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A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument

Today is the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. In honor of this important support for fundamental rights, here is a reposting of my primary pro-choice argument.

abortion and the spectrum of personhoodThe pro-life position is often stated this way: (1) human life begins at conception; (2) it is murder to take a human life; therefore (3) abortion is murder and should be considered immoral.

We’ll return to that idea shortly, but first let’s look more closely at human life. I argue that there is a spectrum of personhood during gestation.

Consider a continuous spectrum from blue to green. Where’s the dividing line? Where does blue end and green begin? We can argue about this, but we agree that blue is not green. The two ends are very different.

What age is the dividing line between child and adult? Twelve years? Eighteen? Twenty-one? It’s a spectrum, and there is no objectively correct line. Again, the line is debatable but no one doubts that a child and an adult are quite different.

An acorn is not a tree, a silkworm is not a dress, a water molecule is not a whirlpool, a piece of hay is not a haystack, and 20 chicken eggs are not a henhouse of chickens. Similarly, a single fertilized human egg cell is very different from a one-trillion-cell newborn baby.

But the vast difference in the number of cells only begins to define the vast difference between the two ends of the spectrum. At one end, we have arms and legs, fingers and fingernails, liver and pancreas, brain and nervous system, heart and circulatory system, stomach and digestive system—in fact, every body part that a healthy person has. And at the other, we have none of this. We have … a single cell. In between is a smooth progression over time, with individual components developing and maturing. That’s the spectrum we’re talking about.

Let’s approach this another way. Consider a brain with 100 billion neurons versus a single neuron. The single neuron doesn’t think 10–11 times as fast. It doesn’t think at all. The differentiation of the cells into different cell types and their interconnections in the newborn may count for even more than the enormous difference in the number of cells.

Note also that the difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to the difference between the cell and the 1,000,000,000,000-cell newborn.

Some pro-life advocates argue that the humans at either end of this spectrum are identical in every meaningful way and use the term “baby” for every point along the spectrum. I’ve raised babies (with help, of course), and that makes me something of an expert in identifying babies. As an expert, let me assure you that a single invisible cell isn’t a baby.

If eager expectant parents want to use the term “baby,” not a problem. It’s when pro-lifers want to impose that term on others to constrain their rights that we have a problem.

This inept attempt to collapse the spectrum by using the term “baby” for both ends is like the slogan used by the animal rights group PETA: “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” In other words, there is no spectrum here: vermin are the same as livestock, which are the same as pets, which are the same as people.

No, a rat is not a boy, blue is not green, and a single cell is not a newborn baby.

A lot revolves around what we call this spectrum. Do we call it Homo sapiens? With this term, there is no spectrum, because the species is the same—the single cell is Homo sapiens, as is the newborn baby.

What about “human”? That seems a good name for the spectrum—that is, we would call the newborn human but not the cell. Or, we might call the cell human but not a human. Keep in mind that live tissue samples are cells with human DNA and they’re not “humans.” Would they suddenly become humans if, through technological magic, they were made totipotent so that they could grow into a fetus? Pro-lifers would likely insist on using “human” for both ends of the spectrum.

All right, can we all agree on “person”? No, I’ve heard pro-lifers reject this as well.

This game where pro-lifers deny names to the spectrum quickly gets tiring. I really don’t care what the spectrum is called—humanity, personhood, human development, like-me-ness, whatever—call it what you want as long as the naming acknowledges the stark difference between the newborn (with arms and legs and a circulatory system and a nervous system and eyes and ears and so on) and the single fertilized human egg cell.

Speaking of games, the pro-life argument does seem a bit like a game, despite the serious consequences. The Slactivist blog and Valerie Tarico’s blog have shown that today’s foaming-at-the-mouth pro-life stance by evangelicals was not held by their predecessors 30 years ago.

Now, back to the original pro-life argument: (1) human life begins at conception; (2) it is murder to take a human life; therefore (3) abortion is murder and should be considered immoral. This argument fails because it is oblivious to the spectrum.

Pro-lifers claim to be celebrating life, but equating a newborn baby with a single cell and demanding that everyone else be bound by their beliefs doesn’t celebrate life, it denigrates it.

To be forced to give birth to a child against her will
is a peculiarly personal violation of [a woman’s] freedom.
— Disciples of Christ, 1978

Human life develops on a continuum from conception to birth.
— United Church of Christ, 1978

The fetus is not reckoned as a soul.
— Bruce Waltke, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968

(source of quotes)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

About Bob Seidensticker
  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    It is my personal belief that in generations to come, abortion will be viewed in a similar manner to how the African slave trade is today. People will wonder how society could ever have been so blind as to allow it to happen.

    Even allowing for your spectrum argument, there seems little defense for abortion (apart from rare exceptions) after the development of the nervous system.

    • Slow Learner

      Bwahahaha.
      Yes, of course. We will look back and say “How could we be so stupid as to allow women rights! Back to baby-making machines for you!” And this will be a step forward for humanity.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        I’m all for women’s rights. Including the millions that are aborted upon being identified as such in the womb.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I’m all for women’s rights. Including the millions that are aborted upon being identified as such in the womb.

          I’m pretty sure that a single human egg cell with two X-chromosomes is not a woman. Look it up.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          And those who are aborted upon being discovered to be female are not single cells.

        • Richard S. Russell

          The point of the spectrum argument is that they’re a lot closer to being single cells than they are to being women.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          The point of the spectrum argument is that they’re a lot closer to being single cells than they are to being women.

          Really?! Considering that the sex is generally not apparent before 12 weeks, that is, when genitals are visible on the sonograph, I think you’ll have a hard time defending the argument that a fetus at that level of development is closer to being a single cell than a woman. In fact, if the genitals are already identifiable then this is a good argument that it is already a woman.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl: can’t cells in the amniotic fluid be tested to determine gender?

          If we could focus the conversation, I don’t think that in the U.S. abortion because of gender is much of an issue.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          can’t cells in the amniotic fluid be tested to determine gender?

          Bob: Is this the common method where sex selective abortion is performed?

          I don’t think that in the U.S. abortion because of gender is much of an issue.

          I agree it is not a major factor for abortions in the US right now as it is in some other countries. However, it is a growing issue in the US, as there is disparity in gender birth rates for Asian immigrants to the US. And as I live in Asia, I can’t help but think about abortion in the context where I live.

          In any case, my main point in bringing this up is to show that opposition to wide abortion availability is not necessarily anti-women, a misleading caricature that was thrown at me.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Is this the common method where sex selective abortion is performed?

          I assumed so, but I don’t know. Sex-based abortion isn’t much of an issue in the U.S.

          And as I live in Asia, I can’t help but think about abortion in the context where I live.

          Fair enough, and I appreciate the broadened perspective. The lesson is, I suppose, that the stats and issues for each region need to be understood because they don’t always translate well to other cultures.

        • Niemand

          Karl, at 12 weeks the fetus doesn’t have myelinated nerves or strong cortical connections. There is absolutely no chance that it is sentient. Why should it have more rights than the real, live, thinking, feeling woman who is pregnant?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          More rights? We’re just talking about the right to live.

          According to wikipedia, at 10-12 weeks the fetus can make a fist with its fingers, such autonomous movement shows that there is some brain function there.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Karl, you are easily convinced of what you desperately want to believe.

          Check out the literature on the hot-stove reaction. If you inadvertently place your hand on a hot stove, your autonomic nervous system jerks it back before the brain even gets the signal that it’s happened.

          Still not convinced? Look up on-line videos of frog legs jerking after being stimulated by electricity, even tho they’re no longer connected to the rest of the frog’s body, let alone a brain.

          As to the “right to live”, the whole question here is “who has it”, right? You don’t get to prevail in that discussion just by saying “This is what I assume, therefore I’m right, and you have to do it my way.”

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Richard,

          As to the “right to live”, the whole question here is “who has it”, right? You don’t get to prevail in that discussion just by saying “This is what I assume, therefore I’m right, and you have to do it my way.”

          Yes, the question is about who has the right to live. Giving a fetus the right to live does not mean that it has more rights than a pregnant woman.

          Still not convinced? Look up on-line videos of frog legs jerking after being stimulated by electricity, even tho they’re no longer connected to the rest of the frog’s body, let alone a brain.

          So you think that a fetus making a fist with its fingers is the same as frog legs jerking when stimulated by electricity? I would argue that there is a difference.

          Karl, you are easily convinced of what you desperately want to believe.

          Well, I could say “right back at ya” but if we’re all totally convinced that people who disagree with us do so out of a perverse intransigence, then any dialogue is meaningless.

        • Kristen inDallas

          Ha! try arguing that with a women’s studies major. That may not be women but they certainly are female in the genetic sense. Remember there are different ways of talking about gender identity – the biological, the genetic, the emotional, and the cultural. Two X chromosones represent a genetic female, they will develop under normal circumstances into a biological female.
          PS – you aren’t elevating the status of my gender one iota by pretending we can have the same opportunities as men if and only if we abort away all our children. We could actually address the inequality head on, but I suspect that would make you all a bit too uncomfortable…

        • Kodie

          When you control women, you are against women. It’s nice and all to try to resolve this issue in even more ways than we have now, but that does not eliminate the choices we have, and don’t tell me you are for women if you think it should.

      • Frank

        I guess sometimes the name we choose to post under are correct identifiers.

  • Rick Townsend

    Some issues have an on-off switch point. Some don’t. The scale from white to black includes many shades of gray. Whether or not you stole the item from the store does not. You either did or didn’t. Whether or not you killed a person is either a yes or no question. The person either survived your attack, in which case you are charged with assault, or didn’t, in which case you are charged with murder.

    Not all issues are as clear as those, but life and death is what you are talking about with abortion. Unless you clearly define what you are advocating, this is simply an intellectual argument, or perhaps a sham. But instead, you need to figure out where the spectrum determines that life is life and murder is murder for you, or you are simply advocating legalized abortion without saying what the policy implication should be.

    This is intellectually weak. Show the courage of your convictions and tell us what you really advocate. Some like me say life begins at conception for any number of reasons, among them erring on the side of life. Some say abortion at 20 weeks is wrong because the child can feel pain. Some say it is OK to “abort” a child for various reasons even after birth. Where is your line in the sand?

    Without telling us, you are simply playing a semantic game of political correctness. And while I choose to avoid commenting on your blog very often (been there, done that) this is an issue too important to ignore.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Whether or not you stole the item from the store does not. You either did or didn’t.

      Pro-lifers admit the spectrum when the decide what to put on their posters. A photo of a third-trimester abortion? Or a box of Plan B? You say that the crime is identical, and yet Plan B doesn’t seem to do it for most people.

      Not all issues are as clear as those, but life and death is what you are talking about with abortion.

      I kill flies when they come into my house. And y’know what? I don’t care. Doesn’t bother me at all. I sleep like a baby.

      There’s a spectrum here–flies don’t much matter.

      But instead, you need to figure out where the spectrum determines that life is life and murder is murder for you

      Hey, I’d love to move on, but I’ve got guys like you holding me back at Square 1. You don’t even accept the spectrum, so I find myself having to argue that over and over. Why would you care where I draw the line on a something that doesn’t even exist?

      Some like me say life begins at conception for any number of reasons, among them erring on the side of life.

      And none of them seeming to be concerned about the big picture.

      Without telling us, you are simply playing a semantic game of political correctness.

      I have little interest in political correctness. I also have little interest in changing the subject.

      I presume you’ve got your various arguments lined up to argue against the various points in time that I might offer and are eager to move on there, where you think you have ammunition, instead of the spectrum argument where you don’t.

      • Rick Townsend

        I could address your changes of subject one by one, but instead will stick to the point I raised. What do you propose should be the policy outcome of your spectrum charade? Your aloofness is simply a device to allow you to avoid stating what the application of the spectrum should be. I think you’d rather continue the air of being above the fray with this academic discussion instead of answering the basic question—which babies live, which die?

        You said above you had no interest in changing the subject. Really? Then why did you bring up killing flies, pro-life poster content, and the fact you can’t move on freely as long as people don’t blindly follow your spectrum position?

        Instead, be straight as to what your policy preference really is. From comments below, it sounds like you lean toward Plan B and first two trimester abortions being allowed. Are there any abortions you would actually outlaw, or like Barack Obama, do you even want doctors to withhold attention to sustain life to those unfortunate infants who somehow survive the abortion attempt? Do you want to kill them, too?

        Demonstrate the courage of your convictions — and actually share them.

        • Kodie

          I kind of like that you can decide where that line is for yourself. Nobody is forcing you to choose abortion if you feel like the line starts at the very beginning. However that an acorn is not a tree, trees, you notice, make a lot of extra seeds. Some of them even start to make little seedlings. They may make a whole forest, but not all the seedlings will make it because they are too close to the parent tree and don’t get enough sunlight. If they’re in your yard, you’ll probably just pull them out, depending on how much you want to start growing another tree or how healthy you want to keep the parent tree. It no longer looks like an acorn, but carries the features of an actual tree, and people regularly pull perfectly good trees out of the ground for various reasons – they are happy with just the trees they have, or if left too long its roots will destroy the water line, or it will grow too close to the house and one day may fall over and crush your roof. That doesn’t seem like a big deal because trees don’t have souls, they don’t have feelings, or consciousness, hopes, dreams of raising a family, etc., and we think of them mostly as kitchen tables, baseball bats, and toilet paper. Not mostly the ones from our yard, those just get chopped, chipped, and stump-ground by a tree removal service.

          Other people would love to grow a tree in their yard. A place to hang a swing or watch birds, a nice shade on the side of the house keeps the cooling bills down in the summer, blocks the neighbor’s view, and cycles oxygen so we can breathe. There are risks and hassles such as I mentioned and a few others, but the person whose property the tree is on gets to make that decision. Trees don’t really have a lot different about them than fertilized eggs, nothing that you could say that will possibly move me to change where my line is. But I don’t tell you where you where your line has to be when it’s your body and your decision to make either.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          What do you propose should be the policy outcome of your spectrum charade?

          Charade? I missed this. Is the argument in tatters and I’m just too stupid to see it? Or it was just a tissue of an argument, not really worth responding to, right from the beginning? Show me the charade.

          Your aloofness is simply a device to allow you to avoid stating what the application of the spectrum should be.

          Whatever. I have no opinion about string theory or Goldbach’s Conjecture either. Sue me.

          I write about what I have strong feelings about. I do us all a favor–believe me–when I stick to just this.

          I think you’d rather continue the air of being above the fray with this academic discussion instead of answering the basic question—which babies live, which die?

          So you’re just going to throw in the towel on the spectrum thing? You’re beaten here so you’re going to try to corner me in some new arena?

          I think I’ll just be satisfied with the one victory, thanks.

          You said above you had no interest in changing the subject. Really? Then why did you bring up killing flies, pro-life poster content, and the fact you can’t move on freely as long as people don’t blindly follow your spectrum position?

          Why? Because they seemed to me to add to the conversation. When someone asks about something I’ve already addressed, maybe I didn’t explain it well enough or perhaps simply not in a way that they could accept or understand. Not a problem–I’ll try again with a new approach.

          (When I do that, just cover your ears so you’re not offended.)

          Demonstrate the courage of your convictions — and actually share them.

          Forget it. There’s one guy here–I forget his name–but he goes berserk when I change subjects. Wow–if I started with the spectrum argument and then moved on to talk about the policy implications and where the OK/not-OK line would be … trust me, it would not be pretty.

        • Rick Townsend

          I am so sorry to have transgressed and accused you of changing the subject. I’m sure the fly was included in the original spectrum discussion in your article, so putting it into your response was not an attempt to divert from the central clarifying question I asked. I must have missed it somehow. Mia culpa.

          I’m also sure that the content of pro-life posters was a topic included in the original article, so putting that into your response was not an attempt to divert from the central clarifying question I asked. I must have missed it somehow. Mia culpa. Again.

          As to my clarifying question, it is clear you are writing in favor of terminating pregnancies through the method of abortion. That is clear because you titled it, “In Defense of Abortion Rights…” What was not clear to me was under what circumstances you favor abortion. You clearly have some circumstances in mind because you write in defense of the practice. I’m just asking what those circumstances are. Or perhaps you think there should be no restrictions whatsoever. Fine—just be clear.

          The fact that you refuse to tell us what your criteria would be is more revealing than anything you did write. If your objective is to obfuscate and cloud the issue, you succeeded. If it was to clarify, not so much.

          In any case, the fly and the poster content clearly weren’t changes of subject as you define changing the subject. I’m not sure how that works, but I’m sure the error is mine. Mia culpa.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          I am so sorry to have transgressed and accused you of changing the subject.

          Not a problem! I didn’t realize that not changing the subject was such a big deal, but I’m wiser now.

          I’m sure the fly was included in the original spectrum discussion in your article

          Not at all. We were talking about the spectrum of human personhood during gestation, and I extended that include another spectrum of life that I assumed would be one you’d agree with. I thought that that would make my original spectrum argument more palatable.

          But I can see how going from a spectrum-of-life argument to a spectrum-of-life argument might be abrupt. I’ll try to post “Curves Ahead!” warning signs next time.

          I’m also sure that the content of pro-life posters was a topic included in the original article

          Nope. You broadened the conversation to include stealing and assault (your argument: you’ve either stolen something or you haven’t; you either killed someone or you didn’t). Understandably, I had to sit down for a bit to regain my bearings, but I quickly understood your point and saw how that fit into the overall conversation.

          Assuming rebuttals are fair game, I responded with my own example, arguing that pro-lifers admit to the spectrum. Somehow that was out of bounds in your world. Okay–maybe you’d better put on your water wings when you come into mine, ’cause the ideas will be coming thick and fast!

          What was not clear to me was under what circumstances you favor abortion.

          And I can understand how you’d feel that way since I didn’t discuss that topic. You know me–one topic at a time. Once we’re on the same page with the spectrum argument, remind me to address this step 2.

          If your objective is to obfuscate and cloud the issue, you succeeded. If it was to clarify, not so much.

          So I focus on just one topic but that obfuscates and clouds the issue because I don’t broaden the issue to talk about the abortion issue at large. You’ll have to tell me how focusing on an issue clouds it. And then I’ve gotten my knuckles rapped for changing the subject! You can imagine how I’m having a hard time understanding today’s lesson, Professor.

          I’m not sure how that works, but I’m sure the error is mine. Mia culpa.

          Not a problem! I appreciate your politeness–an excellent environment in which to have a civil conversation.

          So you’re just going to abandon the spectrum argument? Sorry for the repeated question, but you ignored it last time.

          You think you’ll find greener pastures with the question of where the line is drawn? Since I won’t be discussing it (or string theory or Goldbach’s Conjecture), feel free to give us your analysis.

        • Niemand

          Rick, a baby that is born after an abortion attempt (presumably induction of labor in the late second or early third trimester) may be in very poor shape and have essentially no hope of long term survival. In that case, the options are basically these: 1. Aggressive care, i.e. “doing everything to save the baby.” If the baby is 20 weeks GA or has a major congenital malformation, what this really means is that the baby will be subjected to a number of painful and invasive procedures while the parents watch, helpless to comfort their child. And the baby will eventually die after a pointless, painful, and expensive few days or weeks. 2. Comfort care only, i.e. “withholding life sustaining care”. This option allows the parents to hold and comfort the baby and say good-bye properly, avoids putting the baby through needless pain, and allows the physician the option of giving relatively high dose narcotics to prevent pain and respiratory distress (possibly more than might be given if there was hope for a survival).

          It sounds good to say that a baby that survived an abortion attempt should be treated as much as possible, but a law that demands that “all measures be taken” in real life means torturing a doomed infant and its parents. I’d suggest rethinking your position on this one.

        • Rick Townsend

          You make some reasonable points, at least at first glance. We do put animals “out of their misery” rather than going to extreme measures to save them when the situation is dire. But this situation deals with humans, and there are some beautiful stories of people alive today who were abortion survivors. How do you think they might respond to this line of reasoning? What would you share with them?

          Should you be in a life-threatening accident or need life-saving surgery from which the recovery would be difficult, which path should we follow for your treatment?

        • Kodie

          If anyone made an error in judgment or procedure (error, meaning anything other than I’d choose for myself, as an adult with hindsight), I wouldn’t know the difference. Beautiful stories of people who exist does not change my mind about any of this. Stories about why people are glad to exist doesn’t matter at all. Stories also exist, and I think it was Nate who posted links to, of people who wish they had been aborted. With hindsight is always different. With foresight, we don’t know and you know what else? It’s not necessary to find out. It’s like all the brothers and sisters I don’t have. If I had to eliminate one of the 2 that I do have, I know it would probably be option 3: myself.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          How do you think they might respond to this line of reasoning? What would you share with them?

          What line of reasoning? About having a choice? Obviously, if they weren’t here, they wouldn’t care one way or the other. Now that they are here, they might be happy to be here. But are you moving from that to “let’s take away choice”? That doesn’t follow.

          Should you be in a life-threatening accident or need life-saving surgery from which the recovery would be difficult, which path should we follow for your treatment?

          You sound like one of those tax-’n-spend liberals who want everyone to have health care. But getting beyond that and assuming that this person has the insurance to pay for what might be a very expensive operation, sure a person might well want those measures taken. A fetus that’s not a person wouldn’t care.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Beautiful stories of people who exist does not change my mind about any of this.

          And it’s childish thinking to look only at beautiful stories of beautiful people. To have any semblance of a fair critique of the issue, we must have an equally impassioned study of not-so-beautiful people–the murders who might not have been born, for example. If there are 44,000 abortion survivors, I’m curious to know about the ones that were a net loss to society for being on the earth.

      • Kristen inDallas

        Nah dude, we ALL accept the spectrum. The problem is that you don’t seem to get the irrationality of drawing an arbitrary line somewhere in the middle of a continuous developmental process. If you show me a evenly-spread spectrum starting with blue at one end at green at the other and said anything that’s blue will be eliminated while things that are green will be tolerated – draw a line. I’d look at you like you were crazy. The only sane thing to do in that situation is say they are all colors, all varying degrees of blue-green, and the only logical place to draw a line is at the begining of the spectrum.
        And please don’t toss me that crap about boogers being “human tissue” before you look at a couple explanations of the concept of potentiality. A booger will not naturally develop into a child a fetus will. Pretending you don’t know the difference only makes your position look childish.

        • Kodie

          Do you know they already draw lines in the process of gestation? That is how we know when an embryo becomes a fetus. You can definitely on either side of the fuzzy line call one thing green and the other thing blue. Don’t go near the fuzzy line and you should be ok. Potentiality of what? I am a potential extra person just going out of my house. I could have sex at any moment I want and get pregnant and stay pregnant to term. All the people out there not hooking up and making all the babies they can is what abortion is, compared to murder. “Potentiality” is not really a concept so much as a buzzword.

          Maybe you want to sit down with a cup of coffee and read the rest of the thread before you say don’t give me that bullshit. Don’t give me your bullshit. Heard it, not moved.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kristen:

          The problem is that you don’t seem to get the irrationality of drawing an arbitrary line somewhere in the middle of a continuous developmental process.

          Irrational? I wouldn’t call it that. Vexing, perhaps.

          Why the hand wringing? We draw lines all the time. Take a particular crime–say a bank robbery, with a gun, where the bank robber did steal money but didn’t hurt anyone. What should the punishment be? There’s all sorts of considerations, and yet you’ve got to have something. You can’t just say that it’s too hard so we’re going to free all such robbers. There’s a spectrum of possibilities (ranging from going free to the death penalty), and we (the legislature, actually) must pick. And pick they do. Not that big a deal.

          A booger will not naturally develop into a child a fetus will.

          And a cell fertilized outside the woman’s body won’t naturally develop into a child. But then, with a huge amount of advanced technology, we can do so. Is the fact that there was an “unnatural” part of that pregnancy change anything?

          “Natural” doesn’t mean much. And we’re back to a single cell not being especially important (lots of undeveloped potential, with an emphasis on undeveloped) and a newborn being very important.

    • Patterrssonn

      I love how the “life begins at conception” argument conveniently ignores the fact that sperm and eggs are alive.

  • http://awaypoint.wordpress.com Valerie Tarico

    The rainbow is a great way of making the spectrum concrete. I’ve struggled with how best to simplify this, to make it an “of course” for people who don’t tend to think in shades of gray. I’m going to borrow this one. Thanks!

    • Bob Seidensticker

      :)

  • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

    Even if you are assuming that you are correct in that there is a spectrum between personhood and non-personhood, then you still have the difficulty of coming up with a dividing line. At some point you have to say “this is human” and “this is not” and unless you are willing to say that even the cell is a human you are forced to create an arbitrary line.

    Right now, it is permissible to kill a child which is behind some water and hydrocarbons (in the womb) and it is illegal to kill a child on the other side of the wall (out of the womb). In this case, your claims to “expertise” completely fail because children in last weeks of pregnancy are indistinguishable from newborns (it is amazing how much there is a lack of change during the process of a c-section). So then, based on your arguments, is the womb a magical place which prevents personhood, or are you opposed to late term abortions?

    Now, what of those children at 22 weeks which can survive (and have a pretty good shot at doing it). What is the difference between the 22 week premature birth and the 22 week in-the-womb child? They look the same, the division, again, is simply the wall of the womb and a small amount of tissue. Since these are similarly indistinguishable I think that we have further evidence that your standard is really “the womb is magic.”

    And I think that is the long and the short of it. Either you oppose abortions after the 21st week (which I suspect you don’t) or your argument is disingenuous and false by your own standard. You do believe in a magical (and logically inconsistent) dividing – a line which is arbitrary and more than just a line in the sand. Unless you believe that there is no fundamental (and no real discernible) difference between a child on either side of that divisor then you have, in fact, stated that humanity is not something emergent but that it is something which is concrete and defined.

    • Richard S. Russell

      Well, if your primary concern is to eliminate ambiguity — to establish some unmistakable dividing line so there can be a clear-cut definitive difference between “human life” and not — I offer up the 14th Amendment’s definition of what it takes to be a citizen: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.” After birth, you’re a citizen, a person. Before that, it’s a parasite or a cancer, subject to appendectomy at the behest of the afflicted. Does that work for you? Birth is pretty damn definitive.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        Does that work for you? Birth is pretty damn definitive.

        Makes me wonder why there are still late-term or even middle-term abortions: it is often just as easy to bring the child out of the womb.

        But my point is that Bob is disingenuous. He says that this is a spectrum but his other positions do not reflect that belief.

        • Kodie

          It’s not really easy to bring the “child” out of the womb. Premature birth is not an easy thing for a parent to deal with and probably problems for the child at that time. That is usually a case where the parents, if it were up to them, would have liked the child to be born later – i.e. a wanted child. It’s not really easy to then say to a parent who does not want to raise a child to force them to sustain hospital bills and extreme efforts to keep a premature baby alive who may not recover. You could say because it can be and has been done that it’s just easy, but a lot of premature babies die or would have died anyway if they weren’t born prematurely. Who is being disingenuous?

          My idea here is that let’s say 20 weeks is a dividing line I would have. Just to be clear of that line, I would not say at 20.5 weeks that it’s “too late, but only a couple days late so I’ll move my line”. I would SAY 20 weeks, but I think 8 weeks I know if I don’t want to carry it to term, so I am 12 weeks short. I am nowhere near the line.

          For me to say that everyone’s line has to be at 20 weeks, not the day after 20 weeks, not 25 weeks, etc., or for me to say to someone 20 weeks is fine, and they are determined to cut the line at the decision to have sexual intercourse 20 weeks ago, I’m not going to tie them down and rip it out of them or force them to keep going because of where I personally feel the line is for me.

          Anyway, that thing you said about premature births being no big thing and everyone should consider it instead of abortion, one of the more ignorant pro-life statements I’ve heard.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          IT:

          Makes me wonder why there are still late-term or even middle-term abortions

          I was an a Roe v. Wade 40th-anniversary lecture/celebration tonight. I’m sure professionals could respond with questions that would make your hair curl. But one that was discussed: a woman was pregnant, and everything was doing fine. Then her water broke at 22 weeks, but there was no miscarriage or labor. For the fetus to stay there leads to all sorts of problems–the uterus can’t help but crush the fetus, the baby’s lungs wouldn’t develop, and so on. It was too early to induce labor, and nature wasn’t helping. So she wanted an abortion. Too bad–Nebraska had recently mandated no abortions after 20 months. So she had to wait it out. After 2 more weeks, the baby was delivered, and it died in her arms. That was 2 unnecessary weeks or torment the parents wouldn’t have had to go through.

          But my point is that Bob is disingenuous. He says that this is a spectrum but his other positions do not reflect that belief.

          I don’t know what you’re referring to.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      IT:

      unless you are willing to say that even the cell is a human …

      The cell is human, though perhaps not a human, and certainly not a person.

      … you are forced to create an arbitrary line.

      Would you say the same thing about the spectrum of green to blue? We could quibble about the precise point, but we’d probably agree that the other guy’s line was pretty close. If it matters (like it does with abortion), you get some smart minds to talk about the various issues. I don’t see how that’s arbitrary.

      Right now, it is permissible to kill a child which is behind some water and hydrocarbons (in the womb) and it is illegal to kill a child on the other side of the wall (out of the womb).

      (1) Hardly an irrelevant distinction. Before birth, the fetus is dependent on the mother; after, it could be taken away and never see her again and be quite healthy.

      (2) Roe v. Wade allows states to restrict abortion access in the third trimester.

      children in last weeks of pregnancy are indistinguishable from newborns

      Careful … you’re beginning to sound like me! Yes, the fetus in the third trimester is becoming increasingly newborn-like.

    • ZenDruid

      I read the misuse of scientific and technical terms here, and the sloppy use of metaphor, and can only shake my head in pity.

      • http://theophor.us Ignatius Theophorus

        can only shake my head in pity.

        Just out of curiosity, but when did I use technical terms? I referenced a class of chemicals at one point, but that wasn’t terribly technical and it certainly wasn’t misused. Please clarify.

        • ZenDruid

          Hydrocarbons are not evident in living animal tissue, but are more associated with flatulence (methane, a product of bacterial metabolism in the gut) and fossil fuels. A divisor is not a dividing line.
          You apparently have never shared intimacy with a woman with a “quickened” fetus in her belly. The traditionally accepted margin of early viability in a fetus is its ability to kick and squirm. I’m certain that Bob knows this, but I doubt whether you do. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be carrying on about arbitrary cutoff dates.

    • Kodie

      Basically, you are appealing to emotion entirely.

