sense that it happens all the time (not that it is natural for those who eat well, avoid unnatural elements being ingested, inhaled or absorbed through the skin). But a cancer is not a zygote/embryo/fetus/child. The zygote won’t kill the mother if left “untreated”, where a cancerous tumor might.

    “It is not that I zygote “has trouble” developing a relationship, it is a single cell devoid of any personal identity to even have a relationship with… There is no “person” there to have a relationship with.”

    More subjective reasoning. One does not expect a zygote to have a relationship at that point in its development anyway, though as soon as Mom realizes she’s pregnant, she’ll have one with the zygote (though probably a bit later). That ability absent at a stage when one cannot develop a relationship is irrelevant to its humanity and worth.

    “The point I am trying to draw out is what are the relevant feature that we are really concerned with when it comes to protecting human rights.”

    It’s the biological fact that we’re talking about human beings, and as a human being, it has all the rights of any other human being much older and more developed. THAT is the only relevant feature required and it is the basis for the debate. Is it a human being or not? Clearly, the answer is “yes”.

    I think I’ve covered all of your bases.

    • Absolutely. The first cell is 100% of what it is. After it divides, the original cell is 50% of the whole. Obviously, we all are now a collection of cells. Some cells will die. But all of the remaining living cells make up a complete living human being. To harm enough cells (the ones that form the barrier between blood and air, for example) to the extent that the rest will become unable to continue to live is what we call “killing” the human being. In the case of a zygote, one must only harm one cell to kill the whole. The whole thing that will become a walking, talking human being.

  48. By the way, I had forgotten the “maim vs. kill” argument. I gotta pat myself on the back for that one!

    Austintx fails to understand that he is saying that what the thing will become matters (to him), when what it will become doesn’t matter to him when we’re talking about destroying the fetus. Why doesn’t he say “you cannot maim a person that doesn’t exist”, and just allow me to make my future person son or daughter like me by cutting off one of his or her hands BEFORE the thing “becomes” a person? Because SOMETIMES, he thinks doing something harmful to a fetus is wrong.

    He should realize that it should also apply to killing it. But HE WANTS SO BADLY to be able to KILL FETUSES!

    • AND, until he answered the “maim vs. kill” question, he had kept his arguments to the fetus’s rights or lack thereof. NOW, when the prospect of maiming the fetus comes up, THE MOTHER’S INTENT to carry a maimed fetus to term is an issue!

      Until he considered the “maim vs. kill” question, it was only a matter of what gives a thing rights. “The thing needs to be a human person, complete with a personality to have human rights”. PERIOD. Whether or not the mother intended anything. If it doesn’t have human rights, we should be able to do ANYTHING to it that we would do to a rock! Right? “NO!”, says austintx. WHAT??? So it has the right not to be maimed? HOW CAN THAT BE? It’s not a “complete person” able to be afforded rights at all! Right???

      Of course we can’t morally maim a thing that is likely to become a “person”. It’s wrong to harm a HUMAN BEING. It’s wrong to murder a human being!

      The “maim vs. kill” question proves that its HUMANITY is the reason it’s wrong to harm it AT ALL. It is not a rock. It’s a complete human being who deserves to have a future (to live) and be protected from harm as best we can.

      • C2C

        I really thing you exposed one thing f the most fatal flaws on the philosophical reasoning used by proponents of abortion with your thought experiment. They are forced….forced to back pedal and assign rights and protections to the non person to prevent maiming.

        I say if person hood is so valuable, then why not make sure every “potential” person gets it. Its like saying it’s OK to rip up someones winning powerball ticket before they cash it in, because it was only a potential fortune.

        • That’s what I’m saying! If it’s to be protected, they should realize that the near certainty of it being obtained by the “clump of cells” should matter. And it DOES matter to them when you ask “May we maim it?”.

          They don’t seem to care. They admit that setting a time bomb is wrong because the thing they’re dealing with now (a ticking thing) will become something else (an exploding thing).

          An apple tree sapling will become a fruit-bearing thing. To destroy it now, though it doesn’t have the quality we value in an apple tree, will be to deny the world of its future fruit.

          But, they don’t afford a HUMAN sapling that chance.

          • Why do we pay the same full price for fruit that isn’t quite ripe yet that we do fully ripe fruit?

            • So many “real world” examples. Of course, we are saying that a fetus IS what is to be protected: a human being. But they ignore the potential of a fetus.

              What is the perfect liberal example? What thing do they fight for based on potential? More school fundig?

            • Good point. An avocado, for example. One that’s not ripe is the same price as a ripe one. What it will become is important. It has less immediate nutritional value to us at the moment. Why is it not valued less? Because it is the thing that it is: an avocado.

  49. I’ve never really looked at how the definition of personhood was designed around abortion.

    We start with two groups of people: those who say abortion is wrong, and those who, first and foremost, want it to be legal (without any thought to morals).

    We say: These are human beings. Scientifically and logically, even the zygote is a complete human being. There is a time when a human being comes into existence: as soon as the new human’s DNA appears (fertilization). We cannot morally kill a human being without just cause. And we have a responsibility to protect human beings from harmed. That covers everyone equally.

    They say: Hmmm… They’re right about our responsibilities to human beings. But… We really want women to be able to kill their unborn offspring. What to do? AHA! Legal Personhood! It’s not enough to be human. It has to be able to think and hope and dream and smoke pot! THEN it’s a person! Ha! Go ahead and kill that fetus!

    It really is a set of criteria designed for one thing. It’s not recognition of moral truths. It’s an attempt to work around them by picking things older humans can do and pointing out that the young can’t.

    Why stop there? Why not decide what kind of thought must be achieved? Why not say that only humans who have “achieved” liberalism are worthy of protection? Why would that be any different? We have a human being in front of us. WE pick some criteria and call them THE criteria for legal AND moral AND natural rights. Because WE say it, it must be true.

    There’s nothing that can be said to be arbitrary about OUR criteria. The things we share with all human beings at any age ARE our criteria: alive, human. THAT’S a recognition of truth. WE don’t just say it. We SEE it!