      If you think it’s relatively easy to keep a 22-week fetus alive, you are basically thinking of it as a being that is aware of its surroundings and yearning for life. You’re not thinking of it like it is, hooked up to a lot of machines and well, probably not doing so well. There’s always the retrospective – once you’ve experienced life, you would love to be hooked up to machines just to get a chance to live, wouldn’t you? But at that point, that’s a fetus transported to another incubator. If it can feel pain, it probably feels a lot of pain. If it can think, it’s probably not thinking how wonderful life is because so far it sucks a lot. The biggest difference if is you’re the parent and you wanted it. Still. If you wait, and the fetus waits, when you don’t want it, you can give it to some other parents. I’d say up to 4 weeks premature, is probably a baby except in extreme cases where the mother’s life is in danger or the baby is already dead or in distress.

      Basically, what you’re proposing is to induce the freaking birth of a premature baby at 22 weeks. Does that sound ok to you? How can you possibly think you’re on the right side of this argument when I think that’s sick as fuck.

    • Niemand

      What is the difference between the 22 week premature birth and the 22 week in-the-womb child?

      Let’s see…A few differences come readily to mind:
      1. A 22 wk GA premature baby is not dependent on a specific person for its survival. It needs care if it’s to have any chance, but it doesn’t need a specific person to care for it. Unlike a fetus, which requires a specific person’s blood and nutrients.
      2. A 22 week GAPB doesn’t put anyone else’s life at risk simply by existing. Pregnancies can and do kill. The risk is lower than in the past, but higher than you might think. For example, completing a pregnancy is higher risk than flying on 9/11/01.
      3. A 22 wk GAPB is exposed to high levels of oxygen, possibly improving its chances of conscious awareness (adults aren’t conscious at low oxygen levels, why should fetuses be)?
      4. A 22 week old baby has a closed DA, closed umbilical vessels, gets its oxygen from the air (or, realistically, the oxygen canister) not through passage of oxygen from maternal to fetal circulation, etc.
      5. If a parent or guardian decides that continued care is not in the baby’s best interest and makes the baby DNR/comfort care only, no one calls him or her a murderer for deciding what is in his/her and the baby’s best interest.

      There are more differences, but that will do for a start.

  • Makoto

    A good read, I’ll have to keep this bookmarked for a few people who don’t seem to get it (though, given some of the above comments, I doubt it’ll help much.. you never know!)

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Makoto:

      I’m glad you liked it. There’s more here. Poke around some of those posts and you might find more arguments that would be helpful.

  • DK

    Sure, a spectrum. I can agree with that. But I don’t think this essay really grapples with that, as it keeps talking about “one cell” — which of course is only one extreme of the “spectrum”. What about at 12 weeks? 20 weeks? 32 weeks? All of your dismissive analogies get a little less comfortable the farther you get from “one cell”, so I don’t see you engaging the “spectrum” any more than those you seek to criticize.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      DK:

      If I can move someone from a dogmatic “yeah, but it’s life from conception!” position, that will be successful.

      If you agree with the spectrum but still want a super-early cutoff point–maybe no abortions after 6 weeks, say–then that changes the picture quite a bit. With that, we’d want to have easy access to morning-after pills, accurate early tests for pregnancy that are available and encouraged, and quick and hassle-free access to early abortions.

      A lot changes when someone gives up that zero-tolerance position.

      All of your dismissive analogies get a little less comfortable the farther you get from “one cell”

      That’s exactly my point. It’s a spectrum. “Oh, it’s just a clump of cells” doesn’t work so good when the fetus is 7 months old.

      Yes, exactly.

      • DK

        If you’re being honest, you might want to spend some time addressing the “zero-tolerance policy” on the other side of the spectrum, instead of pretending as if that only happens with those unreasonable, dishonest pro-life christians. If you want to see a zero-tolerance policy, check out the reaction of the pro-choice establishment any time someone brings up a partial-birth abortion ban. I think the reality is that most people are like me (and I presume, like you) — they don’t really have a problem with morning-after/Plan B and they DO have a problem with late-term abortion. There are “fundamentalists” on both sides of the spectrum. Given where the current policy line lies (far closer to the pro-choice fundamentalist position), I would argue that THEIR intransigence is at present far more of an impediment to a more “nuanced” policy position on the issue. The US has far more liberal policy on abortion than almost any other country — in France, as but one example, abortion is mostly illegal after the first trimester.

        • Phil

          It seems like you agree with Bob’s blog post; you just wish he had written about something else.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          DK:

          If you’re being honest, you might want to spend some time addressing the “zero-tolerance policy” on the other side of the spectrum, instead of pretending as if that only happens with those unreasonable, dishonest pro-life christians. If you want to see a zero-tolerance policy, check out the reaction of the pro-choice establishment any time someone brings up a partial-birth abortion ban.

          Roe v. Wade was never an allowance to “party on!” As I recall (could be wrong), the conclusion was that there could be no state restrictions for first-term abortions, some (constrained somehow by the ruling) restrictions for second-term, and as many restrictions as the state wanted for third term. Individual pro-choicers might well have a zero-tolerance attitude, but they’ve never been supported in this by Roe.

          I think the reality is that most people are like me (and I presume, like you) — they don’t really have a problem with morning-after/Plan B and they DO have a problem with late-term abortion.

          Yes, that’s roughly my feeling as well. But lots of Christians, including some who’ve commented here, are of the zero-tolerance sort.

          There are “fundamentalists” on both sides of the spectrum. Given where the current policy line lies (far closer to the pro-choice fundamentalist position), I would argue that THEIR intransigence is at present far more of an impediment to a more “nuanced” policy position on the issue.

          Since the Christian right is indefatigable in their desire to not have a “more nuanced policy position” but to impose their views on the rest of the country, you can imagine why the reaction on the pro-choice might be strong.

        • Kodie

          I think their hard line at conception is because they know there’s a spectrum, not in ignorance of it. They always want to know WHEN do you think it becomes a baby, see: this thread and others like it. If you say 6 weeks, then what about 6 weeks and 1 day? How do you know if you got pregnant on the 15th or the 16th so you can even draw that line at any other hard line? The very next definite line is birth. Of course if you defy one line, why not another and allow infanticide up to the age of 3? How do you define the baby’s birthdate anyway, to know when it’s the day before their 3rd birthday? They were born close to midnight in a place with no clocks. Or they were just as much a baby the day they were born, so the day before their 3rd birthday is as legitimate a cut-0ff date as their birthday the next day. So why don’t we just simplify everything and say never.

          I think that’s how it goes.

          On the other hand, other extreme hard lines are called for in society and seem approved by Christians, whom I’m equating with pro-forced-birthers for efficiency, the age of reason, for example. Just like not everyone learns to walk after the same number of days outside the womb, not everyone is as full reasonable by the age of what is it, seven? Therefore, I think the age of reason is really around 6. By the time a child starts 1st grade or the homeschool equivalent, they have been indoctrinated and may even have 3 or 4 younger siblings for whom they are responsible to help care for. Leaning into the age of 7 just to give 6 a little spectrum-time to apprehend the expectations made of them within the year and definitely by the end of it. You might be held accountable by god! who can determine your readiness and reason from beyond at the age of 5 years and 2 months, but do you get off the hook if you sin in the next year and 10 months or not? The legal age one may be to hold a job I think is 14 or 15 (unless you’re a performer), but there’s nothing really stopping you from mowing some lawns or baby-sitting or delivering papers to get used to the idea.

          Same thing with pregnancy. You might want a baby but unless you’re really weird, you probably don’t want it immediately and you haven’t prepared space or things or read all the books so you know what will happen. If you don’t want it, or you need a little time to think whether or not you do or can or should, you don’t wait until the end of your term. The problem is that there’s this cultural idea that it’s a sacred thing and all this over-thinking it when you have a decision to make. It shouldn’t have to be this desperately heart-breaking decision that it seems to be. It’s just that women are taught they’re supposed to make babies and be nurturing and find a husband, and not be sluts or anything, so if you don’t fit that “standard,” it causes a lot of other anxieties. BUT IT’S A LIFE A PRECIOUS BAYYYBEEEE”. It’s not, and it wouldn’t have to be a crisis for so many women if people would just mind their own beeswax.

        • DK

          <>

          That clearly goes both ways, and your failure to recognize that fact, IMO, bespeaks a bigotry of sorts.

  • Richard S. Russell

    The pro-lifers have a standard challenge: “When does life begin?”
    Their answer: “at conception”
    My answer: “about 3.5 billion years ago”

    = = = = = =
    The self-proclaimed “pro-life” crowd is entirely too obsessive about the imaginary people they claim to be concerned about. They need to calm down, switch off their circuit diagrams, get out of their blueprints, sit in the shade of their acorns, listen to the pleasant songs of the eggs, and stop to smell the pollen.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      I’ll have to remember that one!

    • qbsmd

      I’ve used that line before. I’ve also said something like “E. coli is alive, do have a problem killing that? Cancer cells are alive AND have human DNA. Do you have a problem killing them?” in order to make the point that “life” is a red herring and it’s human life that people care about, and the definition of human life is non-trivial.

      And of course, in the end religious people want to insist either that everything they say has a soul is human life or that anything that could potentially become human life is human life, and I continue to insist that the definition should involve consciousness or self awareness, and no one changes their mind.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        qbsmd:

        And of course, in the end religious people want to insist either that everything they say has a soul is human life

        The soul thing complicates the matter. If a cell separates into two zygotes (twins), is the soul halved as well? If not, where does it come from? Sometimes zygotes are reabsorbed by the mother. What happens to that soul? Is William Lane Craig right that God’s genocide in Canaan was a good thing in that it sent souls of butchered children back to heaven?

        And you can imagine more, I’m sure.

  • TheresaL

    At what point is a fetus far enough along the spectrum that abortion becomes murder?

    • Phil

      How about we just say the current state of the law does a reasonably good job of addressing this?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_the_United_States

    • Richard S. Russell

      Fetus? Murder? In the United States, at no point. Even very late-term abortions are simply medical procedures, no more criminal acts than tonsillectomies.

      • Phil

        Can you point to where the law says this is so?

        • Richard S. Russell

          This is the theist’s famous “please prove a negative” challenge.

          No, the law doesn’t work that way. It doesn’t say “X is legal.” The default presumption is that X is always legal unless the law specifically says “X is illegal.” So the question you should be asking is “When and where did I ever hear of anyone in the last 40 years being prosecuted for murder for having had or participated in an abortion?” I think that, if you check up on it, you’ll discover the answer is exactly what I indicated: none, nowhere, at no time.

        • Phil

          According to this article, 5 states have laws that (basically) outlaw abortions after 20/21 weeks:

          http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/22/anti-abortion-laws-states_n_907377.html

          Now I don’t know (and doubt) anyone has been prosecuted under these laws (which seems to be your point). But my point is that these laws do, in fact, exist.

        • Phil

          BTW, I am not endorsing these laws. From everything I’ve ever read, if a woman is seeking a third-term abortion it is because things have gone very wrong with the pregnancy. And then it is a decision that should be made between the woman and her doctor.

          I don’t know how many (or what to do about) women who are in their third trimester and simply “change their minds.” (Do such women exist?) This seems like a much, much harder call.

        • Richard S. Russell

          There are still laws on the books somewhere in the United States that prohibit abortion altogether. They’re unenforceable, which is why it’s fruitless to point to their existence. What you need to look for is instances of prosecutions, which remain the null set.

          Are there women who enter their 3rd trimester and “change their minds”? Almost certainly. Somebody whose boyfriend kicks her out of the house “because I don’t wanna be responsible for no squallin’ brat”, probably has some substantial reason for changing her mind. I have no idea why you think of this as a “much, much harder call”, since it’s not your call to make. So put your mind at ease and refer to the same standard you articulated so clearly shortly before that: “it is a decision that should be made between the woman and her doctor.”

        • Phil

          Look, I am simply pointing out that your phrase “no more criminal acts than tonsillectomies” is simply not true (at least in 5 states). I am not sure why you are arguing about this.

          I am also not sure why you think these laws are unenforceable (or did you only mean the laws that prohibit abortion altogether? THOSE clearly are unenforceable). Given Roe and Casey’s framework for abortion rights, I think it is (theoretically) possible that these laws (in the 5 states) are enforceable. Unless you know of a court challenge that I don’t.

          Finally, so you and I would (potentially) “draw the line” at different places. Fair enough. My mind is at ease.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Phil:

          From everything I’ve ever read, if a woman is seeking a third-term abortion it is because things have gone very wrong with the pregnancy. And then it is a decision that should be made between the woman and her doctor.

          I agree. I’d love to see an analysis of the reasons for third-term abortions. While we as society can wish these didn’t happen, I suspect that the later the abortion, the more compelling the reason.

          I don’t know how many (or what to do about) women who are in their third trimester and simply “change their minds.” (Do such women exist?)

          Excellent question. I have waning sympathy for such an argument as time marches on, and I’ll bet that very, very few third-term abortions would be for so shallow a reason as this. But again, I’d like to see that analysis.

          Perhaps someone knows of one?

  • David

    When I consider the spectrum argument, there’s something which I think it leaves out. It leaves out the fact that, from the moment of conception, the single cell “has its marching orders.” It might succeed or fail but its objective is unambiguous: to develop into a fully formed human based on the DNA that is carries. In that sense, the process is entirely binary. The spectrum argument is actually more philosophic than scientific. Science teaches plainly that conception is the important event and all other considerations are unscientific.

    • Richard S. Russell

      There are trillions of cells in your body. Every one of them contains the exact same “marching orders” in the form of a DNA molecule. Every single one of them, under the proper conditions, could turn into a human being.

      The plan is not the product. Some assembly required.

      • David

        The issue you bring up seems irrelevant to me. Fertilization of the egg is the natural condition which leads to human life. Whether you’re prochoice or prolife, that is the reality which people are dealing with. Why complicate the matter?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Why complicate the matter?

          That’s exactly my question.

          When pro-lifers want something disturbing to put on their signs for when they go picket an abortion clinic, do they think much about putting a picture of a box of Plan B? Or do they just go to the aborted fetus?

          Their picket signs make clear that they understand the spectrum as much as any of us do.

        • David

          I think, however, that as long as fetuses are aborted, the signs make sense. As to the abortifacients, like Plan B, its same basic concept which is rooted in nothing other than the fertilized egg. If it were more complicated than that, then perhaps Plan B would be reconsidered.

        • David

          Or at least it would be a separate issue. Abortion vs contraception.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          as long as fetuses are aborted, the signs make sense.

          And that’s my point: pieces of a baby-like fetus are much more chilling than the idea of a woman swallowing a pill. But apparently from your standpoint, they’re equivalent–a baby-to-be, identical in every meaningful way, is now dead.

          How about more Plan B images on posters?

        • Richard S. Russell

          “‘Why complicate the matter?” I don’t know. You were the one who brot up the subject of DNA, I was just taking it from there. I’d be perfectly happy to leave it at the uncomplicated ground state of saying that it’s a woman’s own body, she should be able to do what she wants with it. How can you get less complicated than that?

    • Patterrssonn

      “It might succeed or fail but its objective is unambiguous: to develop into a fully formed human based on the DNA that is carries.”

      You might want to try and explain how this is in any way relevant.

      “Science teaches plainly that conception is the important event and all other considerations are unscientific.”

      You forgot your citations for your bizarre and as of yet unsupported assertion.

      • David

        Its relevant because it avoids the issue of personhood altogether. There is nothing particularly scientific about a spectrum theory of human development into personhood. The last I heard, personhood is not even a scientific category. The prolife position corresponds to scientific fact: human life begins at conception. Whatever philosophy or theology you do (or do not) subscribe to, the prolife position is based on solid science.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          There is nothing particularly scientific about a spectrum theory of human development into personhood.

          OK, let’s assume that it’s not scientific.

          Now that we have that figured out, we’re right back where we started: a newborn baby at one end of the spectrum and a single, invisible cell without a single feature of that newborn baby. Big difference.

          The prolife position corresponds to scientific fact: human life begins at conception.

          As someone else pointed out, it’s a little more complicated since the fertilized human egg is alive just like the egg and sperm that joined to make it. But whatever–”Human life begins at conception!” is meaningless.

          We all understand the spectrum, and you need to deal with it.

        • David

          I want to take on your second point and I want to appeal to you as an atheist. You more or less believe that this life is all you’ve got. Perhaps you speculate about an afterlife, but the one thing you’re sure of is this life. Who are you and who is anyone to say that that fertilized-egg-becoming-a-fetus shouldn’t have the same shot that you had, and still have, to live this life? If this life is the only thing of which an atheist is certain, it seems to me that atheists should “do unto others” and allow every fetus the possibility to be born and grow up. This life is all you’ve got, right?

        • Richard S. Russell

          “who is anyone to say that that fertilized-egg-becoming-a-fetus shouldn’t have the same shot that you had, and still have, to live this life?”

          The only “anyone” who should have anything to say about it is the woman who has to make it happen. Who is anyone else to say, one way or the other? I agree with you: they’re not qualified.

          But I hope you realize that, by asking the question the way you have, we’re right back to where we started. Why shouldn’t every single human egg cell be fertilized and given a chance to turn into a human being? Why not start girls on a steady regimen of sex, sex, sex from menarche until they expire of exhaustion after their 23rd pregnancy? (I’m sure we can find lots of old Arab guys who’d be happy to do their part; they seem to have a special fondness for pre-teen girls.) So what it reverts to is “What makes the fertilized egg special?”. And that’s just as arbitrary as it ever was.

        • David

          We’re dealing with the natural cycle of human life. “What makes the fertilized egg special?” What makes the woman’s choice special, for that matter? It seems rather arbitrary to me that you should favor her choice just because she’s no longer in her mother’s womb.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Your argument was that anything that might conceivably turn into a human being deserves every chance in the world for that to happen. Before I pursue the reductio ad absurdum any further, let me ask forthrightly: Do you, in fact, believe that every single human egg cell that can possibly be fertilized and carried to term should be fertilized and carried to term?

          It’s estimated that, if a woman works at it conscientiously, starting at the earliest opportunity (lately around 11-12 years of age) and running right up to menopause, she could crank out a couple of dozen human beings. Is it, in fact, your position that she should do so, and should be required to do so if she’s unwilling, just to make sure that every single possible human being that can be born in fact has “the same shot that you had, and still have, to live this life?”

        • David

          “Might conceivably” is not what I meant.

        • David

          To clarify further, I’m CERTAINLY not advocating that women actively seek to become pregnant at every possible opportunity that presents itself. I agree that would be absurd. But that’s never what I meant.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Who are you and who is anyone to say that that fertilized-egg-becoming-a-fetus shouldn’t have the same shot that you had, and still have, to live this life?

          I’m someone who thinks that the pregnant woman is the one to make the choice. We’re not in her shoes, but we think that we are better able to weigh the issues? I don’t think so.

          As a commenter to this blog once said: You wanna know how we’d know if abortion were wrong? When the pregnant woman tells us so.

          If this life is the only thing of which an atheist is certain, it seems to me that atheists should “do unto others” and allow every fetus the possibility to be born and grow up.

          Where do you draw the line? Am I a monster for having only two children when my wife and I could’ve had at least a dozen? Or am I heartless for scratching away dozens of living skin cells–cells that, in ten years, might be clonable into new people?

          Dude, it’s just a cell. The pregnant woman–let’s let her decide.

          If you’re pregnant, you do what you think best. Let’s give the same consideration to others and not impose mandatory pregnancy on others.

          It seems rather arbitrary to me that you should favor her choice just because she’s no longer in her mother’s womb.

          If you look at an adult woman and an invisible egg cell and see absolutely no meaningful difference, I don’t know how to proceed in this conversation.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Dude, it’s just a cell. The pregnant woman–let’s let her decide.

          I wonder how often it really is left to the pregnant woman to decide. Or does the boyfriend (would you object to me saying ‘father’?) pressure her into having an abortion so he doesn’t have to begin to be responsible? Or do her parents pressure her to avoid the scandal, or so they don’t waste the year’s college tuition, or for a number of other reasons?

        • Richard S. Russell

          I don’t think there’s a medical facility anywhere in the country that would perform an abortion on a pregnant woman who hadn’t consented to it, and in writing, to boot. Lots of legal ramifications for operating without the informed consent of the patient, even if it’s something as routine as nipping off a couple of tiny benign polyps. So the fact that, all things considered, the woman herself wants the abortion should be all the green light anyone needs.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          And yet in this study “partner objection” and “parental objection” are options. And account for up to a quarter of US abortions.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy
        • Kodie

          Regardless of that, even if it’s not their choice, they’re coerced by someone other than the abortion provider. Same with people who are pressured not to have abortions even though they personally have no problem with it.

        • Kodie

          Where is the study? A person can have more than one reason at the same time and somehow I don’t think that adds up to a full quarter of reasons to get an abortion. A person might answer that survey, if they only get one choice to fill out either postponement, it would interrupt school, partner pressure, or parental pressure, all four might be the reason. You can’t really boil it down to one of those reasons when they might be simultaneous reasons. When the woman gets to the abortion clinic, and she signs her own form with her own consent, that’s what matters. If someone is having an abortion because they are not ready or can’t deal with having a baby, lack of social support may be the real reason – “I can’t handle this by myself and everyone has said they won’t help me”. That’s a pretty good reason to have an abortion if you personally have no other objection. It’s kind of shitty to feel like that, but how do you jump to the assumption that someone is telling her to have an abortion, kidnapping her to the clinic and forcing her to sign the papers?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          My point is was a response to the idea that “it should be the woman’s decision” which is normally construed as a pro-abortion argument. My point was to question whether pro-abortion necessarily implies the woman is in control of the decision-making, which is valid regardless of how much you trust the results of the study which can be found from the link I provided.

        • Kodie

          You can’t really determine off of one study what individual women’s full reasons are. In some cases, she wants to take her partner’s opinion into account but also decides for herself. In other cases, she may be threatened. I’m not going to be the one to say that never happens. The way people talk about women who have abortions is like they are not in the room. I know you want to pick away at the little nagging doubts that say but the women may be victims of people making them choose abortion!, while other people will say if the woman signed the papers declaring her free and open choice, then that’s what is true. It’s a big gray area like the spectrum describing the growth stages of an embryo-fetus-baby. Do you like to think women just have abortions like they decide what color nail polish to wear, or do you think even having to give it a second thought must mean there is doubt and where there is doubt, we have to prod and poke at that doubt and make her choose to carry it to term. You know some people just know getting pregnant right now would be a bad thing – even teenagers who so-called dumpster their babies have a lot on their mind like “dad’s gonna kill me”. Maybe they are not thinking of losing all their freedoms and fun as a teenager as how much trouble they’ll be in if their parents find out. Sex education and forthright communication, trust, and support is probably the answer to that problem. I would say any parent who doesn’t notice their teenage daughter is pregnant is a parent to fear and hide from anyway, but not a good reason to carry to term and dump a baby in the trash.

          Anyway, you don’t know what women’s reasons are and where they are coming from. You are right that all people in this situation need support, but not the nosy-body support of insisting they make their decision as you would. If a woman wanted to keep a baby but nobody would help her, giving it up for adoption is not necessarily the next best thing. Going right back to the way things were is not really the best thing, because now you know how much the people closest to you suck and aren’t there for you when you needed their help.

          So your survey doesn’t really tell me these women are being strong-armed by their mates, partners and parents into making a decision they are absolutely against. It still means abortion is their best option.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          You can’t really determine off of one study what individual women’s full reasons are.

          I agree. But the study can show us that others objecting to the pregnancy is an issue for some of them.

          Do you like to think women just have abortions like they decide what color nail polish to wear,

          Of course not. And I think this is obvious by the point I’m making. I am making a point that some, and it may be a significant proportion, undertake abortions reluctantly, under pressure from others. I can’t imagine it would be an easy decision regardless of the reasons. And I’m certainly not treating it as a trivial decision. To me, those saying “Dude, it’s just a cell.” seem to be trivializing the decision.

          Anyway, you don’t know what women’s reasons are and where they are coming from

          Perhaps not entirely. But where there is a survey, I can at least say I’m not completely in the dark on the reasons. Anyhow, I haven’t made any blanket statements. I’ve just pointed out that in some cases those women having abortions are doing so when it is not their preferred option. Which seems to counter the idea that abortion is simply about a woman’s right to choose, because if women’s self-determination in the case of pregnancy was the sole driving factor in abortion then issues of others objections would not show up at all as reasons.

          If a woman wanted to keep a baby but nobody would help her, giving it up for adoption is not necessarily the next best thing.

          It almost certainly is the next best thing for the baby. And adoption does reduce most of the economic/life-change issues that are often given for abortion.

        • Kodie

          You’re not thinking about the psychological issues with adoption. Coerced adoptions used to be how teen pregnancies were handled – you think being coerced out of having an abortion and being coerced into adoption is the best thing for the woman? You don’t know or seem to care about her circumstances as much as you try to be. You fear they are victims of coercion to get abortions they don’t want, as if being coerced to carry to term and/or put up for adoption isn’t something that totally happens all the time. That’s what pro-”life”rs DO. I will not say family never interferes, but it’s quite possible they almost always do. Either way.

          Women should be allowed to make the decision they want. And I think it ought to be more trivial, not less. That doesn’t necessarily mean there will be more abortions – it may mean that it’s an easier decision to be able to carry to term when one wants to. If you want to reduce the frequency that abortion is chosen, then do a whole lot more than lay the guilt trips on people and actually help them. Don’t judge people for having “irresponsible” sex and not “facing the consequences”. My economic factors are not a reason to let someone else raise my child if I have no freaking way that I can. Crisis pregnancy centers are like the adoption mafia. They screw over pregnant women all the time – yes you can keep your baby, we’ll help you – until it’s a person to her with all the projections upon its life ahead, only to be emotionally wrecked and told they’re of course too irresponsible and co-erced into giving their child up for adoption so Christian families don’t have to wait, don’t have to adopt older children who need homes, or black babies, or crack babies, or Chinese babies.

          I know it sounds extreme, but that’s what I think this is all about. The Christian right wants to control every method that may help a woman choose not to abort, limit healthcare for women, birth control for women and teenagers, judge and shame people, and keep them in poverty. No matter what they may say, they expect people to go about having all the sex and ending up with no options.

          Do you think that’s the right way to go about it? What I hear you saying is well it shouldn’t be a trivial decision. Why not? The fantasy takes over and reality is buried. There will always be people who did everything they could not to get pregnant and their birth control failed and they know they shouldn’t be pregnant for their own health, or just because they don’t want children, and parents who want their fetuses to live but it’s just not to be, so need a safe way to handle that. If it’s too trivial you think it’s shouldn’t be, and if it’s not trivial enough, then you wonder about what could possibly be holding them up, and try to make that into something else. Another fantasy, perhaps. Truthfully, I don’t think most women who choose abortions do it at all lightly. They weigh all of their options, and a lot of times, their options stink because of other people in their lives. On the other hand, I know plenty of people who didn’t choose abortion, and if they’re fine with that choice, it’s because the people in their lives didn’t judge them or make their decision for them, and helped them out because that’s what ALL people need. If a young woman gets kicked out of her home and some Christians take her in because they’re trying to help, they’re honestly just doing it to help themselves. If they can’t convert her, they’re going to discard her too, but they’re going to steal her baby after they manipulate her into getting attached to it.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          I can tell that you obviously have had some hurtful experiences in your life, and it seems that these have coloured your opinions.

          But I really think you are not seeing straight, especially when you say:

          If a young woman gets kicked out of her home and some Christians take her in because they’re trying to help, they’re honestly just doing it to help themselves. If they can’t convert her, they’re going to discard her too, but they’re going to steal her baby after they manipulate her into getting attached to it.

          Really?!

          I don’t believe it because I see so many cases to the contrary. Try finding out some real cases of Christians who run half-way houses, or drop-in shelters or the like, and talk to those people, talk to a number of them, and see if they are really the manipulative self-serving hypocrites you seem to think are.

        • Kodie

          So many cases to the contrary of what? They get the woman to give up the child or don’t they? You don’t know what really happens at crisis pregnancy centers? Or what different cases have you seen?

          You didn’t address the rest of my post at all and I made some really good points. You were the one who heavily implied that women were being coerced to abort by someone else without considering how many are coerced not to abort and the psychological fallout from that. You seem to think this is a one-way regret and that women aren’t really making their own choices. If your point is that we have to find a way to let people know that they don’t have to get an abortion, we also have to find a way to let them know that it’s perfectly fine if they want to get an abortion. Christians only use manipulation tactics to save the fetus.

          Comprehend that the decision can be difficult enough without the emotional blackmail Christians publish on the subject. You want to blame women for caving in to pressure and not really making her own decision, well what do you think anti-abortion tactics do? They like to think women who have abortions are psychologically messed up from it. You don’t consider that it goes two ways. All major decisions may carry the possibility of wondering what if you had gone the other way, but there’s nothing wrong with abortion. It’s a legitimate and responsible decision if that’s what a woman wants to do. Don’t start this conversation with a stray wandering question about how many must be coerced into abortion when you don’t fathom the high probability of how many must be coerced out of having an abortion – and everything that happens afterwards. Do you think single mothers have no regrets? Do you think women who stay in relationships she doesn’t want to be in or should get away from just to raise a child have no regrets? Do you think women who wanted an abortion but are emotionally blackmailed to give it up for adoption have no regrets? All pro-life does is muddy an already difficult decision with emotional nonsense that doesn’t need to be there. It’s used as a wedge to justify Christianity – because people have to think about it means they really want to choose life? Because people have other people in their life whom their decision affects means they don’t have agency? It goes two ways. There’s way too much hype and you try to make a woman think she’s really killing a whole baby when she’s not. She can’t un-abort her precious innocent child! She isn’t even making her own decisions!

          Well isn’t that because you think women want babies so much, that none of them want abortions? Isn’t that what you’re suggesting? And everything you ignored to put a spotlight on a different area of my post that you take issue with? Just go ahead and put that out there and don’t expect anyone to have a problem with your implications. Sure.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          To me, those saying “Dude, it’s just a cell.” seem to be trivializing the decision.

          … because at one end of the spectrum it is just a cell.

          If you’re an expectant parent and want to be, you’ll protect that cell with your life. Fine. But not every expectant parent feels that way. Finding out that you’re pregnant can be pretty much the best day in your life or pretty much the worst. I don’t think there’s much in between.

          adoption does reduce most of the economic/life-change issues that are often given for abortion.

          Does it? Of unmarried women who get pregnant and carry the baby to term (in the US), two percent give it up for adoption. I’m not saying that this is your view, but saying, “Hey, no problem–just carry the baby to term and have it adopted; no biggie” is hopelessly naïve of the emotional roller coaster that the woman will be put through.

          (And reading ahead, I see Kodie also addressed this problem. I hope this isn’t redundant.)

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          You didn’t address the rest of my post at all and I made some really good points.

          If there is a particular point you want people to respond to then I suggest you a) don’t hide it in a long post where many different points run into each other, and b) cool off on all the emotional language.

          I’m not keen on either writing a book for each post, or getting into a flame war.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          … because at one end of the spectrum it is just a cell.

          How many abortion operations are conducted at the “just one cell” stage? There are more abortion operations performed in the third trimester than at the “just one cell” stage. Yes, development does progress along a gradual spectrum over the nine-months of pregnancy. But almost all abortions are performed between 4 and 20 weeks, with most around the 8-12 week mark.

          Surely a responsible discussion should consider what is being aborted. On the pro-life side, there is a philosophical position that from the moment of conception, we are dealing with a person. When do you think that personhood is attained? At birth? Or somewhere in between conception and birth? The answers to these questions will help us to have a good discussion about this issue.

        • Kodie

          Oh, you enjoy dangling your random wonderments out in the air, but when they’re addressed for real, you don’t like to spend the time to tackle them, and you think you are punishing me because you don’t like my tone? I think you don’t want to think about things you don’t want to think about, just like you are accusing pro-choice people of doing.

        • Kodie

          @Karl – Curiously, you found one point buried in another long post that you wanted to address and ignored everything else. If there’s a point you’re trying to avoid, just say so, don’t blame me for hiding it.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          Why all the passive aggression? What’s the point you want me to address?

        • Kodie

          WoooooOOOWWW. Who is being passive aggressive? I’m impatient that you have responded to me 3 times complaining that I’ve written something and not having read it anyway, want to goad me into repeating myself.

        • Patterrssonn

          “If this life is the only thing of which an atheist is certain, it seems to me that atheists should “do unto others” and allow every fetus the possibility to be born and grow up”

          I guess we’re more concerned with the life of incubator, an actual living person with as much right to body autonomy as any other person, than with the “possible person” inhabiting her body. By your logic too women should have as many children as physically possible, every time a fertile woman refrains from having sex she’s denying “possible persons” the right to exist. Even worse, those women could be having fertility treatments, producing triplets and quadruplets with every birth. I’d never realize before the scale of the tragedy of the never to be born “possible persons”.

        • David

          I disagree. I see a big difference between a pregnancy and a “potential” pregnancy. The two things are not even in the same ballpark.

        • Richard S. Russell

          And the point Bob is trying to make here is that a fertilized egg and a born person are not in the same ballpark, either. I don’t know of anyone on the pro-abortion side who would argue that a person, once born, shouldn’t have a fair chance to lead a long and fulfilling life, as you suggest. But that’s a standard we apply at the end of the spectrum, not one that makes any sense applied to the beginning.

        • David

          I also want to avoid getting too deep into the concept of “person.” On what grounds would we be defining person? We might find ourselves at an impasse very quickly.

        • Richard S. Russell

          If you go with “citizen” you avoid that problem.

        • David

          The spectrum argument is also something which I began my posts by contesting. To me, its not useful. There’s no scientific criterion for judging a person nor is there a standard scientific definition for what a person is. Its just your philosophy against mine on that issue. What I can state with no ambiguity is that human life begins at conception. And that’s my point.

        • David

          If we go with “citizen,” then personhood is conferred by the state. I wouldn’t agree with that.

        • Richard S. Russell

          But of course you are arguing for exactly that. You want the state to confer legal recognition on something that you think of as a person.

        • David

          Certainly, granted. Since we’re stepping outside of science and into philosophy, my reason would probably not surprise you. I recognize a spiritual reality above and beyond the merely material. The spectrum side of things is purely material. The spiritual component is fully present from conception. Thus personhood begins at conception. I’m guessing that you disagree with that.

        • David

          At this point, I should anticipate the claim that I’m trying to shove my religion down other peoples’ throats. The beauty of the prolife position is that I don’t have to do that. I can simply say: “the science shows that human life begins at conception. If we value human life, then let’s value fetuses.” That’s the only point that I wish to make right now.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          By your logic too women should have as many children as physically possible, every time a fertile woman refrains from having sex she’s denying “possible persons” the right to exist.

          Every time a woman has her period, baby Jesus cries.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          The spectrum argument is also something which I began my posts by contesting. To me, its not useful.

          Because there is no spectrum? Because there is no meaningful difference between a trillion-cell newborn and a single cell?

          There’s no scientific criterion for judging a person nor is there a standard scientific definition for what a person is.

          We might also quibble over where the dividing line between green and blue is. But surely we agree that green isn’t blue.

          Let’s grant that where “personhood” begins is a tricky question. But it should be obvious that a single cell isn’t one.

          What I can state with no ambiguity is that human life begins at conception. And that’s my point.

          The only pushback that you’ve gotten on that is that the life actually began before that point. But let’s just take it as you phrase it. I can accept that. But so what? Embrace the spectrum.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          I can simply say: “the science shows that human life begins at conception. If we value human life, then let’s value fetuses.” That’s the only point that I wish to make right now.

          That’s fine, but that’s not an especially interesting point.

          You’re using “human life” in two different senses. The first is human life = Homo sapiens. Yes, of course the DNA in the single cell is human.

          And the second is human life = a person. We look around in society and we see lots of people—y’know, humans. They walk and talk (or maybe they’re carried if they’re babies). They’re all able to live on their own and they’re all visible.

          I should anticipate the claim that I’m trying to shove my religion down other peoples’ throats. The beauty of the prolife position is that I don’t have to do that.

          No, the horror of the pro-life position is that you want to impose your way of thinking on everyone.

        • Kodie

          I recognize a spiritual reality above and beyond the merely material. The spectrum side of things is purely material. The spiritual component is fully present from conception.

          The imaginary spiritual component shouldn’t compel anyone to agree with you, nor should you compel them to agree with you, nor should you expect anyone to be compelled by that. I also note that you’re pulling the extra syllables trick. We all know you mean “soul” but jacking 6 more syllables and referring to it as a component, like a physically existing thing, which is what component means, you kind of have to show us that thing in a diagram. That’s what trying to legitimize or intellectualize your terms to a level of science demands – that you show us on the model where that component lies. I mean I sort of get what people are trying to say when they say spirituality or human spark. It’s BS but I get it. You’re talking about a sperm with no spiritual component and an egg with no spiritual component suddenly gain a spiritual component as soon as they get together, which is also a metaphor for and religious regard for sex, they become a fertilized egg and make their own little baby, a “spiritual component.” Sounds like poetic malarkey!

        • Richard S. Russell

          David, since you forthrightly grant that you have adopted your position due to your belief that something “spiritual” happens at the moment of conception, why do you keep citing “science” as your motivation and the basis for your position, when clearly it is not? This seems pretty dishonest to me.

        • Kodie

          I think they (mis)-apply science in order to capture the rational audience who don’t believe in souls. Yeah, that is dishonest, but if they want what they want, at least they have a shorthand understand of what will work on different kinds of people. Statistics and pictures of fetuses with itty-bitty hands. Never mind the poster is larger than a full-grown adult, the fetus is the size of jelly bean with features either embellished or the date lied. I just looked online at fetuses at various numbers of weeks and there is a distinct difference between science and pro-life propaganda in both size and features of a fetus at those various numbers of weeks. Their version of science is that it starts to have eyes and limbs, they will conclude it is a full-grown newborn thumb-sucking adorable infant. Turn that thing inside-out and try that!

          http://embryology.med.unsw.edu.au/wwwhuman/Stages/CStages.htm

        • Patterrssonn

          “the science shows that human life begins at conception. If we value human life, then let’s value fetuses.”

          You could say that all you want, but it doesn’t really mean anything. All your doing is stating your position. I could just as easily say the science shows human life begins at birth and it would be equally valid, or more realistically equally invalid.

        • David

          You make it sound as if the beginning of human life is a mystery beyond our understanding. I’m proposing that it is not. In fact, the claim that “human life begins at conception” is so un-mysterious, uncomplicated, and easy to believe that, when we’re not discussing abortion, we naturally assume its true! In fact, many prochoice people have admitted it is true and have moved the argument into different territory: the question of when it is proper to kill human life.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          “human life begins at conception”

          This is an uncontroversial claim. Your challenge is to grapple with the spectrum. “Human life” isn’t the name for the spectrum; it denies the spectrum … and yet the spectrum remains.

        • Phil

          You make it sound as if the beginning of human life is a mystery beyond our understanding. I’m proposing that it is not. In fact, the claim that “human life begins at conception” is so un-mysterious, uncomplicated, and easy to believe that, when we’re not discussing abortion, we naturally assume its true! In fact, many prochoice people have admitted it is true and have moved the argument into different territory: the question of when it is proper to kill human life.

          David seems to be working off a of syllogism:
          1) Starting at conception, there is human life.
          2) It is wrong to kill human life.
          3) Therefore it is wrong to have an abortion.

          Even if I grant all of these things (not sure I do–rather I’d call it “potential human life”– but lets go there for the sake of argument) , I still can find it morally acceptable to have an abortion. That’s because even though it may be “wrong to kill human life,” we have lots of instances in society where we find it excusable. For example, it is wrong to kill human life, and yet you can kill someone who broke a window in your house and is now wandering around inside with a knife. Why? Because you have a “right” to protect yourself. Thus, when we have 2 competing rights (the intruder’s “right to life” and your “right to self protection”), it is ok (sometimes) to say the right to life “loses out” to the other right.

          That is what is happening with abortion. The embryo’s “right to life” loses out to the woman’s “right to privacy” (at least that’s what the court calls it). It is more like a right to “autonomy” or “freedom from bodily intrusion.” And this balance, where the right to privacy outweighs the fetus’s right to life, only lasts for a short time (IMHO). That is why it is NOT ok, to kill a newborn (or, possibly, a 3rd trimester fetus).

          So just because you call it a “human life” does not, IMHO, provide some trump card that means you win.

        • Kodie

          Whatever philosophy or theology you do (or do not) subscribe to, the prolife position is based on solid science.

          It’s based on pure emotion and sentimentality and superstition. Pure all three. Any science the pro-life position is based on is coincidental or outright misused, but then if you’re claiming a miracle occurs, that has nothing to do with science.

        • Patterrssonn

          Well then if “human life begins at conception” is an uncontroversial statement of scientific fact, perhaps you could provide me with a definition of human life. Because the way your using it, to me it seems more of a philosophical statement.

        • David

          Well, without recourse to all of the exact terminology…human life is the result of the union of two gametes, producing a human zygote. Genetically speaking, nothing further of much significance has happened to us since we were zygotes, genetic mutations notwithstanding. From that moment on, it was only a matter of time and circumstance that we became what we now are. That’s as unphilosophic as I can make it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Genetically speaking, nothing further of much significance has happened to us since we were zygotes

          Granted, but who speaks genetically? When I look around at society, DNA isn’t really top of mind for me.

          From newborn to adult, we have arms and legs, brain and nervous system, and on and on. Single cells don’t have any of this. Big difference–that’s what we’re talking about.

        • David

          Bob:

          From newborn to adult, we have arms and legs, brain and nervous system, and on and on. Single cells don’t have any of this. Big difference–that’s what we’re talking about.

          Yes, I understand. An acorn is not an oak tree. But we’re not really talking about an acorn anymore. We’re talking about a sapling. That thing is growing. I’ll feel justified in doing anything I please with an acorn. What do I care. I’ll feel much less justified in uprooting a sapling. Oak trees grow for a long time. But even if the sapling is not yet 5 feet high, I’ll still treat it with respect. If we have an instinctual reverence for living things which are nonhuman, we should at least have that much respect for our own species. Of course, I think that we should have much more.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          I’ll feel justified in doing anything I please with an acorn. What do I care.

          Then you see my point. A single cell is very, very, very different from a newborn.

          I’ll feel much less justified in uprooting a sapling.

          And I’ll feel unjustified in killing a newborn. After the first trimester, then your sapling metaphor begins to make more sense (still invalid, IMO).

        • David

          Bob:
          Then you see my point. A single cell is very, very, very different from a newborn.

          Well, in some ways it is and in some ways it isn’t. The line of thought which I’m developing here is that its not simply genetics which remain the same from conception till death. There’s also the biological process of growth and regeneration. You and I, Bob, are the same biological process which started at conception and will continue till death. I would relate it to practically any other process that you can think of. A zygote begins the process of life analogously to a teenager beginning High School. If you were to yank that kid out of classes and terminate the process of his getting a High School degree, it doesn’t much matter whether it happened his Senior year or after his first day of class as a Freshman: that kid deserves to get his degree and you should allow the process to run its course. I’m arguing, of course, that the process of human life is intrinsically good. You don’t ruin a good thing whether its just beginning or almost ending–you let the process run its course.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Maybe I’m missing your point, but “we must let everything run its course” doesn’t seem to apply in lots of areas. We dam rivers to make hydro power, we chop down trees to make lumber, we kill calves to make veal.

          As for development after birth, you’re right that it continues to happen. Still, the difference between you and your newborn self is trivial compared to the difference between that newborn and a single cell.

        • David

          Bob:
          Its true that it doesn’t apply in lots of areas. I’m suggesting that biological process of human life is something which should concern us deeply. Its a significant component of who we are. Its a process which should take precedent over other concerns.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          You don’t make much of an argument given that you haven’t rebutted the spectrum argument. It just ain’t a person on the single-cell end.

        • David

          Okay. The spectrum argument implies that, since this one celled organism doesn’t resemble me at all, therefore…I can kill it? That doesn’t necessarily follow. If the potential value of something is significantly greater than its apparent value, you don’t throw it away. It doesn’t much matter what the zygote, blastocyst, fetus looks like right now. If the only thing that separates you from “it” is a time period of 9 months, then you don’t have sufficient grounds for killing it. I don’t like what it would say about us as a species. “9 months ago, I would’ve killed you. But right now, you’re alright with me. Have a nice day.”

        • Richard S. Russell

          Of course, there is considerably more than merely 9 months separating a fertilized egg from a born baby. There’s substantial material, construction, and investment involved. As Bob continually points out — evidently in vain in your case — what you end up with at one end of the spectrum is substantially different from what you started out with at the other end.

          You do know, don’t you, that every time you scratch your nose, you’re killing off 40-50 potential human beings, because each of the skin cells you crush to death could (under the proper circumstances) have turned into an actual person. Are you now riddled with guilt at your massive genocide?

        • David

          Richard,

          Okay, there’s “substantial material, construction, and investment involved.” I’m not sure what we’re talking about anymore. I’ve never seen a “construction site” sign hanging from a woman’s belly.

          Richard, the fact that some of my skin cells could be cloned (Lord knows who’d want to do that) just doesn’t impress me. Its not genocide. Short of someone stalking me with swab, it’ll never even worry me.

        • Richard S. Russell

          The death of several dozen potential human beings from YOUR OWN BODY will never even worry you?

          But you get all bent out of shape over one cell in the body of some woman you’ve never even met?

          Religion certainly does odd things to people’s brains.

        • David

          Well, Richard, I certainly hope that I would’ve met her. How rude of me!

        • Kodie

          @David – People pull out saplings all the time. I even used that in one of my posts as an example. Your ignorance of what is entailed by being pregnant and just joke it away or something even less witty is astounding. Yes, if a zygote is not a baby, I don’t consider it a person any more than I consider a sapling a person. I don’t care what it will become – that’s for the parents to project. It’s a popular projection – none of that is real or ought to have any bearing on how these decisions should be made. And you wouldn’t have met her. Why would you answer that? You’re proposing to decide for all the women what they ought to do according to your religious beliefs. If it takes 9 months to gestate a complete human being, the incomplete “human being” is being constructed. It’s not a person yet, it’s not ready to come out.

          Think of it this way. You want to build a house. Is the plan a house? No. Is the foundation a house? No. Is the frame a house yet? No. Can you sleep in it, are you protected from the elements yet? Can you put your things away in it yet? It’s not done yet. The walls start to go up and the roof goes on, it’s definitely starting to look more like a house. There are discernible rooms you can walk in and out of, but it’s not got electricity yet or plumbing or heating. It’s not a house yet. When you want to build a house, you go ahead and see it through to the end. But it’s not a house yet. By the time you can move in, there is still work to do finishing the exteriors, the trimwork, the landscaping and installing all the appliances, moving in your furniture and putting up a mailbox. You can take all your belongings out and move them to a different house and it would still be a house. That’s what a person is, a house. I am not my “DNA” which I can tell you is your code word for soul.

          My DNA can’t walk around, it can’t check Bob’s page and read Bob’s responses to Bob’s blog. I’m not my fingers. I’m not my heart. I’m not my brain. Well I am closest to being my brain. Everything I do comes from my brain conducting my physical and mental functions. And when the brain dies, machines can make my heart beat because my brain can’t order it, but I’d be dead anyway. I’ll still have DNA all over my body and my blood flows and gets oxygen but I’m not coming back. It’s ok to pull the plug on that too.

          So when an embryo becomes a fetus and whenever it starts to have a brain, it’s only started to have a brain. It might look like a brain but it’s still being constructed. Like with materials that come from the mother. It’s not a baby yet, it’s not a person, it has DNA but it doesn’t have a thinking, doing brain. Everything that’s going on is because of cells. CELLS. They know how to grow into whatever they’re supposed to be. This one goes to be a finger and this one goes to be a foot. The brain needs to be functioning to get the body alive as a machine that it is. It’s not yet.

          When you go to IKEA and you buy a bookshelf you have to put it together first. You don’t have a bookshelf, you have a few panels of wood, screws or brackets and a little wrench and a little sheet of instructions in case you can’t figure it out. It comes all together in a box with a picture of what it’s going to be on the outside and relevant information so you can decide if it will fit in your apartment and look nice there with your other stuff. If it is wrong, don’t buy it. You can go to IKEA and look around, but you don’t have to buy anything if it’s the wrong thing. Do you understand what I’m saying or are you going to keep saying the same thing trying to be mr. funny guy.

        • David

          Kodie:

          You seem to have a very materialistic and mechanistic view of reality. I don’t. No wonder we disagree.

        • Kodie

          David:

          You seem to have an emotional and fantasy-based view of reality. I don’t.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          The spectrum argument implies that, since this one celled organism doesn’t resemble me at all, therefore…I can kill it?

          A fly more resembles me than that single cell, and I swat the fly with glee.

          Maybe you’re a Jain. Maybe you cherish the life of the fly and the single cell as much as any adult’s. Not a problem, just don’t try to impose that thinking on the rest of us through laws.

          If the potential value of something is significantly greater than its apparent value, you don’t throw it away.

          The twinkle in my eye could’ve made another dozen babies, but my wife and I stopped at two. Am I guilty of murder?

          If the only thing that separates you from “it” is a time period of 9 months, then you don’t have sufficient grounds for killing it.

          Then don’t kill it. Just don’t deny the right to make her own choice to the pregnant woman.

        • David

          Bob:

          Maybe you’re a Jain. Maybe you cherish the life of the fly and the single cell as much as any adult’s. Not a problem, just don’t try to impose that thinking on the rest of us through laws.

          I distinguish between flies and humans. I might use other forms of life to illustrate a point, but my concern in this discussion has always been human life. I think that its arbitrary for laws to deny protection to humans just because they happen to be at a certain stage of development. Humans are human at each and every stage of development. This is not something which changes based on age.

        • Richard S. Russell

          And yet you callously continue to scratch your nose, each time destroying many potential humans at a very early stage in their development. And, by your own admission, you don’t even care. It’s bad enuf that you’re so heartless, but your hypocrisy is breath-taking. What laws should we be passing to stop you before you kill again?

        • David

          Richard,

          For some reason, your words implant the bizarre image of little babies sprouting from a person’s nose. I’ll just have to assume that you see this sort of thing happening all the time. Hasn’t happened to me yet. Knock on wood.

        • Richard S. Russell

          As I mentioned to Rick Townsend, the skin cell from the nose is the source of the DNA, not the destination in the uterus (and, ultimately, the world). The analogy is that the egg cell from the ovary is the source of the DNA. Neither of them, all by itself, can turn into a human. Both of them require some additional processing, which (at present, anyway) can only take place in the comfy environs of a uterus, so some travel is also required before the processing can begin. That help? Wouldn’t want freaky mental images to keep you awake nights.

        • David

          Richard,

          I more or less got the drift in the first place. Its just not an interesting point. It takes a lot of time, money, and trouble to do what you’re describing. Obviously, not all DNA becomes a zygote. Why should I worry about it?

        • David

          I hasten to amend my words for the sake of clarity: not all DNA is found in a zygote. Obviously DNA has other purposes than that.

        • Richard S. Russell

          In fact, David, I don’t think you should worry about it.
          I also don’t think you should worry about the fate of a fertilized egg cell.
          But you do.
          I was just pointing out the inconsistency for you.

        • David

          Richard, I’m going to give you credit. Should they begin to abort clones, I guess I’d find that unfortunate too.

        • David

          I should add, there’s a lot of biogenetic experimentation going on right now. I haven’t weighed in on those subjects because, hey, that’s not what the topic of conversation is about.

    • smrnda

      Science does not distinguish between import and unimportant events. In terms of the process of pregnancy, fertilization, conception, implantation and all other such things are just events that go on during a process. I don’t recall my biology prof saying “Well, conception is special, implantation and later development is trivial.”

      On objectives, most fertilized eggs don’t implant.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        most fertilized eggs don’t implant.

        And if human life begins at conception, and if that’s as important as many pro-lifers seem to imagine, this should be the issue. Who cares about abortion? That’s chump change. Those numbers are swamped by all those teeny weeny little people that don’t implant and get flushed away. This is where the pro-life crowd should be focusing: on new science to somehow prevent this Holocaust.

        • David

          But certainly you know that morality involves our decisions and not the things which are beyond our control. The fact that eggs don’t implant and that miscarriages happen is as relevant to morality as someone dying of natural causes. Abortion is, indeed, a choice and that’s why it is a moral issue.

        • smrnda

          In real life, if people are dying of an epidemic illness, we take measures to protect the health and safety of the population, even though the illness isn’t a person out there with a gun shooting people. Most people would argue that if we send out cops or soldiers to stop violence that is a threat to human life, if there’s a heath emergency we’re about as obligated, so the ‘within or beyond our control’ isn’t a meaningful distinction to me.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          But certainly you know that morality involves our decisions and not the things which are beyond our control.

          Smallpox was beyond our control. And then it wasn’t. So we controlled it. Not doing so would’ve been immoral.

          We can’t prevent this Holocaust of spontaneous miscarriages because we haven’t tried. Shouldn’t we have a Manhattan Project to quickly make some improvement in this terrible situation?

          Or is this as meaningless an issue to you as it is to me?

          The fact that eggs don’t implant and that miscarriages happen is as relevant to morality as someone dying of natural causes.

          God’s testing you, bro. And your lack of interest shows Him that you’re not doin’ so good.

          As a side question, why is abortion a moral failing for us but spontaneous miscarriage isn’t a failing for God? He could stop them if he wanted to … but he doesn’t.

          Kind of makes him look like an SOB.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          We can’t prevent this Holocaust of spontaneous miscarriages because we haven’t tried. Shouldn’t we have a Manhattan Project to quickly make some improvement in this terrible situation?

          Actually there is plenty done in the medical world to reduce and minimize miscarriages including encouraging pregnant women to take folic acid and to refrain from activities that could jeopardize the pregnancy.

        • David

          Bob:

          I’ll take your side question. If you were to admit the existence of God, then life and death would take on completely new meanings. We’re limited in ways in which God is most emphatically not. We have the limited knowledge and ability to heal people in this life but God’s knowledge and ability transcend both life and death. In other words, the dead are in good hands. Anyhow, I don’t believe that medicine should eradicate death, it should just contribute to a person’s health within their natural lifespan.

        • Kodie

          I know folic acid is supposed to be taken by all women of childbearing age considering that they may get pregnant and may choose to support life should that happen, but there are still miscarriages, and most occur before a woman realizes she’s pregnant, i.e., she never knew she was pregnant. Is there a strong correlation between taking folic acid and that happening a lot less? I mean, do you account for all the natural abortions from lack of taking vitamins? I know vitamins are good for you, but I have to think of it also being sort of a rain dance, while miscarriages still happen and nothing is done further to prevent them. You are basically blaming miscarriages on what women should have been doing instead. What causes all the other ones?

        • Kodie

          David,
          You don’t believe in eradicating fatal diseases like smallpox, cystic fibrosis, leukemia, etc.? Kind of a monster, I gotta say. God’s powers as you perceive them are totally random and horrific if you let yourself really think about it. A person’s natural lifespan may be cut short because they don’t have access to antibiotics. You’re calling that ok?

        • David

          Kodie:

          If someone doesn’t have access to antibiotics, then I’d say we’d better fix it so that they do. We can do something about that and so we shouldn’t blame God if it doesn’t happen.

        • Kodie

          Well you said he has awesome powers and stuff. Instead of just being healthy and hardy against diseases, we have to keep stopping the gaps. You said something about a natural life span and we should not take medicine to extend it, so I don’t know what you mean. Taking medicine extends a lot of people’s lives against god calling them home whenever he wants to in that transcendental way you claim he has. I’d think he makes it so you’re healthy all the time or everyone succumbs to all illnesses by dying, which some extreme religionists actually go in for taking their chances and not relieve any ailment and die painfully.

          This is all for that wishful thinking that there’s another side, a side that you talk about but have not brought evidence for. The only reason to live is to hope to die. That makes no sense, and it’s a death cult. Dying is a part of the course of life, and it’s natural, and we have to prevent it when we can, because – that’s it. Why else save anyone’s life? To give them more time to find Jesus? There’s nothing down here for us if it’s all in heaven, do I have that right? You’re just not being consistent, and you cook up some idea of a random god giving random diseases and random lifespans to whole blocks of people sometimes, not just picking and choosing. I don’t blame god because there is no god. But that doesn’t mean I can’t argue with you when you excuse god, and say things like we can’t interrupt the natural lifespan and let things go on their course – that doesn’t apply to anything else we as humans do. When we can stop a river from overflowing, we do it. When it’s raining, we put up an umbrella. When we bowl, we put on different shoes. Get with the program. God doesn’t do any of that and doesn’t have a handful of wisdom compared to any animal’s instinct and drive to overcome natural obstacles. We’re here to stop ourselves from going extinct any way we can. Abortions are not a crisis in that vein. Fetuses aren’t victims of genocide any more than fleas are from putting a collar on your cat.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          But we agree that spontaneous miscarriage kills far more “babies” than abortion, right? I don’t think many pro-lifers’ anxiety is properly placed. They don’t care about natural spontaneous abortions. You’ll say that it’s because we can’t control that. OK, then what about unwanted pregnancy? We can certainly make an improvement in that. In the US, religion is actually a major cause of unwanted pregnancy because it reduces the quality of sex education in schools.

        • Kodie

          If you saw someone drowning, would you let the river sweep them away on its natural course? How did that person fall in, do you care? Do you say, that’s a stupid guy who got drunk and tried to catch a fish like a bear, or maybe he fell out of his kayak. What the hell, doesn’t he have any regard for the mighty smitey hand of god? That river is bound to sweep someone away if no one is there to save them. But you’re there. Do you interrupt the course of nature or not?

        • Richard S. Russell

          David writes: “If someone doesn’t have access to antibiotics, then I’d say we’d better fix it so that they do. We can do something about that and so we shouldn’t blame God if it doesn’t happen.”

          So there it is, in plain sight: You believe that God loves smallpox more than humans. He gives smallpox our bodies as their happy hunting grounds, and if we don’t do something to fix it, don’t blame him, because after all he’s just looking out for those he loves the most.

          You are sick.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob and Kodie:
          I was replying to the following:

          We can’t prevent this Holocaust of spontaneous miscarriages because we haven’t tried.

          to show that we have tried, and are indeed still trying.

          Bob,
          You are employing a fallacy when you say that because x is a bigger problem than y we should not try to solve y.

          And I also believe that unwanted pregnancy is an area that deserves attention. I am not sure that sex education is the silver bullet, as I believe that the correlation between religion and unwanted pregnancies in the US is probably more due to economic factors, especially in those that result in abortion. So I am totally in favour of making carrying a pregnancy to full-term not economically disadvantageous.

        • David

          Richard:

          How am I sick? That I believe that there is a God who loves us despite the reality of smallpox? Smallpox exists therefore God doesn’t love us? Is it really that simple to you?

        • Richard S. Russell

          Would you give smallpox to someone you loved? I wouldn’t. Hell, I wouldn’t give smallpox to someone I hated.

          But God would.

          And, if we are to believe sycophants like you, he does so with great regularity. Also ringworm, AIDS, syphilis, cancer, and every plague that’s ever made human life nasty, brutish, and short. Jesus loves the little spirochetes. He freely gives them our bodies as their playgrounds.

          Actions speak louder than words.

        • David

          I can understand why you wouldn’t believe in a God that gives someone AIDS. I don’t believe that either. I do believe in a God that created the universe out of love. I believe that all of the horrible illnesses and catastrophes are the result of an evil which God did not create. Evil is ultimately the result of a freedom to choose against what God wills. Since this freedom to choose evil extends well beyond the realm of material existence, it requires faith to believe in it. But no, God didn’t create things in order to kill and hurt us. It would be more correct to say that Satan did.

        • David

          I should add that Satan doesn’t even have the power to create “evil things.” Satan can merely take what God has created and distort it to produce evil outcomes. In this way, demonic power is not creative in any meaningful way. It just has the power to corrupt and distort.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          If you were to admit the existence of God, then life and death would take on completely new meanings.

          If you start with “God exists,” then rationalizations like, “Well, it looks weird to us, but God must have his reasons” make lots of sense. But no open-minded person, following the evidence where it leads, would ever go there. You first look at the evidence and follow it, not start with a presupposition.

          That there is spontaneous miscarriage tells me that either God exists and doesn’t much care about them (so why should we?) or that God doesn’t exist.

          We have the limited knowledge and ability to heal people in this life but God’s knowledge and ability transcend both life and death.

          Weird. God is the great healer, and yet he gave us a world with smallpox and Yellow Fever and a thousand other illness. Imperfect Man, on the other hand, has done a decent job in minimizing the impact of these diseases.

          Who comes out of this story looking like the hero?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          You are employing a fallacy when you say that because x is a bigger problem than y we should not try to solve y.