  50. austintxmusicteacher says:

    I greatly apologize for commenting at the other post before reading these posts, I did not realize so much had been written here when I responded over there.

    I am still rather busy but am enjoying the conversation and all of your responses. I will try my best to respond to some of these points a piece at a time. Hopefully I will get to some of it tonight.

    Thanks again for the intelligent replies.

  51. @Marshalart,

    “While a fertilized egg is indeed a single cell, it is also a complete human being at the earliest stage of development.”

    I commented on this in the other comment section, but what do you mean by it being a “Complete Human?” It is a fertilized egg, a zygote. I have no idea what you are trying to say or convey with terms such as “completely” or “fully.”

    “It is not merely a single cell.” A zygote is just a single cell… the “merely” was simply a matter of emphasis to distinguish it from an embryo more fully developed. In addition, the fact that it will potentially develop into further cells or even eventually an adult human being does not change the fact that at the moment it is a zygote… a single cell… as a matter of scientific fact… by definition.

    “Conversely, a single skin cell, for example, will always only be a skin cell.”

    The fact that the likelihood that a single skin cell will develop into any other kind of cell is very low does not make it become numerically fewer cells than a single zygote cell. I understand that you place much greater value on the zygote, whether or not that value is justified is the topic of discussion.

    “A fertilized egg, while being a single cell for the moment, is a fully formed human being. It is what it is supposed to be and look like at that particular stage of human development.”

    Again, what do you mean by “fully formed?” And what do you mean “supposed” to be and look like?

    Biologically that is how fetuses develop… if that is what you mean by “supposed to” then fine, but what does that have to do with the zygote’s moral status? If a zygote is developing abnormally (not how it is “supposed to”) is it no longer a human being? I am completely unsure of the relevance of these claims. I don’t think our disagreement is a matter of me not knowing medical facts about the fetuses development.

    “Regarding the first cell division of the zygote, obviously you would be damaging, if not killing the person. I cannot seem to find any info, nor can I formulate the right query to find any info, that discusses the possibility of what you hypothesize.”

    I am not sure why you would expect to find information on this type of procedure being performed, or why that is relevant. Nothing I proposed is incredibly “science fictiony” or impossible, but I don’t see what medical purpose actually performing the scenario I describe would serve (although doctors due perform selective abortions in cases of multiple fetuses), it is merely to illustrate a point.

    “Thus, to destroy one of the cells is akin to killing a twin.”

    Are you speaking of before or after it has differentiated itself from the other cell? If it is paired with it’s sister cell there is no reason to presume it will twin itself, so are you saying regardless of circumstance and positioning every single undifferentiated cell should be considered a separate person?

    “-The surviving cell would continue to divide and do so until the minimum required for the blastocyst to form.”

    Why would it not continue to divide and form a blastocyst? If the remaining cell is undamaged it is of little matter to it that it must undergo a single extra cell division among millions.

    “you seem to like to state as true that which is not confirmed to be true.”

    The sentence you quote was me stating my position, not an argument. I don’t think it is outside the bounds of logical discourse to state one’s position, my defense of that position is elsewhere in my comments. I do not hold it against you that you make assertions, even unfounded ones, but one should be able to defend an assertion if it is questioned.

    “First of all, the part about the brain dead person makes no sense. So what if his body ‘belonged’ to the deceased (it still does ‘belong’ to him until he is legally confirmed to be deceased)?”

    Brain dead IS legally dead in almost all U.S. states… so I am not sure the issue is with that part. The point of my statement was that I wanted to agree with you that there are significant differences between a zygote and a brain dead body. That particular point being that despite the person’s death, their wishes and considerations concerning the treatment of their bodies are still morally relevant in a similar way to a deceased wishes regarding their personal belongings are still relevant.

    None of this seems to cast doubt on my use of it in regards to the moral issue of personhood is concerned however.

    “By your standard, it is only a body, a carcass and nothing more. (This, of course, assumes that there is no possibility of resuscitation.)”

    As far as I know, no one has ever been resuscitated from a state of true brain death. And although technically a brain dead person is “only a body, a carcass…” it should be treated with the same sense of respect one would have for any other corpse… I am not advocating doctors being allowed to do anything they please with a dead body, if that is what you are suggesting.

    “you cannot simply say that the zygote is not a person to make the case that it is not a person and thus no murder has taken place.”

    Where have I ever made such an argument? Again, there is a difference between making an argument and stating a position.

    “The argument involves whether or not a zygote is a person, and you haven’t made that case as yet.”

    I actually HAVE been making that argument. My argument falls along pretty standard lines of argumentation. I believe my criteria and moral framework better account for common moral beliefs and facts about the world, with greater explanatory scope and fewer difficulties, contradictions, and counterintuitive artifacts. Short of beginning from the ground up meta-ethically, this seems like the soundest way for me to present my case.

    For instance, my criteria explain why most people would find it reasonable and moral (and not a case of murder) to have a heart transplant, but WOULD consider it immoral and murderous to give someone a brain transplant… as far as I can tell there is no accounting for that within the criteria any of you have given to me. So my account has greater explanatory scope and more naturally fits as an explanation of ethical attitudes than does yours.

    I will admit that I have probably spent more time trying to demonstrate why I believe your views to be faulty than I have fully fleshing out my position for sure, but I have only had so much time and have often been worried that my posts would be ignored if too long.

    Although I realize that this post has been grossly inadequate to address all the concerns above, I will have to continue on more later, thank you for your time.

    • Yes, the zygote is a complete human being, because it’s a “fully formed” zygote. It is all that it is. Just as an embryo is a complete embryo. It’s not a part of something else. It is the entire thing that it is. To stop the whole, it is necessary to harm a certain percentage of the cells that make it up. One must destroy 100% of a zygote’s cell to destroy the whole thing. One must only destroy a smaller percentage of an older human being’s cells to kill the whole.