          I’m saying that it reveals a lot about motivation when the pro-life movement could:
          - focus on the millions of children dying of preventable disease every year that no one wants to die
          - demand excellent sex education in schools to minimize unwanted pregnancy
          - drive research to minimize spontaneous (natural) abortions
          but doesn’t.

          Granted, many pro-lifers do focus on these issues, but since these three issue (and perhaps many more) have no pushback from other parts of society, they are the low-hanging fruit. They should be at the top of the list of the pro-life agenda, rather than being nonexistent.

          That this isn’t the case suggests that they’re not pro-life but anti-abortion–and bizarrely so, since the key to minimizing abortion (improved sex education) is obvious and yet they’re not picking up on that.

          And I also believe that unwanted pregnancy is an area that deserves attention.

          Excellent!

          I am not sure that sex education is the silver bullet, as I believe that the correlation between religion and unwanted pregnancies in the US is probably more due to economic factors, especially in those that result in abortion.

          The per-capita abortion rate in the Netherlands is 1/10 that in the U.S., so I suspect that there’s much room for improvement. If the pro-life movement cares about life, they should be leading the charge. That they’re not says volumes.

        • Rick Townsend

          Bob,

          You have brought out this statistic a number of times.

          The per-capita abortion rate in the Netherlands is 1/10 that in the U.S.,

          But according to this reference, the US number is only higher by about 50% or so, not ten times. Still too high, for sure. But what is your source? And how does accuracy of reporting affect numbers overall for nations?

        • David

          Bob:
          But no open-minded person, following the evidence where it leads, would ever go there. You first look at the evidence and follow it, not start with a presupposition.

          I think that the evidence never rules out the possibility that God exists. This is something which such New Atheists as Christopher Hitchens admitted; he could not deny the possibility of God existing, he just thought the probability was negligible. But if we’re talking about a spiritual reality, then wouldn’t you allow for spiritual evidence? I mean by that: if your quality of life were to change as a practicing believer, wouldn’t that count as non-physical evidence? I really do mean non-physical. The thing which comes up the most in Christian literature as evidence is “joy.” Regardless of your material circumstances, rich or poor, wouldn’t you want more joy in your life? That’s spiritual evidence.

          Weird. God is the great healer, and yet he gave us a world with smallpox and Yellow Fever and a thousand other illness.

          The Christian worldview is pretty large in scope. Both physical evils like smallpox as well as moral evils like rape do not have their origin in God. They have their origin in higher forms of life (some of those life forms are higher than us) who oppose God’s good will and twist His creation into a dangerous place. The short answer is: God did not give us smallpox. All evil ultimately has its origin in the demonic. I’m not saying that the Devil gives you the flu every year. I’m just saying that physical evil is ultimately the result of very high-level beings screwing things up royally for the rest of us. Of course, as humans, we participate in this evil All Of The Time and we make things even worse for ourselves.

        • David

          As I reread what I just wrote, I should probably amend one thing in the second part. Most evil which we humans have to contend with is a direct result of our participation in the rebellion of Satan against God. Its the doctrine of the Fall. I shouldn’t blame demons for something which is largely the fault of humans.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Still too high, for sure. But what is your source?

          Here’s my source. It says that the birth rate and abortion rate (per 1000 women aged 15-19) for Netherlands was 7.7 and 3.9 in 1996. For the US, it was 55.6 and 30.2.

          Your numbers are different: they’re the ratio of abortions to live births. In Netherlands, 15 abortions per 100 live births and in the US, 29/100.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          I believe that all of the horrible illnesses and catastrophes are the result of an evil which God did not create.

          “I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things.” (Isaiah 45:7)

          “Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come?” (Lamentations 3:38)

          “When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it?” (Amos 3:6)

          Evil is ultimately the result of a freedom to choose against what God wills.

          When women are abused sometimes they defend their abuser, rationalizing away his crimes, saying that they deserved it.

          Sound familiar?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Satan can merely take what God has created and distort it to produce evil outcomes.

          If you’ll excuse my saying so, you have a childlike view of Satan. In Job, he was God’s assistant, his handyman. The evil guy who’s out to thwart the honest Christian at every turn is a later development.

          Satan is a character who changed over time.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          I think that the evidence never rules out the possibility that God exists.

          I think the same thing.

          if your quality of life were to change as a practicing believer, wouldn’t that count as non-physical evidence?

          Lots of people’s lives change. Why would this be evidence of the supernatural?

          Both physical evils like smallpox as well as moral evils like rape do not have their origin in God.

          I don’t remember seeing “Oh yeah–and God didn’t create smallpox” in the Bible, or anything like it.

          They have their origin in higher forms of life (some of those life forms are higher than us) who oppose God’s good will and twist His creation into a dangerous place.

          This is theology. I’d like evidence.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Most evil which we humans have to contend with is a direct result of our participation in the rebellion of Satan against God. Its the doctrine of the Fall. I shouldn’t blame demons for something which is largely the fault of humans.

          Adam and Eve, with the moral maturity of a 1-year-old get God pissed off and the rest is history? And we bear blame for something we didn’t do? And all this blindsided the omniscient creator of the universe?

          Color me unconvinced.

        • Kodie

          You seem to think only believers have joy. You seem to think the joy comes from believing. So far, that’s not a reason to believe.

          If you said joy comes from roller-skating, that might be a reason to start roller-skating. That’s basically all you’re doing. You get joy from an activity or company that makes you happy, which is exclusive to the suggestion that it’s true. There are some things that religious people do that anyone can do – such as slow down and appreciate things. Whatever lens you filter those thoughts through, you’ll probably feel an emotional lift. You associate that lift with a sensation that god must be real.

          I am starting to see the picture here very clearly. Associating positive feelings with god’s existence, it’s probably rather easy to deny he’s a monster. I feel emotional lifts all the time, and most people do. Religious belief therefore does not increase joy. Ironically, this does not seal the case on god not being real, it just means you can’t claim rights to joy.

        • David

          Kodie:

          It depends on what you think of nature. If you allow that people die natural deaths, then yes we allow that to happen. If you also think that its natural for people to regain their health when they’re treated for illnesses, that’s natural too–its natural because their bodies are reacting in a natural way to appropriate medications. Its natural for people to get sick, get better, respond positively to certain treatments, and its natural for people to eventually die. I’ve nothing surprising to say about that. Its also true that God approves of doctors treating people with illnesses. When people come to the end of their lives, we leave them in the hands of a loving and merciful God. The one thing we don’t do is murder people. That’s why abortion is wrong. A human fetus is not a flea. Once we start thinking in that fashion, we can justify atrocities of all kinds. And we can use a “spectrum” approach to justify those atrocities.

        • Kodie

          Just stop all the pro-forced-birth people from lying so much. They lie about what a fetus looks like and they pretend it has hopes and dreams about getting to live. That’s projection, just like how people anthropomorphize certain animals. You want to say an embryo with no human features is a person when it’s not, or a fetus with some vague animal features is a person and it’s not, and that it’s not like a flea, which it is. The only difference is in wantedness. NOBODY WANTS FLEAS. Some people will tolerate spiders and some people won’t. Some people prefer a fish to a bird. That means people get to choose what they want. If they want a baby, then they start thinking of it as a baby, and they’re happy to tell people and those people already start thinking of it as a baby. That doesn’t have any bearing on what people who find pregnancy a crisis of some kind should do about it.

          Once we start thinking of it as a whole feeling human person in that fashion, then we’ve gone into fantasy land, which Christianity is. When people are allowed to end their own lives, and when people aren’t judged for having sex whenever they feel like it, with a person of whatever sex they’re attracted to, we’ll have a logical world where fantasy-based beliefs don’t seek to rigidly control people whose business is none of theirs.

        • Phil

          The one thing we don’t do is murder people. That’s why abortion is wrong. A human fetus is not a flea. Once we start thinking in that fashion, we can justify atrocities of all kinds. And we can use a “spectrum” approach to justify those atrocities.

          (I know this is a tired response, but I’ll put it out there anyway) Are you for capital punishment? Because that is clearly murdering people. And no matter what justification you have for murdering only “guilty” people, I guarantee that same justification can be used for “atrocities of all kinds.”

          At any rate, we do, in fact, find it permissible to “murder” people. [ex. capital punishment, self-defense]. When you have fundamental, core “rights” that conflict, the “right to life” occasionally loses out.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Its also true that God approves of doctors treating people with illnesses.

          That Man has to step in to fix what God allows to happen says a lot about God’s character (or existence).

          That’s why abortion is wrong. A human fetus is not a flea.

          Nor is it a person. (And if you insist that it is then give me another term for what a trillion-cell newborn has that a single cell doesn’t.)

          And we can use a “spectrum” approach to justify those atrocities.

          Oh? Give me an example.

        • David

          Bob:

          Nor is it a person. (And if you insist that it is then give me another term for what a trillion-cell newborn has that a single cell doesn’t.)

          You’re defining personhood based on the number of cells. I presume that what really counts for you is the development of the brain. If you take into account that the brain is rapidly developing by the 5th week after conception (roughly 7th week into the pregnancy), we’re dealing with something that happens very quickly in the uterus. Personhood, as far as I’m concerned, is just as much a process as it is an event. As soon as conception happens, you start going through changes, and that doesn’t stop until your dead. Its not right to stop the process at the beginning any more than its right to stop it 9 months later or 20 years later. Its your process, its a good process, and its your personhood.

          Which leads me to the spectrum approach. If human life is good, then it doesn’t matter at which point on the spectrum it is terminated. Don’t stop a good thing from happening whether its just beginning or whether its near its end. If human life is truly good, then there can be no justification for letting it run its natural course from start to finish.

        • David

          Phil,

          I’m only for capitol punishment when there is no possible way to restrain someone from hurting other people. Its a necessary evil if a person with bad intent cannot be restrained. Otherwise, I say: lock the person up until they might have a change of heart.

        • David

          spellcheck: capital punishment.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Just stop all the pro-forced-birth people from lying so much.

          Good point. The opposite of a pro-choice society is forced pregnancy.

          They lie about what a fetus looks like and they pretend it has hopes and dreams about getting to live.

          It’d be nice to have a scale next to fetal photos. For the first weeks, they’re pretty darn small.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          You’re defining personhood based on the number of cells.

          Much more than that–read the post.

          Which leads me to the spectrum approach. If human life is good, then it doesn’t matter at which point on the spectrum it is terminated.

          The question is the morality of killing something that hasn’t yet become a person.

        • Phil

          Phil,

          I’m only for capitol punishment when there is no possible way to restrain someone from hurting other people. Its a necessary evil if a person with bad intent cannot be restrained. Otherwise, I say: lock the person up until they might have a change of heart.

          David, not sure if you’re around or even reading this anymore (it’s a minor point)–but I only want to point out that your rationale for capital punishment (you would only kill people who are hurting other people and cannot be restrained) could very easily allow for all kinds of atrocities.

          In this regard, what does “hurting other people” mean? What does “cannot be restrained” mean? Use a very low bar for either of these phrases, and suddenly you are killing thousands (millions?) of people.

          Sure you could add lots of qualifiers on top of these phrases to get closer to what you mean–but that is no different from me adding lots of qualifiers to the idea that we “only let people kill “sub-humans”” to get closer to what I mean. [If you know what I mean.]

        • Richard S. Russell

          David, I understand that you are ridden with angst at the thot of the terrible things God has inflicted on human beings (not to mention all the other living creatures on Earth) and are desperate to find some way to enable him to weasel out of his responsibility for it, to the point where you have dreamed up yet another imaginary being, Satan, to be the fall guy.

          Unfortunately for this fond but deluded wish of yours, your very own holy book stands in direct opposition to it — Isaiah 45:7: I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things.

          If God really existed, he’d be the supreme asshole of all time.

        • David

          Richard,

          I see that you got out the King James Bible for that translation. Most translations use a word other than evil. Even if I were to grant what you quote as being a faultless rendering of the original Hebrew (and I’m not sure if it is), I’d say this: almost any verse of the Bible has to be put into the context of the larger whole. In a certain sense it is true that God has dominion over evil because there isn’t one thing that happens in creation of which He is not aware. It doesn’t mean that He wishes evil on anyone. But it does mean that He allows it to happen. Why? It probably is partly to do with his respect for our freewill and partly to do with the fact that He can bring about a good outcome even from an evil act.

          But there’s another point to mention. The full identity of God does not surface until the New Testament. Christians do not take everything said in the Old Testament as being literally true. There are some things in the Old Testament which have to be taken as being figuratively true, metaphorically true, but not literally true. For the full disclosure of who God is, you have to read the New Testament.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Whether God causes evil or allows it (when he’s easily able to prevent it), he’s still an asshole.

          But that, of course, assumes the existence of God in the 1st place, which I certainly don’t. It’s only a problem for those who do, in part because it completely undercuts every argument they make that uses God’s existence as its logical underpinning. Such as what you’re trying to do here.

        • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

          Especially an OMNISCIENT god who know his creation, such as Satan (who isn’t evil in the OT) will do evil & cause suffuering but he creates him anyway.

        • David

          Richard,

          This argument seems to be winding down, but I would say one thing. We all allow evil to the extent that we allow freedom. Its just part of the way things work. You take away someone’s freedom, they will certainly do no evil, and they will also be a very uninteresting person. A truly great person is someone who could do evil but chooses not to. That’s the type of dignity which God invites all of us to have.

        • Kodie

          What?

          First of all “interpretations” is a load of manure. Some interpretations use a word I like the sense of better, but is that what was meant? Secondly, your final paragraph,

          “it’s just part of the way things work”

          – when you presume god, then you have to figure he wants it to suck for some reason.

          A truly great person is someone who could do evil but chooses not to. That’s the type of dignity which God invites all of us to have.

          I don’t know why you word it that way but that sounds like an evil person to me. It’s not very often that someone has the choice to consider being evil and merely chooses not to. Furthermore, trade the word “god” in there for person and you might get the point. I will do it for you:

          A truly great god is someone who could do evil but chooses not to

          Wrath much? Totally, god looks the other way all the time. Humans were blamed for denying god access to Sandy Hook Elementary. You really want to play for that team? Looking the other way is the same as being evil.

          Going back to the first part, where that’s just how it works. Where exactly are you coming from with that? Going forward to the part about the “dignity god invites all of us to have,” I am having a harder time believing god exists than when I started reading your post, if that’s even possible. You should probably stop talking if you want to convince anyone you’re right.

          What you did there was warp reality into a way that god still exists when he clearly does not, and would be heinous if he did. The reason you Christians try to run everyone’s life is in fact because you acknowledge how heinous god is. He decides something is a sin so you agree, just because. Well, because he can smite you to hell or crush your house or drop a satellite on you or plow a car through a red light into the driver’s side just because you’re walking around down here on eggshells but you messed up somehow. That’s just part of the way it works, huh.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          almost any verse of the Bible has to be put into the context of the larger whole.

          And how do you tell whether it has to be put in that context? Let me guess: if it sounds uncomfortable. If you like it, you just take it as is.

          Did I get it right??

          It probably is partly to do with his respect for our freewill and partly to do with the fact that He can bring about a good outcome even from an evil act.

          Seriously? God is supposed to care about our free will?

          I wonder then why he avoids impinging on the murderer’s free will but lets the victim’s free will get trampled.

          Sounds capricious on God’s part. Or, it sounds like rationalization on yours.

          The full identity of God does not surface until the New Testament.

          Yeah–that, or this is just the spin that Christians put on things.

          It’s hard to imagine that, if Jesus was part of the plan from Day 1, that he didn’t get Jesus down on earth first thing–why he had to go through that whole Old Testament period first. And then–Doh!–God remembers Jesus and gets him down on earth ASAP.

          Kinda makes the whole story look like yet another human invention.

          Christians do not take everything said in the Old Testament as being literally true.

          6 days of creation? Noah’s flood? You may not take that literally, but some Christians do.

          For the full disclosure of who God is, you have to read the New Testament.

          I’ll buy that when you show me where in the Old Testament it says that.

        • David

          And how do you tell whether it has to be put in that context? Let me guess: if it sounds uncomfortable. If you like it, you just take it as is.

          No, not exactly. We don’t just pick and choose–we see everything in the context of the New Testament. Its a bit like seeing something first in the distance and then seeing it up close. The Old Testament is essentially describing the reality of Jesus but in a “veiled” manner. Once Jesus arrives in the New Testament, the reality is “unveiled.” Both describe the same reality, but you make allowances for the fact that the people of the Old Testament did not have Jesus right in front of them.

          Seriously? God is supposed to care about our free will?

          I wonder then why he avoids impinging on the murderer’s free will but lets the victim’s free will get trampled.

          The greater the freedom, the greater the responsibility. God entrusts us with a considerable amount of freedom. We can use it to do very good things or very bad things. The proper attitude when someone gives you such a powerful gift is: “thank you, I’ll try not to abuse it.” If we tyrannize and kill one another, well, that reflects badly on us, not God.

          6 days of creation? Noah’s flood? You may not take that literally, but some Christians do.

          Fundamentalism is a relatively new movement. If you go back to the first couple centuries of Christianity, St. Augustine and before, they already knew that you don’t interpret everything in the Bible literally. The idea that the Bible could be read as a scientific textbook never occurred to most Christians. Fundamentalists are a minority.

          I’ll buy that when you show me where in the Old Testament it says that.

          Forgive me for remarking this, but how could the New Testament be referred to in the Old Testament? The New Testament hadn’t been written yet! :)

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          we see everything in the context of the New Testament.

          You see everything in the context of your interpretation (among thousands of competing ones) of the NT.

          The Old Testament is essentially describing the reality of Jesus but in a “veiled” manner.

          No, the OT doesn’t describe Jesus at all. Your spin sees Jesus, but don’t pretend that he was there all along.

          you make allowances for the fact that the people of the Old Testament did not have Jesus right in front of them.

          Here’s a thought experiment: you go back into OT times and you describe Jesus. Would they say, “Doh! It’s all so clear now! I thought I understood the Scriptures, but all the little puzzles just fall into place. It really couldn’t be any other way, could it?”?

          Or do they say, “Uh, you need to go back and read the Scriptures. God said to make animal sacrifices, so we make animal sacrifices. God said to avoid certain foods, so we do so. It’s all quite clear.”?

          If we tyrannize and kill one another, well, that reflects badly on us, not God.

          Did you deliberately avoid my point completely? Let me try again: a murderer kills the victim. When you say, “God cares very much about our free will so he doesn’t interfere,” what does that say about the free will of the victim?! It says that God doesn’t care.

          Fundamentalism is a relatively new movement.

          True and irrelevant. Back to your statement: “Christians do not take everything said in the Old Testament as being literally true.” Fundamentalism is a significant minority within Christianity today, and this doesn’t apply to them.

          how could the New Testament be referred to in the Old Testament? The New Testament hadn’t been written yet! :)

          The OT could give unmistakable clues that there was more to be told. There would be a Jesus-shaped hole in the OT. You may imagine such a hole but (and this is the point) the people in OT times wouldn’t see it. Conclusion: you are retrojecting today’s views onto a population that was quite satisfied with its Judaism.

        • David

          Bob:

          No, the OT doesn’t describe Jesus at all. Your spin sees Jesus, but don’t pretend that he was there all along.
          ….
          The OT could give unmistakable clues that there was more to be told. There would be a Jesus-shaped hole in the OT.

          Without going too far into depth, you can find a “Jesus shaped hole” all over the OT . The OT describes God’s liberation out of Egypt of his chosen people. This liberation was mulled over and, over time, turned into the prophetic yearnings of a Messiah who would definitively liberate God’s chosen people from all oppression. In the NT, Jesus is announced as this Messiah–the Christ who liberates from sin and death.

          In the OT, you have the institution of animal sacrifice. The efficacy of these sacrifices are later called into question by prophets such as Isaiah: “‘The multitude of your sacrifices–what are they to me?’ says the LORD. ‘I have more than enough of burnt offerings, of rams and the fat of fattened animals; I have no pleasure in the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.’” (Isaiah 1:11). Of course, the NT announces a different kind of sacrifice which was no longer the “the blood of bulls and lambs and goats.” It announces the loving sacrifice of G0d on the Cross. An act of love which reconciled God with humanity.

          Also, in relation to the Cross, you have OT prophecies, again in Isaiah, such as the “The Suffering Servant” passages (Isaiah 53, for example). But its not just Isaiah. There are other prophets who spoke of a redemption of the people that would come about through the suffering of someone chosen by God.

          These are just a few instances of the OT being fulfilled in the NT.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Without going too far into depth, you can find a “Jesus shaped hole” all over the OT .

          Granted, from your perspective. What I want to see is an OT Jew able to unambiguously see it.

          Also, in relation to the Cross, you have OT prophecies, again in Isaiah, such as the “The Suffering Servant” passages (Isaiah 53, for example).

          I’ve debunked that one. And that’s my point. If you have a preconception of Jesus, you’ll find the premonition of him in the OT. But an objective observer wouldn’t.

        • David

          Bob:

          Did you deliberately avoid my point completely? Let me try again: a murderer kills the victim. When you say, “God cares very much about our free will so he doesn’t interfere,” what does that say about the free will of the victim?! It says that God doesn’t care.

          God cares enough to tell us not to do it. Killing, stealing, lying, for example are forbidden in the 10 commandments. What’s more, the Bible promises us that God “hears the cries” of the victims. If there are any take-aways from the Bible, you can’t say that the promise of retribution/justice isn’t one of them. If everything is not addressed in this life, there is always the Final Judgement. The Bible makes clear that justice is a concern of God’s.

          Its true that it doesn’t apply in lots of areas.

        • David

          Its true that it doesn’t apply in lots of areas.

          Disregard that, that was from an attempt to answer a different question in another thread. I was too lazy to delete it.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          God cares enough to tell us not to do it.

          And when God stands by and lets someone’s free will be violated, don’t pretend that God is a big proponent of free will.

          the Bible promises us that God “hears the cries” of the victims.

          That’s as useful as write-only memory (sorry–nerd joke). God’s only standing next to us, supporting us in our time of need, because we project him there with our own minds.

        • David

          And when God stands by and lets someone’s free will be violated, don’t pretend that God is a big proponent of free will.

          Let me rephrase something I wrote earlier in this discussion. 1) God takes away my ability to victimize you and rob you of your freedom. 2)Now I’m harmless and I’m also much more like a robot–instead of choosing to be good, I HAVE to be good. Without any choice in the matter, I’m completely unintelligent about it. How can I understand something when I have nothing to compare it with? 4)The most interesting part of life is now left out: to understand what is good, to love what is good, and to choose what is good.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          Let me rephrase something I wrote earlier in this discussion.

          Since you’ve let it stand, I must assume that you agree with my point: arguing that God really, really cares about free will is a dumb argument. Clearly he doesn’t, given that he lets victims of crimes (whose free will is, y’know, violated) get victimized.

        • David

          Bob:

          Its a question of definition. If free will is a privilege which we can abuse (and violate the free will of others) then don’t the odds exist that one of us will end up abusing that privilege? If you give me a gift, a car, and I go out and run over someone with it, does it make sense to blame you? Should I hold you responsible for my choice to run over someone? That’s all I’m saying. It just doesn’t make sense to me to blame God if I abuse a privilege which he’s given to me.

        • David

          Bob:

          BTW, I read the Suffering Servant post. Sure, the prophecy is about Israel! The prophecies were also meant to point toward the Messiah since he is the Chosen One, the Hope of Israel. What I notice however, is a strict, literal interpretation as you go down line by line. From what I’ve learned, not every line of the prophecies had to be given a literal interpretation. But let me have a go at some of the lines which you contest:

          “so will many nations be amazed at him and kings will shut their mouths because of him.”
          If you consider the words of Isaiah to be truly prophetic, then this has certainly come to pass. Judging from Christ’s reputation over the course of history, this is more true now than at any other time in history. There are one billion Catholics spread out all over the world. We’re not even talking about the number of Protestants. Many nations see Jesus as a force to reckon with.

          “he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the Lord will prosper in his hand.”
          While “his offspring” would have to be taken figuratively, “his days” are infinite. Remember that the Church believes that he is very much alive and has eternal life.

          “my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”
          You point out that Jesus was one of the Trinity and so how could he be a servant? But the Church never denies that he was equally a human being. He was both. This certainly is in keeping with the Christian view of who Jesus was.

          “Therefore I will give him a portion among the great [or many] and he will divide the spoils with the strong [or numerous]”
          You remark as to whether this means that Jesus could have peers. In a sense, this is true. Jesus did not die for his own edification. He was drawing humanity into a relationship with God as “adopted” sons and daughters. The Spirit of Adoption is what Paul calls it. The Church considers Jesus to be, in a sense, our “older brother.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          David:

          That’s all I’m saying.

          Not at all. You’re saying that God really, really cares about our free will. I’ve shown that he doesn’t, since he allows victims’ free will to get trampled on.

          I recommend that you no longer argue that God cares about our free will.

      • David

        I grant you that science doesn’t distinguish.

    • Kodie

      It doesn’t have marching orders without a uterus.

      Why do you think we have to allow it to run its course uninterrupted? You might invite people over to your house, you might even let them stay with you a long time, some of those people might even be your own children. But you would stop an intruder in your home, correct? You might have an alarm, or call the police, or hit them with a baseball bat or even a bullet, but they ain’t staying.

  • smrnda

    I wish you had pointed out that with their phrase ‘life begins at conception,’ many pro-life Christians get the mechanics of conception wrong, which is why some oppose contraception such as the morning after pill. It seems that they tend to believe that ‘conception’ must happen during the sex act, and that therefore anything past that point is ‘abortion.’ No, since conception can occur later which is why there is a window of time where you can take the morning after pill, and why the later you take it, the less effective it will be.

    My take on abortion is that it’s weighing the interests of someone who is undeniably a person (the woman) against something which is definitely not as fully a person as the woman. You reach a tipping point at birth, but before that we’re dealing with fuzzy boundaries.

    After taking some courses that dealt with embryology I came to see much and much less merit to the fetus= baby or zygote = person discussion. It’s like calling an egg a chicken, or blueprints and some bricks a building.

    Something I’ve never understood is how, theologically, Christians can object to abortion. First, in the OT, if a man causes a woman to miscarry, he gets a fine, whereas for anything recognized as murder there was a death sentence. The other problem is I recall William Lane Craig once defending God commanding people to kill children by saying “well, if they are young enough, all the kids go to heaven.” By that logic, abortion is good since all aborted fetuses go to heaven.

  • Bob Jase

    When the majority of pro-lifers stop supporting capital punishment and wars of opportunity then I’ll consider their position.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Their inconsistency is amazing.

    • “Rebecca”

      Or if they expressed any concern about the needless and sometimes inhumane killings of animals.

  • Greg G

    There is some equivocation of the word “life”. There’s biological life but that isn’t the same as what we call “our life” that is associated with brain activity. Organs can be transplanted after brain death because it isn’t biological death. Pro-lifers cannot comprehend the distinction.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Good point. And you can explore that by imagining living skin cells (which I scratch away without a care–if you can believe such callousness) being cloned and then growing into a newborn. They’ll point to the potential of that invisible fertilized egg cell, but it’s little more than the potential that a skin cell has.

    • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

      Agreed. The word “life” is unhelpful in this context. After all, animals and plants are alive. Is it murder to kill them? Of course, religiously motivated pro-lifers tend to use the term “life” when they really mean “soul”. I think they are deliberately saying “life” instead of “soul” because the problems with “soul” are more obvious. No one can define what a soul is or even prove it exists, and souls aren’t harmed when the body they are attached to dies anyway.

      • Kodie

        I think most of us culturally consider humans different than other beings, and the law definitely does. It’s not ok to kill your neighbor, it’s not ok to shoot his dog, it’s not ok to kill his tree, it’s not ok if your dog kills his chickens, but he might benefit from your bugzapper. Most of those are considered property damage and out of 4 kinds of dead animals, only 1 is murder and another is probably filed under animal cruelty, which the internet tells me will not even definitely get you jail time. I mean, even if you don’t believe in souls, “life” means human life and everything else is property. In the extreme case of vegans (regular or because of religious reasons both), I think they still don’t mind killing stuff like carrots and oak trees, although I can imagine you don’t need to chop down an apple tree to eat apples, having used wooden furniture isn’t a dilemma as inheriting your great-aunt’s fur coat, and plants just don’t have the same aliveness as fleas and moths and fire ants, much less rats and pigeons and pythons.

        Still, the laws made by humans tend to care about human life above others. Someone might sue you for burning down a doghouse even though that’s not the dog’s main residence, but the bees aren’t going to take you to court for destroying their hive. People care about fetuses more than their lunch that used to be a pig because many people are very happy when they find out they have their own fetus, and because fetuses are more important than cats for only that reason – and like cats, can’t defen… can’t speak for themselves? How does the appeal to emotion work on them when the vegan is telling them to eat quorn-burgers instead of cows? Well of course animals don’t count and the law is on their side, but so the law is on the pro-choice side about abortion, so what is the big deal? It’s mostly about potential. A full-grown cow is a potential sofa, a full-grown oak is a potential armoire, and a fertilized egg is a potential … I don’t know, pain in the big fat ass probably, but let’s say cancer curer or president or great athlete or author. So what. They think there’s a shortage and every fetus has a path and a destiny? Like at that moment in time 20 or 30 or 40 or 50 years from now, we’re going to notice a huge rave of destruction and despair because someone accidentally aborted Superman or George Bailey? Pretty much they’ll never get to ride in a hot-air balloon or sit in a cubicle or get raped or have dozens of their own children. I’m not saying life’s not kind of interesting, but when they try to appeal to me as if I’m glad I was born, I honestly don’t think I am. I know I wouldn’t have cared and would not know the difference. They think these fetuses are up in heaven’s nursery crying their poor little hearts out that they didn’t get to do all this neat stuff we get to do. Curling their little web fingers when they still look like a frog and they’re as big as a fingernail… oh my it must mean they want to live! They want to go to school and make friends and learn to drive a car! Shrimp curl up when you poke them too, and they’re 30 for $10.99 at Red Lobster this week.

        • Nate Frein

          Your “I’m not sure I’m necessarily happy I was born” is a good point that needs to be explored more.

          Google “I wish my mother had aborted me” for a powerful essay in how not everyone’s life is a good life.

          While my situation was not nearly as bad as the author of that essay, the fact remains that when my mother was fundamentally broken when she had me, and she was fundamentally broken while she raised me. Only as I was reaching adulthood did she actually start working to fix her problems. If she had aborted me, I’d never know the difference, and maybe she would have had the chance to fix herself before having a child, and that child would have grown up a happier, less neurotic person.

        • Kodie

          My mom didn’t even know she was pregnant with me for at least 5 or 6 months. I assume I was wanted though because as I understand it, she wasn’t in denial. After my brother was born, she tried to get pregnant again for a few years and thought she couldn’t. I don’t know it kind of does sound like denial. She wasn’t completely oblivious to her changing body, she just didn’t think it could possibly be pregnancy.

          I used to think I liked being a kid, but I can’t remember a ton of good times. A few, but not many. She’s authoritarian and probably sick like I am now, just too tense and insecure to have children, and all she wants to hear is what a good job she tried to do. I don’t know fundamentally broken, I don’t like to try to think it was really as bad as I sometimes think it was, but I feel like she blocked me at every turn from getting anywhere I tried to decide to go. So anyway, abortion was still illegal when I was born, so that might have been it.

  • http://www.seditiosus.blogspot.com Schaden Freud

    This is a great post; thanks for putting it up. This is possibly the best description of the “personhood” spectrum I’ve come across.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      :)

  • Pingback: The Constraining Abortion Box

  • avalon

    I’ve never cared for the Spectrum Argument because it ignores the true nature of the abortion debate. The debate is about a number of competing issues: the potential birth, the rights of the would-be mother, the profound changes in quality of life for both, and the overall effect on society of each decisions. Any rational discussion of the abortion issue needs to address ALL these points.
    IMHO, the best part of this blog is the links provided. They address the complexity of the issue. As these quotes from various churches indicate:
    “the freedom and responsibility of individuals”, ” other possible alternatives will lead to greater destruction of human life and spirit”, ” its prospects for a meaningful life after its birth”, “”well-being of the mother”, “devastating damage may result from an unacceptable pregnancy”, “tragic conflicts of life with life that may justify abortion”

    The Spectrum is just one piece of a puzzling issue. By itself, it’s useless in the discussion.

    avalon

    • Bob Seidensticker

      avalon: Useless? You’re welcome to hold that opinion, but I don’t see why an issue can’t be approached piecewise.

      Any rational discussion of the abortion issue needs to address ALL these points.

      I would say that any complete discussion of the issue needs to address all these points. Yes, the spectrum argument is just one facet. The reason I focus on it is (1) it focuses on a manageable issue that we can put our arms around and (2) denial of this fundamental point seems to me to be the biggest problem on the hard-line pro-life side.

      • avalon

        Hi Bob,
        Bob: ” it focuses on a manageable issue that we can put our arms around”
        avalon: As is evident from the replies so far, this one issue is far from manageable. There’s 3 terms: human, human being, and person, that need to be defined. Many definitions exist, some from science, from religion, from philosophy, etc… None seem well defined.

        Bob: “denial of this fundamental point seems to me to be the biggest problem on the hard-line pro-life side”
        avalon: I disagree. Pro-lifers biggest problem is seeing this as a single issue topic (when life begins) and denying any discussion of the competing issues involved. By addressing the spectrum argument alone you’re giving validity to their idea that abortion is a single-issue.
        I think it’d be more productive to get them discussing the mother’s rights, quality of life issues, affects on society, etc. Issues they pretend don’t exist.
        For an interesting read try this:
        http://pricetheory.uchicago.edu/levitt/Papers/DonohueLevittTheImpactOfLegalized2001.pdf

        avalon

      • Bob Seidensticker

        avalon:

        As is evident from the replies so far, this one issue is far from manageable.

        Then you can sympathize with my goal of approach this in steps.

        There’s 3 terms: human, human being, and person, that need to be defined. Many definitions exist, some from science, from religion, from philosophy, etc… None seem well defined.

        And arguing about the definitions is a morass in which I have no interest in getting entangled. Define them however you want and pick your own term for whatever a newborn has that a single cell doesn’t.

        By addressing the spectrum argument alone you’re giving validity to their idea that abortion is a single-issue.
        I think it’d be more productive to get them discussing the mother’s rights, quality of life issues, affects on society, etc. Issues they pretend don’t exist.

        I have no problem with that approach, but I can’t make progress on this single, focused facet. You think it’ll be easier by throwing more issues into the mix?

        That article is fascinating. I first heard this idea in Freakonomics, but then heard that it was poorly supported, so I stopped using it. Maybe it’s viable after all.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    I find that talking about “single cells” when discussing abortion is disingenuous for the simple reason that I do not know of any abortion operation performed on a “single cell”. It would be of far more clarity to discuss what level of development abortion is actually occurring at. Abortions seem to most commonly be performed between 6-12 weeks. How about talking about the rightness or otherwise of aborting at that stage of pregnancy?

    • Phil

      So you think abortions before 6 weeks are ok?

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        I think there are better arguments for abortions in the first six weeks than after. I still think adoption is a better solution than abortion in all but rare cases.

        • Phil

          Surprise, surprise. It turns out we are in perfect (theoretical) agreement.

          The only problem is that the real world doesn’t necessarily conform to our theoretical preferences (e.g., having baby and giving it up for adoption better than any abortion, early abortion better than late abortion, etc.) As Bob has pointed out (I think), there are a number of “real world” problems with adoption. And valuing “carrying a baby to term” over abortion can (almost certainly) have “real world” problems as well. See:

          http://www.slate.com/articles/double_x/doublex/2013/01/did_the_pro_life_movement_lead_to_more_single_moms.html

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Phil,
          I’m glad we can find agreement in this hot-button issue. It is too rare in these sort of debates. I don’t deny that there are “real world” problems. But if we agree on what is theoretically the best, then it does seem to make sense to direct society as close to these ideals as practicable.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I think there are better arguments for abortions in the first six weeks than after.

          So then you agree with the spectrum argument–there is a meaningful difference between the single cell and the newborn.

          I still think adoption is a better solution than abortion in all but rare cases.

          First: tell me what fraction of pregnancies to unmarried women carried to term are adopted in the US. Then tell me if you still think so.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          So then you agree with the spectrum argument–there is a meaningful difference between the single cell and the newborn.

          I think there are milestones that may be salient to the issue between conception and birth, eg I think that it is possible to argue that until the central nervous system is established, then it is not a “person”, or does not “have a soul” or whatever language people prefer to use. I’m currently agnostic on whether this is the case.

          First: tell me what fraction of pregnancies to unmarried women carried to term are adopted in the US. Then tell me if you still think so.

          I wonder if this would change if the majority of those aborted were carried to term? I wonder what factors influence such a small percentage to currently offer up for adoption. I think it deserves a lot more consideration.

        • Kodie

          Are you interested in factors like being emotionally blackmailed into waiting too long or being coerced? I didn’t see your answers to my post I made a lot earlier today.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          I’m sure that there are cases where these things happen.

          My guess is that the main reason is that the stigma of being a solo mother is much less than it was 40-50 years ago. We know that the marriage rate is much lower than then, it could well be the case that the mother and father are living together, perhaps even sharing ownership in a home but are not married. Perhaps it is also practically easier to be a solo mother now, with a greater range of jobs available to women and more childcare options.

          In light of this I think the reasons you offer are likely to be a factor in only a small minority of cases.

        • Kodie

          You guess and you think so? I agree that seems likely on your first guess, but with the stigma seemingly eliminated, it still exists. You imagine everything is swell. It might be more swell than it used to be but it is far from actually swell.

          But actually I misread the post before or your wording confused me since I thought we were still talking about adoptions and why women do that. You seem to be coming in with a lot of confirmation bias as well. What do the statistics mean to you? It means that women are being coerced by far to have abortions they never wanted, but that women who do not choose abortions means the world is a pretty place with people who make good decisions and have healthy relationships and adequate work and child care options. I mean, you see things the way you want them to be and use that as a full supporting argument.

          But adoption used to be the only legal option for many women and girls. Adoption probably goes down because they have more of the choices they favor, and they’re safe. Still yet, introduction of the Pill and other birth control methods helped a lot, including the passing out of condoms very freely at some schools and at certain rallies, etc. I don’t know because I was 11 when AIDS started to be realized, what the world thought of condoms before. I wasn’t yet an adolescent so just happenstance, condoms became such a huge deal around the time I was a teen and in college. I had the feeling that it was a major fear of dying in such a sucky way that conveniently led to lower rates of unwanted pregnancies altogether. I also think abortion awareness at all, i.e., the controversy, leads many people to realize that is also an option, if they didn’t before. My personal timeline, I become aware of all these things with the perception that everyone else is becoming aware of them (they are current and newsworthy beginning at a certain era), while it could just be that I was transitioning from an oblivious child about this stuff to an aware adult, when these issues would be relevant to me and I’d make decisions about what to do if and when.

          I think people have fewer adoptions since they never wanted adoptions to be the only choice. I don’t know if you can comprehend how much it must suck if you want to be able to have your baby but someone makes you give it to someone else. That’s what crisis pregnancy centers do. I think it is preferable to comprehend your own abilities and not get attached to something. People get attached to the idea of something. Reading articles about what really happens when some agency tries to help you keep your “baby”? I get nauseous. I’m not saying everyone in a bad situation must get an abortion – what I’m saying is if that if you’re between a rock and a hard place here, many people would rather keep their child rather than offer it to someone else. If that’s not possible at this time, it may be later, next time, with someone else. There is nothing to get so worked up about having an abortion, especially early. I think the longer you wait the more you wish you had done what you should have done but can’t or can no longer bring yourself to do it. That’s the spectrum.

          People make it work when they choose to have a child, somehow. I suspect you don’t and can’t really understand what’s emotionally involved in being led to care for something that’s not there, empowered to believe you can actually handle it, and then abused into doing “the kind thing”. Logically, adoption should be easier, but I don’t know why you think it already is. Will the baby be better off? Maybe. Why should anyone have to go all the way through this trauma to do it, I don’t know why you think that’s such a good thing either. Just like you think women are muscled into getting abortions they don’t want, I have a hard time picturing women for whom adoption was not a coercion. Of course, surrogates sort of do this all the time, but that’s something you think through before you get into it, not “one of the options available” in a time when you don’t know what to do, while everyone is telling you what they think you should do.

          Consider the whole idea that most pregnant women who don’t like to find out they are pregnant for whatever reason they have are favoring one of two options – go back in time, or I’ll figure out something. The invisible type of woman is the woman who never wants children, let’s just get that out of the way. Some still opt to do what they believe is the right thing and never warm up to it, but are still mothers to their child. Some get abortions because why not. While many women do plan a future with children in it, financial stability is happening much later. Some people are willing to sacrifice or delay their own plans to manage it somehow. Some people are saying now is just not the time. How many do you think are thinking I’d like to give this away to someone else when it comes out of my body 4 seasons from now? That seems to me to be the Abortion Plan Z – we’re being realistic, but the fact is, it is nearly born, so what options are left? You can still sacrifice or delay your plans, or you can sort of go back in time when you didn’t have to think about that. You think coercion doesn’t factor into that at all?

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          But actually I misread the post before or your wording confused me since I thought we were still talking about adoptions and why women do that.

          Actually I was just wondering aloud about possible reasons for the data that Bob quoted, and whether the introduction of widespread abortion has influenced these adoption statistics. Simply a question. If I was a researcher doing the study, it would be something I would want to follow up on.

          I replied further to your post because I thought it might be the point that you were angry about me not replying to in another part of the comments, and it was in a nice, short easy to understand comment here.

          I don’t pretend or expect that adoption is either easy, or easier than abortion. (Which of the two is easier I am in no position to judge.) What I do believe is that given these two alternatives and the balance of concerns of both mother and child, adoption is the better option.

          If there were other points in your post you that you wanted to reply to that I missed, please forgive me.

        • Kodie

          It is mostly about coercion, Karl. When people have choices and none is much more emotionally fraught than the others, they can make a clear-headed decision. That means more people will be going into motherhood with their eyes open if they want, or not feeling guilty because society demands that women feel guilty for having an abortion. That means they don’t wait for a long time to decide as if that thing inside them has monumental proportions of significance compared to themselves. If people can say, motherhood is a difficult choice for me, but I want to make it, then that is pretty good and emotionally prepared. I do not judge people if they make the right choice for themselves or even if they make the wrong choices for themselves. We all have decisions to make and while one is neither more right or wrong, you don’t know until you choose it. I always think more information is better, but even if I think it’s a good idea to think ahead what realistically motherhood would be like if you are not financially or emotionally stable for it, some people might choose it for themselves and live with their own choice. Similarly, anti-abortioners, at the very minimum, approach the problem as if women are getting abortions without thinking at all, and urge them to think think think and let time pass pass pass. They use propaganda, that this is a noble sacrifice, that life is purposeful, that every life is an epic story that absolutely would be tragic if it were missed – well wouldn’t it be tragic (it is to me) if that child has to have a completely different life than it would have if it is adopted? That seems to me to be the worst, even though I can admit there are women who choose it for themselves. But like motherhood itself, giving a child up has its elevated status as a glorious thing. This child’s “destiny” as it were is to be screwed into existence at all and then handed off to so-called “better” parents. We don’t know that. I would not feel at all comfortable if someone else was raising my child were I not able to.

          We just need to get away from those two “life” choices in favor of preserving the accidental strand of DNA. Those aren’t the necessarily better choices in favor of abortion. My perception of your ideals is that life is always a 10 and abortion is a 1 or 0, then you weigh that and think anyone choosing a 0 option has not thought it through until they favor the 10 option, since 10 is better than 0. Why can’t they weigh two 5s for themselves and see which one is better for them?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Karl:

      I do not know of any abortion operation performed on a “single cell”.

      Nor do I. You don’t use a procedure at the earliest stages, you use abortifacients.

      • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

        At what point in the pregnancy does it progress to being beyond “just one cell”?

        • Richard S. Russell

          By about Day 2. From there it proceeds fairly rapidly. 4 cells later on Day 2, 8 cells on Day 3, and they’re off, growing exponentially. Gotta hit a trillion or more within 9 months, you know. Read more about it here:
             http://fertilitylabinsider.com/2010/11/embryo-stages-progression/

  • Wladyslaw

    Bob, Let’s say for the sake of an argument that there is a spectrum and that the dividing line is at 21 weeks or wherever you or the law says it is. You mentioned that the exact point is arguable. And it’s also a guess when exactly conception took place. So that even in your view there is a possibility of several days, even a week or more, when there is a question of viability. Since there have been over 50,ooo,ooo abortions since RvW there is obviously a strong possility that many thousands, perhaps hundred of thousands, have been aborted on the viable side of the line. Our society takes the taking of one life to be extremely important. We would never burn a building down if we thought there MIGHT be a person there. Yet it seems you are arguing that since we cannot agree on that line, it it alowed to kill thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands, who unknown to us fall on the viable side of the line.

    • Wladyslaw

      I knew I asked a difficult question, but I was really surprised no on even tried to answer it

      • Richard S. Russell

        I suspect nobody tried to answer it because nobody thot it made any difference whether the fetus was “viable” vs. any other criteria you care to name (extant, multi-celled, heartbeat, fingers visible, etc. — anything short of “born”). The whole point of Bob’s essay is that we’re dealing with a spectrum, in which things shade very gradually from one condition to the next, and somewhat differently for each individual pregnancy. Certainly the circumstances of the pregnant woman will vary wildly from one to the next. So this obsession with finding a “one size fits all” point of demarcation is utterly misplaced. Different women will make different decisions. As long as each one gets to decide individually, it’s none of my business or yours what basis they have for making that decision.

        • Wladyslaw

          Richard,
          Anything short of birth.
          So according to you, you cannot be certain that a baby ABOUT to be delivered by c section is a human being, bu once the doctor makes the incision, then, and only then would you be certain that it is human. So then any killing before birth would be allowed.

        • Richard S. Russell

          You’re assuming that the critical question here is whether Thing X is a human being. Conversely, my take on it is whether Thing X is a part of a woman’s body. So I reject the entire premise of your question.

          In practical terms, if they’re really working on a caesarian section, the woman is about to offload Thing X anyway, so she has obviously decided to proceed all the way to end of term with the pregnancy, and we’re well past the point where any of the issues raised here are relevant any more.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Richard:

          Different women will make different decisions.

          Agreed. I see a parallel with parenting: most parents do a good job, but a few create a terrible environment for their children, and CPS has to come in and take the children away. Society assumes that the parents will do a good job (the parents get the benefit of the doubt) and only when there is seriously good evidence that they’re not does society act.

          Abortion should be handled the same way: assume that the pregnant woman is doing the best thing but have a line beyond which society says that abortion is illegal except for extraordinary circumstances.

      • Kodie

        You’re asserting a dividing line on a spectrum after it was explained. I think they divide things up by trimesters and use the first day of the woman’s last period to determine when these phases change. Just like I said upthread, if we decide the cutoff is on a child’s 3rd birthday, then when is the child’s birthday? Obviously we know what day it was born, but it definitely could have been born the day before and still be a healthy baby. So why can we, for argument’s sake, kill a toddler the day before they turn 3 but not the next day? I’m not seriously suggesting this. But it’s the same reason a person can in legal terms rape someone the day before they turn 18, and the same reason it’s 2013 one second after it was 2012. It’s just how we organize stuff so we can be fair to everyone, even though it’s true that you can turn 18 nearly a full day before you were born if you were born later that night. You’re still technically 17, but it’s not pedophilia because you’re officially 18.

        The one answer is whenever the woman feels that it’s necessary up until it’s born. There is no reason to force birth at a premature state just to keep it alive if the woman isn’t interested. Will she change her mind later? I think that’s the big deal about it. Once you make a decision, you can’t make the other one, well once you abort you can’t change your mind, and I think that’s the issue. Once you decide not to abort, you can still change your mind. People are uncomfortable with other people making a decision to abort when they loved their child the moment they took the pregnancy test and got a blue line or whatever. Even women who were considering abortions but didn’t have them probably feel on the whole that decision went as well as they wanted it to. I mean, I imagine when a person decides their direction, that they turned out to be right. That’s also true for people who choose to have an abortion, by the way. I think the big hassle is that they can’t change their mind back, and if they wait to make up their mind later, it’s past some expiration date on deciding at all – it’s moved along the spectrum closer to murdering a toddler.

        So Christians love to make people who are considering abortions delay their decision. Waiting periods, financial costs, having to make travel arrangements to go out of state, and as a last resort, harassing them outside of clinics and doctor’s offices. If you make abortion illegal in the US, who goes to jail? If people have to go to Canada to get an abortion, will they be arrested when they come back? Really, really, really wait and make absolutely certain that this very grave decision is still what you really, really, really want to do, while we wave the propaganda and infringe on your rights and limit your ability to get it done early and easily. You. can’t. change. your. mind. So make absolutely, positively sure you won’t want to. Meanwhile, the arbitrary deadline has passed and we crossed over the line, so you can’t change your mind. You can’t change your mind now. If you weren’t allowed to make up your own damn mind a lot earlier without all the heavy emotional baggage they love for you to have, you are now in a predicament you certainly never wanted. Now that you’ve waited long enough to be positive that abortion is the right decision, the rug is ripped out. You know we all know what an embryo will become given enough time, so this is a predictable outcome that could be prevented by letting women just have their own right to decide. Feel secure in the knowledge that most adults have to make heavy decisions at some time or another and may consult your wisdom and may not take it, and that’s ok.

        Think about it another way. A couple has been dating a while and one of them proposes. The other one says “I love you but I can’t decide whether or not to spend the rest of my life with you.” What day did they fall in love with each other, and did they fall in love with each other on the same day? What if they just met yesterday? What if they have been dating 10 years and living together for 8 and have 3 children? What if there’s a 48-year gap in their ages? I can tell you right now, that’s not for you to decide, even though you are probably judging each of these situations. Should the proposer give their beloved time to think about it, if they need to think about it? How long? Does it depend on the situation – and why?

        Don’t worry if other people are going to be sorry they make the choices they make.

      • Phil

        Wladyslaw,

        I don’t particularly see a question here. If you want to try to convince the 50 U.S. States that they should prohibit all abortions after viablity, go for it. (I am also confused by exactly what you mean by “viablity.”)

        You should read this article:

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/07/22/anti-abortion-laws-states_n_907377.html

        Also, I think “the line” is above my pay grade. I’ll leave it to the medical ethicists. But I do agree that, just because we cannot find unanimous agreement on where “green” turns into “blue,” that means we have to say green = blue. But I do NOT believe that, just because people cannot agree on where “green” turns into “blue,” that means we have to say green = blue. Indeed, the latter is both fundamentally irrational and harms women.

        • Phil

          Ugh! That sentence should read,

          But I do NOT believe that, just because people cannot agree on where “green” turns into “blue,” that means we have to say green = blue.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          (Correction made)

        • Phil

          Thanks.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Wladyslaw:

      Since there have been over 50,ooo,ooo abortions since RvW there is obviously a strong possility that many thousands, perhaps hundred of thousands, have been aborted on the viable side of the line.

      I think you mean on the wrong side of the line, since viability isn’t necessarily where society will draw the line.

      I see your point. But don’t pretend that abortion is the only difficult issue that society grapples with. The US has 2.3 million prisoners right now. That’s people locked up in a bad environment, being denied their freedom. Should every prisoner be there? Have mistakes been made? Surely you’re not saying that we shouldn’t lock up anyone, just because we can’t be 1000% sure that they deserve it.

      Abortion is the same way. In society, we do the (fallible) best we can, and when mistakes are uncovered, we try to correct them.

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob, reference:

    So you’re just going to abandon the spectrum argument? Sorry for the repeated question, but you ignored it last time.

    I’m sorry again. I guess what I thought was a clear statement eluded you. I am not abandoningit. I am rejecting it. That is why I addressed the spectrum and said that life or death issues are not like a spectrum, they are more like an on / off switch. I quote myself:

    Some issues have an on-off switch point. Some don’t. The scale from white to black includes many shades of gray. Whether or not you stole the item from the store does not. You either did or didn’t. Whether or not you killed a person is either a yes or no question. The person either survived your attack, in which case you are charged with assault, or didn’t, in which case you are charged with murder.

    Not all issues are as clear as those, but life and death is what you are talking about with abortion. Unless you clearly define what you are advocating, this is simply an intellectual argument, or perhaps a sham. But instead, you need to figure out where the spectrum determines that life is life and murder is murder for you, or you are simply advocating legalized abortion without saying what the policy implication should be.

    If that looks like I am abandoning the discussion of the spectrum, then let me be clear. I am not abandoning it. I am rejecting it.

    Here is another way to look at it. Change of approach here, so be forewarned.

    There is a spectrum of issues defining the range of possible reasons why a human life may be taken by another. Leaving out warfare and terrorism just to simplify the discussion a bit, between two key players (life taker and the one who loses his or her life) the spectrum could be defined on a scale from completely accidental (car wreck, etc.) with no malice, to premeditated murder. Someplace in the spectrum is self defense, where the one losing the life threatens the life-taker, but in most other cases the difference has to do with the actions of the one taking the life not the one who loses it. These are the cases where I think the analogy fits best.

    Your spectrum argument attacks the status of the victim (zygote through newborn), not the one who makes a knowing choice to take the life. Again, for simplicity, let’s leave out rape, incest and legitimate, medically diagnosed threat to the life of the mother. I could put all of those on a shelf and allow them for the sake of this discussion. But if we were to focus strictly on the abortions where the mother, through whatever set of pressures from family or life itself, chooses to terminate the pregnancy, and we deal with those, it would be a major accomplishment. It would also deal with the vast majority of abortions.

    So for all those abortions where the mother makes the choice to abort, the variables of the decision have to do with the one making the choice to end the pregnancy, not with the victim of the act. In a courtroom, it is the actions of the victim that determine whether the life-taker was justified in taking the life. If there is an innocent victim, then the spectrum applies — from accident to premeditated murder. So abortion discussions like your spectrum analogy are backwards from typical jurisprudence because it focuses on the situation of the life-taker, not the victim and what the victim may or may not have done to create a situation calling for a justifiable homicide. This aspect shows a major weakness, IMO, of your spectrum argument.

    Some on this blog have suggested that the life in the womb is a parasite, and that its very presence is cause for justifiable action. These sentiments are not worth discussing here, since the focus of your blog was far different. Most rational thinkers agree the life in the womb is an innocent victim or an innocent eventual infant, but is certainly not the cause of the problem.

    I fear you will dismiss this with a clever literary slight of hand, but I ask you and other contributors to consider its merits instead.

    Thanks in advance.

    • Kodie

      Most rational thinkers agree the life in the womb is an innocent victim or an innocent eventual infant, but is certainly not the cause of the problem.

      No.

    • avalon

      Hi Rick,
      Rick: “Your spectrum argument attacks the status of the victim (zygote through newborn)”

      avalon: Why would you call a zygote a “victim”? That seems to be the question Bob posed. Isn’t it just a “clever literary slight of hand” to say a zygote is a victim?

      Rick: “So for all those abortions where the mother makes the choice to abort, the variables of the decision have to do with the one making the choice to end the pregnancy, not with the victim of the act. ”

      avalon: The “variables of the decision” also include what quality of life the child will have if it’s carried to term. It’s possible the potential mother is completely self-centered and doesn’t consider the quality of life for the child, but such a self-centered person probably wouldn’t make a very good parent.

      avalon

    • Phil

      So for all those abortions where the mother makes the choice to abort, the variables of the decision have to do with the one making the choice to end the pregnancy, not with the victim of the act. In a courtroom, it is the actions of the victim that determine whether the life-taker was justified in taking the life. If there is an innocent victim, then the spectrum applies — from accident to premeditated murder. So abortion discussions like your spectrum analogy are backwards from typical jurisprudence because it focuses on the situation of the life-taker, not the victim and what the victim may or may not have done to create a situation calling for a justifiable homicide. This aspect shows a major weakness, IMO, of your spectrum argument.

      Some on this blog have suggested that the life in the womb is a parasite, and that its very presence is cause for justifiable action. These sentiments are not worth discussing here, since the focus of your blog was far different. Most rational thinkers agree the life in the womb is an innocent victim or an innocent eventual infant, but is certainly not the cause of the problem.

      I am not following, as I see something wrong with almost every sentence here. First, “so for all those abortions where the mother makes the choice to abort, the variables of the decision have to do with the one making the choice to end the pregnancy, not with the victim of the act.” The variables of the decision involve the “developement” of the victim, right?

      Also, there is a lot wrong with “in the courtroom, it is the actions of the victim that determine whether the life-taker was justified.” It is actually more “valid” to say “in the courtroom, it is the actions of the life-taker (and what he or she was reasonably perceiving, from HIS OR HER PERSPECTIVE) that determine whether the killing was justified.”

      I think I’ll stop there.

      • Phil

        FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, I hope someday this website lets commentors fix their own comments.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          I hear you. The suggestion has been made …

        • Rick Townsend

          There’s precious little love of God at this site. I can recommend some others if you’re looking. Keep smiling.

        • Kodie

          It’s just an expression, Rick.

        • Phil

          It was a joke (so hard on the internet). I hope it got someone to smile.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      I guess what I thought was a clear statement eluded you.

      Much of what you write eludes me.

      That is why I addressed the spectrum and said that life or death issues are not like a spectrum, they are more like an on / off switch.

      Yep, got it the first time. You’ll notice that I favorably referenced this point in my last response.

      In response to your black-or-white observation, I pointed out that pro-lifers themselves embrace the spectrum by what they put on their signs. Since I didn’t get a response, I asked the question.

      Change of approach here, so be forewarned.

      OK, but there’s a lunatic here who simply thrashes anyone who changes the subject, so be careful …

      There is a spectrum of issues defining the range of possible reasons why a human life may be taken by another.

      OK—sounds like a scale of guilt or culpability. None for accidental car wreck and plenty for premeditated murder. Yes, that’s a spectrum.

      Your spectrum argument attacks the status of the victim (zygote through newborn), not the one who makes a knowing choice to take the life.

      “Attack” is an odd word choice, but you’re right that these are two different spectra. I’m talking about the status of the being (not a person to a person, in my parlance); your previous example was guilt of the person.

      In a courtroom, it is the actions of the victim that determine whether the life-taker was justified in taking the life.

      In the courtroom, the victim is a person. In the abortion question, the very personhood of the being is what develops over time.

      So abortion discussions like your spectrum analogy are backwards from typical jurisprudence because it focuses on the situation of the life-taker, not the victim and what the victim may or may not have done to create a situation calling for a justifiable homicide. This aspect shows a major weakness, IMO, of your spectrum argument.

      And the other big difference in comparing abortion to the murder trial is that, in the trial, the victim is a person.

      Your point doesn’t reveal a weakness of the spectrum argument, it reveals either a lack of understanding of the spectrum argument or a deliberate dismissal of the very point it is trying to make.

      I fear you will dismiss this with a clever literary slight of hand, but I ask you and other contributors to consider its merits instead.

      No, not sleight of hand but a misunderstanding of the spectrum argument.

      • Rick Townsend

        I get it. I just disagree.

        But as to your critique of clarity, fair enough. I tried to start with what seemed like an elegant concept but it was more complicated when I began working through it. So let me try to clarify.

        In the legal arena, a person may kill another and be completely justified in doing so or be guilty of murder, or could be charged with any number of intermediate levels of crime as well. Whether or not the person is justified is generally determined by looking at both the victim and the killer.

        The Victim’s Involvement: What the victim was doing which might have provoked the attack? If the victim was provoking nor threatening, (and as you pointed out, perceptions matter), then the actions of the victim will be considered in the criminal prosecution and in the determination of guilt. If the victim was not at fault in provoking or threatening, then the attention turns to the actions of the life-taker.

        The Killer’s Involvement: At this point, the killer’s motivation becomes a factor. Was the murder a misperception gone to excess? Did the killer have something to gain from the death of the victim? Was this a crime of impulse, or is there evidence of premeditation? Was the person killed an annoyance, hindrance, or obstacle to a goal of the killer? At this point the actions and motivations of the killer are the key.

        The parallel to abortion should be apparent.

        Involvement of the Infant or Fetus: The first entity to consider is the fetus/infant. In all but the most rabidly hateful literature, no one classifies the product of conception as a parasite or a deadly growth, though I have seen disturbing trends on this blog in that direction. The fetus or infant did not seek its position, and is innocent of any crime.

        The Parents: The ones making the choice to abort are the other party. Right or wrong, they are making a decision to terminate a process they started. As I mentioned in my original post, for the sake of discussion, let’s leave out the relatively rare pregnancies resulting from rape, incest and medically diagnosed threat to the life of the mother. (Not merely the “health” of the mother, as this unfortunately is the loophole abused by so many notorious abortion abuser “doctors” as a blanket excuse.) These special case pregnancies deserve special consideration and should be reserved to a separate discussion. According to a Guttmacher Institute Study, these account for less than 2% of all abortions. For the rest of the pregnancies which result in elective abortion (98+%), the participants willingly participated to some degree in actions which resulted in the pregnancy. Whether preventions failed or other issues led to the pregnancy that was unwanted, the actions were voluntary except in the case of the noted exceptions (<2%).