      A child may be two feet tall. Hardly a fully grown adult, but the child is FULLY two feet tall. And fully human. And NOT fully developed. That a thing is less massive than an older one of the same type does not make it not completely itself. A zygote is human and completely a zygote.

      Does that explain our stance on the “completeness” issue?

    • I’d like you to acknowledge that if we have a ticking time bomb in front of us, we are morally obligated to treat it in a certain way, even though what it is to become is not what it is now. What it is to become is a device that has completed the circuit needed to detonate the explosive material. What it is now is merely a thing making a ticking noise.

      Isn’t what it will become important to our moral obligation in how we treat it now?

  52. As for DNA:

    You want to take traits that define the human species (able to think and possess a personality) to determine whether a thing is a human being. This is not necessary. An infant is not able to meet these criteria. Before a baby walks, it crawls. A trait that humans have is that they walk upright. So, a crawling baby would appear to be more feline than human, right? This is how absurd it is to try to use the traits of fully grown humans to determine a very young thing in front of us.

    DNA is a relatively recent discovery, but it is an absolute indicator of species. We know that a crawling baby is human because it has human DNA. The same can be said of a fetus.

    The argument that because a peice of a fingernail has human DNA, it must be protected based on our criteria is ridiculous. First, the fingernail is not a complete human being. Second, it is not alive. Third, it is not capable of becoming anything more than what it happens to be now.

    DNA is not the only criterion. It’s one of a few criteria.

  53. @Conservative2cents,

    “I’d like you to acknowledge that if we have a ticking time bomb in front of us, we are morally obligated to treat it in a certain way, even though what it is to become is not what it is now.”

    Would like me to acknowledge? I am the one who brought up the example of a time-bomb in the first place to illustrate that something need not cause immediate harm to be immoral and harmful… So I am not sure what I have not “acknowledged.”

    The purpose of that argument was that an act can be immoral by virtue of its consequences, even if those consequences are not immediate.

    If you read what I had written above I would hope this would be clear. To basically repeat myself, let us say we have a woman named Jane. Jane is not CURRENTLY pregnant, but is attempting to become pregnant and have a child with her husband.

    Though Jane is NOT PREGNANT she decides to intentionally take a pill named X-erol. X-erol is a drug who’s sole purpose is to alter a woman’s ova so that if fertilized they will produce armless, legless children…

    Now even according to your criteria, no human being, person, fetus, etc. exists, yet to me it seems this is clearly an immoral act on Jane’s part, even though the harm is only to a potential child that does not yet exist…. This would be equivalent to the case of someone mutilating a fetus that is not a person from the perspective of my ethical framework.

    You seem to be confusing this (from my view rather straightforward) account of actions and consequences with an argument about something’s moral ontology.

    You seem to be making the fallacious argument that because a zygote will likely develop into an infant, it therefore is morally equivalent to an infant.

    This is clearly a different issue from that of the time bomb.

    This would be like me saying:

    Dead bodies should be buried 6ft underground.

    Your body will one day die.

    Therefore you should be buried 6ft underground.

    This is obviously an invalid deduction.

    (I apologize again for not having enough time right now to address more of the points you make)

  54. austintxmusicteacher

    An sleeping adult human lacks of “thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, preferences, etc.”. So according to your criteria it’s not a person and you could kill him without moral concern.

    If you only care of what actually is, you cannot recall to what have been or what will be (potential).

    “The purpose of that argument was that an act can be immoral by virtue of its consequences, even if those consequences are not immediate.”

    Killing a sleeping adult human have the same consequences that killing an human embryo or fetus by abortion. An human being and non-person (according to your criteria) death.

  55. @Isu,
    “An sleeping adult human lacks of ‘thoughts, feelings, memories, desires, preferences, etc.’. So according to your criteria it’s not a person and you could kill him without moral concern.”

    A sleeping person does not lack these… Do you think you only love your family (assuming you do) while you are consciously thinking to yourself “I love my family?”

    Although, like essentially everything, there are philosopher’s who would likely debate this point, I think by far most people would agree that one must not be actively expressing or consciously thinking of a desire, preference, memory, etc. to hold one.

    I am also not referring to a preference, desire, etc. in a high order sense. I mean a preference, desire, etc. in the sense that frog, mouse, etc. has a preference, desire, etc.

    “If you only care of what actually is, you cannot recall to what have been or what will be (potential).”

    I do not dispute that a zygote is a potential person… As is a sperm a potential person. I could potentially become governor of a state, that does not mean I suddenly have the right to veto legislation. This is just a fallacious argument, unless someone here can actually present it in a formulation that is logical and sound I am not sure what more I can say about it.

    “Killing a sleeping adult human have the same consequences that killing an human embryo or fetus by abortion. An human being and non-person (according to your criteria) death.”

    See above. I also already addressed in an earlier comment (although it may be at the other post) that I am not speaking of “consciousness.” Someone being unconscious does not void their preferences, desires, dispositions…. Personhood, etc.

    By the way, I still have not seen someone formulate a reasonable set of criteria supporting your pro-life position.

    I presented one a while ago (that John said he agreed with) and showed why it was problematic.

    Can you provide a description or set of criteria that would support your position?

    • A sperm is not a potential person. It is only half of what it takes to make an actual person. An actual person comes into existence at a specific time. Before fertilization, there is not a thing that can be identified as the thing that will become an individual embryo, teen, or retiree. The zygote is that thing. Fertilization was the event that brought YOU into existence. It is truly the beginning of an individual human being’s life.

      You put too much emphasis on a human’s abilities. I’m not trying to pull a fast one, but you really may just as well put “walking upright” on your list of criteria.

      Furthermore, your insistence that a fetus doesn’t even have the infrastructure to support brain function/personality is just wrong. The zygote has all it needs. It has a plan: DNA. DNA directs it to multiply. It directs it to attach itself to the mother. It is what makes it something other than just a thing. Left alone, the zygote will not become something else. It will grow into an older, larger, more able thing of the exact same thing it already is: an individual living human being.