        How does this parallel the discussion of killer/victim? It should be fairly clear, but first, the fetus/infant is not involved in nor responsible for the situation. So all of the remaining assessment needs to be based on the parents. No mitigating circumstances found in the killer / victim discussion apply.

        Instead, all of the remaining focus needs to be on the reasons for the choice of the parents. Again, using the research of the Guttmacher Institute, reasons have to do with the inconvenience to the parents, difficulty with financial stresses, and other personal challenges that would be posed by the raising of a child. For those saying they are making the choice because they can't care for the child adequately, my question would be to ask whether the best solution to challenges resulting from personal choice is to kill the innocent party. Is the baby better off torn apart in the womb and thrown out in the trash than potentially being imperfectly cared for? To say yes is indeed a harsh assessment.

        Most of the discussion on this blog has centered on the state of the abortion victim, not the actions of the mother and father. If the fetus is not viable, abortion advocates say it's OK to terminate (kill) it. If the fetus is viable but the parents don't want it for any reason, it's still OK. In either case, the fetus didn't do anything wrong. It didn't ask for hosting nor conception. It is developing according to biologically predictable stages. But its survival is in the hands of the parents and their decision to let it live or not. No action of the parents, according to abortion advocates, is out of bounds up until the fetus draws its first breath, or perhaps beyond if some have their way.

        In this way, it is very different from the crime victim, whom we treat as, well uhhh… a victim, not a problem to be disposed of along the path of the parents other daily duties–go to work or school, pay the bills, take out the trash, terminate the fetus. Just another chore with no real consequence. That is the way it is portrayed by the pro-choice crowd.

        For the atheist who believes there is no God, no standard for objective morality, no accountability, allowing abortion without restriction is completely logical. We evolved from he ooze, (don’t ask where the ooze came from) and became complex organisms by chance (don’t ask what the odds are that natural selection can increase complexity), we are masters of our own destiny, etc. But if this is the truth, they’d better hope they stay in a location where individual rights are based on Judeo-Christian ethics, because no atheist regime has every protected their life, liberty, nor pursuit of happiness or the freedom those concepts imply.

        If one values life at all, with or without being certain of God, then erring on the side of the innocent victim is worth thinking about.

        • Kodie

          Pregnancy is a condition and whatever people may decide to do regarding that condition does not parallel your murder analogies.

        • Richard S. Russell

          You know, the tonsils didn’t ask to get infected, either, but since they are, I have no compunction whatsoever about having them out, without bothering to ask “Excuse me, Mr. Tonsil, do you mind if I excise you?” I wouldn’t expect an answer in any case. Nor would I ever claim that an infected tonsil or inflamed appendix is a victim. Frankly, I find it bizarre that you seem to think in those terms.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          In the legal arena, a person may kill another and be completely justified in doing so or be guilty of murder, or could be charged with any number of intermediate levels of crime as well.

          Right–this is a spectrum of guilt (or inversely, of justification).

          The parallel to abortion should be apparent.

          Yes: the valid parallel is that the “victim” is an obstacle/problem for the “killer.” The part that fails is that the victim in a murder trial is a person, but that is not necessarily the case in the abortion situation.

          For those saying they are making the choice because they can’t care for the child adequately, my question would be to ask whether the best solution to challenges resulting from personal choice is to kill the innocent party.

          I swat a fly, and it’s an innocent party. I eat hamburger, and the cow was an innocent party. Innocence by itself isn’t enough: it needs to be a person as well to fit into your trial analogy.

          Is the baby better off torn apart in the womb and thrown out in the trash than potentially being imperfectly cared for? To say yes is indeed a harsh assessment.

          In many cases, yes. “Imperfectly cared for” can mean a hellish existence. This is why the common kneejerk response “it’s a human; you can’t kill humans; therefore, abortion is wrong” seems a thoughtless response.

          No action of the parents, according to abortion advocates, is out of bounds up until the fetus draws its first breath, or perhaps beyond if some have their way.

          It will then shock you to learn that pro-choicers are not of a single Borg mind and have considerably more nuance than you think.

          In this way, it is very different from the crime victim, whom we treat as, well uhhh… a victim, not a problem to be disposed of

          Your argument is clearly stated, but ignoring the spectrum argument doesn’t defeat it. The spectrum is still there, unanswered. The crime victim is a person and the fetus, and the single-cell end of the spectrum, is not.

          For the atheist who believes there is no God, no standard for objective morality, no accountability…

          Atheists have plenty of morality, just not the objective kind.

          And as for accountability, I thought that too. But then I flashed my secret atheist card to the cop who pulled me over after he caught me doing 150 in a 35mph zone. I thought he’d let me off! Y’know, with atheists having no accountability and all. But–dang it!–he wasn’t impressed by that argument and he hauled me off to jail.

          We evolved from he ooze, (don’t ask where the ooze came from)

          Whew! Dodged a bullet that time! (It’s so embarrassing to be asked a science question and then have to admit that science simply doesn’t know the answer. There goes the omniscient edifice that I spent so much time putting together!)

          But if this is the truth, they’d better hope they stay in a location where individual rights are based on Judeo-Christian ethics, because no atheist regime has every protected their life, liberty, nor pursuit of happiness or the freedom those concepts imply.

          Good call–because protection of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness comes straight out of the Good Book, my friend! Indeed the very Constitution itself is little more than a clumsy rearrangement of the 10 Commandments. (Why we don’t just admit that we’re a theocracy, I don’t know.)

          If one values life at all, with or without being certain of God, then erring on the side of the innocent victim is worth thinking about.

          I think the parallel here is how parents are treated by society. We give them the benefit of the doubt. They can spank or not (within limits). They can dictate what the children will eat (within limits). They can scold them (within limits). And so on. In egregious circumstances, CPS must be called in, but that’s rare.

          It works the same way with the pregnant woman. We can only dimly understand her situation and want to give her the benefit of the doubt. Just like with parents going out of bounds, we set up bounds here as well (Roe v. Wade establishes those).

        • Rick Townsend

          Bob,

          When you trivialize, ridicule, and prance around the issues, you don’t encourage serious discourse. You surely realize that for folks on the pro-life side, conception to natural death of a human is a continuum of life as defined by the God we believe exists. We believe that every bit as much as you believe He doesn’t exist. I try to allow for that when discussing with you, and it is unfortunate that you don’t follow the same courtesy toward those who make a concerted effort to participate in these conversations.

          We may be wrong, but your ridicule and badgering, ignoring the concerns of the other side shows you to be calloused and intellectually lazy. Instead of trying to deal with it on an understanding level, you simply bully and twist.

          We are talking about human life, and you trivialize to compare it to a fly, to scratching skin cells, to your latest driving ticket. This is not helpful, and as usual, you drive your adversaries to frustration. What they need to realize is that you aren’t interested in moving toward understanding, you are interested in looking superior and witty.

          It’s simply tiresome. There is no movement toward the other side by anyone on this blog, including me. I’m certainly not moved to change my views by your bobs and weaves (pun intended.)

          It is good to have realistic expectations. Each time I jump into one of your blog conversations, I do so expecting abuse rather than discourse. At least there is consistency. And you are training your cohorts to do the same. It doesn’t engage the other side, but perhaps it makes them and you feel better about your position. You don’t really answer the issues raised very often, you just parse and require new refinements to whatever point is offered for thought. I’m sure you see it differently, but you should realize that this is the way it comes across. If your goal is to change minds, it isn’t working.

          This isn’t real conversation. Your side simply seems like you are expressing anger in a sophisticated, would-be erudite way. But you aren’t convincing anyone if the posts this far down are any indication.

          You might consider turning your sharp wit at those who are out of line on your side, not just those who disagree with you. You don’t ever ask the most vociferous and verbally abusive to consider civil discourse rather than name-calling and tirades. That might be a place to start if you aren’t willing to avoid derisive speeches yourself.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          You surely realize that for folks on the pro-life side, conception to natural death of a human is a continuum of life as defined by the God we believe exists.

          You’re a Christian; you believe in God. Yes, I get it. I’m not sure why you’re bringing up God.

          We may be wrong, but your ridicule and badgering, ignoring the concerns of the other side shows you to be calloused and intellectually lazy.

          When you make a serious argument, I respond in a serious manner.

          Otherwise, I might use humor or snark or even sarcasm to make my point. I missed where I was ridiculing, bullying, or badgering, but perhaps that’s in the eye of the beholder.

          We are talking about human life, and you trivialize to compare it to a fly, to scratching skin cells, to your latest driving ticket.

          Human life that is a single cell is pretty trivial. It’s just a single cell. It’s so small you need a microscope to see it. Pretty trivial.

          If you don’t understand the parallel, I can try to explain it better. If you disagree with it, that’s fine; tell me why. Why my approach isn’t helpful and drives you to frustration, I don’t know. Just because I’m not agreeing with you?

          you aren’t interested in moving toward understanding, you are interested in looking superior and witty.

          Seriously, it isn’t that hard. A fly’s brain has thousands of cells. Just the brain. And the personhood spectrum starts with just one cell. Yes, it’s trivial.

          Granted, in 40 years it might be accepting a Nobel Prize. Or be electrocuted on death row. But right now it’s just a cell.

          You may not see it that way; that’s fine. I do. I don’t state my position to be “superior and witty.”

          There is no movement toward the other side by anyone on this blog, including me.

          Not surprising. You never change.

          Each time I jump into one of your blog conversations, I do so expecting abuse rather than discourse.

          Life is a mirror. Read my comments to other commenters and you’ll see that I respond to them as they talk to me. Some Christians are delightful to chat with, and I do my best to deserve that continued goodwill.

          And you are training your cohorts to do the same.

          My army of atheist zombies doesn’t care. They only listen to what I tell them to do.

          You don’t really answer the issues raised very often

          And from my perspective, I take pains to answer every issue. I could see someone saying that I did a cursory job or didn’t touch on every nuance, but not that I respond to few of the points raised. Perhaps most of my answers fall into your change-of-subject bin, about which you instigated a long and bizarre discussion a few comments ago.

          but you should realize that this is the way it comes across.

          That is helpful feedback, but you’re the first person from whom I’ve gotten it.

          If your goal is to change minds, it isn’t working.

          I think your mind is unchangeable.

          Your side simply seems like you are expressing anger in a sophisticated, would-be erudite way.

          In some cases, anger is reasonable. The way it is now, everyone is free to make her own decision, but if you get your way, your view will be imposed on everyone. You can see why the response to that might be anger.

          And as for convincing, I have seen some clearly stated, interesting pro-life arguments. However, as far as I can tell, the ball is usually hit back over the net (translated: that pro-life argument is flawed in some way) and not returned.

          You don’t ever ask the most vociferous and verbally abusive to consider civil discourse rather than name-calling and tirades.

          Hey, everybody–be nice. (My zombie army usually listens to me.)

          If you were always gentle and polite, I’d agree that there was an imbalance here. Some of the personalities are strong, the occasional 4-letter word is used, and online forums encourage brief exchanges that may (on reflection) come across too harsh. In that case, I’d probably just say that we let a thousand flowers bloom and that you just need to have a thick skin.

          But you’re not, so I’m not sure what you’re concerned about. You’re one of my most obnoxious antagonists.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Rick, I also make no effort whatsoever to empathize with slave owners, cannibals, and practitioners of ritual human sacrifice. I don’t give a damn what motivates them. All I need to know is how they behave.

          Mainly what I learn is that they have no respect whatsoever for the lives or autonomy of actual human beings, already born and trying to live their lives. That leads me to automatically discount whatever sick philosophy led them to that behavior. Same with you.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Bob,

          Human life that is a single cell is pretty trivial. It’s just a single cell. It’s so small you need a microscope to see it. Pretty trivial.

          Size does not equal importance.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          Size does not equal importance.

          As the post makes clear, size is just the beginning of the vast difference between the single cell and the newborn. The newborn doesn’t simply have a trillion more cells. It has a trillion more cells put together in just the right way to make arms, legs, eyes, ears, and all the organs that make up a working body.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          The newborn doesn’t simply have a trillion more cells. It has a trillion more cells put together in just the right way to make arms, legs, eyes, ears, and all the organs that make up a working body.

          True and given. The problem is that even give a vast difference between a zygote and newborn, it does not follow that a zygote is therefore trivial because it is “just a single cell”, or “so small you need a microscope to see it”. You may consider it trite to quote Dr Seuss’s “A person’s a person, no matter how small”, but if you are going to appeal to the smallness of a zygote to demonstrate its triviality, then it is entirely appropriate.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          The problem is that even give a vast difference between a zygote and newborn, it does not follow that a zygote is therefore trivial because it is “just a single cell”, or “so small you need a microscope to see it”.

          I’m simply arguing a spectrum here. If we leave this conversation with an agreement on that, even if you think it’s a modest spectrum and I think it’s an enormous one, I think that this shared vocabulary and concept is an important step forward.

          It’s not mandatory that you consider a single cell trivial, but you must see it as more trivial than a newborn.

          You may consider it trite to quote Dr Seuss’s “A person’s a person, no matter how small”

          No, that’s fine. But in the people in Whoville were all fully developed, sentient, adult people. You don’t say that they will be a person in a little while; you say that they are a person right now. That is, there’s no “potential” argument as is required in the embryo case.

        • Kodie

          Yeah, no. “I’m not going to panic…”

          What it is is not a person. A person’s a person when it’s a person. That’s about yay-big and larger, give or take. You must be this tall to go on this ride, it’s not size-ism in this case, it’s about development. If something develops the size of a bee, it’s nowhere near a person. If we suddenly had a genocide of a race of humans the size of a bee, we might think it over. I have a hard time predicting that actually – I think if there were people same as us, but who were the size of a bee or a mouse after they were born and grown, and they built and dwelt their own societies, we would be prone not to consider them our equal but a pest, which is how we treat insects and rodents, which is what we’d look like to ourselves from our relative height.

          But that’s an ethical dilemma we don’t face up to when deciding whether we have more rights than vermin or other animals. Interestingly, anti-abortioners seem to think we’re talking about the same thing when we’re not and they can’t tell us in rational terms why we should consider a zygote the same as a person.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          This whole debate centres around whether a fetus is a person or not.

          To simply assert that it is not a person is not an argument. It is simply an assertion.

          To appeal to the small size of the fetus would only make sense if personhood was determined by size. I’m sure you can think of as many absurdities as I can if you want to go that route.

          It’s not mandatory that you consider a single cell trivial, but you must see it as more trivial than a newborn.

          On what basis is a single less more trivial than a newborn? By size? Is a 10-lb newborn then more relevant than one that weighs 6-lb?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          To appeal to the small size of the fetus would only make sense if personhood was determined by size. I’m sure you can think of as many absurdities as I can if you want to go that route.

          It’s not size. As I’ve made clear, it’s development.

          The absurdity is looking at something that has no arms, eyes, intestines, or brain and calling it a “person.”

          Is a 10-lb newborn then more relevant than one that weighs 6-lb?

          The difference between a 10-lb newborn and a 6-lb newborn is insignificant or perhaps even nonexistent. The difference between any newborn and the single cell it started as is astronomical.

        • Phil

          Rick, some thoughts:

          1) Your analogy fails (as Bob points out above) because it assumes to be true that which is contested. Specifically, your analogy relies on the “innocent victim” being a person in the courtroom, and that the “innocent victim” in the womb be a person as well. But that is exactly what the spectrum argument says is NOT the case. So, in essence you are ignoring the spectrum, and just restating your position that the fetus is a (innocent) person.

          2) Your understanding of the “legal arena.” Are you basing this on anything? That is, do you have a source/experience in how the State prosecutes an unlawful killing? I believe your understanding that “First, you look at the actions of the victim, then the actions of the “killer” isn’t the way it works. From a legal perspective, the only thing that really matters is the actions of the killer, what he or she did and why. The actions of the “victim” are basically irrelevant (or, only relevant in the sense of how they may explain the killer’s actions.) So first the State says: “The killer shot the victim on purpose. That fits the definition of murder. Let’s charge him with murder!” But then the killer says “Wait! It may have been murder, but I have a defense! I shot the killer on purpose because I saw him coming at me with a knife. It was self-defense.” And since self-defense is a complete defense, you are found “not guilty” of murder (even though, in fact, your actions exactly fits the definition of murder).

          3) “The fetus or infant is innocent of any crime.” You don’t have to call the fetus “a parasite” to recognize the reality that the fetus is going to put the mother through “a lot” before its born. (Both during pregnancy and during childbirth). The fetus acts on the mother, to her pain and discomfort. I don’t think of the fetus as “innocent” in this regard. Indeed, the fetus could (potentially) kill her in childbirth.

          (Sorry, I’ve run out of time. Where do you find it?)

        • Kodie

          I think of and used the analogy of the fetus as intruder. It’s ok to kill an intruder in your uterus. You know what it wants – it wants to steal your body for 9 months and then have you be responsible for its care. If that’s what you also want, then you don’t have to want to kill it.

          Another thing I have problems with and I will try to say this delicately is the cult of motherhood. Yeah I said cult. The same people who want you to do this, to keep your fetus and grow it into a human being dependent on you both emotionally and financially for years, will tell you it’s the hardest job in the world. That’s why we revere mothers for all they do and put up with, and perversely turn around and berate people for being selfish if they don’t actually want the hardest job in the world? Or they’re in no shape financially or emotionally to take on the hardest job in the world? It’s exactly what it says on the tin. You know what’s coming and you have time to get out of the way? That’s normally a very good thing.

        • Rick Townsend

          Phil,

          Thanks for the lesson. What you clearly taught me was that I have no business trying to make a point with logic. I’m out of time in trying with you, in any case.

          Kodie,

          I’m sorry, but I have no idea how to connect with whatever pain you are feeling. The baby didn’t intend you anything — not pain, not torment. If that is what you experienced, it is not the baby’s fault. If you buy evolution, it is how we evolved. If you think we were created, then your understanding of God is not the same as mine, and I’m very sorry that my efforts will likely not move you toward a helpful understanding.

        • Kodie

          Gee, Rick, really? I must have been very hurt so you don’t have to make a valid response and treat me like a sentimental nitwit? Boo hoo my arguments come from my uterus, I must not be saying something kind of important for you to think about – if you’re able to. And you changed the subject! Bravo. I’ve been kissed by an ankle.

          My concept of god is that there is no such thing. That’s an emotional bias, a cognitive bias YOU have. You have not in the least convinced me and I don’t think anyone else by your weepy remarks. It’s not an innocent victim of anything. I am using your language trying to reach you; nothing is hurting me right now. You have exaggerated the situation, not me. Have I made myself clear?

        • Kodie

          Oh, logic? You are done trying to make a point with logic? You didn’t start to try to make a point with logic. You are using what’s called, in the vernacular, a bad analogy. Nobody is moved by it, so you contort the effort into one where you tried as hard as you could and we’re a lost cause.

        • Phil

          Rick,

          I am confused by the dismissive tone and words in your response. I spent some time on a thoughtful reply to your comment.

          Oh well.

  • Pingback: Pushback on Abortion

  • Richard S. Russell

    In mathematics, once you admit division by zero, you can “prove” anything you want.

    In philosophy, once you admit the existence of God, you can “prove” anything you want.

    There may be non-theological reasons to oppose abortion, but I haven’t seen any of them advanced here. What I have seen is a bunch of theists starting out doing their damnedest to conceal the theistic underpinnings of their opposition, probably because they realize it’s the equivalent of dividing by zero and thereby rendering their arguments useless and unbelievable. I’m not surprised. I’ve come to expect this kind of double-dealing and deception from them.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    Karl:

    There are more abortion operations performed in the third trimester than at the “just one cell” stage.

    If by “abortion operations performed at the just one cell stage” you mean abortifacients, I think you’re mistaken.

    If your point is that it’s not an “operation” at the one cell stage, that is true and irrelevant.

    Surely a responsible discussion should consider what is being aborted.

    Right. That’s the whole point of the spectrum argument.

    On the pro-life side, there is a philosophical position that from the moment of conception, we are dealing with a person.

    I can deal with that. Tell me then what property (if not personhood) the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t have. Give me the vocabulary to use to describe this change, because that is what I’m talking about.

    Or somewhere in between conception and birth?

    Yes. But I don’t have much interest in deciding where in this range the line should be drawn unless we can agree on the spectrum.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      I can deal with that. Tell me then what property (if not personhood) the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t have. Give me the vocabulary to use to describe this change, because that is what I’m talking about.

      There are several. I imagine one that you would consider pertinent would be brain function, which starts sometime in the first trimester.

      I am encouraged that you consider that personhood begins somewhere between conception and birth. This means that you think that some abortions are killing of human beings. If this is so, then abortion (at least in some cases) is no longer solely about the rights of the mother, but also the child.

      • Kodie

        What kind of brain function? Sure, the brain is an important organ. It is very helpful to have one. At what point in brain development is it not really yet a brain? What kind of functioning would you consider a person to have a brain? Brain activity is electric, so is a lamp a brain? Or is it ok to wait until it’s possible to detect a fetus’s self-awareness? I think a thing has to be able to process thoughts. If it can feel in it’s little fingertips a sensation because the brain is active, what can a fetus with brain activity make of it?

        And so what if it has a brain? Same thing I said about the heart. It didn’t used to have a brain at all so is abortion ok when there’s no brain? Or is this a case of “it will have a brain, wait for it.” That’s giving for the option that having a brain may be a good sign to look for when identifying a person from a glob. I’m not that concerned what week that would happen nor if you are accurate. But between not having a brain and having a fully functioning brain, when does the brain stop being a lamp and start being a person? Does the mere presence of something that can be identified as being the brain mean that’s the cutoff? It kind of, just like the fertilized egg, has to emerge from a beginning point where you could say it’s not really a brain yet even if it’s sort of a lamp.

        • Kodie

          And I mean that re: that’s the reason we give for killing animals. They have brains that perform their functioning but we suppose they are pretty much a lamp and distinguish it from a person. Well vegans don’t, but you get the point.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,

          At what point in brain development is it not really yet a brain?

          I imagine that even for you there is a point in brain development that you consider important in determining personhood. There are points beyond which I imagine most people would want to be very cautious about abortion, such as the point where the fetus can move parts of their body of their own volition.

          Although if you consider a fetus to be nothing more than a uterus-squatter, about as welcome as the creature from Alien, then maybe not.

        • Kodie

          I think you misread me because you are very sensitive to tone. I am not hostile to fetuses. I just want to be real about them and not in fantasy/emotion-land. I think that is the proper way to deal with it. I also think emotional urging of a person to decide what you think they should and you count that as a success if it makes her change her mind, but where is everyone when she is all alone to deal with things? If a woman has some idea that things will not be for her best interest down the line, I want more urgency for her to ignore emotions and not feel guilty about it. Anti-abortioners have a lot of their say, and I see you making comments that are as you want them to be.

          Paraphrasing: if a woman has a second thought then that is a doubt. If she has a doubt, then that should be examined. If someone else wants her to have an abortion, then that is really not her choice.

          But I see if you don’t want her to have an abortion and she doesn’t, that is not her choice either. You think that is the triumphant “real” choice. It of course isn’t a trivial decision for most people because I think most people would like to have the stability or whatever they need to have a baby. It’s just not the right time, but they are not saying “never”.

          There is a concept about irreplaceability that you imagine is in the DNA or something? I think people are mostly sentimental about life. I would not know what I was missing, and even though my life has been pretty unstable, and yet I’ve had some good times, know some nice people, do some things I really enjoy doing, I do not really see the point. It’s to take advantage of if you are capable of doing so, but there is no photo album. If I have any regrets on my deathbed, they will be gone soon as I am. Never got to go hang-gliding? Whatever. It could be a thrill, but all of this, when I’m gone will not be missed, none of it, not the moon, not the ice cream parlor, not the best kiss I ever had, not oranges, none of it. That’s why I don’t have sentimental feelings about the fetus. It would say on my epitaph, it was alright.

          As for the brain, if you said there is most definitely not a brain at 6 weeks and most definitely a brain at 20 weeks, or there may or may not definitely be mostly a brain at 16 weeks. I think on the spectrum, that would be for me. I would not tell someone else what to do with their body.

          When you’re sleeping, your skin still has sensation. So that is what I imagine mere “brain activity” compared to processing. If a sensation travels from the shoulder of the fetus to the brain, and it is like you are sleeping – your nerves surely send impulses to the brain and feel something, but it doesn’t put the key in the door so to speak, then I say that’s not yet a brain, it is still a lamp. If it is more like someone waking you up by poking you in the shoulder, such that you stir awake, look to see what it is about, then you have awareness, a brain. The touch is not just felt, it signals and the brain responds to it. If I feel like I’m going to sneeze, and I know what the feeling is different than smelling cookies baking, that is a processing brain. At least when that happens to me, my brain responds with a thought about it and may quickly do other things, such as stop talking, reach for a tissue, or put down a drink I was holding. If I smell cookies, my brain may also modify that signal and I think, “burning” or “gingersnaps” or “I better go check on that,” or “someone’s baking today” (in my apartment building). I might salivate, and I have no control over that.

          So going back to the weeks I made up for example. If 20 weeks is definitely too far, and 16 weeks is difficult to tell, then I have no problem getting that decision made by 10 weeks to absolutely be clear of that fuzzy line where green becomes blue. I have no problem deciding what the best way to deal with a situation is, and how much time I should take making it. Delays of the decision, heart-wrenching urgency to think it over once again to be absolutely certain is not helping the lady. People can’t undo what they do, they can’t really undo waiting too long if that’s what they decide to do either. One choice becomes no longer available and that waiting to decide makes the decision for you. That’s not ok with me. Do it when there’s absolutely nothing to be squeamish about. I don’t know why people like to think the squeamisher the better, the squeamish win, they put down women and women can’t decide and they’re not absolutely ever sure they want an abortion since they’re suggestible, they need to wait until there is no decision to make – that’s dirty. That’s absolutely playing dirty. If anti-abortion people can talk and talk and talk as dramatically as they like until all the women are emotionally crumpled to their will, upon a projected fantasy, then what is the problem with me coming at the problem from the other angle? It is not a person and it has quite a while before you would recognize it as one. Think really hard right now and without sentimentality how that realistically changes your plans. Don’t romanticize motherhood, because it’s romanticized and lionized. If this is your one and only life and that is your embryo’s one and only chance to be alive, the sacrifice is unnecessary. It’s not heroic to throw away your life to give to someone else who isn’t a thing yet. It is projected as a thing, a thing that will, in addition to being adorable, use up all your money, time, and patience, realistically. The choices as they seem to be made are 1. I’m ok with sacrificing all that I have. 2. But it will be cute and none of that will matter! 3. Even though it will probably be cute, I can’t deal with the negatives in my life right now.

          #2 is who I’m worried about. Be realistic as you can, make the choices that you want to make, and once they are made, live with them. I really detest any instance where the decision to begin a life begins with having sex, since you know there’s none of that soul business involved at that point. Having a consequence of sexual intercourse doesn’t have to be a life sentence if people would just stop being hassled about what they really want to do by ANYONE else. If people would be more realistic and less romantic about parenthood, and stop insisting an embryo or a fetus is a person, then people can make their own decisions about that. Should I be horrified if someone’s emotional decision rests at 52 weeks (i.e. a born baby 3 months old), yes. The problem with anti-abortion is that everyone is supposed to be horrified at .1 week also. Horrified that a slut wants to interfere with the natural course of her spreading her legs? That’s where souls come from! I don’t get that.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Kodie,
          You say you

          I just want to be real about them and not in fantasy/emotion-land. I think that is the proper way to deal with it.

          But then you earlier said:

          I think of and used the analogy of the fetus as intruder. It’s ok to kill an intruder in your uterus. You know what it wants – it wants to steal your body for 9 months and then have you be responsible for its care. If that’s what you also want, then you don’t have to want to kill it.

          The use of “intruder” and “steal your body” are hardly devoid of emotion.

          Paraphrasing: if a woman has a second thought then that is a doubt. If she has a doubt, then that should be examined. If someone else wants her to have an abortion, then that is really not her choice.

          I think you are imagining I was saying more than I actually was. I was simply pointing out that to equate abortion with women’s self-determination (as was done earlier in the comments) is not accurate as some women appear to be coerced to have abortions when it is not their preference. You can say all you like about women being coerced the other way and it will make no difference as my point is that the fact that there are some who are coerced to have an abortion proves that abortion is not necessarily a woman’s choice. The preponderance of coercion one way or another makes no difference, the existence of coercion in one direction proves my point.

          So going back to the weeks I made up for example. If 20 weeks is definitely too far, and 16 weeks is difficult to tell, then I have no problem getting that decision made by 10 weeks to absolutely be clear of that fuzzy line where green becomes blue.

          I think your logic here makes sense. (My estimation of the dividing line may differ from yours, but my mindset is essentially the same.) If the debate was at which point this line should be I imagine it would be much more civil.

          It’s not heroic to throw away your life to give to someone else who isn’t a thing yet.

          It may simply be imprecise language on your part, but to consider a fetus as not a thing yet is begging the question. If it really was established that a fetus was not a thing, there would be no abortion, let alone discussion about it.

        • Kodie

          Let’s clarify:

          –Pro-choice means “choice”. Any choice. Either of the few choices.

          –Coercion means “coercion”. Any choice can be a coerced choice and not really the woman’s choice.

          I don’t like coercion either way. I am not in favor of having someone in a crisis being ordered what she should do with her body. What I said earlier, however, is if she’d be basing her choice on how happy or angry it made certain key people in her life. If she wanted to keep it, had no resources, and everyone abandoned her, then she has no realistic way. That’s not coercion – that’s circumstances people use to make their own choice. If she wanted to keep it, and everyone rallied her, then she makes a different choice based on the circumstances. If she wanted to abort it, and everyone told her it was a precious innocent life and made her guilty enough to wait, that is coercion. If she has no realistic way, then her realistic choice at this point is adoption, which is not her choice. She’s been put through a trauma for no good reason. If she wanted to abort it, and everyone said that’s as good a choice as any, and given her circumstances don’t hold it against her, not coercion. If she wanted to abort it, and everyone told her it was a precious innocent life and how she must put everything in her life aside to now care for an infant, they are doing her a disservice. The latter is what often happens at crisis pregnancy centers. Given a woman’s circumstances, though she may “wish” to keep it, she may “have to” abort it. Wishes aren’t really choices. They pump up her self-esteem until she gets attached to the idea, and then deflate her just as quickly, coercing her through emotional abuse into putting it up for adoption (Abortion Plan Z). She knew this at the beginning and could have done her choice.