      Laws against murder are not concerned with the murdered human being’s ability. Only that the murdered was a living human being. This is clear from laws that make it possible for a person to be charged with two murders when he kills a pregnant woman. There is no question of the fetus’s ability or the mother’s intent or wishes. It’s just the killing of a living human being that makes it another murder.

      Would you prefer that that was not the case? Would you argue that the law is unjust?

      What if the woman didn’t want the baby? A person who only destroyed the fetus would be charged with murder, regardless of the mother’s wishes. Would that be unjust?

  56. @austintxmusicteacher
    “A sleeping person does not lack these… Do you think you only love your family (assuming you do) while you are consciously thinking to yourself “I love my family?”

    So if consciousness is not necessary, neither it is for the embryo or fetus “I want to live”.

    “Although, like essentially everything, there are philosopher’s who would likely debate this point, I think by far most people would agree that one must not be actively expressing or consciously thinking of a desire, preference, memory, etc. to hold one.”

    So neither the embryo nor the fetus.

    “I am also not referring to a preference, desire, etc. in a high order sense. I mean a preference, desire, etc. in the sense that frog, mouse, etc. has a preference, desire, etc.”

    The same for the embryo and the fetus.

    “I do not dispute that a zygote is a potential person… As is a sperm a potential person. I could potentially become governor of a state, that does not mean I suddenly have the right to veto legislation. This is just a fallacious argument, unless someone here can actually present it in a formulation that is logical and sound I am not sure what more I can say about it.”

    person: a human being regarded as an individual.
    When abortion is performed an human being is killed. This human being can be told apart from the mother (individual).
    A sperm is not an individual, it is a man’s reproductive cell.
    Abortion do not kill a potential person, it kills an actual person.

    “See above. I also already addressed in an earlier comment (although it may be at the other post) that I am not speaking of “consciousness.” Someone being unconscious does not void their preferences, desires, dispositions…. Personhood, etc.”

    Thus embyo or fetus don’t need consciousnees for their preferences, desires and dispositions.

    “By the way, I still have not seen someone formulate a reasonable set of criteria supporting your pro-life position.”

    We have a spanish saying that translated to engish is:
    There is no worst blind than the one who doesn’t want to see.

    “I presented one a while ago (that John said he agreed with) and showed why it was problematic.

    Can you provide a description or set of criteria that would support your position?”

    I have introduced the definition of what a person is.
    And I consider that a person who has actual or potential conscious self-awareness has the right to live.

  57. @Isu

    “So if consciousness is not necessary, neither it is for the embryo or fetus ‘I want to live’.”

    Consciousness is not necessary to possess a desire/attitude/disposition… This does not mean that a zygote possesses these as it is quite clear scientifically that our desires/attitudes/etc. are based in the brain. A zygote does not possess a nervous system of any kind, therefore it is impossible for the zygote to have the physical structures necessary to have desires/attitudes/etc.

    “person: a human being regarded as an individual.”

    I am not entirely clear as to what this means, but as I use it a zygote is not an “individual.” It has no personal attributes (desires/dispositions/etc.). Aside from the fact that it almost certainly possesses a unique genetic code at the moment, there are no attributes to make any one zygote an “individual,” in the sense of a unique personal being.

    Before you say the DNA makes it unique I would point out once again that identical twins have identical DNA, yet we still consider them individuals, so that criteria logically cannot be what is meant by “individual” in this moral sense.

    “When abortion is performed an human being is killed. This human being can be told apart from the mother (individual). A sperm is not an individual, it is a man’s reproductive cell.”

    Gametes can easily be distinguished from the producer of those gametes. If you mean genetically distinct, see my comment above.

    “Abortion do not kill a potential person, it kills an actual person.”

    I dispute this claim.

    “Thus embyo or fetus don’t need consciousnees for their preferences, desires and dispositions.”

    But they do, at bare minimum(!), need a nervous system.

    “We have a spanish saying that translated to engish is:
    There is no worst blind than the one who doesn’t want to see.”

    Good saying. However I want to be an ethical person and have done my best to avoid cognitive biases and follow rational principals of logic and reasoning in coming to my views, moral and otherwise. Obviously you don’t have to believe this to be true, and obviously even if true I could be using faulty reasoning, unsound principals, or illogical inferences. If I have done this I would much like to know as I think there is likely no greater principal of thought than striving for true beliefs.

    As yet I have seen many interesting views and impassioned defenses, but no reasonable case as to why it makes more sense to abandon my current view and pick up yours.

    “I have introduced the definition of what a person is.
    And I consider that a person who has actual or potential conscious self-awareness has the right to live.”

    Why is something’s “potential” consciousness important? A zygote isn’t even “potentially” conscious anyways, it has the potential to develop into an organism that is conscious, but itself is incapable of consciousness.

    Sorry for being repetitive, but I do want to stress again my great appreciation and respect for you in engaging in this conversation. If I ever make a statement that sounds unfairly disparaging or dismissive, that is truly not my intention as I am doing my best to strongly present my position in a respectful matter and appreciate your time.

    • You seek to deprive the world of the fruits of the ones who are aborted. What we lose when we kill a zygote is opportunity.

      2% of the world’s population are geniuses. We’ve aborted 30-50 million babies since 1973, legally. The low end estimate, then, is 600,000 non-person things were destroyed that WERE LIKELY to become geniuses. IT MATTERS that we missed the opportunity to benefit from their minds.

      Lost opportunity is real. That’s why you would owe the farmer, whose sapling you destroy, for the lost apple production. That’s why companies, whose unsafe working conditions cause a worker to become disabled, are MORALLY OBLIGATED to pay him for lost FUTURE wages.

      Abortion is immoral because what you are killing is the only thing that can do and be what you find worthy of protecting. It’s not killing something that it isn’t. It’s killing something that is.

      Don’t you see that what it will become is the reason for most abortions? It will become a financial burden. It will become something that will interfere with school or work. OF COURSE what it will become is important. Otherwise, it would not be an issue.

      • C2C

        Don’t you see that what it will become is the reason for most abortions? It will become a financial burden. It will become something that will interfere with school or work. OF COURSE what it will become is important. Otherwise, it would not be an issue.