          It would be nice if people would just be supportive as anti-abortion advocates urge the pregnant woman to be.

          –Supportive means “I will help you if that is what you choose”.
          –Coercion (again) means “I will insult your character until you do what I say”. If that means I am pro-forced-birth, that doesn’t mean I will help you, that just means you’re a selfish monster and your “choice” is wrong, and if I have any real or imagined authority over you, I will do my best to disempower your decision. @Karl, you seem to mistake me for the other kind – It is not a thing so get rid of it immediately! or some such. – I merely want to oppose the “pro-life” propaganda machine. It is lies, and it is emotional.

          Every woman has the right to decide if she perceives whatever is inside her as a baby, a life, a soul; or an intruder, a mistake, a clump of cells.

          –Baby is a projection. People who try to get pregnant, or don’t not expect to get pregnant (married religious people/quiverfulls who oppose birth control, for example) often think of it this way. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it tends to be thought of as the standard. Anyone who isn’t trying to conceive is invisible; even though we acknowledge sexuality,
          –Life is if my “week” is 10 and someone else’s week is 0, their perspective of the spectrum.
          –Soul is a religious idea with no proof, but I support religious freedom for the individual also.
          –Intruder means “unwanted”. That is up to the individual to assess.
          –Mistake means “unwanted or unplanned consequence”.
          –Clump of cells is what is really in the uterus. Not even a lamp.

          I am coming at this hoping that people will be more realistic instead of more emotional, and while a person’s emotions can drive their own decision, often enough it is used against them. Be realistic about motherhood, its cost. Anti-abortion like to prop up motherhood as a grand sacrifice – no service to women. Heroicism, in my mind, is another thing not to get worked up about. Patriarchy does this to men also – this is why men have heart attacks and go to wars and stuff. Women are supposed to do nothing but an incubator and think about this cluster of cells as a story that absolutely has to be told, at her expense, at the expense of her plans for herself and when she has stability and resources to be a mother when she’s able, such that “doing the right thing” is a cultural coercion. Women’s lives are their own story, and women are punished by emotional appeals to her purpose of motherhood above anything else. If she spread her legs, then she has to give up the rest of her life, and not follow through on her own story, and nobody on the “pro-life” side cares. It’s propaganda, so I am trying to counter that.

          If a woman wants to have her own story, then she should be able to make the decision she likes for herself without worrying what other people think. Free of other people’s influence, mostly laws that make her wait, force her to spend time thinking about it, force her to think of herself as a murderer!, obstructing and second-guessing her choice, whatever that is. Earlier we talked about trivializing the decision – I think it should be altogether a little more trivial. Trivially easy to get an abortion does not mean it’s a trivially easy decision to make. That kind of thinking favors what you want – a trivially easy decision to choose keeping it. That’s not a trivially easy decision to make because it affects the rest of someone’s life. I think the difficulty with such a choice is really because most women do plan to have a child, just not right now, or already have the children they’ve chosen to have, and do not welcome another. Weighing the choices, weighing the outcomes, weighing the real effect of having a child under your care for the rest of your life and weighing the cost of that and whether you want to pay or avoid that cost, I seek to remove the emotions and the guilt implied in choosing abortion. That’s it.

        • Kodie

          –Baby is a projection. People who try to get pregnant, or don’t not expect to get pregnant (married religious people/quiverfulls who oppose birth control, for example) often think of it this way. It’s not necessarily wrong, but it tends to be thought of as the standard. Anyone who isn’t trying to conceive is invisible; even though we acknowledge sexuality,

          I left this dangling. Whoops. Even though we acknowledge sexuality, it also has its emotionally charged intrusions. Women who don’t play the role of the virginally pure, married, child-welcoming type are many times told they are something outrageously wicked, especially if the circumstances of her sexuality arrive in an unplanned pregnancy. It is so hard for some people to mind their own business or to find any other way but their way acceptable behavior for females. This, not the clump of cells being called a baby, is what is at the center of the debate.
          Also, “baby” means – what it will be and what it will need. It is helpful to project this eventuality for the woman who is also considering abortion. It will be a baby, it will need things, and it will need time. Do you have money and time? Can you rearrange your schedule for this? Realistic parenthood vs. romantic parenthood.

        • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

          Every woman has the right to decide if she perceives whatever is inside her as a baby, a life, a soul; or an intruder, a mistake, a clump of cells.

          To an extent what you are saying cannot be denied as you cannot stop something from thinking what they want to think.

          However …
          Of far more importance is what it really is that is inside her womb. If it is a person, then there is a moral duty to preserve its life, regardless of the attitude of the woman carrying it.

          If the fetus is a person, the pro-abortion catch-cry of “It’s my body” could be echoed by the fetus, if it was possible to be heard. Thankfully, in other areas, such as race, there has been progress in recognizing the stakes of those who are unheard, however in the case of the unborn, it has been more of a regression.

          I repeat that this all rests on if the fetus is a person.

        • Kodie

          Right, but as I said downthread in response to Rick, I think it was, we can use the personhood argument two ways. Is a baby more of a person than an adult? I don’t think so. In our culture, we tend to be especially touched if a tragedy involves babies or children. As in the Newtown, CT massacre, 26 people died, but 20, as reported by the news, wouldn’t get to open Christmas presents already wrapped and hiding in the closet. ???? That they’re deprived of an experience doesn’t mean they miss it. They are missed, surely, but so are the adults. I feel worse for the parents and siblings and other relatives of those children because once you’re dead, there is nothing really to feel sorry about that they will experience missing out on in the near or far future. Other people are deprived of those children, and of the adults who get overshadowed when we talk about it, and it traumatizes other children who witnessed it. That’s where I place my sympathy. The people whose lives were shattered by the fear, panic, and loss matter because they can feel now. Culturally, we place more sympathy the longer life someone didn’t get to experience; even though many believe in god and heaven, I think people express a lack of certainty about it in the worst of times.

          To me, death is not some state where you miss life, it’s where you’re missed on earth. If you want to argue that just in case there’s a god, then just in case there’s a soul, and god will know what you did so you better not interfere in ONE of the processes of nature, like, immediately put that little zygote on a pedestal, and no recognizably alive people matter? Superstition that promotes misogyny. It’s about telling the woman she doesn’t matter, her soul even (if you believe her fetus has one so has she), her purpose, her story – not just can be – but must be sacrificed to worship another one. In other words, nobody give a shit where she had plans to go.

          We hold ourselves accountable (and the pets we’re permitted to keep) in a different way than we would hold a bear in the woods. Death will come, but people are, in most cases, not allowed to hasten it. Superstition. A person dying a slow painful death should have the right to say hasten it. But why do we hesitate or object? They may recover and to me, that’s not what’s important. We’re conditioned to think death is not something anyone wants, just like you are conditioned to believe abortion is not a woman’s authentic choice. I think the issue gets in the way of rational thinking – although let’s say I agree that we should be careful, any care taken around the idea of a soul is nonsense. A soul stands in for what period of gestation where an embryo or fetus would choose to live but doesn’t know “life” and can’t form thoughts around that choice for itself, we make the choice for other people’s gestating things, and we say what we think they would say if they could but they can’t. That’s the point for me – they can’t. It’s not that they are muzzled and bound from saying so, imprisoned like a Jew in a Nazi concentration camp; it’s that they are physically and mentally incapable of knowing. Superstition and projection. Same with brain-dead coma patients. Brain-dead is dead, pre-brain-having is the same thing. It is a problem easily solved if you don’t believe in souls and don’t have this superstition about life and death being monumentally epic. The care I mean must be taken is more about making sure you heard the patient or their guardian correctly. The right-to-die law didn’t pass in Massachusetts, one of the ads was that the patient doesn’t even have to notify family. Because they’d stop it, yes? Because it’s not their life to say shouldn’t end, hire lawyers, and keep it from happening. It’s like they don’t believe what someone wants, if they want death. But nobody questions a woman when she ends her decision process by choosing to carry it to term. Nobody seems to question it if she’s sure she wants to do that, even if they argued her emotionally into it. Nobody seems to care how she will cope, what about her plans, do you know how difficult it really is? It’s a projection we are caring about, not an actual life, not her life. I certainly feel better knowing more facts. How much will it cost, how would I live, how to fit it into my life and how would I feel really if this wasn’t happening right now, and I can make that choice – am I really miserable I even have a choice to make? Then it might just as well be undone. I already know and think ahead of time what I consider it to be. If I got pregnant now, I might think also, well should I be a mother, if I want to be a mother, this is pretty much my last shot. But if I want to be a mother, I should probably go out and get some. I am also waiting too long and having my choices limited by time, you see, and I am not financially ok either. I know I don’t want to be a wife. See how this is on my terms? What I want, if being a mother is what that is, is not equal to setting my life aside and being a mother by default should that occur.

          We are allowed to think of this problem as not exactly alike to a holocaust. That is not a suitable analogy to appeal to. Elevating a cultural sub-class to a human is rational because it’s irrational to put them in a lower category. We can use the same logic to be more rational and say something used to be considered a person but is not really. We don’t always have to elevate everything to personhood if that term does not apply rationally.

        • Kodie

          Never looks that long in the combox.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Karl:

          I repeat that this all rests on if the fetus is a person.

          And is it? Do you accept the spectrum argument?

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie or Karl or whoever:

          This thread got me thinking. You need a license to drive a car or fly a plane. To adopt a baby is a very long process of background checks and verification of good parenting potential. But you can make a baby in 5 minutes in the back of a car, and no one (not even the pro-lifers) care. No license required.

          The new baby might be loved or it might be abused–why don’t they care about this? Their fanatical focus on one small aspect makes their position look all the more artificial and ill-conceived.

        • Kodie

          I don’t generally think about what the child’s life will be like. I might start though. I think about the parent and whether the parent knows what their life will be like, and secondarily, if they are honest with themselves and not just beating themselves up for no reason, what effect that will have on their child, should they choose to continue.

          However, the children who do exist. Many children are what you’d call wanted and planned and all that, and I still think their parents got in over their heads and weren’t completely honest about what kind of parent they would be. Some feel no compulsion to be a different kind of parent, even if others could see they are doing a half-assed job at it. I’m not merely talking about people who parent differently than I would – I’m talking about parents who don’t know what the eff they’re doing and jerk the kids’ feelings around and warp them. Like my mom. She thinks she’s a great mom and desires validation constantly.

          I also think there is this mystique that people on the pro-forced-birth side have about life. Not just souls and god and all that, but the Powerful Epic Large Story of Life. The rags-to-riches thing, the kid with no chance to have a good life digging themselves out and making something of themselves – which is nice, but also tragic to me. So what about the rest that don’t, that’s the point. What about the merest possibility that someone with great determination and difficulty forges themselves into a success, that implies the rest of the lives don’t really matter. You’re really only someone if you can be someone, but not if you don’t, but you can! But you probably don’t. We don’t know until after we can see whether it happens or not! So really, we might be aborting a great Superman virtuoso philanthropic genius, and that’s the only life that matters?

          I mean, they are saying all life matters, but then they point out that successful people matter more. People are the people in their lives, they are not destined by their circumstances but statistically. If the people who determine whether they get the slimmest chance to show off, triumph, etc., do not care or have the means (financial and/or emotional) to care properly* and know this about themselves ahead of time, I think it’s wise for them to abort. Life is hard work for a little one against the odds. Why feel guilty that you deprived someone of that chore? What it comes down to is a judgment that people are selfish when they don’t have a kid. Are people who have 2 kids selfish because they don’t have 19 kids then?

          *”Properly” meaning they have reason to know, perhaps already having a kid or several, that they are already faring poorly in the parenting department. Another one is not going to help that. It’s still their choice to have that kid and see what happens, but why force anyone who takes a realistic accounting of their life to have a child?

          Or as someone my friend used to quote said : Let the crazy end with me.

  • Richard S. Russell

    I’m responding to David’s comment (which I will shortly quote) but as a new top-level comment, so we don’t have to keep searching for the previous “reply” button to continue the conversation on this subtopic.

    David wrote: “A zygote begins the process of life analogously to a teenager beginning High School. If you were to yank that kid out of classes and terminate the process of his getting a High School degree, it doesn’t much matter whether it happened his Senior year or after his first day of class as a Freshman: that kid deserves to get his degree and you should allow the process to run its course.”

    I don’t want to rehash the whole discussion, but this goes back to the question of “Why, then, doesn’t every egg cell deserve a shot at becoming a full-fledged human being? Why shouldn’t we force little girls to start having sex constantly at age 10, so we don’t miss the very 1st egg to come questing down her fallopian tubes, and get her started again on sex the day after she delivers each of the 30 or so kids she’s physically capable of cranking out during her fertile years? After all, every egg is a potential human being that deserves a chance to live out its fullest potential, and we should allow the process to run its course.”

    We’ve already had that discussion, and it ended up with the revelation that you thot some magic miracle occurred at the moment of conception that made a zygote different than an egg. Suffice it to say that I was not convinced of why that one moment should be considered “magic”, probably because, in the absence of the same kind of superstitious underpinning you bring to the discussion, I don’t think there’s any magic involved at all. There’s an event, one of many events between the development of that egg cell in the woman’s ovary and its eventual conversion to a fully recognizable human being, and every one of those intervening events is critical to completing the task. There’s no particular reason to focus on this one particular event as being more or less necessary than all of the others.

    But really what I wanted to do is trot out the backgammon analogy. (Perhaps you’re more familiar with parcheesi; same general idea.) In backgammon, you roll dice to determine how far to move your markers from their starting point to the finish line.

    Wish me luck as I try to make HTML do my bidding to insert a picture of the backgammon board here:

    In backgammon, the dark markers move clockwise and the light markers move counterclockwise. When they complete their journey (… 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, out for the dark, or … 22, 23, 24, out for the light), they are “struck off” or retired. The first player to strike off all 15 of her or his markers wins. Now, notice that the 2 players are heading in opposite directions down a single-lane road. When one of them lands on a point occupied by a solitary opponent’s marker, that marker gets sent back to the beginning and faces the arduous 24-point trek to again make it to the finish line and go out.

    This turns out to be less of a calamity for markers at the beginning of their journey than for those at the end. After all, the only way your marker can approach the finish line at all is if you’ve “invested” many resources (dice rolls) into getting them that far. Things that have had more resources invested in them are more valuable (they have more potential energy built up, to borrow an analogy from physics), and consequently a good backgammon player will be more protective of a well-advanced marker than of one just starting out.

    So too with a fertilized egg. It starts there on Point 1 and requires the investment of substantial resources (IE, time, hormones, nutrition) before it can pass Point 24 and get “struck off” (IE, born). It’s simply worth more near the end of the journey than near the beginning.

    Which is, I believe, the same point Bob was trying to make by painting a nice rainbow picture of a spectrum. My guess is that his colorful analogy will be more appealing to artists, while my backgammon analogy will be more appealing to economists. But they’re both making the same underlying point.

    • Richard S. Russell

      OK, the HTML code I inserted above just sneered at me and ignored my wishes, but this is the website I was trying to display:

      It shows a picture of the starting setup for a backgammon game, and it might help to refer to it as you read what I wrote.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        (You didn’t make a sufficiently obsequious offering to the HTML god(s). I made one so that an image would appear.)

        • Richard S. Russell

          Richard bless you.

  • Richard S. Russell

    Just arriving in my inbox is this further evidence of “how religion poisons everything” (the subtitle of Christopher Hitchens’s book God Is Not Great):

    = = = = = =

    Reason help us (women) from the “protection" of Sharia law and the GOP

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/24/new-mexico-abortion-bill_n_2541894.html?utm_hp_ref=mostpopular

    New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As ‘Tampering With Evidence’

    A Republican lawmaker in New Mexico introduced a bill on Wednesday that would legally require victims of rape to carry their pregnancies to term in order to use the fetus as evidence for a sexual assault trial.

    House Bill 206, introduced by state Rep. Cathrynn Brown (R), would charge a rape victim who ended her pregnancy with a third-degree felony for “tampering with evidence.”

    “Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime,” the bill says.

    Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.

    Pat Davis of ProgressNow New Mexico, a progressive nonprofit opposing the bill, called it “blatantly unconstitutional" on Thursday.

    “The bill turns victims of rape and incest into felons and forces them to become incubators of evidence for the state,” he said. “According to Republican philosophy, victims who are `legitimately raped’ will now have to carry the fetus to term in order to prove their case.”

    The bill is unlikely to pass, as Democrats have a majority in both chambers of New Mexico’s state legislature.

    UPDATE: 12:25 p.m. — Brown said in a statement Thursday that she introduced the bill with the goal of punishing the person who commits incest or rape and then procures or facilitates an abortion to destroy the evidence of the crime.

    “New Mexico needs to strengthen its laws to deter sex offenders,” said Brown. “By adding this law in New Mexico, we can help to protect women across our state.”

    = = = = = =

    Right! We’re doing this for the women, because the sweet but dopey little gals just can’t figure out for themselves what’s good for them. What, you think they have functioning brains or something?

  • Rick Townsend

    When you make a serious argument, I respond in a serious manner.
Otherwise, I might use humor or snark or even sarcasm to make my point. I missed where I was ridiculing, bullying, or badgering, but perhaps that’s in the eye of the beholder.

    I have made attempts to explain why your spectrum argument falls flat with folks who believe in sanctity of life. You keep restating it as if those arguments had not been made. To me, this sounds like badgering, but I understand that it is indeed in the eye of the beholder.

    For instance, your recent response to my pointing this out was:

    Human life that is a single cell is pretty trivial. It’s just a single cell. It’s so small you need a microscope to see it. Pretty trivial.
If you don’t understand the parallel, I can try to explain it better. If you disagree with it, that’s fine; tell me why. Why my approach isn’t helpful and drives you to frustration, I don’t know. Just because I’m not agreeing with you?


    No, it is because you simply restate your premise as if it was true this time because you said it again. Not helpful nor convincing.

    Perhaps most of my answers fall into your change-of-subject bin, about which you instigated a long and bizarre discussion a few comments ago.


    So if someone raises a perceived failure on your part to answer a question because it seemed to be (in this case) a change of subject, you characterize that as a bizzare discussion. Constructive criticism is welcome but this is just not helpful. What response do you expect from this?

    However, as far as I can tell, the ball is usually hit back over the net (translated: that pro-life argument is flawed in some way) and not returned.


    And from my perspective it is the opposite. You restate but don’t address the real issues I’ve raised.

    You’re one of my most obnoxious antagonists.

    Not my objective, so I apologize if it comes across that way. Perhaps I’m just not convinced and keep stating it. If that is obnoxious from your perspective, I guess I’ll have to live with that. The perception of thin skin goes both ways, sir.

    The issue of life or death is not trivial, so it should not be justified with repeated mantra of number of cells, scratched skin cells, flies and traffic tickets. As several have tried to express, these arguments are not sufficient to change minds. We have lost 50 million lives over 40 years in this country alone. We are doing lots in crisis pregnancy centers and prevention, but it isn’t enough.

    We keep hearing concerns about who wants to impose whose will on the other side. As far as I can tell, taking 50 million lives is imposition of someone’s will on the unborn. That is why this issue matters too much to be left to sound bites.

    • Richard S. Russell

      “I have made attempts to explain why your spectrum argument falls flat with folks who believe in sanctity of life. You keep restating it as if those arguments had not been made.”

      I realize that you are directing your comments to Bob, but he’s not the only participant in this extended discussion, and if you’d taken the time to read some of the other comments, you’d realize that your concern has been addressed.

      For instance, I myself raised 2 questions about this assumed “sanctity of life”:
      (1) Does every egg (which, after all is alive, and contains human DNA) to come down a fallopian tube deserve every possible shot at being born and living a full, sanctified life?
      (2) Are you a mass murderer for scratching your nose, thereby killing off 40-50 “life sanctified” skin cells that could, under the proper circumstances, turn into real people?

      Both of these questions directly address the issue of whether all life is sacred (or at least the more limited issue of whether all human life is sacred), but you have chosen to ignore them so you can bitch some more at Bob.

      • Rick Townsend

        Question one is not the topic of this discussion. This discussion is about aborting the ones that get implanted.

        Question two has now been addressed.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Question one is not the topic of this discussion. This discussion is about aborting the ones that get implanted.

          Question two has now been addressed.

          It may look like you’re dodging questions that are getting a little hard to answer.

          1. I’m sure you don’t much care about all the eggs that get flushed down the toilet, unfulfilled, each month. Given that, you can imagine why many of us wonder why all the fuss about the same cell when it’s fertilized. Sure, I see the potential. And that potential is irrelevant. When it’s realized–when it’s a newborn–that’s a different story. But it’s not realized now. Don’t you agree that that single fertilized egg cell is far less person-like (suggest a better term if you’d like) than a newborn?

          2. I proposed a thought experiment that I don’t think has been resolved. If we imagine a simple and effective process whereby skin cells could be turned totipotent so that it could be implanted and then grow into a new person, does that change your view of the morality of scratching away skin cells?

          And keep in mind that if you want to see great value in whatever (fertilized egg cells, living skin cells, etc.), that’s fine. What’s objectionable is when you so certain of the rightness of your position that you demand that your view be imposed on the rest of society.

        • Kodie

          That’s something I wonder about – fertilization and miscarriage can happen without a woman knowing any more than she’s having her next period. So if this precious life is so precious, shouldn’t we be ordering women to take early pregnancy tests weekly? The state should pay for it so none of these souls has to suffer the indignity of being flushed down the toilet where the poop goes, never even acknowledged as human beings with full rights. We have to bury them with dignity and name them. It’s not legal to dispose of dead bodies in the sewer or the trash so why is it ok if it’s a lot smaller?

        • Rick Townsend

          No dodging here. There were two questions. I answered both. As for your thought experiment, I’m simply not very good at those. Skin (and other) cells are designed to die, slough off, and be replaced. As another contributor said, if we figure out how to clone them and then start making them into viable fetuses and killing them off for pleasure (or research, or whatever) I will then be upset with that process. In the meanwhile real lives are being terminated and I’m more concerned with that than with your thought experiment.

        • Kodie

          Explain a woman’s menstruation to me. You seem to think the interior of a uterus is sacred and shouldn’t be meddled with if anything is in there, but loofahs are ok because dead skin is unappealing.

    • Kodie

      Have you listened to why your arguments about the sanctity of life fall flat for people who don’t buy the same fantasy as you do?

      Huh?

      • Rick Townsend

        No, but I have read them. We have a disconnect. That is what the conversation is all about.

        • Kodie

          I don’t see why you are complaining that we just don’t get it. Just don’t have abortions then, if that’s how you honestly feel.

        • Rick Townsend

          I’m opposed to murder too. By this logic, then, those opposed just shouldn’t do it, but if others do so, what the heck?

          Let’s be clear about all this imposing your will stuff. You want to impose your will on society and allow what some members of that society think is wrong. And we have 50 million Americans not present as a result. That is a pretty big imposition of will. Both sides are interested in legislating their position. That is what civil governments do.

          Do I want my position to influence legislation? Sure. Let’s stipulate that and put this particular subject to rest. The issue isn’t imposing our will in this space, it is trying to figure out what is right and wrong. That is where we disagree, and I don’t see much movement on either side.

          If I’m wrong on that, and someone has changed their mind as a result of reading what anyone has written in the 200+ posts here and the 200+ posts on the follow up blog article, please speak up. I see no evidence of that phenomenon taking place.

        • Kodie

          Categorizing abortion as murder is exaggeration. You want to know why we’re not worked up enough over it and we think your side is way too worked up about it. Most of us agree the earlier the better for obvious reasons. It will continue to be a drain on resources if you wait too long to decide. Your side loves to obstruct the decision-making process as far as the law will allow, and push even moreso on the life skills of the human being in question, i.e. the pregnant woman, whether she realizes the full scope as you imagine of what she’s decided to do, whether she has thought it through again and again, emotionally appealing the difficulties and aftermaths of such a decision, and using unbalanced language such as “the right thing,” and intruding on her personal sex life. There is nothing you won’t do to control the lives of women and make a difficult decision as hard to get over as possible.

          I’d even go say your side is imagining things that aren’t really there and using poison to get what you believe to come true. I haven’t seen anyone yet bring evidence for the soul. I haven’t seen any responses as far as whether you are your DNA, what you think DNA is or why it’s absolutely imperative for a DNA to achieve birth as a human. Until you have something that’s not a product of your imagination to support your argument, you don’t have anything. Not slaves, not Jews, not DNA, not the abundance of people who do not exist, not the abundance of abortions that must all be happening as late as 39 weeks is supportive of your argument. 50 or 5000 or 5,000,000 or 5,000,000,000,000 people who don’t exist are imaginary. I do not think of people who don’t exist as something to worry about. That’s not a thing.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          You want to impose your will on society and allow what some members of that society think is wrong.

          Are you really arguing that this is symmetrical? The pro-choicers want to treat the pregnant woman as a responsible adult who has opinions worth valuing by society and who is the only one who truly understands the various forces acting on her life and how a pregnancy would affect them. (Beyond a certain point, most pro-choicers are happy to draw a line and say that society must step in at this point.)

          And the pro-lifers want to impose mandatory pregnancy on this woman and all women in her situation, country-wide.

          No, this isn’t symmetrical.

          Do I want my position to influence legislation? Sure. Let’s stipulate that and put this particular subject to rest.

          Fair enough. Let’s admit the asymmetry and agree that one side wants to impose its will on the other side.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Kodie:

          Most of us agree the earlier the better for obvious reasons.

          That’s true for most pro-choicers, but what about pro-lifers? For them to agree to this would be to accept the spectrum argument, and I’m not sure they all want to do that.

        • Kodie

          I don’t really know Bob. Anti-abortioners use different arguments for different stages on the spectrum so they are aware what would be relevant at the time. Arguments used at the viability stage are irrelevant at the first trimester, so they have to use a different argument. It seems to me that if you can’t use the same argument the whole duration of a pregnancy when arguing with a pro-choicer then you got nothing, especially as so many focus on the late-terms. They are trying to find a place where we do agree or see just about the same thing as they do, or avoid an argument they know is shaky and will never convince anyone who doesn’t believe in souls.

          The arguments for the early stages seem to go after the woman not knowing what she’s doing, not really really sure, not making the right choice, and a lot less about what really happens then when an abortion is performed. I notice this a lot that people seem to think ending a pregnancy is something someone doesn’t think on hard enough, but continuing a pregnancy is something you hardly should have to think about – the costs are much higher to have a baby than not to have a baby. Arguments about the woman being coerced to have an abortion like she would never be coerced not to have an abortion.

          They don’t seem to understand every law and every propaganda against abortion is a coercion tactic and not a legitimate argument against it. What I’m noticing is a strong lack of pursuit on the angle that a fertilized egg has a soul and more on what a slut the woman is. Shifty. Where they pretend to care about the woman who wants an abortion is that she may be coerced and poor her, they shouldn’t make the decision difficult – that goes both ways. It should be much easier for her to say what the two outcomes to her life are, and what is right for her. If that is to take on the responsibilities of motherhood or if she goes into adoption freely and not just because she’s reached the point of no return, then that would be better. I think it’s pretty sick that anyone tries to convince a woman she can make it and they will help her, just to delay her abortion that is safe and unentangled emotionally, then to cut her down and leave her with one option. I think adoption is a valid choice if chosen, not if coerced, either. If a woman spends her pregnancy used to the idea then she might not have to be traumatized into relinquishing it after birth – basically having her child kidnapped, which is a federal offense. I notice someone like Bristol Palin did not choose adoption. Her family supports her and she supports herself by being famous for no reason. Kind of non sequitur but the abstractions and anecdotes taken by anti-abortioners at face value as good enough reasons to stay pregnant are nonsense. Abortion at an early stage does not have to be an emotionally difficult option. What they fear is that it would be so unemotional as to be used serially by careless women, and the fact that it’s not that unemotional they take to mean women really don’t want them. I think those women are being realistic. They don’t want to have to do anything. They didn’t want to be pregnant and now they have to sit in the stirrups under anesthesia and deal with pro-forced-birth people intruding on her to “think” again. Aside from medically necessary ones, the only reason to have an abortion is because the prospect of parenthood has been thought through and the answer is “do not want!”

          Good enough for me.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          I’d like your response to this symmetry argument. I don’t recall your hitting the ball back over the net.

          You said:

          Let’s be clear about all this imposing your will stuff. You want to impose your will on society and allow what some members of that society think is wrong. And we have 50 million Americans not present as a result. That is a pretty big imposition of will. Both sides are interested in legislating their position. That is what civil governments do.

          I said that there was an important asymmetry here, with the pro-life side wanting to impose its will and the pro-choice side wanting to let everyone choose. Do you agree?

    • Kodie

      Each woman has her own will. You are saying pro-choice is taking lives of innocent people and why aren’t we horrified, boo-hoo. My will says let the woman decide and let the means be available. Your side is unjustified in obstructing that. You are forcing your own will on millions of women. I am forcing my will on nobody.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      You keep restating it as if those arguments had not been made. To me, this sounds like badgering

      You used a courtroom analogy. I slapped it down. Is that badgering? Responding to your argument?

      Maybe you do things differently, but the way the game is played here is that you’re welcome to make an argument, and then someone else might agree, amplify, or criticize.

      And then the ball’s in your court to salvage your argument if need be. That’s the stage we’re at now. Or did I miss where you shored up your argument?

      it is because you simply restate your premise as if it was true this time because you said it again.

      You’re right. I did simply restate my argument in that case. Very often you give no evidence of understanding what I’ve said before, so admittedly I may err on that side. Give me something substantial to respond to and I’ll do so.

      So if someone raises a perceived failure on your part to answer a question because it seemed to be (in this case) a change of subject, you characterize that as a bizzare discussion.

      Bingo. You seem to act as if you were talking about abortion, and I responded by talking about the latest movie I’ve watched. I still don’t know what grounded that long objection and why you thought it important to explore it.

      What response do you expect from this?

      I dunno–don’t complain when I respond to your comments, I guess.

      Not my objective, so I apologize if it comes across that way.

      Great to hear. I’ll try to interpret your comments with this in mind.

      Perhaps I’m just not convinced and keep stating it. If that is obnoxious from your perspective, I guess I’ll have to live with that.