        Abortion is cheap, and babies are costly, both in time and money — hence the ferocity for which abortion is defended.

        • It doesn’t matter how we treat it, because it has as much standing as a rock…

          UNLESS…

          the woman doesn’t want what it will become, OR you intend to harm it, so that it becomes a wounded person, OR if someone other than a hired doctor does it, in which case, it’s murder.

          ONLY WHEN YOU HIRE A DOCTOR TO KILL IT does it NOT matter what it will become, because what it is is not what it will become!

          That, apparently, is Austintxmusicteacher’s position. Very reasoned, and not at all inconsistent!

          I tell you, if Austintx doesn’t change his mind on the logic of his stance, I won’t at all be surprised. He’ll continue thinking that he’s being reasonable and we’re missing the point!

  58. @austintxmusicteacher

    “Consciousness is not necessary to possess a desire/attitude/disposition… This does not mean that a zygote possesses these as it is quite clear scientifically that our desires/attitudes/etc. are based in the brain. A zygote does not possess a nervous system of any kind, therefore it is impossible for the zygote to have the physical structures necessary to have desires/attitudes/etc.”

    I see no diference between been guided by one physical system or another when it cames to desire/attitude/disposition.
    A rock driven by gravity (physics) has the same desire that a baby guided by brain (physics).
    Physic is one fenomenon, Mind is another phenomenon. They are correlated but there is no scientifical theory about how mind pops up from physics. Could you tell me the physical structure of “pseudoscience” idea?

    “I am not entirely clear as to what this means, but as I use it a zygote is not an “individual.” It has no personal attributes (desires/dispositions/etc.). Aside from the fact that it almost certainly possesses a unique genetic code at the moment, there are no attributes to make any one zygote an “individual,” in the sense of a unique personal being.”

    He/she has the personal attributes shown in the definition: humanhood and individualness.
    And of course he or she is unique: there is and there won’t be an equal personal being.

    “Before you say the DNA makes it unique I would point out once again that identical twins have identical DNA, yet we still consider them individuals, so that criteria logically cannot be what is meant by “individual” in this moral sense.”

    I’m not saying that DNA makes it unique. DNA makes “it” human.
    They are individuals, as I said, because you can tell them apart from the mother (and from other human beings).

    “Gametes can easily be distinguished from the producer of those gametes. If you mean genetically distinct, see my comment above.”

    They are still producer’s cells. They are part of producer.

    “I dispute this claim.”

    By making an ad hoc definition of what a person is?

    “But they do, at bare minimum(!), need a nervous system.”

    With your consciousless “desire” I don’t see any need of an specific automatic physical system.

    “Good saying. However I want to be an ethical person and have done my best to avoid cognitive biases and follow rational principals of logic and reasoning in coming to my views, moral and otherwise. Obviously you don’t have to believe this to be true, and obviously even if true I could be using faulty reasoning, unsound principals, or illogical inferences. If I have done this I would much like to know as I think there is likely no greater principal of thought than striving for true beliefs.”

    I’m truly skeptical of your position.
    You have made a case so any animal with brain would be a person. Do you really think so? Do you think if I kill an adult cow I should be charged by murderer?
    Do you think you didn’t exist prior to having a brain?
    If I would kill your child when in the mother’s womb (not having a brain) won’t you really think I shouldn’t be charged by murderer?
    Tell me the truth, please.

    “As yet I have seen many interesting views and impassioned defenses, but no reasonable case as to why it makes more sense to abandon my current view and pick up yours.”

    My case is reasonable, but if you pick up another principles there is no way to convince you. It’s a real problem in reason and logical thinking.

    “Why is something’s “potential” consciousness important? A zygote isn’t even “potentially” conscious anyways, it has the potential to develop into an organism that is conscious, but itself is incapable of consciousness.”

    And a sleeping adult person has the potential to develop self-consciousness (but at the sleeping time actual-ly hasn’t).

    “Sorry for being repetitive, but I do want to stress again my great appreciation and respect for you in engaging in this conversation. If I ever make a statement that sounds unfairly disparaging or dismissive, that is truly not my intention as I am doing my best to strongly present my position in a respectful matter and appreciate your time.”

    Don’t worry for being repetitive.
    But I really think that your position is ad-hoc and inconsistent.

  59. @John & @C2C,

    Since I have now addressed the issue of maiming a fetus for the 3rd or 4th time, are you willing to recognize that there is no inconsistency on my part?

    • Not at all. You just agree with us that maiming a non-person human is wrong. Any 5year old would agree.

      Where your inconsistency lies is in the fact that you say that what the non-person may become doesn’t matter.

      You refuse to answer the apple tree question, because it clearly proves that destroying a thing that has yet to achieve the abilities we value has moral implications.

  60. @C2C,

    I responded in the other comment section on Dec. 11 at 2:15. So no, I am not avoiding it for that reason.

    • You did avoid it even on December 11. What the sapling will become matters. Your Dec. 11 answer was basically “Yeah… But”.

      Why is it that whether it’s an apple tree, or a factory, or a maimed fetus, what it will become or do matters ethically, but not when we’re talking about killing a fetus?

      The farmer is not “the mother” in the apple tree scenario. The farmer’s future livelihood is the fetus’s future life. Your analysis of what it is to kill a fetus is akin to likening destroying mere non-producing apple tree saplings to mowing the lawn. Why couldn’t my defense be “I didn’t destroy the thing the farmer values. I merely destroyed something that wasn’t”?

      I swear, I cannot take you seriously until you say “Yes. In the case of the apple tree sapling, what it will become through only its natural development matters. It is the reason I’d be held accountable for destroying it before it matures. Its likely future ability makes it valuable now and worthy of protection”.

      And I’ll need you to admit that abortion would not exist but for the likelihood that a mere zygote will “become” an older, more capable human being that, though unwanted, would be seen by you as something that is worthy of protection.

      Otherwise, I’m done.

  61. @C2C,

    “Not at all. You just agree with us that maiming a non-person human is wrong.”