      Absolutely not. Again, I invite you to see how I respond to other Christian commenters. Some are a pleasure to read–polite even if pointed. Hey–I want to have the best arguments possible. If I’m using one that is flawed, I want to know. I’ll discard it like yesterday’s newspaper.

      The issue of life or death is not trivial, so it should not be justified with repeated mantra of number of cells, scratched skin cells, flies and traffic tickets.

      Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t.

      Just a week ago, I got a Bug-a-Salt, a plastic gun that shoots salt shotgun style. It’s for killing flies, and I’m eagerly awaiting one to invade. I’m sure you won’t scold me no matter how many flies I kill. Life or death in this instance is trivial.

      The challenge you have is to show how the single human cell must be protected, and how your view should be imposed on everyone.

      As several have tried to express, these arguments are not sufficient to change minds.

      Oh, yeah. We’re on the same page here. But who’s being pig-headed? I think we differ on the answer to this.

      We have lost 50 million lives over 40 years in this country alone. We are doing lots in crisis pregnancy centers and prevention, but it isn’t enough.

      And you’re focusing on the wrong issue. You want to halve abortion rates in 10 years? I think I know, and I bet you know what I’m thinking of. And yet you’re focused on abortion prevention.

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob and Richard,

    This issue of scratching away skin cells and destroying potential humans is so silly as to be not worth refuting. But as a test case, let’s try. According to a simple explanation of how cloning works,

    Somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) is the most common cloning technique. SCNT involves putting the nucleus of a body cell into an egg from which the nucleus has been removed. This produces a clonal embryo, which is triggered to begin developing with chemicals or electricity. Placing this cloned embryo into the uterus of a female animal and bringing it to term creates a clone, with genes identical to those of the animal from which the original body cell was taken.

    So unless your nose is made up of egg cells into which the nucleus has been removed, replaced with the desired nuclear material, and triggered into developing with chemical and electrical stimulus and then placed into a uterus of a female animal, it is not a clone nor a potential anything. So can we consider this particular red herring to have been refuted?

    • Richard S. Russell

      You didn’t read your own source material closely enuf, Rick. It’s not that the nose is made up of egg cells, it’s made up of body cells. If you remove the (living) nucleus from a body cell and go thru the procedure described, it will turn into a person. Not a red herring at all. It’s exactly the same deal as what you’re proposing with regard to a fertilized egg: a bit of living human DNA that contains the road map for building a human being and which will, under the proper circumstances, do so. I fail to understand why the comparison is so hard for you to grasp, since we’ve boiled it down to the simplistic level you seem to be most comfortable with, a single cell and its potential future.

      • Rick Townsend

        I did read it just fine. And unless you are going through the proper circumstances, (triggering with a sophisticated chemical and electrical stimulus procedure plus implantation), scratching away dead skin cells will not result in millions of dead potential humans. A dead skin cell has no potential future. Except in this argument.

        Thanks for confirming my suspicions that you will not accept evidence to refute a silly argument.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Right. The proper circumstances.

          Exactly what’s necessary for a fertilized egg to turn into a person.

          It must be placed in the proper circumstances.

          The one thing the cloned skin cell and the fertilized egg have in common is that they must both parasitize a woman’s body for 9 months before they can be born. Otherwise, they are identical to each other.

          Thanks for confirming my suspicions that you are so wedded to your superstitious reverence for fertilized eggs that you are blind to exact equivalents that don’t happen to fit your preconceptions. (Heh. Preconceptions, get it?)

        • Rick Townsend

          Yes, I get it. Unlike the comparison you are making—Since a dead skin cell is not one that has been chemically and electrically triggered to mirror the functions of an egg which has been implanted.

          Thanks again.

        • Richard S. Russell

          So your contention is that this potential living being, the skin cell on your nose, has to go thru a Rick Townsend–approved process before it can be considered a potential human being, is that the distinction you’re trying to make? Because, as that article on cloning should have told you, once you give it that push (you know, akin to the sperm cell getting the egg cell up to speed), it has just as good a shot as a fertilized egg of becoming a real person.

          No sperm cell, no person for the basic egg.

          No cultivation, no person for the cloned skin cell.

          No 9 months of parasitization, no person for either.

          But either of them could grow into a person under the proper circumstances. And if it’s potential human life that you’re concerned about (and you keep saying it is, that every potential life should be given every opportunity to play out its optimum destiny), then what’s the difference? Other than that you personally approve of the one and recognize the idiocy of the other?

        • Kodie

          What do you think incubating inside a uterus entails exactly?

    • Bob Seidensticker

      This issue of scratching away skin cells and destroying potential humans is so silly as to be not worth refuting.

      Yeah, see, that’s part of the problem. To Richard and I, and many others, this is precisely on target. “Oh, that’s silly” is no rebuttal, and it makes you look like you’ve got nothing by which to respond.

      So unless your nose is made up of egg cells into which the nucleus has been removed

      In other words: I’ve nullified your argument, so I don’t have to respond to it. This is a Caltrop Argument, which I discussed in my first content post.

      I think Richard responded directly, but let me suggest an alternative: imagine that a simple chemical procedure could make a skin cell totipotent, in effect turning any cell back into an egg cell. Sure, there are technical objections, but forget those. In that future world (who knows–maybe a world 20 years from now), would you see skin cells to be as precious as the fertilized egg cells that you think should be unkillable?

  • Rick Townsend

    So your contention is that this potential living being, the skin cell on your nose, has to go thru a Rick Townsend–approved process before it can be considered a potential human being, is that the distinction you’re trying to make?

    Thanks for the vote of confidence, but I don’t approve scientific processes. I was quoting the scientists who understand cloning. You’ll have to take it up with the Center for Genetics and Science. I’ll stand by what they said.

    If you want a more detailed explanation, I’d refer you to “How Cloning Works” which states in an excerpt from a multi-page article,

    …Scientists have experimented with animal cloning, but have never been able to stimulate a specialized (differentiated) cell to produce a new organism directly. Instead, they rely on transplanting the genetic information from a specialized cell into an unfertilized egg cell whose genetic information has been destroyed or physically removed… [In the case of the cloned sheep named Dolly,] the nucleus-egg combination was stimulated with electricity to fuse the two and to stimulate cell division. The new cell divided and was placed in the uterus of a blackface ewe to develop. Dolly was born months later.
    … it took 276 attempts before the experiment was successful.

    But really, we can quit now. You’ve proven my point. Again, thanks.

    • Niemand

      Adult cells aside, you can certainly knock apart a zygote and get several zygotes out of it. In fact, it happens all the time. It’s known as “identical twins”. Are twins a single person? Alternately, should we always force separation of the zygote because otherwise we’re murdering the twin who doesn’t form? And then there’s chimeras…one person or two? And guilty of murder or not?

  • Richard S. Russell

    CNN.com has an article about how technology will enable us, in the very near future, to have reproduction without sex.

    • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

      I think Rick’s point is that this technology still requires egg-cells.

    • Niemand

      “In the very near future”? Hello, how about in the recent past? In vitro fertilization? Gamete transfer? Turkey basters? Sex and conception are extremely separable. In fact, conception is the easiest part of the pregnancy. So easy we’ve been able to do it in vitro for decades. Implantation and gestation are harder problems. The difference between an unfertilized oocyte and a fertilized egg is trivial. The difference between a fertilized egg and an implanted zygote is complex and difficult.

  • Bob Seidensticker

    David:

    I distinguish between flies and humans.

    When you say “humans,” are you thinking of yourself, say, or me? That’s fine. I make the same distinction.

    But that’s not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about a single cell that, with much time, will become a you or me. But that future date hasn’t occurred yet. Right now, it’s just a cell.

    Again, if you want to give that high value, that’s fine. The parents-to-be who really, really want a baby would do that. But don’t impose that interpretation on the rest of us by law.

    I think that its arbitrary for laws to deny protection to humans just because they happen to be at a certain stage of development.

    or invisible.

    Humans are human at each and every stage of development. This is not something which changes based on age.

    True. So what? It ain’t a person.

  • Richard S. Russell

    After considerable prodding, it has become apparent that our Christian interlocutors are dismissive of unfertilized egg cells emerging from the ovary. Easily disposable, not a matter of concern, they say. Still less do they care for the skin cells of the nose and are forthrightly contemptuous of their potential to become human beings.

    But let the male sperm cell hook up with the female egg cell, and suddenly we’ve got the moral equivalent of the next Einstein or Beethoven bam flash, just like that! The critical thing in what will eventually become a multi-trillion cell human being is not the vast amount of material sucked out of the pregnant woman over the course of the ensuing 9 months but rather the tiniest contribution of all — a single minuscule cell from the male — that makes all the difference.

    Sidney Harris ginned up what’s probably the most famous science cartoon of all time to cover the “thinking” process involved here:

    And this pretty well explains why it’s impossible to take the pro-life position seriously, since it’s built on a foundation of ignorant superstition, no matter how desperately they try to cloak it in the language of science and rationality.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      But let the male sperm cell hook up with the female egg cell, and suddenly we’ve got the moral equivalent of the next Einstein or Beethoven bam flash, just like that!

      They don’t hold wakes every time a woman has a period, they care nothing for scratched-off skin cells, and they don’t demand that a couple have as many children as they theoretically could. They agree that killing flies or mice is often justifiable. They are typically comfortable with the idea of justified killing of adults–intruders, wartime, capital punishment.

      To all the examples we give, they’re on the same page. But, as you note, there’s this third rail with this particular cell. And, more to the point, they’re so certain of the rightness of their position that they want to impose it on everyone else.

      Weird.

    • Rick Townsend

      There is a correction to the Harris cartoon that shows there are two sides to every controversy. I can’t post a graphic though, so will send it to you separately and ask you to be merciful and post it.

      If you can’t post the cartoon, the phrase pointed to is, “Then the first cell appears.”

      It pretty well explains why it’s impossible to take the atheist position seriously, since it’s built on a foundation of ignorant superstition, no matter how desperately they try to cloak it in the language of science and rationality.

      • Bob Seidensticker

      • Bob Seidensticker

        Yeah–science is working to be more explicit in step 2. Do you imagine that they needed you to point out an unanswered question?

        Science has no complete answer to abiogenesis. And what do we conclude from that? What do we conclude from the many unanswered questions?

        Let me have a go: we can’t be certain that science will resolve its unanswered questions, but, given the jaw-dropping progress science has made in the last couple of centuries, that’s the way to bet.

  • Rick Townsend

    Phil,

    I am confused by the dismissive tone and words in your response. I spent some time on a thoughtful reply to your comment.

    My apology for being dismissive. What I read in your post was for the most part a restatement of the negative of what I wrote, and had already given my best shot at explaining my position as well. So I felt your post was simply a dismissive restatement and rejection of my points with little new to add that hadn’t already been addressed in my post. You just disagree. Perhaps my analogy fell flat with you. But I didn’t have time to refute it all again, and don’t at the moment either. If you feel I have given short shrift to your rebuttal, let me know on what point you want to discuss further. There were a lot of tangents brought up and a shotgun approach on this site is inviting return fire that is off the mark in a lot of cases.

    Thanks…

    • Phil

      Thanks for the response. Obviously I disagree with lots you’ve said in your posts, but as I too, tried to explain my position/response as best I could (within my time constraints), I don’t believe there is anywhere to go from here.

      I’ll leave it to you and Bob.

  • Rick Townsend

    Kodie,

    Never looks that long in the combox.

    It is sometimes hard to respond to your points because they are so wide-ranging. If I could make a constructive input, it would be helpful to getting a more meaningful response if you would spend some of the time you would otherwise be typing and really think about the main point you are hoping to communicate. Otherwise, readers have to analyze your long post to figure out what your main idea is. That is not always possible.

    Thanks,
    Rick

  • Rick Townsend

    Kodie,

    And the pro-lifers want to impose mandatory pregnancy on this woman and all women in her situation, country-wide.

    No one is forcing mandatory pregnancy on anyone, except in cases of rape and incest, which I pointed out earlier involved less than 2% of all abortions. What I’m talking about is the 98% where some level of complicity in the pregnancy is assigned to the mother as well as the father. That is because they chose to take part in adult activity that can result in pregnancy, but aren’t willing to accept the consequences of that action without terminating a pregnancy through abortion. This isn’t mandatory pregnancy, unless you are talking about forced artificial insemination, which I don’t think is the case.

    Fair enough. Let’s admit the asymmetry and agree that one side wants to impose its will on the other side.

    One side doing something is not symmetry. The only symmetry I recognize is what I stated above—that both sides are seeking to influence legislation to back their position. I don’t acknowledge to the asymmetry you allude to.

    • Kodie

      Those were Bob’s comments.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      Kodie,

      ?? I think you were quoting me.

      No one is forcing mandatory pregnancy on anyone, except in cases of rape and incest, which I pointed out earlier involved less than 2% of all abortions.

      ?? I think you want to rework that sentence.

      What I’m talking about is the 98% where some level of complicity in the pregnancy is assigned to the mother as well as the father.

      So you want to impose forced pregnancy in this situation?

      This isn’t mandatory pregnancy

      How about “forced pregnancy”?

      I don’t acknowledge to the asymmetry you allude to.

      I used to refuse to acknowledge that grass is green. Reality got in the way, unfortunately.

      When one side wants to let people decide for themselves and the other side wants to impose their views through the government, that’s not symmetry.

      • Rick Townsend

        Sorry for any confusion on who wants to quote whom.

        1) Whoever brought up forced pregnancy of mandatory pregnancy, I don’t want to rework the sentence. No one is forcing or mandating anything. The adults involved chose a path that led to pregnancy. There are consequences. Sorry.

        2) One side in the pro-life wants to preserve life in the womb. The other wants to kill it. I say we err on the side of life.

        Seems pretty simple. As of now, the pro-death side is mandating their view through the force of law against those who are arguing to preserve life. Sounds pretty draconian. Any regime that has done this in the past has been guilty of genocide. Now we have advanced technology and call it abortion because it is behind closed doors.

        And your right, that is not symmetry.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Whoever brought up forced pregnancy of mandatory pregnancy, I don’t want to rework the sentence. No one is forcing or mandating anything.

          Oh. Well then I guess I’ve misunderstood you. Sorry.

          I thought you wanted to change the laws so that a woman who wanted to have an abortion would be forced to carry that pregnancy to term. But you’re not forcing or mandating anything. So then she can have an abortion.

          I’m a little chagrined that I got it so wrong.

          The adults involved chose a path that led to pregnancy. There are consequences. Sorry.

          Guy shoots himself by accident. Sorry, pal–there are consequences.

          Aw–but what the heck. C’mon into the ER and we’ll patch you up.

          2) One side in the pro-life wants to preserve life in the womb. The other wants to kill it.

          Wrong, wrong, wrong. The pro-choice position (I thought you’d know this already) is that the pregnant woman should be given the choice of abortion, if she needs it.

          Reminds me of an anti-Obama cartoon with him running after a pregnant woman with a scalpel. Uh, no–no one is doing this. If a woman wants to carry her baby to term, that’s terrific.

          I say we err on the side of life.

          All life? Human life? Why don’t we focus on people instead?

          As of now, the pro-death side is mandating their view through the force of law against those who are arguing to preserve life.

          No, the anti-choice side is the one who is giving everyone one choice: mandatory pregnancy (with some possible exceptions). The pro-choice side is allowing choice, not death.

          Any regime that has done this in the past has been guilty of genocide.

          Genocide is killing (1) all (2) people of a (3) certain race or tribe or group. The status quo is pretty much not like that at all–it’s not all, it’s not people and it’s not focused on a certain tribe.

        • Rick Townsend

          I’m a little chagrined that I got it so wrong.

          Seems like you are taking nuances, twisting and re-spinning them and playing them back as sarcastically as possible. You know what I meant, but if you want to characterize it in a way that makes you look good, OK.

          Wrong, wrong, wrong. The pro-choice position (I thought you’d know this already) is that the pregnant woman should be given the choice of abortion, if she needs it…

          No, the anti-choice side is the one who is giving everyone one choice: mandatory pregnancy (with some possible exceptions). The pro-choice side is allowing choice, not death.

          Thanks. I think I knew that. So I’m only discussing those who choose to abort. I’d like to save as many of those babies as possible. But I’m sorry that wasn’t clear. My bad, I’m sure.

          Genocide is killing (1) all (2) people of a (3) certain race or tribe or group. The status quo is pretty much not like that at all–it’s not all, it’s not people and it’s not focused on a certain tribe.

          Thanks for this clarification. I will claim this status for (1) all (2) pre born fetuses who share the characteristic of being (3) unwanted.

          Genocide it is then.

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          Seems like you are taking nuances, twisting and re-spinning them and playing them back as sarcastically as possible.

          Correct. And why do you suppose that is?

          You know what I meant

          I most certainly don’t know what you meant. Maybe you mistyped. Not a problem–we all do that. But you said, on the topic of forced pregnancy/mandatory pregnancy, “No one is forcing or mandating anything.”

          This makes zero sense, and my last comment made clear why that is.

          Thanks. I think I knew that.

          Then why make me summarize it? Why write nutty stuff that I’ve got to rein in?

          Are we still in Wonderland? Are you still claiming that you’re not forcing anything or that the pro-choice position demands death?

          So I’m only discussing those who choose to abort.

          And you want them to be legally obliged to carry that pregnancy to term, right? You do see the problem with “no one [meaning your position, I assume] is forcing or mandating anything,” right?

          I’d like to save as many of those babies as possible.

          OK. It’s the forced pregnancy part that I have a problem with.

        • Kodie

          He means that no one forced her to have sex, unless she was raped, and we’re still not going to let her have an abortion because we are superstitious about it. By the time a woman finds out she is pregnant, no one had forced her to get pregnant. Only god forced her to get pregnant. But that’s just because she had sex, and unless she was raped, only god forced her to get pregnant. He thinks forcing pregnancy means raping all the women and he’s not in favor of rape, but he’s in favor of controlling women regarding their sex lives. Is forcing women not to have sex some… thing like rape?

          I have intrigued myself with a puzzle. Rick is boring.

    • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

      “That is because they chose to take part in adult activity that can result in pregnancy”

      Well that tells me that you see pregnancy as a form of punishment and so must also consider children to be punishment.

      • Rick Townsend

        No, children are not a punishment. But pregnancy is a possible consequence. Adults accept responsibility for consequences.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Right. And if I screw up, I try to fix it.
          That’s part of accepting responsibility.
          Indeed, I’d contend it’s the better part, beyond just saying “Oops, my bad.”

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Adults accept responsibility for consequences.

          And society helps out where possible. Insurance programs pay for cigarette cessation programs, emergency rooms patch up accident victims, tax dollars pay for drug treatment programs, and so on.

          And abortion clinics help out people who got into a pregnancy ill advisedly.

        • http://busterggi@aol.com busterggi

          Yes and part of the consequences is making tough decisions and acting on them such as having abortions.

          You still sound like you consider children to be punishment and I’m sure you don’t think sex should be enjoyable.

  • Rick Townsend

    Kodie,

    I called you a liar because you antagonize me with a lie about me. I don’t care if you respond to them, I am just showing you proof that what you suggested is a lie.

    I have no idea what lie you think I told about you, so I will stand by my statement. If you will stop the innuendo and name-calling and focus on one argument at a time, I will respond as respectfully as possible. If you don’t, I won’t. Your call.

    • Kodie
    • Richard S. Russell

      Yeah, Kodie, don’t you understand the rules here? Rick gets to not only make whatever arguments he wants, he also gets to say which of your arguments are worthy of consideration. He also gets to ignore or trivialize anything that doesn’t fit neatly into his pre-conceived view of the world and take offense when you point this out. He’s also in charge of counting arguments, so if you make 1 main argument and provide 3 examples of it, you’ve overfilled your quota and are now, in his structured view of the universe, engaging in dissembling and distraction, having exceeded your God-prescribed quota of exactly 1 Rick Townsend–approved argument per posting.
       
      Were these rules not made clear to you when you first began posting here? Whose blog did you think this was, anyway?

      • Kodie

        I have a simple rule for Rick.

        1. If you don’t want to be called a liar, don’t lie. I didn’t call him a shithead, I called him a liar.

        1a. When you want to contest that accusation, don’t do it on the same page as all the proof that you did it.

        2. I’m not going to tell you which posts to answer. They have all been there a couple days, and could have been addressed or ignored as the reader found themselves interested to do so, as they had responded to other posts in the same time frame. No need to make a brand-new post calling me out for something I keep accidentally piling higher on Karl, and which I acknowledged – an “oops”, a mea maxima culpa. I have already called myself out.

        2a. The reader is invited to post in a sub-thread to a post primarily directed as a response to someone else if they so choose, or just effing ignore the MF. This isn’t school.

  • Richard S. Russell

    Today’s issue of my hometown “weekly journal of opinion”, The Capital Times of Madison, features a story about the obstacles strewn in the path to getting a safe, legal abortion in Wisconsin, which resonates with some of the issues we’ve been discussing here.

  • http://www.hongkongudy.com Karl Udy

    I think this will be mainly of interest to Kodie – there are Christians out there who are generally sensitive to and care about the issues facing women with unwanted pregnancies – http://www.qideas.org/blog/a-better-response-to-abortion-begins-with-a-better-question.aspx

    • Kodie

      Ok. That is basically a rehashing of what we already talked about.

      At this time, women feel incredibly alone and isolated. They can only hear and internalize messages that help them resolve their fear of loss of self. This emotional barrier makes women facing an unwanted pregnancy largely incapable of hearing appeals to sacrifice their identities to save the child.

      No, women hear that message loud and clear, which intensifies the difficulty in making the right decision for themselves. Either way, either decision, for themselves. Your article supports your views by echoing them, doesn’t give any better reasons not to have an abortion.

      Knowing there are resources available and people who will support her through her pregnancy and beyond can make all the difference.

      That sounds like they mean “crisis pregnancy centers,” a front for an adoption brokerage for white newborns to go to “good” Christian families.

      The article still insists that abortion is the wrong choice and their empathy for pregnant women in difficulty stems from a belief that nobody wants an abortion. It’s policing women’s choices and women’s bodies, it’s in favor of that. They would like pregnant women to merely accept that their life will change and taking control over it is not a favorable option. When people get realistic, abortion is a responsible choice and should not be made into something that it’s not by the pro-forced-birth advocacy. When people do want to find a way to keep their pregnancy and raise a child with the foresight that this is nearly impossible, I do not like the idea that they would be lulled into “ways” they could that are really ways to abduct their child, first of all.

      The article focuses on a change of identity that women get abortions in order to avoid – how about the money. How about the realistic, time-and-money-consuming lifelong project that it is, when it’s not welcome now or possibly ever. The article does little to address reality, not with any real suggestions like social safety nets that actually work, without the mess of red tape and stigma. It is white-washing the whole shame thing but shaming nonetheless of women who need, want, and choose abortions by judging women who do not want their identity to change – that’s the basic same thing as saying “accept the consequences for spreading your legs, you whore, you don’t get a say about the rest of your own life now”.

      Crisis pregnancy centers do a similar job. They snatch women getting abortions to soft-talk them and pretend to care about their “real” choice, the only legitimate choice. Just like you, the balance only goes one way – everyone wants their babies but some have to do the “regrettable” thing. No, that’s not it. Many have the only problem with abortion is the cultural shame in admitting it’s better for them. Raising a child or putting it up for adoption has real costs that your side never come to terms with. It’s foreseeable. Abortion eliminates that extremely high cost for people who choose it, who can understand the consequences of waiting too long. I’m so sorry but the side that is against abortion seems to think if everyone just waited to see, they would see how wonderful and rewarding motherhood is, and they don’t know until they experience it. Romanticized. It can be all that for many women but it also judges women who know they do not want to have that experience now or possibly at any time in the future. It says these women’s opinions of their own selves do not count. It invalidates the choice of not being a mother by attacking mainly the woman’s concern with her identity. It’s a choice of words thing, but that’s what they’re saying.

  • Rick Townsend

    Bob,

    I said that there was an important asymmetry here, with the pro-life side wanting to impose its will and the pro-choice side wanting to let everyone choose. Do you agree?

    My response was given already. I don’t accept the asymmetry. What I said was that both sides want to impose their will through legislation.

    Your view of asymmetry is that if some believe murder is OK and some don’t, we should just let those who want to choose murder to practice it and those who don’t can go pound sand. They shouldn’t speak out on the issue, and certainly shouldn’t seek redress through legislation. That is asymmetric.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Rick:

      What I said was that both sides want to impose their will through legislation.

      And what I said was that that “will” was very different. Asymmetric. One side wants to impose its will (prohibit an action), while the other wants to “impose” choice.

      See the asymmetry?

      Your view of asymmetry is that if some believe murder is OK and some don’t, we should just let those who want to choose murder to practice it and those who don’t can go pound sand.

      Remove the judgmental bits and we can discuss–assuming this is an actual question. But perhaps it was simply a statement.

    • Richard S. Russell

      “both sides want to impose their will through legislation”

      This is clearly wrong. Only one side — the pro-lifers* — is trying to enact legislation having anything to do with abortion. The pro-choice side is no more interested in passing legislation regarding abortion than, say, nose-scratching. The default assumption in a free society is that each individual citizen is, in fact, free. That is, the base assumption is that you can do whatever you damn well please. Government gets involved mainly to prevent such actions from harming (or threatening) others. Pro-choice people are not advocating any such legislation in regard to abortion and in fact favor the removal of legislation already in place.

      I am stunned that you are apparently unaware of this.

      = = = = = =
      *common abbreviation for “proliferators”

      • Rick Townsend

        And I amstunned that you are not aware of Roe V. Wade, the legal effort trumped up by abortion proponents to enshrine their position in law. And also ObamaCare which tries to make even churches provide abortifacients.

        Don’t go there and accuse me of being clueless, please.

        As others have said in the past, your freedom of action stops when your fist encroaches on my personal space. We are not free to do anything we want. This is still a civil society (somewhat) which has a rule of law to be respected. If you haven’t noticed, that does infringe on your rights to drive drunk, without a license or into a pedestrian on a red light. Freedom has limits. That is why Congress passes laws.

        • Richard S. Russell

          Roe v. Wade was a Supreme Court decision which overturned anti-abortion legislation. It was your contention that “both sides” were trying to enforce their position via legislation. To the extent that the pro-choice side has been able to enlist the Constitution and the courts on the side of personal liberty, they have succeeded in rolling back the kind of legislation you guys keep trying to impose on the rest of us.

          Before I can possibly take you seriously on this matter, you’ll have to point to me some legislative effort somewhere in America that’s trying to enforce pro-choicery by enacting new laws. All we’re trying to do is get rid of the bad old ones, and that’s where I stand unless and until you can quote me chapter and verse to the contrary.

          No, as you may have guessed by now, I will not simply take your word for it.

        • Rick Townsend

          Nor, apparently, do you read what I write. For starters, ObamaCare and the president’s executive orders have caused tax dollars to flow to abortion providers. Hope that helps.

        • Richard S. Russell

          I read exactly what you wrote. In fact, I quoted it back to you twice. You chose to ignore it both times.

          The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, popularly known as ObamaCare, provides support for all forms of medical treatments and procedures, based on the best judgments of patients and their doctors. It would have said nothing specific about abortion except that, once again, you guys chose to make an issue of it. We pro-choicers would have been perfectly happy if the legislation had been utterly silent on the subject, but nooooooo!

          So try again. I’m still waiting for an example of pro-choicers trying to “impose their will through legislation” (which now makes the 3rd time I’ve quoted your own words back at you).

        • Bob Seidensticker

          Rick:

          to enshrine their position in law

          You mean to enshrine the position that everyone gets to choose? Yes, that’s right. Hardly an imposition.

          And also ObamaCare which tries to make even churches provide abortifacients.

          This, by contrast, is an imposition. But calling “pro-choice” an imposition is laughable.

          “Stop imposing on me the freedom to do what I want! This freedom is infuriating and constraining and … and it just makes me peevish!” Or something.

          Have I characterized it properly?

  • http://OneFamilyManyFaiths.blogspot.com Y

    To be forced to give birth to a child against her will is a peculiarly personal violation of [a woman’s] freedom. — Disciples of Christ, 1978

    We are arguing for the wrong rights. Every child has the right to be wanted and loved. As one of nine children of neglect and abuse, I stand for the right of a child to be given back to the energy of universal life rather than suffer the abuse and neglect that leads to fear and anger, which in turn lead to violence against oneself and others.

    • Bob Seidensticker

      Y: A powerful comment. Thanks for the insights.

  • Frank

    Okay, I’m late to this argument, and haven’t read all, or even very many, of the comments. But my first reaction is that basically you’re right; this makes sense. But my background as a pro-lifer is bringing two questions to mind:

    1. Have you explored anti-abortion philosophical literature that addresses these issues? I’m thinking of Francis Beckwith, Patrick Lee, and Christopher Kaczor in particular.

    2. As far as I understand it (which may not be very well), the central point of the anti-abortion position on this question is that the “spectrum” describes the span of life of an individual human being, from conception onward. Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being. That’s what conception *means*: before conception, no new human; after conception, the start of a new human.

    I’m not saying I agree with the way anti-abortion people use this argument, or even that I think it’s entirely sound. And I certainly don’t think “murder” as a term can be meaningfully applied to abortion. But I wonder if there’s isn’t an element of truth here that you don’t fully account for.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      1. Have you explored anti-abortion philosophical literature that addresses these issues? I’m thinking of Francis Beckwith, Patrick Lee, and Christopher Kaczor in particular.

      I don’t remember reading anything from them. If they have any good responses, I’d welcome a summary from you.

      What I typically find is the point that you also raise: that a distinct human is formed. Yes, granted, but this isn’t interesting. So what? We still start with a single microscope cell. Lots of potential, I’ll grant, but this isn’t a person (or whatever you want to call the spectrum). It may be in 9 months, but it ain’t now.

      Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being.

      To me, this is intellectual trivia. Yes, it’s true, but from this we’re to ignore the plight of the woman having the baby? Or the situation of the baby itself, brought into the world unloved and unwanted?

      To me, this far, far outweighs the cold intellectual fact that we’ve created a unique piece of DNA.

    • RichardSRussell

      Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being.

      A genetically distinct plan for a human being comes into being. Some assembly required before you have the real thing.

      As I remark in a sig line I’ve put together on the subject: “The self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ crowd is entirely too obsessive about the imaginary people they claim to be concerned about. They need to calm down, switch off their circuit diagrams, get out of their blueprints, sit in the shade of their acorns, listen to the pleasant songs of the eggs, and stop to smell the pollen.”

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Good point. There is a bit of difference between an acorn and an oak …

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