    The argument, as I understood it, was that I was being inconsistent, both saying that a fetus/zygote/etc. was not a person and thus incapable of being murdered, then turning around and saying it was immoral to injure it if it was going to be carried to term.

    I explained how this is neither a contradiction nor inconsistent… Do you have a response or are you going to simply assert that I am wrong?

    Don’t take this the wrong way but I feel like there is a reluctance to actually address what I say sometimes. I made arguments and while I haven’t addressed all the counter-arguments, I am doing my best to do so and on their own terms.

    Your response made no mention of my examples or arguments at all, so if you do have a valid response I have no idea what it is.

    • The sapling IS protected because it is what it is: the thing that will develop the abilities that make it valuable later.

      The same is true for the fetus. YOUR CRITERIA for personhood are what YOU SAY you value. You should recognize the fetus as the only type of thing that will develop the traits you say you value. It is what it will be later: a human being.

      I’m done. I believe that you value abortion more than you value personhood as you define it. You are not being logical. And I have no hope that you ever will be on this issue. You will only ever try to come up with what you think are clever turns of phrase to defend killing a certain class of human beings.

  62. @conservative2cents,

    You apparently already discounted my response to the sapling question before I had even finished writing it!

    That is fine if you don’t feel up to the task of debating this topic. You are free to do whatever you want. I am just surprised at your reluctance to even debate the topic and your insistence on disparaging me and motives rather than addressing my arguments.

    You don’t seem very interested in discussing this topic, which is fine. If you are too busy, uninterested, or unable to discuss and defend your position that is fine.

    “I swear, I cannot take you seriously until you say ‘Yes. In the case of the apple tree sapling, what it will become through only its natural development matters. It is the reason I’d be held accountable for destroying it before it matures. Its likely future ability makes it valuable now and worthy of protection.”

    Demanding that I agree with something? Seriously? That is probably the saddest debate tactic there is… And the funny thing is you probably didn’t even need to, because I think I might agree with you in this statement.

    My only issues are that you say “naturally develop,” I don’t know what you mean by “naturally,” is agriculture “natural?” I think the farmer would be entitled to compensation for any reasonably expected returns, whether attained through the natural development of the trees or not (like you agreed, a factory would suffice).

    Secondly, you are right that farmers tend to value fruit trees for what they produce, not their mere existence. But here we are speaking of subjective economic value, I don’t think the value of human life should usually be considered on such economic grounds. You don’t think human value is derived from the same principals as commodity values do you? Then how is it at all analogous?

    “And I’ll need you to admit that abortion would not exist but for the likelihood that a mere zygote will ‘become’ an older, more capable human being that, though unwanted, would be seen by you as something that is worthy of protection.”

    The majority of abortions are natural miscarriages. Of elective abortions they are probably to prevent a child from entering their lives, of course. Although in addition some of them are a result of the use of birth control (obviously to prevent pregnancy, but also resulting in the abortion of embryos) and some are as a result of people trying to have a child through in vitro fertilization, and some from stem cell research… Off the top of my head those are the majority of reasons I can think of… Of course this is a matter of factual claims so I could double check if you wish.

    Considering how appropriate you find it to demand I answer, respond, and agree to specific things, why are you not terribly concerned with addressing my questions and comments?

    • I’ll continue. Thank you for addressing the apple tree question. It’s analogous because the sapling is not currently able to produce what is the ultimate value it brings. It happens to be worth money to the farmer. But it, as a sapling, cannot be said to be the thing that is valuable. What it is now is just as valuable as a weed.

      Just as a fetus is as able to think and feel and dream and plan (your criteria for protection) as a rock is. As you have finally acknowledged, the sapling is valuable now because it is what is valuable. It’s the only thing that will develop the abilities we value.

      What’s strange is that you ask whether a human’s value be determined the same way (economically) we would value a commodity. Of course not. But at some point, a living thing that will become more able, to an extent that its value will be recognized. The tree will produce fruit. The fetus will develop a personality. Before that happens, it is still valuable because it is the thing that will do or be what is to be valued.

      There are many things that are valuable now for what they will be or do in the future.

      THIS is the issue. This is where we differ. I’m trying to show that personhood (as you define it) isn’t what makes a thing worthy of protection. Personhood (as you define it) is amazing! It IS worthy of protection. It should be allowed to be achieved.

      I’m not going to buy a bunch of bananas, taste one that hasn’t ripened, and throw the rest out. I’m going to protect the banana so that it will be good to eat later. And that’s a banana!

      Why would you not extend that courtesy to a human being?

      By the way, I insisted that you acknowledge your belief. Not that you change your mind to agree with me. You have acknowledged that what will happen in the future matters now. Whether it has to do with a tree, an unripened banana, or a factory, what will happen, or even what is likely to happen matters.

      You mention miscarriages. That some pregnancies end in miscarriage has no bearing on our decision to kill a fetus. Some 5-year-olds die. “Personality” aside, the fact that some die has no bearing on the morality of hiring a doctor to kill one. My advice: don’t mention miscarriages in these discussions. It’s silly. They’re not abortions in the way that we’re discussing abortion. A man intent on logical discussion would not resort to equivocation.

  63. C2C,

    Just one point of contention with your argument: The question of person hood is not a matter of potential. Not to me and many other anti-abortion people. From the moment of conception, we’re talking about a person. That is why we defend them. The counter argument is that it is not a person and thus to terminate is not a moral issue. The only rational notion of potential is the potential of the zygote developing further into what most zygotes become if not restricted. But becoming a person is not one of them. It already is one. It has the potential to become two cells, 32 cells, an embryo, fetus, infant, and so on up to a retiree in Florida during the winter, but a human being, a person, the whole while.

    So the issue is a matter of providing something objective that suggests a zygote is not yet a person worthy of being allowed to live out its life. Thus far, the criteria are wholly subjective. Considering the zygote is the result of the process designed for bringing into existence a new person, that it can be nothing else is the starting point that must be rebuked. Subjective criteria doesn’t cut it.

    • Marshalart, you are 100% correct. I’ve said many times that only a thing that will become an older one is the thing itself, from the moment it comes into existence (fertilization). If it’s a person after birth, it was before. We agree.

      I’m merely trying to point out that even if the reason we value an individual’s life is because of the traits Austintx says make a thing a person, HE SHOULD value the zygote, too.

      We can’t just say a zygote is a person. Of course, it is. But there’s a reason that it is. It’s the thing that will grow into whatever THEY say a person is. Therefore, THEY should protect it. That it is not a walking, talking human being now shouldn’t make the difference. What it will “become” should matter TO THEM.

      We all agree that there are things that will become different later and that that is reason enough to protect them now. An apple tree sapling, an unripened banana, a building in development. Why is it that only a fetus’s potential future abilities don’t factor into their decision on how it may be treated? They would not defend the destruction of a thousand apple tree saplings by saying “I didn’t destroy a thing that has the traits we value in apple trees, so I’m not responsible for ANY ‘potential’ apple production. I can not have destroyed something that never existed”. But that is Austintx’s stance on abortion. My point is that what was destroyed in the apple tree hypothetical WAS an apple tree. Even though it had not acheived the abilities that one might say are the criteria for apple tree-hood: the ability to produce apples. The point is that we may just as well say that because apple production is what we value in an apple tree, until the physical infrastructure is in place to support it, the apple tree doesn’t exist. It’s just as ludicrous and arbitrary. AND it would only be something one SAYS in defense of killing a young apple tree.

      You have to see that even we protect a fetus because of what it will become. We do everything we can to make sure mothers are getting the right nutrition. We don’t harm the mother. We want the baby to develop in a good environment so that it will become healthy.

      We have to argue their point. Especially when it goes against other examples that are so similar. Their argument doesn’t make sense, even if we grant them “personhood”.

      “Personhood” really is only ad-hoc criteria. It is only meant to defend killing young human beings. It is not why killing someone with the traits they say make a thing a person is wrong. It’s not what makes a thing “a complete” human being. It’s not even legally what makes killing a human murder!

  64. C2C,

    I think I get what you’re trying to say, but I still have trouble with the strategy. We protect the fetus because of what it is. I fear using the phrase “what it will become” because it implies that it is not yet what it is, a person regardless of its stage of development or quantity and quality of characteristics. It seems a statement with a high potential for trouble for our side of the debate.

    • I don’t think it’s any more trouble to say that a fetus can’t think than to say that an infant can’t walk. Why not say, “You’re right! Young human beings don’t have the abilities older human beings do. So what? Your arbitrary criteria may as well include ‘walking upright’!”?

      This line of argument doesn’t take away from your correct statement: it is a person as it exists. It shows how our criteria are not only objective and verifiable at any stage, but that they must not even value what they say they value, or they’d protect it just as they keep a bunch of bananas safe until they ripen!

  65. So I was in the middle of responding to many of the issues that have been posted when I thought of another way of going about demonstrating my position.

    Let’s begin with an adult. You both agree that despite its cells being genetically human, removing or killing them is not murder, because the skin cells are not the person.

    What or where is the person though? If I remove an individual’s foot, they are still a “full” person in the moral sense, I think we would agree. The foot by contrast, even if attached to equipment which keeps it alive and growing, is not a person. Same if both feet were removed. Okay, what about the hands? If we remove the hands they neither become individual persons nor void the originator’s personhood. Same with the arms and the legs.

    Now if we kept the arms, legs, feet, etc. alive, why are they not the person instead of the remaining torso? You can’t simply say now that it is because the the arms, legs, etc. are only a part of the person, therefore not a person, because I could easily say the same thing about the remaining torso, it is only “part” of the human body. Is it merely a matter of weight, as soon as the pile of limbs and organs becomes greater than the head and torso pile they will become the person? Of course not. So how do you explain this, why is the torso the person and not the arms, legs, etc.?

    I could obviously keep going as well. What if I removed their heart and replaced it with a mechanical heart? Liver? Kidneys?

    Why can I remove most of the body and yet still leave the completely morally intact individual person behind? How do you explain this? Nothing you have said so far explains why this would be true? What body part needs to be removed before the person no longer remains and why? How do you determine which collection of human flesh is the person and which is not?

    • It’s not a matter of which part you remove. Abortion is not a matter of destroying parts of a human being. Death is the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism. In the case of an adult, destroying a single cell won’t kill the adult human. Destroying a zygote (a single cell), does cause an organism to die. You are not being logical. You’re trying to say that a thing must have abilities before it is what it is.

      I’ll agree with you that YOUR criteria for personhood depend on an active brain. But, your criteria are not what makes us basically human. They’re merely traits possessed by older human beings than a fetus at some age.

      The fetus is a human being. It is the same thing you are, with fewer abilities due to its youth.

      You’re going to say that I haven’t addressed your comment. But, to do so, I must first concede the point that YOUR criteria are correct. I can’t do that. You can’t tell me when your idea of actual personhood is achieved, past “about 20 weeks”. If there is a precise moment past which killing a young human being would be actually killing a “person”, wouldn’t you want to know what that was?

      Our criteria are ACTUALLY what we have in common. They are why a fetus ACTUALLY IS what is to be protected. They are physically identifiable. And I can point to a precise moment they came to exist. At fertilization, an entire organism begins its life.

      If that human life form was not a person, you wouldn’t have to kill it. You are not preventing a person from becoming. You’re killing THE PERSON you don’t want!

      The fetus IS the person.

  66. @C2C,

    You are right, you didn’t address my question.

    I have a bunch more I have written in response but I first would like to get you (in what would be a rare instance) to respond to my questions.

    Responding DOES NOT require you to agree with “my criteria,” I asked questions and (unlike you) did not demand that you agree with certain statements. The only statements and criteria I assume (feel free to dispute them if you wish) are that quadriplegics are persons when it comes to ethical concerns, and that people who undergo heart transplants, etc. should still be considered persons for ethical purposes.

    I asked you to say nothing about zygotes, fetuses, etc. I did not insist you agree with my criteria, I asked what yours was.

    I am getting a little frustrated with trying to present constant rebuttals and arguments when I can’t even get you to respond to any of my questions in an honest, consistent, and straightforward manner.

    The only attempt I saw was your statement that death is the cessation of all biological activity (which would mean we regularly bury and cremate people who aren’t “dead” according to your criteria)… But that was not even my question, so I don’t know why you presented it.

    My question was, if we have two collections of biologically active flesh from a single human being, how do we determine which collection (although I suppose you could theoretically say neither or both) is a person?

    If I have a living hand on one side, and the rest of the living body on the other side, why do we almost universally agree one is a person and the other is not?

    • I’ll answer, though it has nothing to do with abortion. The hand is not the person, because it does not have the ability to continue to live. The rest of the person is a person because it can continue to live.

      The hand is only a part.

      What Undead people do we bury or cremate? By the way, that’s not my definition of death. It’s the definition.

  67. @C2C,

    So if the hand can be kept alive it would be a person? Or do you mean it has to be self sustaining life, in which case someone with a mechanical heart, or a fetus, would not be a person. It seems this response fails, do you wish to change or clarify it?

    • You are confusing living tissue with a living organism. A fetus is being kept safe in the womb and fed by the mother. It’s still itself. It’s still living. It happens not to be able to live on its own, but that’s where God or nature intend for it to be. Once again, you’re choosing adult abilities to determine whether or not a young human being is a person! Babies die when left alone. They must be kept safe and fed. Is a two month old not a person?

      And since when is “law” synonymous with “reality”? A corporation is legally “a person”. May I say to you that because a corporation is a person, personhood is not achieved until articles of incorporation are registered with the government?

      You know of no source that defines death the way I did? Did you check an English dictionary? SHEESH! Do we really disagree on what it means for an organism “to die”? Forget personality. What does it mean for a mosquito “to be killed”? Come on.

      Listen. I get it. You say that without a personality, the essence of personhood is not there. In the case of brain death, I AGREE! That’s why we recognize it as THE END of life. But to say that the beginning of life must be governed by the same rule is ridiculous! There’s a difference between losing something and not having acquired it YET. Old people lose the ability to run and jump. What does that have to do with teaching a kid how to pole vault? Anything? Does the fact that the child will grow to lose the ability determine whether or not the child should be allowed to gain the ability in the first place?

  68. @C2C,

    No source I have ever seen describes death as the cessation of all biological activity. Maybe you are confusing “biological activity” with the cessation of “vital signs,” a more common definition… Legally it differs somewhat state to state.

  69. @C2C,

    I know you apparently find this irrelevant, but you could humor me and stay on this topic for just a few more posts, I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

  70. @conservative2cents,

    Wow! You went off on a complete tangent there unrelated to anything I asked or said.

    I did two things in my comments, only one of which I honestly care about… And that one thing was merely to ask questions.

    All I did was ask you to clarify something, yet instead of clarifying you engaged in an argument against something I never claimed in my last comments… Which consisted almost entirely of a couple of questions. Could you try answering the questions now (as I have tried to do directly when you ask them) instead of reading into them something that is not there?

    I am honestly just trying to establish your basic beliefs and criteria so I can understand them better.

    To recap. I basically was asking you to tell me how you distinguish a collection of living human cells on one side from a collection of living human cells that is a person on the other side. So if there was a doctor using all his resources to keep a pair of legs alive on one side and a head and torso alive on the other side, would he be justified in letting one of them go because they were not a person, which one and why? How do you philosophically decide that a hand being kept alive is not a person, but a quadriplegic being kept alive is?

    Your first response was whatever could “continue to live” or “sustain life.” As far as I could tell this was false as their are persons who require assistance and cannot sustain life on their own, as well there are non-person cell’s, organs, etc. that can be sustained as well.

    So I asked to clarify your criteria or present another.

  71. “You know of no source that defines death the way I did? Did you check an English dictionary? SHEESH!”

    Yes, I looked at several. None of the ones I saw described the death of a person as the cessation of all biological activity. A corpse still has plenty of biological activity as not all cells cease to function instantly and much of what composes “you” are various symbiotic organisms that aid with bodily processes such as digestion…

    And when I referred to “legally” that was really intended as a separate clause. In other words, whether from the dictionary or legal definition it didn’t matter.

    I don’t really care to debate the issue any further because I was admittedly just being nit picky and I don’t think it really has any bearing on what we’re talking about, so I apologize for the distraction.

    • The definition of death is very important. Of the several sources I checked, “the permanent cessation of all biological functions that sustain a living organism” was the definition.

      The important part of how this pertains to your question is “organism”. The hand is obviously a part of an organism. Only a part. If a collection of parts can be reasonably described as a complete organism (like a zygote), and it’s alive, and it’s human, it’s a person. If it’s a part not critical to sustaining life systems, it’s not.

  72. Andrew asked the same questions at the more recent post on the subject, where I will remain engaged in this discussion, rather than jump back and forth between it and this one. It’s getting too confusing.

  73. Abortion is not murder simply because it is not defined as murder by law. You are saying that abortion is murder despite knowing that the law feels differently. The law says that rape is a crime – is it okay for someone to commit a rape and argue that because they don’t think rape is a crime, its okay to go ahead and do it? Of course not.
    If the law had stated that abortion was murder, I would accept that and would have to change my own pro choice argument to respect the opinion of the law. That is what you need to do – admit that while legally, abortion isn’t murder, then state your beliefs as to why it SHOULD be considered murder.

    • I’m guessing you didn’t listen to the debate which is OK, its long. Justin and I were arguing the point on philosophical terms. Of course abortion isn’t murder in the eyes of the law but that doesn’t mean it isn’t murder in reality.

      On your reasoning it seems like you would be arguing that slavery was OK because in the eyes of the law blacks weren’t human. The only thing that changed for blacks was definitions. Why are definitions and legal technicalities so important to you?

Any Thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: