Five Intuitive Pro-Choice Arguments

My primary argument about abortion is that there’s a spectrum from a single cell (not a person) to a newborn baby (a person). My summary of the spectrum argument is here. This is in response to pro-life advocates who deny this spectrum to argue that we have a “baby” from newborn all the way back to that single cell.

I’d like to make five arguments in favor of my position, but since emotion plays such a strong part of the discussion, I’ll set aside intellectual arguments and focus instead on emotional ones.

1. Child vs. Embryos

Suppose a building were on fire, and you could save either a five-year-old child or ten frozen embryos. Which would you pick?

Of course, everyone would save the child.

But now imagine the same situation two years later. The ten embryos have become one-year-old babies and the child is now seven years old. Which would you save? Obviously, the ten babies.

As an aside, note that the decision in the second instance is much tougher. In the first, we lost ten insensate embryos, but in the second, it’s a child. No one equates a newborn or a child with an invisible clump of cells.

2. Different Reactions to Abortion Procedures

Anti-abortionists focus on the horror of a late-term abortion. Did you ever wonder why they don’t focus instead on a woman swallowing a Plan B (emergency contraceptive) pill? Or a drug-induced abortion (the most common procedure for first-trimester abortions)? Imagine anti-abortion activists carrying signs, not with a photo of an eight-month-old fetus but with life-size drawings of a 100-cell human blastocyst. The signs would appear blank.

By choosing as they do, they admit that all procedures are not equal and that there is a spectrum. Their story is more powerful the older the fetus is. A blastocyst is very unlike a person, but an 8-month-old fetus is very much like a person.

3. Slaughtering Animals for Food

Which would be more horrible to watch: a woman swallowing a pill of Plan B or a cow going through a slaughterhouse? The cow can experience fear and pain, while the single cell can experience neither. The cell’s claim to superiority is only its potential to be a person.

There’s a big difference from what is and what might be. A blastocyst has impressive potential but has vastly fewer cells than the brain of a fly. The only trait it shares with a person is its DNA, a vague and abstract commonality.

And there’s no guarantee that our imagined cell will develop properly during pregnancy. A single cell might become a human baby or not, just like betting $1000 on black at the roulette table might win or not. With half of all pregnancies ending in spontaneous (natural) abortion, the odds for each are about the same.

4. Cloning and Skin Cells

Imagine that in ten years we’re able to clone a human from a single skin cell. Would you never scratch your skin to avoid killing a potential human being, like the Jain who wears mesh over his face to avoid accidentally breathing in a flying insect? And if not—if “potential human being” is very different in your mind from “actual human being”—then why not see that same difference between a single cell and a newborn baby?

5. Saving Another Person’s Life

If a blastocyst is a person, would you give up your life for it? You might risk your life to save a stranger, but is the same true for a stranger’s blastocyst?

What we value changes across this spectrum, and, while we might intellectually argue that a human is a human is a human, emotionally we don’t see both ends of the spectrum the same.

Let me make clear that I’m simply arguing for the existence of a spectrum. We can agree on this and still disagree on when the okay/not-okay line is for abortion. The status quo seems to resolve this appropriately: society decides on the upper bounds and, before that date, allows girls and women to choose.

Show me why a single fertilized human egg cell is equivalent to a trillion-cell newborn. The newborn has arms and legs, fingers and toes, eyes and ears, a brain and a nervous system, a stomach and a digestive system, a heart and a circulatory system, and so on. The cell has … none of these.

These are not equivalent in any important biological sense; why should they be equivalent morally?

Nothing in the world is more dangerous
than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.
— Martin Luther King, Jr.

(This is a modified version of a post originally published 1/6/12.)

Photo credit: ebmarquez

About Bob Seidensticker
  • RichardSRussell

    Nicely done, Bob!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      :-)

  • Arkenaten

    I have had several misgivings about this for a while. It’s always good to see another perspective.
    Excellent presentation.

  • smrnda

    You might want to look up some of Slacktivist’s posts on abortion. He documents that Christians of different sects were not always opposed to abortion, along with their reasons why.

    All said, I suspect there do exist people who would save frozen embryos and let developed, born, living people die.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I’ve seen a detailed discussion of this (Valerie Tarico’s blog?). Anyway, thanks for bringing this up. Lots of churches’ opinions are moving targets.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        I just found that link about churches’ more accepting views on abortion just a few decades ago: here it is.

  • Jel

    The most compelling argument for abortion is that that a persons body is sovereign. No one has the right to your body. Even if we were to agree that from the moment of conception the embryo has exactly the same rights as a born, living child, we should still support the right to choose. We don’t require a mother to donate a lung or kidney to her child even if that child would die without it. We don’t even compel her to donate bone marrow or blood to her child against her will. Why is her uterus different? Pregnancy arguably carries more physical change and risk that most of the procedures mentioned above. Likewise, even if a mother consented to donating an organ to her child she can revoke that consent at any time.
    My position is that abortion should only be illegal when the abortion procedure would have the same impact on the mother as birth (i.e. would require either surgery or labour) and at that point birth can be induced if the woman doesn’t want to carry the child any longer.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      What bugs me the most is pro-lifers focusing exclusively on the harm to the fetus. I don’t agree on how big a deal it is, but that’s not the point. The point is that they give no acknowledgement of the downside of carrying a baby to term. I’d have more respect for their arguments if they did so.

      • sg

        Probably because so many pro lifers have had so many kids themselves and don’t see pregnancy as being difficult or dangerous enough to override their objections to abortion. Many follow a religion that exhorts followers to self sacrifice for the good of another. That kind of view of themselves in the world doesn’t square with a woman who feels it is better to put her own interests ahead of another. Two different worldviews.

      • M.S.

        I think, similarly, I have more respect for pro-choicers who are able to acknowledge the downsides of abortion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Fair enough. When pro-lifers bring up valid points (maybe: “There are parents desperate to adopt. Wouldn’t it be great to help them out?”) I’m happy to agree. In fact, I seek out opportunities to agree.

        • Monimonika

          Do those desperate parents seriously exist? If they do, why does it have to be this particular baby-to-be? What about the baby or toddler or grade schooler or teenage orphans who are still waiting for adoptive parents? There can’t seriously be a lack of children to adopt as long as the foster care system still exists.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I imagine they want healthy white babies. Brown, disabled, or older tend to wind up in the foster care system.

        • Monimonika

          Sadly, those were the answers that I thought of when asking my questions. :-(

          I think it makes a good counter to that particular “valid point”, though. Unless the people using that point are un-apologetically racist, able-ist, and/or find babies easier to train/hit/force-submission than willful older kids.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          The true counter to the “You can just have the baby adopted!” argument is to note that of premarital pregnancies that are carried to term, two percent are put up for adoption.

          No, adoption isn’t the answer.

        • Monimonika

          Not sure how to interpret that two percent stat. Were there plans for adoption in all or just some of the premarital pregnancies studied? Does premarital imply single motherhood, or does it include other arrangements (delayed marriage, etc.)?

        • Kodie

          It tends to indicate that of the women who didn’t have abortions, almost all of them chose to raise the baby themselves rather than relinquish it to a stranger.

          I am not sure about any other information. Not every unmarried woman is in a bad position to handle a pregnancy or raise a child, but when people have a choice to make and they don’t choose abortion, they overwhelmingly do not choose adoption.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “2% of unmarried women at any age place their child for adoption.” Source: http://statistics.adoption.com/information/adoption-statistics-placing-children.html

        • Monimonika

          Just want to say thank you for providing the link to the source of your stat. Very interesting info at that link. I need to read more carefully in order to get what the stats might indicate, but it’s already challenging some of my assumptions.

          Just to put it out there, but about the only way I would become pro-life is if both of the following happened:

          1) There are more competent parents looking to adopt than there are children (of any type).

          2) There are publicly/government funded artificial external wombs that can carry fetuses to term. Of course, it has to be part of free healthcare.

          What am I thinking? The above can never become a reality in America. Free healthcare… as if!

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m glad it was helpful! Like you, I sometimes come across some startling facts that I need to adjust to.

          Sure, if we could breed children in factories like in Brave New World, then there would be no downsides. But we don’t live in that world.

          Free healthcare?! Oh, please. Like Jesus cared about healing the sick!

        • M.S.

          Sure, we can all agree (I think) that abortion is not the best option to avoid pregnancy, and we can’t fail to address the physical / emotional / mental damage that it does to women. On the other hand, is birth the best option for all children? Based on a lot of child abuse articles I read, maybe not. :-(

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      I do agree in theory that once a fetus could survive outside, abortion may be substituted with induction, but then who pays? The technical viability time is 24 weeks, but that is a super-preemie with very low odds of survival, guaranteed mental and physical problems, and a $1 million+ NICU bill. At 28 weeks, survival goes up to 50% and there are only likely mental and physical problems, but the NICU bill is still over $1 million. With early labor/miscarriage, the parents decide whether or not to take heroic measures or just palliative ones- should an aborting woman be denied the same options? And if the woman knows she will opt for palliative care, why not just abort to avoid any suffering after birth? It would make more sense just to keep abortion at all stages legal.

      • purr

        Thanks for those numbers.

        I had NO idea it could get that expensive.

        This is why I hate when people talk about ‘viability’ and how 23 weeks isn’t really a thing! No, it’s a huge thing, because, pragmatically speaking, lifelong disability and hospital bills that run into the millions are NOT exactly, well, practical.

        Perhaps my logic isn’t sound here, but, if 21 weeks really is ‘viability’ as some pro-lifers claim (only four 21 weekers have ever survived) then shouldn’t this mean that labour can just be induced at 21 weeks across the board?

    • Niemand

      My position is that abortion should only be illegal when the abortion
      procedure would have the same impact on the mother as birth (i.e. would
      require either surgery or labour) and at that point birth can be induced
      if the woman doesn’t want to carry the child any longer.

      In theory I have no problem with this position. In practice, I have some qualms. First, the vast majority of third trimester abortions happen because something is wrong with either the fetus or the pregnant woman. In fact, I’ve never heard of a legal abortion that wasn’t about one of those two issues. Labor with a dead or dying fetus, especially one with, say, hydrocephalus or spastic paralysis, can be a very different thing from a normal labor. The fetus may simply not fit through the birth canal. And a c-section is major surgery, especially a c-section to remove a fetus with a huge head (but no brain) or one spasmed into a bizarre shape.

      You might say, “Obviously, in these cases the health of the woman should come first and the abortion happen by whatever means is safest.” And this is what would happen in an ethical OB practice with no particular restrictions. But once you’ve invoked a law that restricts what the OB can do, you’ve introduced a problem. The OB may be unsure if xe can do an abortion in this case or if “natural” delivery (or c-section) is required. This endangers the mother.

      Finally, what if the woman wants a third trimester abortion because she has a twin pregnancy and one twin is dead or dying. This might occur at, say, 24 weeks gestation. She would want to maintain the pregnancy with the living twin, as it will have a better chance of survival and a healthy life if it gestates 30 or 35 or 40 weeks than if it gestates 24. But if the law says that abortion is illegal in the third trimester then her choices become wait for labor (with the risk of sepsis killing her and the living fetus) or inducing labor and maybe losing the second, still viable twin.

      So I don’t think that your proposal would be the right thing in practice. How about internal and external review of all third trimester abortions to ensure that there’s not a Gossell out there exploiting and endangering women and their fetuses, better prenatal care to reduce the chances of medical problems requiring a third trimester abortion, and better access to first trimester abortion to avoid the marginal cases where a woman wants a truly elective abortion at week 18 or 20?

  • WolfgangDS

    First example: Unless I simply don’t have the time for any reason, I’d get the kid and take him to the embryos and tell him to grab some and let’s get the heck out of here. Same same with the 7-year-old and the 1-year-olds.

    Second example: How a human reacts to something- or even a pool of humans- doesn’t quite factor into whether or not a life is considered human and precious at specific points in time. If it did, wouldn’t we also consider the reactions of people who have no emotions or who enjoy killing? Frankly, I think it’s wrong to say that something isn’t wrong just because a lot of folks don’t react to it. Lying, for instance, is nearly ALWAYS wrong and hurtful.

    Third example: Our first priority should be the survival and endurance of the human species. We are sentient. We are the most curious animals on the planet. And as such, we’ve taken steps to become the most curious animals in our solar system (that we know of). Comparing us to cows is… well, insulting.

    Besides, I love me some steak.

    Fourth example: Ugh. THIS argument? Obviously skin cells aren’t separate people… because they are a part of you. Rephrase it: Now it’s a tumor. Tumors don’t grow arms and legs and attempt find a job in their twenties. Tumors are nothing more than cells that used a Gameshark to give themselves infinite lives. They have the same genetic material as you, making them a PART of you.

    But a blastocyst? That contains half the genetic material of two individuals. Furthermore, it exhibits the characteristic traits of a parasite, gaining sustenance from the mother as it grows, to the point where it takes an interestingly divergent path from the parasite behavior and no longer relies on a physical attachment to its host. Skin cells don’t do that.

    And the cloning argument isn’t valid for other reasons. If a skin cell is used to create a clone, then all that’s happening is that the genetic material contained in the cell is being used as a starting point, kind of a template, and the remainder of the necessary information is extrapolated from it. It’d be like being able to reconstruct an entire operating system from just a few files.

    Fifth example: Give me one good reason why I can’t save them both. Just like the first example, if I can find a way to save them all, I WILL SAVE THEM ALL. One life or another is a choice I NEVER want to face, and I will always do everything in my power to make sure I never do. Even if it seems like I’m staring it in the face, it’ll blink and I’ll win and save everyone.

    “Just this once,” the Doctor said. Guess what? I aim for better than “Just once.”

    DISCLAIMER: Not particularly religious. No longer a Christian. I just prefer to use common sense, logic, and the scientific criteria for life as listed in any high school biology book (ANYWHERE IN THE WORLD). Emotions, while wonderful, beautiful, terrible, awe-inspiring, and mysterious, are utterly useless here. Both you and the right use emotions to determine the answer to this dilemma. I don’t. And until I am forced to choose between the woman I love and her unborn child, I never will.

    Seriously, just Google “life”. Look at the Wikipedia article. Look under “Biology” in the “Definitions” section. Some of those definitions can only apply to a species as a whole rather than the individual (i.e. adaptation, reproduction), but the others can and should be applied to an individual.

    And before you dismiss it as the skin cell argument, remember how I tore that apart: This is a new genetic combination, which is the basis for individual life.

    • Itarion

      1) To be fair, the embryos would be easier to save… Ten one year olds would be a nightmare. I haven’t got enough hands for two.

      2) You’re right emotional reactions really shouldn’t enter into the overarching discussion at all, but we’re emotional creatures – for the most part – and emotions are easier to use for persuasion than logical, reasonable, and well delineated arguments. Same with generalizations. Btw, thanks for that nearly on the lying is bad.

      3) Actually no disagreement here.

      4) So, are identical twins individual people, despite having identical genetic codes? Would a clone be merely an extension of you, because it’s got your DNA? The definition of what constitutes a person and what doesn’t is a prickly subject, and the main issue with the life/choice discussion is the variety of definitions and starting points for “person”.

      5) Here’s a reason. It’s a hypothetical situation comprised of absolutes. Mother has nutritional deficiencies that will cause her to literally starve to death if the child is carried to term. Low level autoimmune disease that will skyrocket out of control with a pregnancy. STI results in severe inflammation of the uterine wall in the case of a pregnancy. Sometimes, you won’t get your Everyone Lives result.

      Technically, with the advent of cloning technologies, skin cells – and any body cells, skin’s just the easiest to get a hold of – have the potential to be a new individual.

      Also, your computer analogy of cloning is flawed. Skin cells contain all the same genetic data – within tolerances, with mutations and whatnot – as all other cells in your body. The difference between skin, muscle, bone and other cells is which gene sets are active, and the main hurdle of cloning is “resetting” differentiated cells to the “potential” state of stem cells. Something more like, “this computer is optimized for word processing, lets take the OS and optimize it for video editing.” No matter how many Macs you reset, you won’t end up with a PC running Linux.

      • Lyra Belaqua

        A little off-topic, but regarding cloning, there’s a fantastic show called “Orphan Black” where the main character finds out she’s part of a secret cloning experiment. There are at least 4 other clones in season 1 that we meet. While the physical genetics play a role, I find it really interesting how epigenetics came into play, what with each clone being gestated & then raised in a different environment. Fantastically done show.

        Back on topic, I find it interesting that only people with distinct DNA are individual life; are clones considered less than a “naturally conceived” person? Like Itarion asked, are identical twins lesser persons because they share identical DNA? What if we came across another sentient species in the galaxy, but they were comprised of clones? Are we better than them because naturally selected variation is better, despite is massive failure rate?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Unless I simply don’t have the time for any reason

      Yes, you don’t have time. The example makes that clear—you must pick.

      How a human reacts to something- or even a pool of humans- doesn’t quite factor into whether or not a life is considered human and precious at specific points in time.

      Alternatively, instead of dismissing the argument, you could respond to it. Why do you suppose pro-lifers make that choice?

      Comparing us to cows is… well, insulting.

      Another sidestep instead of actually engaging with the argument.

      Obviously skin cells aren’t separate people… because they are a part of you.

      No, they’re now scratched off.

      Do you not care about a single living cell with the potential to grow into a full human being? Then why get in a lather about a single fertilized human egg cell?

      But a blastocyst? That contains half the genetic material of two individuals.

      Unrealized potential. Get back to me in 9 months and then we’ll have something to celebrate.

      Give me one good reason why I can’t save them both.

      Huh? It’s a thought problem. Your approach—saying, “I don’t like how this problem is worded so I’ll word it another way and resolve it so I win”—is off topic.

      if I can find a way to save them all, I WILL SAVE THEM ALL.

      Yeah, you can’t save them all. (I can imagine you in elementary school math class: “I reject this word problem and substitute my own!!”)

      Even if it seems like I’m staring it in the face, it’ll blink and I’ll win and save everyone.

      You get an A for Confidence. I don’t think reality works that way for mortals, Superman.

      • gimpi1

        It’s a thought problem. Your approach—saying, “I don’t like how this problem is worded so I’ll word it another way and resolve it so I win”—is off topic.”

        Kobiachi-Maru, anyone? (also off-topic, I know.)

    • Frank

      5 terribly ignorant reasons and five great responses to that ignorance. Well done!

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Now that I’ve slapped Wolfgang silly, perhaps you’d like to step in and offer some responses that actually carry some weight.

        • Frank

          Wow you really cant see the truth can you? You hardly even scratched Wolfgang let alone slapped him silly. He owned you. Sad that you can’t see it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, what’s sad is that I threw down the gauntlet and you’re standing there, too cowardly or ill-informed to pick it up, claiming that actually you are the tough guy here.

          C’mon tough guy. Make an argument.

        • Frank

          Gauntlet? Lol! You may have thrown down your intelligence and reason and now your maturity but I recommend picking them back up.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I challenge you to give me an argument. I invite you to give me an argument. OK, I see that you have none.

          You could’ve just said that. Sorry for bugging you.

        • purr

          Wolfgang looked like a fool, cupcake.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      WolfgangDS: First example: Unless I simply don’t have the time for any reason, I’d
      get the kid and take him to the embryos and tell him to grab some and
      let’s get the heck out of here.

      You would tell a five year old child to just grab some samples kept at -80C or colder? That’s child endangerment. And if you didn’t have proper storage waiting for those embryos, they would thaw out and be ruined.

      Third example: Our first priority should be the survival and endurance
      of the human species. We are sentient. We are the most curious animals
      on the planet.

      Allow me to suggest that the reason we value sentience and curiosity so much is because we are sentient and curious. Your concerns appear rather self-centered.

      Skin cells don’t do that.

      You seemed to have missed the point of the question. If skin cells could be manipulated and cloned into a new human being, then their potential is equal to that of an embryo. If you say, “well, that’s just potential,” then you have lost the point.

      Even if it seems like I’m staring it in the face, it’ll blink and I’ll win and save everyone.

      Walter Mitty alert.

    • GubbaBumpkin

      And before you dismiss it as the skin cell argument, remember how I tore that apart:..

      Your opinion of yourself is duly noted.
      .
      Paging doctors Dunning and Kruger.

    • purr

      This is a new genetic combination, which is the basis for individual life.

      so?

  • Itarion

    The only trait it shares with a person is its DNA, a vague and abstract commonality.

    I would hardly say that DNA is vague or abstract. DNA is not an abstraction, it’s possible to identify a thing that is DNA. The abstraction comes rather in the association of DNA with personhood. (Yeah, it’s splitting hairs.)

    Really, though, I feel that the mind – a true abstraction – is a better measure of personness. I am of the opinion – and will doubtless catch flak for it eventually – that even a born child infant is not a full person, as might be a ten-year-old, teenager, mid-lifer or retiree. More of the spectrum stuff you’ve said previously. That being said, I do concur with your spectral analysis of the topic, and an infant is more of a person than a 7-month fetus is more a person than a zygote or blastocyte.

    I imagine that the abortive cutoff should be somewhere near the point of external viability, that is the fetus could survive outside the womb (with or without medical assistance). [Hits close to home as a preemie, but whatever.]

    • purr

      You would be correct, human infants are born earlier than most other mammals because if they were born any later the large heads would kill the mother. Large brain necessarily entails an earlier birth.

      However, an infant:

      1) is not infringing on anyone’s bodily autonomy – if the person who gave birth to it doesn’t want to raise it,someone else can. Can’t do that with a zygote.

      2) a newborn can still suffer. A zygote cannot.

      • Itarion

        Relatively sooner, of course. Human gestation is actually rather long, again owing to the larger brain.

        As to bodily autonomy, that’s up to debate. Pregnancy causes a variety of permanent physiological changes to the body. So, while there is no longer a parasite – separate creature taking nutrients from a host – the body after birth is different from that prior to conception. Importantly, there is a drive to protect and raise this new person, which would not have been there. Free will – and thus autonomy – gets complicated.

        What is “suffering”? Feel pain, yes. I do not dispute that. But, to me, suffering requires a higher order. It is possible to feel pain, and not suffer. Little things, like a stubbed toe. Suffering first requires much pain, but, again, to me, the ability to consciously recognize that pain. Can infants consciously think, “this hurts me greatly, and there is nothing I can do about it”? Not even in words, necessarily, as it’s possible to think without those. I don’t think so.

        • Derrik Pates

          Importantly, there is a drive to protect and raise this new person, which would not have been there.

          Eh, that’s not even necessarily that simple. My ex-sister-in-law’s utter indifference to the well-being of her child, my niece, was amazing to me. As (in theory) the one person who should have cared about her most, she utterly failed to give a shit. That’s not to say that the instinct to protect one’s offspring doesn’t factor in, but not everyone who pushes out a baby (or has it cut out – my niece was a C-section baby) is going to actually give a crap.

        • Itarion

          Yeah, it’s a generality. The biological code that drives the adjustment during pregnancy is there, but, as you say, it doesn’t always make someone care about their child. The changes do exist, though, and the vast majority of women undergo them, as evidenced by the high number of women who keep the child when they are not in a position, financially or emotionally or what have you, to do so. Keeping a child isn’t a rational decision, it’s heavily emotional.

          Or so I’ve heard.

  • Pofarmer

    I think what pro lifers, and especially life at conception/no birth control because it might be abortion catholics need to understand, is that later term abortions would be less likely if things like plan B and contracetion via the pill/etc were encouraged. I am generally opposed to abortion, but have no problem whatsoever with things like plan b. The longer gestation commences, the trickier it becomes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I agree. If pro-lifers would discard the single cell = baby calculus and admit to the spectrum, they would see that an early abortion is better than a late one. It would change their strategy from denying information to pushing it on people so that they can make any decision ASAP.

      • Pofarmer

        I seem to be detecting a hint of sarcasm in that last sentence there. I certainly wish churchs would quit actively denying folks information and education, though.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No intentional sarcasm. Why–does it not logically flow?

          My point is that realizing the (obvious, in my mind) spectrum of personhood means that the pro-lifer’s strategy becomes quite different. This “single cell = baby!!” argument is shooting them in the foot.

        • Pofarmer

          No, I think it does follow, I guess I’m just not used to someone agreeing with me!

          “This “single cell = baby!!” argument is shooting them in the foot.”

          I agree, but, especially the Catholics can’t see it. They have invested heavily in it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I wonder if it’s the Catholics or the politicians. Abortion is a valuable weapon for the Right. It’d be nice if believers would avoid being led around by the nose.

        • Pofarmer

          Well, I am generally fiscally conservative, socially probably middle of the road, although some would say liberal, and I am sick, sick, sick to death of the constant abortion debate. I can’t be the only one. I typically can’t vote for Democrats because of their dopey economics, and I don’t want to vote for Republicans because of their dopey social stances.

        • Jakeithus

          I believe we’ve had this discussion before, but the flaw is that your personhood spectrum is not as obvious as you believe. To me, the idea that personhood exists on a spectrum is only possible if you give up rational thinking and allow emotion to trump it.

          Besides your appeal to emotion, it appears that the criteria used to determine personhood is simply the amount of time an organism has been alive and the number and complexity of cells, which is nonsense if you give it any thought at all. You’re not measuring personhood on a spectrum, you’re measuring age or complexity, neither of which have anything to do with personhood, unless you believe a newborn is less of a person than an adult, or that an amputee is less than a fully-limbed individual.

          The use of emotion is particularly egregious when it comes to defining personhood, as emotion could lead someone to the conclusion that members of a different race are less than full people (which has unfortunately occurred in the past).

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          To me, the idea that personhood exists on a spectrum is only possible if you give up rational thinking and allow emotion to trump it.

          Something exists on a spectrum. If “personhood” is the wrong term, fair enough. But saying that trillion-cell newborn with limbs and eyes and ears and a heart and a brain cannot be logically separated from the bin that holds the single cell that it was 9 months earlier is ridiculous.

          the criteria used to determine personhood is simply the amount of time an organism has been alive and the number and complexity of cells, which is nonsense if you give it any thought at all.

          Is a hundred-pound German Shepherd a good guard dog? If so, then it must be if it were 0.01% smaller.

          Repeat the reduction until you have a Chihuahua-sized guard dog. Hmm … maybe size does matter.

          You’re not measuring personhood on a spectrum, you’re measuring age or complexity, neither of which have anything to do with personhood

          Again, don’t quibble with a word I’m not adamant about. I’m adamant about the concept, and if you find a better label for it, that’s fine.

          unless you believe a newborn is less of a person than an adult, or that an amputee is less than a fully-limbed individual.

          A newborn is basically identical to an adult on the spectrum. Is this not obvious? The newborn has arms and legs and fingers and toes and a brain and a nervous system and a heart and a circulatory system … you know the rest. So does the adult.

          And the single cell has none of this. It’s not that it has fewer hearts or smaller brains, it has none at all.

          A really, really, really big difference, don’t you think?

          The use of emotion is particularly egregious

          I should’ve used “intuitive,” not “emotional.”

        • Jakeithus

          “Is a hundred-pound German Shepherd a good guard dog? If so, then it must be if it were 0.01% smaller.

          Repeat the reduction until you have a Chihuahua-sized guard dog. Hmm … maybe size does matter.”

          Size matters in regards to function, but nothing separates Shepherds and Chihuahuas in regards to an intrinsic quality of “dogness”. I don’t think personhood should be dependent on function, but something people naturally possess as humans, regardless of stage of development or biological complexity.

          I understand that you’re adamant about the concept of a spectrum…believing that is really the only way one can be supportive of abortion. I too agree that a spectrum exists, I just don’t think the spectrum is a good way to judge whether or not we should assign value or protection to individuals.

          Intuitive might be better than emotional, but I’m sure you can agree that what is true might not always be known through intuition. What your examples show is that people feel a stronger attachment to organisms that they can relate to more easily, this is intuitive, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Size matters in regards to function, but nothing separates Shepherds and Chihuahuas in regards to an intrinsic quality of “dogness”.

          And quite a bit separates Shepherds and Chihuahuas in guard dogness.

          Of course, the difference is far, far more dramatic in the cell-to-newborn spectrum. Shepherds and Chihuahuas and newborns all have 4 limbs and a heart and a brain and eyes and ears and all that. The single cell has … just a single cell.

          I don’t think personhood should be dependent on function

          You’re welcome to think about this however you want. It’s when you want to impose your views on others that there’s a problem. Do you?

          something people naturally possess as humans, regardless of stage of development or biological complexity.

          We’re not talking about that. I keep pointing to the spectrum, and you keep looking away, wanting to look at the commonalities. I imagine you looking heavenward, your eyes misting up, thinking about the fact that this single microscopic cell actually has … human DNA. Just thinking about the base pairs brings a lump to your throat.

          I just don’t think the spectrum is a good way to judge whether or not we should assign value or protection to individuals.

          But DNA is?

          I’m sure you can agree that what is true might not always known through intuition.

          Since pro-lifers’ arguments are usually emotional, I’m simply responding in kind.

          What your examples show is that people feel a stronger attachment to organisms that they can relate to more easily, this is intuitive, but it doesn’t necessarily make it right.

          I’m not so sure. Our instinctive reaction (babies and puppies are cute; snakes and vomit are disgusting) are where a lot of our moral reactions come from.

        • Jakeithus

          There is nothing that intrinsically separates Shepherds and Chihuahuas in guard dogness. I’d say you could measure guard dogness by a few factors: mistrust of strangers, frequency and volume of barking, physical intimidation. What a Chihuahua might lack in intimidation, they could easily surpass a friendly, lovable Shepherd in the other factors.

          Basically, in order to determine whether a dog can be a guard dog, you need to point to key factors. What I’m lacking from your argument when determining a person is what those key factors are, beyond biological complexity which I disagree with.

          “You’re welcome to think about this however you want. It’s when you want to impose your views on others that there’s a problem. Do you?” – Isn’t that the entire debate, trying to figure out how we as a society value human life? Unless we are willing to apply these standards even if people disagree with them, they’re pointless to hold. I can think of no other area where we allow people to self-define personhood.

          “We’re not talking about that. I keep pointing to the spectrum, and you keep looking away, wanting to look at the commonalities. I imagine you looking heavenward, your eyes misting up, thinking about the fact that this single microscopic cell actually has … human DNA. Just thinking about the base pairs brings a lump to your throat.”

          You can imagine what you would like about me, but as long as you’re more interested in trying to dismiss people who disagree with you as overly emotional and irrational, you’ll probably be wrong. I can see your spectrum, you’ve just failed to provide a rational argument for why the spectrum of difference should override the intrinsic value we share.

          “Since pro-lifers’ arguments are usually emotional, I’m simply responding in kind.”

          It’s pretty clear to me that both sides often fall back onto emotion. That’s why those on the pro-choice side often point to rape, or the struggling single mother. Emotion is a very powerful tool, but I try not to rely too much on it personally.

          “Our instinctive reaction (babies and puppies are cute; snakes and vomit are disgusting) are where a lot of our moral reactions come from.”

          I agree, but our instinctive reaction to someone of a different race or to a homeless person with mental illness shows that just because it is instinctive doesn’t make it moral.

        • Kodie

          This is among the top 5 stupidest arguments I have ever seen.

          You are talking about 2 different kinds of dogs, neither of which is bred to guard nor optimal breeds to be trained to guard. But you are talking about two breeds of dogs as pertains to a task a dog can be trained to do, which has nothing to do with abortion. Bringing up the difference between two different sized already born dogs is irrelevant to the topic of whether a couple cells is a person. What on earth makes you think this is a good analogy?

        • Jakeithus

          Are you speaking that to me or Bob? I agree it’s not a great analogy, I’m just trying to roll with what was brought up by someone else.

          What’s at issue is how we determine who or who not should be considered humans worthy of value and societal protection. I only see the analogy being useful in that it shows us that there are a number of factors that determine whether or not something can be considered a guard dog, and so determining personhood based solely on something as inconsequential as biological complexity is also flawed.

        • Kodie

          It’s like asking if a person with blue eyes or a person with brown eyes would make a better trapeze artist. Sizes of dogs is no comparison to spectrum – a chihuahua will never be a German Shepherd. Its size is its full grown size and its breed is what kind of dog it’s always going to be. Can it become more talented? Can it be trained? Yes, dogs of all kinds seem to be able to be trained, but it will never have pertinent instincts that certain breeds of dogs have been bred to retain. A chihuahua will never turn into a hybrid dog, only its offspring might. The analogy is completely stupid and irrelevant, and whoever brought it up is not the point, it’s who keeps using it to make whatever half-assed point they think it’s making. If you knew it was a stupid analogy, you shouldn’t have persisted using it.

        • Jakeithus

          I probably wouldn’t agree that it’s a stupid analogy, just an imperfect or less than ideal one. In any case I apologize that it’s caused you so much apparent frustration, although I stick with my ultimate point that in the same way you cannot determine a guard dog unless you set clear properties for what that means, you cannot determine personhood without knowing those properties.

        • Kodie

          A guard dog discourages strangers from the property it is guarding, it is like a dog having a job. Most dogs have the instinct to warn strangers, but not the factor of intimidation. Dogs still have to be trained to be proper guard dogs and not just barking and biting everyone. It is like I tell my cat – you’re not ferocious, just cute. She is obviously striking at my ankles because she has hunting skills and instincts, but she can’t bite my leg off like a tiger would, because she’s not a tiger. She will never be a tiger.

          None of this has anything to do with the topic. An embryo cannot do anything a person can. It someday may. A 5-year-old can be trained to be a trapeze artist as well as a 25-year-old, but that doesn’t mean anything. An embryo will have to wait, and most 5-year-olds are not trained to be trapeze artists, and neither are most 25-year-olds. That doesn’t stop anyone from swinging off branches or whatever, that seems to be something children naturally like to do. Embryos don’t do anything. They don’t think, they don’t have brains, they don’t like anything or have future plans to swing on the monkey bars at the playground.

          It is just a projection. When parents want to have a baby and they find out they’re pregnant, they have all sorts of future scenarios in mind, including trips to the playground. If they have a child and it dies before the age of 5, they still have projections of what the child lost, in terms of milestones they will never experience. The dead person has no thoughts on the subject, only the projections of the people experiencing the loss. That child will never graduate high school, fall in love, or get married. As if that is all a guaranteed right, “happily ever after”. Lots of born children do not graduate high school, and lots of born people get involved in destructive relationships, or marry and get divorced, or are not even allowed to get married.

          The embryo isn’t losing anything if the parent does not wish to continue pregnancy. The scenarios of the future include a lot of work, a lot of pain, perhaps poverty, and if the adult here would like to put their own life plans ahead of it, nothing is wrong with that. I really think it’s just sentimental, because most people who are pregnant wanted to be, expected to be, and are not averse to a future with a child. We have parties for these people and celebrate their “achievement”, and spend the rest of the time calling women sluts and shame people if they don’t welcome a child.

          Like I said elsewhere, it’s part of the culture, it’s not just religious. I don’t think there is anything at all wrong about abortion, and I wish people would not think of it as some monumental decision they can’t take back – you can’t take back a baby if that’s the wrong decision either. Mostly it’s the shame involved in not meeting society’s expectations – if you’re pregnant, you’re supposed to be married, financially stable, and want children. The “crisis” doesn’t involve killing anything, it’s the personal humiliation of not living up to the supposed standard.

        • purr

          Africans, pink people, blue people, people in comas, newborns, sleeping people, etc. all share one thing in common.

          SENTIENCE

          A single cell organism, and a fetus at various points along the spectrum, is *incapable* of any kind of sentience.

          We routinely disconnect clinically braindead corpses from life support systems because the cerebral cortex is DEAD. A braindead patient can even survive with a beating heart and functioning body as long as the brain stem is still alive. But if the rest of the brain is dead, the ‘person’ is gone. Up until roughly 24 weeks, the fetus has the same EEG readings as that braindead patient.

          A zygote cannot suffer. A zygote is incomplete and not fully formed. A black person, a pink person, a newborn, and a person in a coma are all complete and fully formed. The underlying structures for sentience and sapience are already in existence. They do not have to be built. And all of the above can FEEL. Can SUFFER.

          Look at a zygote as a genetic blueprint. Because that is what a zygote is.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          What I’m lacking from your argument when determining a person is what those key factors are, beyond biological complexity which I disagree with.

          Can you see any ways in which a single cell really, really different from a newborn? That.

          Isn’t that the entire debate, trying to figure out how we as a society value human life?

          No, there’s also the imposition thing. Do we impose Jake’s ideas on all of society or should we treat people like adults (up to a point) and give them the benefit of the doubt? I vote that we leave it up to the individuals.

          We do that for parents. CPS is available as a backstop, but we give them the benefit of the doubt when it comes to raising their children. If we trust them, why not the pregnant woman?

          Unless we are willing to apply these standards even if people disagree with them, they’re pointless to hold.

          Your confidence awes me. Millions of people disagree with you vociferously, but you demand your standards be applied to them. They’re willing to let you do things your way for your life; you don’t feel compelled to reciprocate?

          I can think of no other area where we allow people to self-define personhood.

          Could you address the spectrum squarely instead of avoiding it? The newborn has important properties that the single cell doesn’t. That’s why pro-choicers think that adding the woman’s situation (or the baby’s, if it’s born) is relevant.

          You can imagine what you would like about me, but as long as you’re more interested in trying to dismiss people who disagree with you as overly emotional and irrational, you’ll probably be wrong.

          I continue to be frustrated that you sidestep the argument.

          I can see your spectrum, you’ve just failed to provide a rational argument for why the spectrum of difference should override the intrinsic value we share.

          What intrinsic value? That we all share the same frikkin’ DNA?

          Golly. Profound. Color me unconvinced.

          It’s pretty clear to me that both sides often fall back onto emotion.

          I find the pro-choicers more often based on intellectual arguments (and was trying to right the balance), but maybe that’s just me.

        • Jakeithus

          “Can you see any ways in which a single cell really, really different from a newborn? That.” – You’ve given some of these; arms, legs, fingers, a heart, etc. It’s pretty clear that a lack of these things don’t reduce someone’s humanity however. The one big difference I can see is brain function and the thoughts that go along with that, although a functional brain as determining factor would mess up your idea of a spectrum since it is in place far sooner than birth.

          “Your confidence awes me. Millions of people disagree with you vociferously, but you demand your standards be applied to them. They’re willing to let you do things your way for your life; you don’t feel compelled to reciprocate?” – This argument is irrelevant because as soon as doing something my own way harms another person, it ceases to be my decision alone. If we cannot agree on who should count as people worthy of value, we can’t determine whether or not our actions are harmful to another person to begin with.

          “Could you address the spectrum squarely instead of avoiding it? The newborn has important properties that the single cell doesn’t.” – Maybe I should be asking you address the spectrum squarely, since you seem to be unable to clearly define these properties you speak of and explain why they should be the determining factor of personhood.

          “What intrinsic value? That we all share the same frikkin’ DNA?” – I would argue that the only thing of any consequence that separate that single cell and myself is time; every other difference I’ve seen you raise is dependent on that factor, and if time isn’t a determining factor in personhood from birth to death, I don’t see why it should be one before that.

          A fully formed body is not important, or else it would mean I would become less of a person if I were to lose one of those body parts. Neither is brain function, as my personhood isn’t dependent on the number of neural connections I possess.The fact that a fetus is dependent on another for its survival isn’t important either, as this doesn’t change for many years after birth.

          All I ask is that you help me out by pointing out what properties a newborn possesses that makes it distinct from a fetus or embryo in a way that can allow me to rationally say, “This individual is worthy of personhood, and this one is not”.

          “I find the pro-choicers more often based on intellectual arguments (and was trying to right the balance), but maybe that’s just me.” – Maybe it is, as it certainly hasn’t been the case for me.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          It’s pretty clear that a lack of these things don’t reduce someone’s humanity however.

          Translated: “Yeah, OK, facing the spectrum squarely, I see insanely large differences between a single cell and a trillion-cell newborn. But, see, that plays havoc with my argument. So let’s instead look for commonalities. Let’s look at the humanity, which I define as having human DNA. From this perspective, the spectrum vanishes, and I win.”

          a functional brain as determining factor would mess up your idea of a spectrum since it is in place far sooner than birth.

          Huh? Are you admitting that a fetus along the way has a brain that the single cell doesn’t and so that there is indeed a remarkably vast spectrum?

          Anyway, that first nascent brain is very, very different from the newborn’s brain. See? A spectrum.

          This argument is irrelevant because as soon as doing something my own way harms another person, it ceases to be my decision alone.

          Imagine you have a child and you spank it. Does the same argument apply? Does society need to be pulled in to critique this harm that you’ve done?

          If we cannot agree on who should count as people worthy of value

          I’m sure we can’t. You say that a single cell is a person worthy of value—an intrinsic value that has only one interpretation. That single cell could be the most precious thing in the world … to a woman who wants a baby. On the other hand, it could be the most tragic and life threatening … to someone who doesn’t.

          Maybe I should be asking you address the spectrum squarely, since you seem to be unable to clearly define these properties you speak of and explain why they should be the determining factor of personhood.

          Stalling tactic.

          “I choose to see no significant difference at the two ends of the spectrum, so therefore, this view must be imposed on everyone else. QED.”

          the only thing of any consequence that separate that single cell and myself is time

          So this all devolves down to an argument of potential. The single cell will potentially be something important … though it ain’t much to look at now.

          Yeah, I agree.

          A fully formed body is not important, or else it would mean I would become less of a person if I were to lose one of those body parts.

          Again: the difference between you and a double amputee (for example) is trivial compared to the difference between the double amputee and the single cell.

          Neither is brain function, as my personhood isn’t dependent on the number of neural connections I possess.

          I don’t think this works for you. When someone is brain dead, they’re certainly a lot less of something than they were before. In many cases, they’re taken off life support and allowed to die.

          All I ask is that you help me out by pointing out what properties a newborn possesses that makes it distinct from a fetus or embryo in a way that can allow me to rationally say, “This individual is worthy of personhood, and this one is not”.

          I’ve raised two children from babies. I’m pretty much an expert on babies. Something so small you need a microscope to see isn’t a baby.

          If you’re determined to say that, after all this, you see no meaningful difference between a single cell and a newborn, then I’m out of arguments.

        • Jakeithus

          Way to twist my statements to suit your already made point. Yes I see differences between a newborn and an embryo, no, I don’t see those differences as being important. You’ve been completely unwilling or unable to explain why those differences are as important as you’re claiming.

          I am admitting that a fetus has a brain that an embryo does not. The problem is that if this is your determining factor, the spectrum does not end at birth. You might like it to admit it, but it clearly does not, and it’s nothing more than an arbitrary point. If that’s the case, that is fine, you can argue that if you wish, but it still leaves you free of good reasons why you choose that point and not sooner or later.

          “Stalling tactic.”

          More like asking for clarification, it’s a common tactic used in rational discussions if you’re not familiar with it. I disagree with your spectrum, partly because everything you use to determine it does not end at birth, but continues on past it.

          “So this all devolves down to an argument of potential. The single cell will potentially be something important”

          You’re putting words in my mouth that I haven’t used. It is not about potential from my perspective. What you are failing to point out, despite my asking, is what makes a newborn important? Is it the same thing that makes me as a 28 year old important? I too have the potential to be something else (some might say something greater) in 9 months time, but no changes I undergo will make me something fundamentally different or more important than what I am now, and I would argue the same for a fetus unless you can be more specific as to what we should value.

          I’ve had a pregnant wife for the past 6 months, does that make me an expert on fetuses? In any case, I would never claim that an embryo and a baby are the same, just that the differences aren’t as important as you make them out to be.

          I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere, as we disagree on a fundamental principle of what it means to be a human person and approach the issue in an entirely different way. You believe value should be assigned by us, based on the degree to which an individual fulfills any number of ill-defined and arbitrarily chosen criteria (from my perspective). I don’t think I could believe that, as it creates too many problems when I begin to think about it, and raises too many moral concerns for me.

          Of course, my position that humans have value simply on account of them being human (and not just on account of DNA) is likely far too meta-physical for someone of your taste. The whole being greater than the sum of its parts, and all that.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Yes I see differences between a newborn and an embryo, no, I don’t see those differences as being important. You’ve been completely unwilling or unable to explain why those differences are as important as you’re claiming.

          I’m obviously unable to make you see my point.

          I am admitting that a fetus has a brain that an embryo does not. The problem is that if this is your determining factor, the spectrum does not end at birth.

          How could anyone imagine that brain development is my point? There’s a whole lot more happening along the spectrum than just that.

          You might like it to, but it clearly does not, and it’s nothing more than an arbitrary point.

          And later in my last comment, I address this squarely. A newborn, a toddler, you, an old person, and a double amputee are pretty much identical when compared to a single cell.

          More like asking for clarification

          I’ve clarified all I’m able to do so. You’re free now to reject my argument in its entirety.

          You’re putting words in my mouth that I haven’t used.

          … giving you the golden opportunity to clarify. Win-win.

          It is not about potential from my perspective.

          Perhaps I can be forgiven for being confused. “The only thing of any consequence that separate that single cell and myself is time” sure as heck looks like an argument from potential to me.

          What you are failing to point out, despite my asking, is what makes a newborn important?

          You’re free to judge my explanations as on target or gibberish as you choose. I’ve said that a newborn is a person (or baby) and a single cell isn’t. I’ve described the insanely huge physical differences. I’ve appealed to emotion (babies are cute, microscopic things aren’t). I’ve appealed to your sense of justice—are you sure you’re bold enough to impose your opinion on the rest of the country? I’ve given parenting as an example (we give them the benefit of the doubt; why not the mother?). I’ve left it up to you—if you don’t like “person”; that’s fine; give me something better. And I’ve probably given 2 or 3 more arguments.

          You reject them all. OK, you won’t be convinced. I get it.

          Is it the same thing that makes me as a 28 year old important?

          A newborn and a 28yo are basically identical on the spectrum.

          no changes I undergo will make me something fundamentally different or more important than what I am now

          Precisely. ’Cause you’re a person. In fact, you might hope for your 28yo body when you get to heaven rather than the 85yo one you’ll have at death (let’s say). Contrast that with the single cell—not really at any sort of satisfactory point on the spectrum yet.

          I would argue the same for a fetus unless you can be more specific as to what we should value.

          I leave it to you. If in your mind the value of a single cell right now, not in 9 months, is far, far more valuable in an objective manner (that is, this view must be imposed on all of society) than a dog or cow, say, then I have no more arguments to offer.

          I would never claim that an embryo and a baby are the same, just that the differences aren’t as important as you make them out to be.

          What you claim are that the single cell and the baby are equally persons, and that this view must be imposed on everyone. We differ here.

          You believe value should be assigned by us

          Duh. Who else?

          Of course, my position that humans have value simply on account of them being human (and not just on account of DNA)

          Huh? What besides DNA are we talking about?? What else can you point to to show the humanity of this single cell? Your argument is all about DNA and potential. Mine is about people—both newborns and the mothers that bear them.

        • Jakeithus

          I reject the idea that I’m arguing based on potential because it implies that I, as an adult, possess something of sufficient value to classify me as a person that the embryo only has the potential to possess. That would be agreeing with your assumption/conclusion, which I do not.

          I’ll leave it alone, but just so I’m clear, personhood is dependent on an individual’s physical/biological features, whether we find something emotionally attractive, and if it makes intuitive sense to us. If I missed anything, I apologize. I’m of the opinion that you haven’t thought the consequences of this position out all the way through, but that’s just me.

          Am I bold enough to impose my opinion on the rest of the country? Perhaps, most likely because it wouldn’t be the first time that society has granted personhood to a set of individuals despite strong objections from the opposition.

          “Duh. Who else?”

          I would say value is not up to us to assign, it is something inherent to an individual or object that we are either capable of recognizing or not.

          “What besides DNA are we talking about??” – That’s the big question isn’t it? If human life is nothing more than the way a particular collection of DNA is organized, it makes talking about the value of human life at any point impossible, in my opinion.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I reject the idea that I’m arguing based on potential because it implies that I, as an adult, possess something of sufficient value to classify me as a person that the embryo only has the potential to possess.

          Yes, I see your dilemma. You must reject the “potential” argument. And yet your way of dismissing the spectrum is by saying that only thing separating the cell and the newborn is time.

          What is potential if not something that develops over time?

          And that’s an odd use of “only.” That’s like saying that the only thing separating cave men from moderns is our society, technology, and education. Yeah, you can say that, but it almost sounds like you’re using it ironically.

          personhood is dependent on an individual’s physical/biological features, whether we find something emotionally attractive, and if it makes intuitive sense to us. If I missed anything, I apologize.

          What I think you’ve missed is how your view differs from mine. How a single cell fits in nicely with this view, I’m missing.

          I’m of the opinion that you haven’t thought the consequences of this position out all the way through

          That could be true, but I’ve gotten no insights from this conversation, unfortunately, despite the thousands of words we’ve shared.

          most likely because it wouldn’t be the first time that society has granted personhood to a set of individuals despite strong objections from the opposition.

          There was debate about Africans being persons. You mean like that?

          I’m having a hard time seeing the parallel between “An African man with the exact same traits (except some appearance ones) as you is not a person” and “a single microscopic cell that shares only DNA with you is not a person.”

          I would say value is not up to us to assign

          Who then? God? Is your argument a religious one?

          If human life is nothing more than the way a particular collection of DNA is organized, it makes talking about the value of human life at any point impossible, in my opinion.

          Is it Opposite Day? This is what you’re saying! The only thing the newborn shares with the single cell is DNA! They’re both H. sapiens. You’re saying that the DNA argument demeans humanity, and I agree.

        • Jakeithus

          ” And yet your way of dismissing the spectrum is by saying that only thing separating the cell and the newborn is time.”

          I do use it to reject the spectrum argument, however it goes further since it’s pretty clear to me that time or age is an insufficient basis to determine human value.

          “There was debate about Africans being persons. You mean like that?

          I’m having a hard time seeing the parallel between “An African man with the exact same traits (except some appearance ones) as you is not a person” and “a single microscopic cell that shares only DNA with you is not a person.” – Well, since we’ve already determined that personhood for you is dependant primarily on physical appearance, emotional reactions and human intution, it seems pretty clear to me how the same argument could be used in the case you bring up.

          Of course you will probably claim that the differences in that particular case are miniscule, but when human beings are the judge and the spectrum is arbitrarily determined, it’s tough to prove one way or the other.

          “Who then? God? Is your argument a religious one?”

          I never claimed God, I simply claimed value is something we inherently possess. I can see how this sort of statement might be in conflict with your chosen worldview, but no, I’m not arguing from religion.

          “Is it Opposite Day? This is what you’re saying! The only thing the newborn shares with the single cell is DNA!” – Again, you’re reading things I didn’t say into my argument. DNA might be the only physical trait we share, but I would argue what it means to be human is more than just physical.

          “”That could be true, but I’ve gotten no insights from this conversation,unfortunately, despite the thousands of words we’ve shared.” – That’s a shame. I apologize if I didn’t do my part. For what it’s worth, you’ve been as rational and open minded as I’ve come to expect from internet atheist activists. It’s given me much to think about, although I can’t say insight has been as apparent as one can hope.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          it’s pretty clear to me that time or age is an insufficient basis to determine human value.

          And we’re back where we started. I’m happy to label both ends of the spectrum “human.” Clearly, then, that’s not what it’s a spectrum of. Let’s focus on what it is of than what it isn’t.

          Seems pretty clear to me that you’re being squishy, jumping from “potential” to “human,” depending on which one I’m pushing against and saying, “Ya missed me!” each time.

          I agree with an earlier point: we’ve discussed it all and there isn’t more to talk about.

          Well, since we’ve already determined that personhood for you is dependant primarily on physical appearance, emotional reactions and human intution, it seems pretty clear to me how the same argument could be used in the case you bring up.

          Then do so.

          Of course you will probably claim that the differences in that particular case are miniscule

          Yep.

          when human beings are the judge and the spectrum is arbitrarily determined, it’s tough to prove one way or the other.

          I ask you what the difference is (what the spectrum is of), and you say it’s time, so I say that your argument is about potential and nothing more, and then you say it’s not.

          These are the clues that this argument has run its course.

          I never claimed God, I simply claimed value is something we inherently possess.

          ?? You said “value is not up to us to assign.” You’re not really good a picking up the cues: this is your chance to explain yourself.

          I can see how this sort of statement might be in conflict with your chosen worldview

          That’s not the issue. I’m just wondering what kind of argument you’re trying to use by which to impose on the rest of us. A religious argument doesn’t count in a country governed by a secular constitution.

          DNA might be the only physical trait we share, but I would argue what it means to be human is more than just physical.

          Then what?? Seductive teasing can work in a romantic context, but this isn’t it.

          If you’ve got something to say, say it.

        • gimpi1

          Do you understand, Jakeithus, that to give full personhood to a fetus from the moment of conception requires you to strip personhood from all women capable of conception? Many everyday actions can cause harm to a developing fetus. Damage can be caused before the woman knows she is pregnant. How far would you go to protect that single cell?

          You can’t have two people in one body, and give them equal rights to that body. One must take precedence. I believe that should be the woman, based on the undeniable fact that she can survive the loss of a developing fetus. The fetus can’t survive the loss of it’s mother.

    • purr

      They oppose contraception because contraception begets abortion. One actually spelled it out for me. He said that if you allow contraception, then you have to allow abortion as a backup for when the contraception fails. Because clearly, when a woman is using contraception, she is *not* consenting to pregnancy.

      Of course, there is a large segment that just doesn’t want people having sex unless it is for procreation.

  • http://bodycrimes.wordpress.com/ Chloe Dawson

    Excellent post. If pro lifers honestly believed that fertilised eggs were humans, they’d be busting in to IVF facilities to stage a mass breakout of all those frozen humans.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks! Bizarrely, some pro-lifers are taking that path. You’ve heard of snowflake babies? That’s someone implanting and carrying to term someone else’s unwanted frozen embryos.

      • Itarion

        Please tell me you’re kidding, please tell me you’re kidding, please tell me you’re kidding…

        And you aren’t. Fantastic. http://www.nightlight.org/snowflakes-embryo-donation-adoption/

        • sg

          That doesn’t seem too surprising. It has to be cheaper and easier on the patient to just have the “snowflake” baby implanted than to go through the whole ivf process from start to finish. It probably saves thousands of dollars and much discomfort.

        • Itarion

          When you look at it that way, it makes sense. That’s not the way this organization is looking at it. That doesn’t seem to be the main concern of this organization.

          Pre-born children who once were highly prized now exist in a state of suspended animation, their future very much in doubt.

          Our purpose in emphasizing the personhood of the frozen embryo is not to subject the genetic parents to a moral and religious argument for not destroying the embryo — although certainly that is our unequivocal position.

          Please, give birth to one of these people in potentia – they have the right to life.

          I understand that there is a reasonable train of thought that would lead one to birthing someone else’s embryo. It does not appear to be the driving motivation behind this organization’s roots.

  • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

    If pro-lifers wanted to end abortion by preventing unwanted/unhealthy pregnancies before they happened, I would still be pro-life.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      There’s a difference between someone who’s personally pro-life and someone who’s so convinced that they’re right that they want to impose their pro-life stance on the country. The latter is what I’m concerned about.

      • https://www.youtube.com/user/damekellen/ Dame Kellen

        Well, yes, that’s true, and I do try to differentiate the two. It’s hard because the latter group has more or less appropriated the “pro-life” label, and it’s difficult to associate it with anything else.

  • R Vogel

    Very good post – I enjoyed how you approached the issue in a sensitive manner without being outright dismissive of the opposing view. I think your point about arguing over where the line should be is spot on. Too often I have seen pro-choice arguments that completely ignore the moral issue that those on the anti-abortion side are wrestling with, and the best way to open up dialogue is to bring up very poignant issues like you have done. Recently I read a comment on a blog where someone said they challenge the anti-abortion folks with the question “if abortion was made illegal, what punishment should be done against the woman who gets an illegal abortion?” If you truly believe all abortions are murder, then you should put her in jail, correct? Yet few would take that draconian view, especially if it is a question of the morning after pill or other chemical means.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Another good example, thanks.

      • Frank McManus

        I was thinking of R. Vogel’s argument as I read this — to me this example shows that even pro-lifers don’t really believe their own stated convictions. Another way to show this is to examine their rhetoric about the “abortion holocaust.” If they really believed abortion was comparable to the Shoah (or even worse), then how could any of them possibly be satisfied with the mild level of political activity they engage in? Hey, Hitler’s killing the Jews again! Let’s vote against him! Let’s sign a petition! Let’s write a letter to our congressmen! No, if that was the moral reality of the situation, the only sane people in our society would be the violent extremists killing abortion doctors and blowing up clinics. But pro-lifers condemn such activity almost uniformly, and they’re right to do so. Because deep down, they know this isn’t really a “holocaust.”

        For myself, I think abortion should not be part of the Christian way of following Jesus, but it’s not murder and it’s not my business to force the following of Jesus on anyone but myself.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I like your thinking. I wish more pro-lifers had this interpretation: make clear their reasons for rejecting abortion personally, but don’t be so cocky to impose that on everyone else in the country.

        • purr

          Yep.

          I mean, if pro-lifers actually believed that actual babies were being murdered – 10+ a day – they wouldn’t be content to whine on internet forums about it.

          If they truly believed that embryos were babies, they would be busting into IVF clinics, trying to save the ‘babies’ from being FROZEN or INCINERATED.*

          *50-100 extra ivf embryos are created and they either die of freezer burn or get burned to death

      • Frank McManus

        Hey, I just realized I’m posting in the Atheist Channel! LOL, get me outta here!!

        I guess that explains why you didn’t base your arguments on scripture, though.

        But you’re still right, damn it.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We have lots of Christian readers who cheer or object as the spirit moves them. I hope you hang around.

          As for scripture, that doesn’t get anyone very far in making an argument for social policy. “The Bible says so!” isn’t much of an argument in a government controlled by a secular constitution.

        • Frank McManus

          Agreed. But even for Christians, “The Bible says so!” should be seen as a BS methodology for arguing about anything except what actually is or isn’t in the Bible on a simple factual basis. If being Christian means anything at all, then Christians should use the resources available in scripture to draw non-Christians into seeing why we find it an authentic source for understanding the meaning of life. This should be the polar opposite of the fundamentalist approach.

          Yes, I’ll hang around, see what’s going on here.

  • Kodie

    I always think what is missing from these debates is society’s expectations. To some extent, religion places itself in charge of policing people to manage their lives in accordance with these expectations, but I would observe that religion and society aren’t the same thing. However, religion (in my opinion) arises from society and are not driving it or influencing it. When asked, a lot of people do rely on their gut feelings, and I think why atheism regarding abortion is not a single clinical view.

    What I mean is – there is an expectation and it is not unusual. When people get pregnant, it’s supposed to be good news. Most people wanted to be, and can’t wait to tell people the good news. They think of it as a baby and plan for its arrival, and everyone throws them a party. Being pregnant and not wanting to be doesn’t fit in the picture. Being pregnant without a husband, or being pregnant in high school or college, or being pregnant and poor – doesn’t fit a generic expectation where everyone has jobs and enough money, and gets married heterosexually, and plans to fit children into that arc. Being pregnant and miscarrying is a tragedy, and not being able to have children of your own is considered a sad thing, so how does getting pregnant and discontinuing it fit in with that picture?

    It is just really hard for people to fathom both being the case individually – that finding out you have a fertilized egg inside of you normally causes joy in people, how can it also be just a clump of cells, a parasite, a tumor, an inconvenience. Not wanting to be pregnant at the time you are is a signal you don’t have the rest of your life together – you don’t have enough financial stability or a steady partner to share it with, or you . Like the Christians tend to, remain pure for as long as you can hold out and get married and start having babies before you know what you really wanted to do with your life.

    That is a form of birth control. Sex and birth is inevitable, so for the assurance of future generations, women and men must pair up, fall into gender roles, and raise their children to do the same.

    They are confusing that with “natural law”. It takes a lot of pressure on girls and boys to stay within the lines until they grow to believe they want that kind of life. People who don’t conform are shamed – for having sex, for not getting married, for having jobs, for not having a job, and last but not least, wanting to have a life without children, either temporarily or permanently. Girls are raised with the idea of weddings and babies, to be “chosen” for that job and not to do anything to jeopardize one’s chances, because it’s all up to men to seek out the best repository for his sperm and the nicest, most amenable lady to clean and iron his work shirts and cook a hot meal for him and his lineage. To that end, they are superstitious against all other technological advances preventing pregnancy because that would undermine marriage and procreation as the goal of being alive.

    To go out of the way from that, well, society has loosened up, but not that much. Singles are still worthless, women who have self-worth are feminazis, and women who have sex are slutty. And people who don’t welcome children automatically are horrible, horrible people. Pregnancy is the ultimate achievement – every second of it is celebrated by people who want to be. There is no place for someone who doesn’t have their act together to conform with society’s expectations where every single pregnancy is worthwhile and welcomed. And should a pregnancy arise where your life is not in order to welcome it, you should welcome it anyway, because that is the expected response. Handling it another way just to buy yourself time enough to collect your shit is “cowardly”. We sneak off to get abortions, we don’t celebrate it. We don’t tell people, we don’t want them to know. It’s in the way of our other plans, and to them, an innocent child has to suffer death because you don’t have your shit together – yet, or ever.

    Now, and only in the last couple decades of my life, is it becoming normal to buy condoms, or to watch single people on tv having a sex life. It really never occurred to me what was going on with the characters of Three’s Company because I was too young, and it was only implied – a single man living with single ladies was still considered culturally offensive unless you make him gay. It is so weird to me now that it was ok because he wasn’t actually gay, but even if they made a little fun of Jack, the Ropers and Mr. Furley never said he couldn’t live there unless he was straight. Even Chrissy’s father, a minister, accepted his daughter living with a man as long as he wasn’t getting fresh with her (which he was, constantly!). Jack and his friend Larry, and even Mr. Furley, were portrayed as sexually active men, scoping out ladies at the Regal Beagle, but never going so far as show them leaving with anyone or waking up with anyone, but it never really occurred to me that Janet and Chrissy were there for the same reason – they even did an episode where the misunderstanding involved overhearing that Chrissy was pregnant, and it flew over my head – of course she wasn’t really pregnant, and how could you even think that of her?

    Now on later shows like Seinfeld or Friends that I watched, they openly talked about sexual encounters and body parts, and featuring openly actual gay people, gay marriage, and unexpected unmarried actual pregnancies, including an initial lack of enthusiasm for it.

    I know I have gone off on a tangent, but I think the emotional arguments against abortion have a lot more to do with creating ways to counter non-conformity to the schedule than they do to support sincere beliefs. They rely on religion, as most people have, for no very good reason, an aversion to disliking children. Even atheists have a special place for children when they are victims of religious adults, and that religious adults should have the power to overcome (because some do) their own childhood indoctrination into the system. If they get to that point, they have no problem with it, and neither should their own kids, get it? If you rationally believe that a zygote is a parasitic clump of cells, then how do you reconcile that with legions of parents who love their microscopic parasitic clump of cells as soon as they see an indicating line on their pee-stick?

    Growing up, getting married, and making babies is the order. Doing things out of order is not the order, and their full argument is that little babies shouldn’t be murdered because you didn’t stick to the format. They will say anything to coerce people to stick to the order, using shame and judgment and lies and diversion to do it, and bringing in god’s judgment to back them up, because god is really the only good reason to do anything since it has the power to override personal opinions; it is law above law, and they know god agrees with them because they can feel it with their emotions.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Being pregnant without a husband, or being pregnant in high school or college, or being pregnant and poor – doesn’t fit a generic expectation where everyone has jobs and enough money

      Pro-lifers only imagine the case when “You’re pregnant!” is fantastic news. It can instead be terrible news.

      Now on later shows like Seinfeld or Friends that I watched

      I wonder about the unconventional families on some of the older shows. The Brady Bunch (blended family), Beverly Hillbillies (single dad; Jethro and Ellie Mae are cousins), Andy of Mayberry (single dad), even My Three Sons (single dad, grandfather + 3 boys). Not every one was Father Knows Best or Leave it to Beaver.

      Were those danged liberals in Hollywood messing with our minds even back in the 60s?

      Growing up, getting married, and making babies is the order.

      My daughter recently went to the wedding of a friend who already has 2 kids from her fiancé. A relative who was managing the kids got a little frustrated and said to the bride, “This is why you have kids after you get married!”

      They will say anything to coerce people to stick to the order, using shame and judgment and lies and diversion to do it

      If that was just their way, that’d be fine. It’s when they want to impose their views on everyone else that we have a problem.

      • Kodie

        If that was just their way, that’d be fine. It’s when they want to impose their views on everyone else that we have a problem.

        Well, that’s what I’m saying – it is not just religions. Most people see religion as reasonable to have, even if they don’t share particular beliefs. Society has patriarchy, it’s not just religious. It is people judging and shaming people, not necessarily without the bludgeon of religion to pressure them. People actually do feel bad about themselves if they are not married by a certain age, if anyone is ever going to love them, and if they get too old, their dates see them as desperately seeking a sperm donor. This is what you get from watching tv or reading magazines and watching all your friends pair off and do things this way. If you are aware of popular culture, you are aware there is a social pressure to get in order and get there on time. Go to school, meet someone, fall in love, get married, and have babies. It is assumed you will find a decent job, and if you are marriageable (i.e., normal), who could look you over. If you are in order and on time, and care about your appearance, your packaging, you should get picked before you reach your expiration date. If you are sexual prematurely, you may not get chosen by the most choosy men, or you risk pregnancy, which is out of the order.

        Let me put it this way – when children die, when it’s reported on the news that people died, the children are highlighted as especially tragic, and they are framed in terms of milestones they will miss – falling in love, having their first kiss, graduating high school, and getting married. It is assumed they will not divert from those passages. They die in the potential of what normal righteous humans they would have become with none of the other things they may have chosen to be or what paths they may have taken. Everyone is expected to get there. When this is put in terms of embryos and fetuses aborted, the potential is the same. It’s expected their life will have the full potential to become the same as everyone else (if not far better, finding the cure for cancer or ending all wars or something lofty like that). Nobody would say killing children is a good thing, but it is difficult for me to say why it’s necessarily a worse thing than an adult – it is hard for parents, but dead is dead, and those children aren’t missing any milestones any more than you or I would miss living once we’re dead. And maybe they suffered in their last minutes or hours, and that’s truly horrible for anyone. However, should someone suffer for several minutes or hours or weeks, and live, we take “at least you’re still alive” as if the suffering just falls by the wayside.

        Let me make it clear that I do feel for people, I just don’t hold children in a different category of impossible grief than I do adults. Not too long ago, a local woman was killed in a freak accident while on vacation, but the kicker was – she was pregnant at the time. Her husband was left with no one and the utmost tragedy here was not that she was killed but that she had been pregnant when she was killed. That is how the news frames tragedies. It was as if she could experience the tragic loss of her (presumably) wanted pregnancy herself, but the loss of her own life didn’t matter as much. To put this with your example #1, if you have a choice to save a pregnant woman or a non-pregnant woman, people will save the pregnant woman. How do they know one is pregnant and one is not? Size.

        As for tv shows, single-parent homes up until the late 70s nearly always involved widowed parents. It was also not apparently unusual for people to take in a niece or nephew? It is never explained why that child can’t stay with their own parent(s). A blended family was probably a forward step, but single parents on tv have dated or courted. One Day at a Time was controversial since it featured a divorced mother who had sexual relationships, as did one daughter, apparently, but notably not the other, but who ended up being infertile, and ultimately lived with her husband, her brother-in-law, and her niece when Mackenzie Phillips left the show. Later shows still feature widowed parents, like Full House, while Will the Fresh Prince’s single mother had wealthy relatives in Bel-Air who took him in and apparently paid for him to go to private school while she stuck it out in a Philadelphia ghetto. This explains where inhabitant cousins come from on programs from earlier decades.

        • purr

          Religion just makes it easier to legitimize ‘forcing other people to do what I want’.

          Religion legitimizes all sorts of nasty things. And it’s easier to point to a god and say ‘this deity says you must do this’ than to try to come up with other reasons to force people to conform to your will.

        • Kodie

          I really don’t feel that religious views are pertinent to me. I don’t get pressure from religion to be a certain way, and nobody has used religious reasons to force me to conform to anything. I live in a part of the country that never talks about their religions, not really, and I watch tv shows where characters may be Christian but not so you’d notice outside of a Christmas episode, if that.

          Patriarchy is just something that exists, and a lot of stereotypes and cliches abound. There are the subtler forces of socialization that manipulate a person’s self-esteem – to feel bad about everything that doesn’t match the formula. I think religious reasons try to shame people for having abortions, but we don’t really get into the personal internal shame one is supposed to be made to feel at failing to want something you’re raised to want. I also think among the non-deeply-religious, there’s the “we’re supposed to be smart enough to avoid pregnancy by now”; suspected of ulterior motive.

          There are more nuances to this topic than it is often given. I understand religious causes have a loud voice, but society judges people, and without giving a good reason, you just aren’t measuring up, and someone always lets you know it.

    • purr

      Growing up, getting married, and making babies is the order

      Precisely.

      Great post Kodie.

      Can’t give you enough thumbs up!

  • alfaretta

    Here’s one, although I can’t come up with appropriately punchy phrasing:

    There are plenty of worse fates than never being born.

    You know how they say God always answers your prayers, but sometimes the answer is no? Unfortunately, that happened to my poor mother. She prayed to God to help her want her unborn baby (her third).

    She wound up with post-partum psychosis. Fortunately, no one died or suffered permanent physical damage, and since this was the late 50s/early 60s no one reported her, and no one wound up in foster care.

    But 50+ years later, everyone in the family is still suffering — especially that poor baby whose mother’s prayer apparently didn’t meet with God’s favor.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      A sad story.

      If you imagine your mother in a godless frame of mind, she might interpret that as despair (no one to help out) or as freeing (no nutty medieval beliefs to burden me). Unfortunately, the godless path isn’t always blissful.

      • alfaretta

        Bob — Thanks. I sometimes wonder how she can still be a believer after this episode. She is truly a kind, loving person, so this is not a case of a sociopath unleashing her inner monster.

        Unfortunately, she spent much of her life thinking of prayer as the only action she could take — and thus didn’t take concrete steps to improve her/our situation.

    • Niemand

      What I find particularly sad is that this is clearly a case where the woman who was pregnant wanted to do the right thing for her potential baby, but just couldn’t because of illness and, frankly, because she didn’t want it and couldn’t convince herself that she did. Not the greedy slut who wants an abortion to avoid gaining weight of the “pro-life” narrative.

  • BHG

    Perhaps the saving the embryo or the kid argument should be recast: would you save a child or a pregnant woman? (Of course, the pregnant woman is probably able to save herself…) Part of the problem is that we have separated early humans from their usual situation: people were never meant to be conceived or raised in glass; doing so has made it much easier to think in the embryo-person dichotomy. Nor were embryos intended to be frozen at any stage. And consider this– in the federal law, the penalty for destroying eagle eggs is the same as killing an adult bird. I think we are at least as significant as eagles… Like it or not, human beings at the very beginning of their lives look like fertilized ova because that is what they are….and should not look like anything else. Appearance does not dictate value and biology proves to us that appearance changes at stages of life….

    • Gus

      What do you mean, ‘people were never meant to be’? According to who? There is no plan for human life. There is no designer. People aren’t meant to be anything. The only limits we have are physical reality. If embryos can survive frozen, why not freeze them? Better for the woman who wants them, better for them as they get a chance to be born, rather than just withering in their mother as she goes through menopause.

    • fiona64

      Eagles are endangered. People? Not so much.

  • M.S.

    Interesting questions you asked. Thanks for posting. I too appreciate the respectful nature of your post. I’m pro-life, but I think pro-lifers have to go beyond just being pro-birth and look at the bigger picture. It’s a very complicated issue (hence all the debate) but I think if both pro-life and pro-choice people could get together in the gray area and realize its not a totally black-and-white issue, then communication between the two groups would go a lot further.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The biggest and most urgent issue for me is the imposition thing. Some pro-lifers are not only convinced that their position makes sense for them and should govern their lives but that they must impose their beliefs on others. That’s where we have a problem.

      • wtfwjtd

        Some pro-lifers are not only convinced that their position makes sense for them and should govern their lives but that they must impose their beliefs on others.

        I’ve always wondered what the pro-lifer’s preferred method of imposition of their beliefs is. Are we to have government monitors in doctor’s offices with women and their gynecologists? This always struck me as quite heavy-handed (and just a shade hypocritical), especially coming from people who like to spout phrases such as “liberty and freedom” and “less gov’t is always better”.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, less gubmint is better … except when it comes to moral issues that are obvious (to them). In that case, Big Brother sounds pretty good!

        • purr

          I have posed this very question to pro-lifers and a majority of them laugh at me and tell me to stop being silly.

          They then say that abortion should be illegal ‘just like it was in the 1950s’ and that everything will be hunky dory.

          I think that a lot of it comes down to what ‘feels good’ vs. what is actually *practical*. As in, if you *really* believe that a zygote is a baby, you will *practically* treat it as one. And they have no intention of following through on that.

        • wtfwjtd

          Yes, a lot of classic cognitive dissonance going on here. Many, many anti-choicers like to sit in their comfortable arm chairs making up crazy rules, and leave the dirty work of actually enforcing them, or even making sense of them, to the big bad gubmint (which all of the sudden is a wonderful driving force for doing good–their good). Of course, these rules are for “you people”, and don’t apply to them. Hmm, now where have I heard that before?

  • Anna

    These hypothetical arguements have nothing to do with the reality of abortion as it is practiced. For most abortions, the life of the mother is not at risk. The real dilemma is ‘would you suffer an inconvinence so that someone else can live?’ ‘will you make a few ajustments in your lifestyle or will you kill your child?’ ‘What’s worse, feeling a bit sick and tired for nine months or ending another human life?’
    I’m happy to say that there is a spectrum when dealing with abortion. A late term abortion is worse than an early term abortion because the fetus can feel pain by that stage and is capable of suffering. But just because there’s a spectrum doesn’t mean early human life is worth nothing. There’s a reason punching a pregnant woman in the stomach is worse than punching a non-pregnant person. The fetus has some moral weight, and since the right to life is the most fundamental right, which all other rights depends on, that outweighs most of the reasons women give for wanting abortions. Especially when you factor in adoption as an alternative.
    If the life of the mother actually is threatened by the preganancy, that’s a different issue.
    (P.s. I’m a liberal, atheist woman. I don’t endorse punching people. Before anyone starts trying to strawman me.)

    • Anna

      Another analogy: I would save a child rather than a dog in a burning building, but I’d be against the owner of a dog shooting it if they had been told by an animal shelter than they could give the dog to them in nine months. To me, an embryo has at least the moral weight of a dog.

      • leilaleyla

        You’re begging the question in both these posts by using wording that assumes a fertilized egg is human, when, in fact, this is something the article is inviting you to debate. Referring to the egg as “someone else,” is one such approach, as it is a given that “someone” is always human. The dog analogy is an improper analogy, in that both the creatures in it are dogs, not a dog and something else.

      • purr

        The dog isn’t living inside someone’s body, threatening their life and health, and infringing on their bodily autonomy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      For most abortions, the life of the mother is not at risk.

      Then why are they having the abortions? Do you think that they just don’t like that pregnancy makes them fat? Or are there more substantial reasons behind it?

      The real dilemma is ‘would you suffer an inconvinence so that someone else can live?’ ‘will you make a few ajustments in your lifestyle or will you kill your child?’ ‘What’s worse, feeling a bit sick and tired for nine months or ending another human life?’

      I’m a guy, so I don’t speak from personal experience, but I’m pretty certain that this isn’t what we’re talking about.

      Sounds like adoption is the answer you’re pointing to. Question: what fraction of premarital births in the U.S. are placed for abortion? Any guesses?

      A late term abortion is worse than an early term abortion because the fetus can feel pain by that stage and is capable of suffering.

      I agree. Let’s encourage education, give information to pregnant girls ASAP, and remove obstacles to abortion so that any abortion is done as early as possible.

      But just because there’s a spectrum doesn’t mean early human life is worth nothing.

      I’ll add another truism: being pregnant for most women is either one of the most fantastic things or one of the most tragic. There isn’t much middle ground.

      The fetus has some moral weight, and since the right to life is the most fundamental right, which all other rights depends on, that outweighs most of the reasons women give for wanting abortions.

      The right to life applies to persons. Not to the twinkle in my eye, not to some sort of vague potential.

    • Niemand

      Any pregnancy puts the mother’s life at risk. The risk of an AVERAGE pregnancy in the US is greater than the risk of flying on 9/11/01*. The risk of dying in pregnancy is greater than the risk of dying in a kidney donation, much greater than for donating marrow or blood. The risk of psychological damage from having a baby and giving it up for adoption is virtually 100%. Many times the damage is permanent and severe. And, of course, even the safest and healthiest of pregnancies causes permanent changes in a woman’s body. Anyone who tells you pregnancy is safe is lying or trying to sell you something. Probably a bad political argument.

      *Technically, of holding a ticket for a flight on 9/11/01, since most of the flights were cancelled, but that’s a detail. Buying a ticket for 9/11/01 shall we say if anyone’s upset about the technicalities.

    • purr

      Pregnancy is more dangerous than skydiving.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        from a percentage standpoint (% of happy skydives vs. happy pregnancies) or from an absolute standpoint (there are fewer skydive deaths than pregnancy deaths)?

        • purr

          fewer skydive deaths than pregnancy deaths

          The British government, comparing the risks of various activities, assembled these statistics:

          * Maternal death in pregnancy 1 in 8,200 maternities
          * Surgical anesthesia 1 in 185,000 operations
          * Hang-gliding 1 in 116,000 flights
          * Scuba Diving 1 in 200,000 dives
          * Rock climbing 1 in 320,000 climbs
          * Canoeing 1 in 750,000 outings

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I found the source for those stats here: http://www.hse.gov.uk/risk/theory/r2p2.pdf (p. 71).

    • fiona64

      ‘What’s worse, feeling a bit sick and tired for nine months or ending another human life?’

      Hyperemesis gravidarum (which I had) is not “a bit sick and tired.” Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are not “a bit sick and tired.” Gestational diabetes (which can become permanent) is not “a bit sick and tired.” Pubic symphysis diastasis is not “a bit sick and tired.”

      And those are just a few of the most common, potentially fatal pregnancy complications.

      Adoption is not an alternative to pregnancy; it’s an alternative to parenting.

      • Itarion

        I’m almost afraid to ask, but could you perhaps describe, in general terms, the medical speak you spoke? Except gestational diabetes, I figured that one out.

        • fiona64

          Don’t be afraid to ask, ever.

          Hyperemesis gravidarum is like morning sickness on steroids. It’s 24 hours a day sickness. I had it for the entire duration of my pregnancy. I couldn’t even keep *water* down at one point. Women die from it; Kate Middleton was hospitalized for it. It causes severe dehydration (for obvious reasons). In addition, my senses of smell and taste were affected — I could smell the *salt* in things like chicken soup (I don’t know how else to explain it), so sometimes smells of perfectly normal things would make me vomit. Other women may not experience that aspect of it, but honestly? The HG was the main reason I swore never to be pregnant again. It was horrible.

          Pre-eclampsia and eclampsia are related. Pre-eclampsia is a combination of high blood pressure and high levels of protein in the urine of a pregnant woman. It can lead to stroke, heart attack, seizures and even multiple organ failure. Eclampsia is *life-threatening.* It is basically an escalation of the previous condition. It involves tonic-clonic (grand mal) seizures and can even lead to coma. It does not happen to non-pregnant people, ever.

          Pubic symphysis diastasis is a little more complicated to describe, so please bear with me. You know that a woman’s pelvic joints expand/separate during pregnancy, right? That’s the pubic symphysis (which, BTW, gets permanent striations every time a woman is pregnant — a forensic anthropologist can tell how many times a woman was pregnant by looking at her bones). Anyway, the pubic symphysis never fully reconnects post-partum … and stays further disconnected with each subsequent pregnancy. That’s pubic symphysis diastasis. In some cases (as with a friend of mine, who has five kids), the woman can no longer walk properly because her joints have ceased to be fully functional. My friend can also no longer ride a bike.

          I am sorry for the length of the post, but I hope this helps.

        • Itarion

          Don’t mind the length, this is very helpful. Thank you.

    • Helix Luco

      how would you feel about being legally required to make blood donations? it’s only a minor inconvenience. sure, it might make you a little bit sick and tired, and there’s a small chance you’ll faint and spill your brains out onto the front of a car, but you’re saving lives! and since life is a fundamental right, we have a fundamental right to your blood!

    • purr

      if you are being raped by a schizophrenic person who happens to think you are a demon, do you have the right to kill him in self defense?

  • Edward

    Until it’s realized the mother’s body belongs to the child argument can not end.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Does the mother belong to the child? Yes, if we all agreed, that would stop the debate. I’m not sure it’s true, though.

    • gimpi1

      Really? I profoundly disagree. The pregnant woman can survive the loss of a fetus, the fetus can’t survive the loss of its mother. Therefore, to me, the woman must take precedence.

      Also, Edward, since I assume you can not get pregnant, or risk your life in childbirth, I don’t find your opinion compelling. You are demanding that all fertile women be expected to make a sacrifice that can’t be asked of you.

      • E

        Why should the mother take precedence? She can take care of herself, it is her child that needs protection and care. So few women die in childbirth in America nowadays, your drive to the abortion clinic is actually more dangerous than giving birth to your child!!! And just so know, I am a girl and would give my life for even the slightest chance for my baby to live.

        • gimpi1

          The mother takes precedence because she can survive the loss of her fetus. The fetus can’t survive the loss of it’s mother.

          If you don’t give the mother precedence, you wind up with tragedies such as what happened in Ireland, where a woman with a doomed pregnancy was denied a therapeutic abortion, because a fetal-heartbeat could still be detected. By the time that heartbeat stopped, it was too late for the mother. She died of Septicemia. The fetus in this case was doomed in any event. The mother was killed for no reason.

          And just so you know, I’m not a girl anymore. I’m past menopause, so I’m out of the game. But I don’t expect everyone in the world to believe the same as I do, or make the same choices as I have.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          [I] would give my life for even the slightest chance for my baby to live.

          My feelings are similar, but we’re not talking about a baby here. If you want to see a fetus as a baby, that’s your choice. Don’t impose it on everyone else.

        • disqus_JRU5pDLZdk

          if it is not a baby, what is it? A dog? A giraffe? Fetus just depersonalizes the baby.

        • Kodie

          “Baby” anthropomorphizes the zygote. People who want to bear a child will likely think of it as a baby because they want it, then they start to think of it as one. But then, that’s not what it is.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          A person is more than just its DNA, I hope.

        • purr

          http://scm-l3.technorati.com/11/10/27/55025/zygote.jpg?t=20111027092220

          Not a baby.

          More like a genetic blueprint – which includes information for the creation of a placenta.

        • purr

          And just so know, I am a girl and would give my life for even the slightest chance for my baby to live.

          And it’s your dream to make it law that women should die from pregnancy rather than receive help, right?

    • fiona64

      My body belongs to no one but me. That was the case when I was pregnant as well.

  • grumpygirl

    Please please please don’t equate the morning after pill to an abortifacient! It’s not! It works by preventing fertilization. There has actually been research done looking at women’s pelvic fluid, and there has never been a “cast off” fertilized egg found. This makes sense, as ectopic pregnancies have not become more common with the use of plan B.

    I just don’t understand why so many “forced birth” advocates are anti contraception. I know, I know, they think that using contraception makes you a slut because you are either planning for sex, or are going to have sex at an earlier age, which is the opposite.

    But if you want to prevent abortion, effective contraception is the best way.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I thought the morning after pill prevented implantation, not fertilization. No?

      The pro-lifers seem to have a bizarre view of the world. I mean, weren’t they teenagers at one point themselves? Isn’t it clear that becoming sexually mature early and getting hitched up late is weird for “God’s plan”?

      If abortion is the holocaust they say it is, who cares if teenagers screw like rabbits as long as no precious babies are killed? Sex education and easy access to contraception would then be the proper route. But no, they want to pretend that they can shut down premarital sex as well. Aren’t the results of that experiment clear already?

      • purr

        The morning after pill prevents ovulation.

        If the woman has already ovulated, or the egg has fertilized, she is SOL

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    What most people forget is that we, as a society, value bodily autonomy more than we value life. We respect people’s DNRs. We allow for removing life support and, in some cases, for assisted suicide. We force no one to donate organs or blood. Pro-lifers are applying different standards to women and fetuses than they do to anyone else. What a fetus does is “borrow” the woman’s uterus and literally build itself out of her blood and nutrients. If a woman decides she does not wish to donate her blood, nutrients, and organ to the fetus, she can ethically remove it from her person. The fact that the fetus dies is not even a killing qua killing, but rather a removal of donations the fetus was never morally entitled to.

    Also remember that we don’t even require corpses to donate tissue, preferring to respect the once-living person’s wishes over the current needs of living (but soon dead) persons. The pro-life position puts living women’s rights to bodily autonomy and integrity below that of dead women.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Yow! Interesting arguments. Thanks.

    • Blushingun

      If a woman freely decided to not “donate nutrients (feed)” her one month old child then she’s doing something morally wrong. So tell me, how does a life’s geographical location (The uterus) change the morality of ending a life?

      Something tells me your argument really has nothing to do with “donations” but rather with the fetus not being a human. Which is absurd because the life can’t be anything but human. Or perhaps you’re just putting women’s right above life.

      By the way, you equated society with pro-lifers in your first paragraph’s justification for the criticism of pro-lifers. Then in your second paragraph you compare a woman who takes a life directly with a dead woman who could possibly take a life indirectly. I just don’t see how the latter is worse than the former. I also don’t know why a dead woman has a moral obligation to donate tissue. That’s like saying a woman has a moral obligation to feed the poor because she had leftovers Friday night. Lastly, I don’t see how being against donating tissue is intrinsic to the pro-life position.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        She can hand it to someone else if it’s one month old. She’s not allowed to starve it and prevent someone else from feeding it. A baby is not dependent upon its mother’s body for nutrition and excretion- it does not literally feed upon her bloodstream and nutrients, excrete its waste into her bloodstream for her body to clean up, and inject her with harmful hormones that are immensely unhealthy for her. A fetus does all that.

        Are you really arguing that if I need your blood, I can just take it from you without your consent? That if I need a new kidney, or a liver lobe, I can forcibly drag you to a hospital and you have operated upon against your will and without your consent? If life trumps bodily autonomy, then you must surely be in favor of men having to give up bodily autonomy too, right?

        My point in comparing a corpse to a pregnant woman is to point out that pro-lifers give dead people more control and more rights over their bodies than they do to living, pregnant women. You don’t see that as being even a little problematic?

        • Blushingun

          I’m so sorry in advance for such a long post…

          The way in which she ends the life is not primarily the issue. The issue is that she ends a life from her own volition. Why can she end her child’s life when she’s pregnant but not after it’s been birthed? Your answer to the first part seems to be that the woman has a choice whether to “donate” to her child or not. That she is not morally responsible to “donate” anything to her child because “We force no one to donate organs or blood.”

          Well, a woman who could take a life indirectly (Not donating organs or blood) doesn’t justify a woman who could take a life directly (Abortion). You’re not responsible for someone dying because you didn’t donate organs or blood or tissue. Just as you’re not responsible for someone dying because you didn’t become a firefighter. You would however be responsible for taking your child’s life by following through with an abortion.

          I could even use your same kind of thinking to justify starving my hypothetical child: “We force no one to donate food.” Therefore, I can choose to not feed my child. After all, the food is mine and I can do with it as I please.

          I’m also not understanding the difference between “donating” and feeding your child when it comes to keeping your child alive. We’re speaking about a life.

          “Are you really arguing that if I need your blood, I can just take it from you without your consent?”
          …if you’re a vampire, sure. But honestly, no. I think you’re forgetting that your consent was when you had sex. You knew it could result in a child. You may not have planned for it but it’s still a human life.

          Not to sound morbid but it’s like killing someone while driving drunk. The reason they’re held responsible for the death is because the driver knew before drinking that if they drove drunk they could kill someone. Just because they killed someone unintentionally, that doesn’t mean they’re not responsible for the death.

          Of course, I’m not advocating an absolute ban on abortion. I could imagine certain circumstances in which it would be advisable.

          In regards to your last paragraph, how does not being able to kill the child you are carrying give you less rights than a person that is left to rest in peace? Because the corpse isn’t being used to help others while you have no choice but to help your child? Setting aside that bizarre predicament for a moment, are you forgetting all the rights the person loses when he/she becomes a corpse? I get that you’re trying to make it sound dramatic but turning the tables, why should a corpse be responsible for donating tissue and you not be responsible for keeping your own child alive?

          That’s just a rhetorical question because I believe the root of the problem whether you’re aware of it or not is that you believe a fetus is not a person. How else could you rationally justify killing a person?

          I just find it completely arbitrary to define a human as a fetus who is at least 24 weeks old. As if the first 200 days or so of your life you were subhuman. And why? Because you weren’t a fully-functioning being? You’re not even full-functioning when you’re a 12 months old child. Anyways, I’m just rambling now. Thank you for reading.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why can she end her child’s life when she’s pregnant but not after it’s been birthed?

          Because it’s a person after it’s been born. Not so before the cutoff point for abortion.

          I think you’re forgetting that your consent was when you had sex. You knew it could result in a child. You may not have planned for it but it’s still a human life.

          Someone has a car accident. Should we treat their injuries? Maybe not, since they knew that getting into that car could result in an injury, and yet they did it anyway.

          You’re not even full-functioning when you’re 12 months old.

          The difference between you and the 12-month-old is negligible compared to the difference between the 12-month-old and the single cell it started as.

        • purr

          Next time you drive your car and you get into an accident and injure someone, you should be legally forced to donate any blood,tissue, or organs to save their life since you consented to the accident and to injuring them by simply choosing to get in your car.

          And if you refuse to give them bodily life support you should be thrown in jail as a murderer.

          And a 12 month old can breathe on it’s own and process it’s own food and waste. A 12 week fetus is incapable of doing that – it relies exclusively on the woman’s body for all of it’s life funcitons.

        • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

          Abortion doesn’t kill. It removes from the body. The fact that death follows is as inevitable as someone dying from exsanguination without a blood transfusion. In both cases, death only comes because someone wasn’t willing to donate body parts.

          I can rationally justify killing lots of people. It is legal in every state to kill someone who is attempting to rape or rob you. In my state, Texas, it is legal to kill someone attempting to break into your or your neighbor’s house- the neighbor’s television set is worth more than a human life. If I can kill a person trying to take my property, surely I can kill someone trying to take my body? Whether a fetus is a person or not is a total red herring. Even if a fetus were a person, it still wouldn’t have the right to invade my very own personal body.

          You have still failed to grapple with the original question as well. We do not force corpses to donate organs, preferring to respect the once-person’s bodily autonomy over the right to life of still-living persons. When you are pro-life, you are literally saying you think a dead woman should have more control over her body than a living woman. Think about that.

        • Blushingun

          Feminerd,

          “Abortion doesn’t kill.” That’s like saying stabbing someone doesn’t kill; they just die because no one helped them.

          “I can rationally justify killing lots of people.” Of course but when I wrote, “How else could you rationally justify killing a person?” I wasn’t speaking in general. I was speaking specifically about a fetus.

          I addressed your issue with a rhetorical question: “why should a corpse be responsible for donating tissue and you not be responsible for keeping your own child alive?” I’m trying to show you that what you call rights lost, shouldn’t even be considered a right.

          Mirable,

          The analogy was in regards to taking responsibility for your actions, not the obligation to donate organs, blood or tissue in any situation. And yes, if you are found at fault in a car accident then you do take responsibility. You “donate,” just not bodily.

          Bob Seidensticker,

          “Because it’s a person after it’s been born. Not so before the cutoff point for abortion.” Well, that’s arbitrary. It really is just a distinction without a difference. It’s like having all the shades of blue. Then saying only shades darker than “this” are worthy of being called, “True Blue” or whatever word makes it special. When in reality they’re all equally special as far as blue is concerned.

          “Someone has a car accident. Should we treat their injuries? Maybe not, …” How does taking responsibility for your actions nullify someone else’s duty to help you? That’s like someone being pregnant and her doctor refusing to do his/her job. It just doesn’t make any sense and it doesn’t follow from what I said.

          “The difference between you and the 12-month-old is negligible compared to the difference between the 12-month-old and the single cell it started as.” A city shrouded in fog is still a city. Seeing only New York City’s streets beneath you or her skyscrapers won’t change it from being known as The Big Apple.

          I can see we’re getting no where. You place no moral value in a fetus as far as finding nothing morally wrong in taking that life goes. I, on the other hand, do. I just can’t imagine a human being earning moral worth by his or her appearances rather than simply having it from being a new human life.

        • purr

          The analogy was in regards to taking responsibility for your actions, not the obligation to donate organs, blood or tissue in any situation.
          And yes, if you are found at fault in a car accident then you do take responsibility. You “donate,” just not bodily.

          Why NOT bodily? If you injure someone in a car accident, and they need a portion of your liver, and some blood plasma, why shouldn’t you be obligated to donate your body to save their lives? This is what you are asking of women after all in pregnancy?

          If you believe in equal rights for all, you won’t make pregnancy the ONLY thing where ‘taking responsibility’ = bodily donation, at great risk to life and limb.

          You’re not one of those people with a double standard now, are you?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Well, that’s arbitrary. It really is just a distinction without a difference.

          Think of the words we have for children: newborn, baby, toddler, boy or girl, preteen, 3rd-grader, and so on. Those are apparently distinctions with a difference. Now consider the difference between the newborn and the single cell that it was 9 months earlier. Now that’s a big difference. Surely we can find words to make clear this difference. Let’s not ignore them and use “baby” at both ends of the spectrum.

          When in reality they’re all equally special as far as blue is concerned.

          You want to treat your single fertilized egg cell as special or sacred or whatever? That’s great. No one gets in your way. The problem is if you want to impose your view on the rest of the country.

          How does taking responsibility for your actions nullify someone else’s duty to help you?

          OK, that’s not what I was talking about, but I can accept that. Now: you have a 15yo girl who has a (very) unwanted pregnancy. She wants your help. You just gonna say, “You knew what you were getting into, sister; deal with it”?

          A city shrouded in fog is still a city.

          Uh, OK. And I guess a single cell is still a Homo sapiens? But it’s not a person—that’s the point.

          I can see we’re getting no where.

          Good call.

          You place no moral value in a fetus as far as finding nothing morally wrong in taking that life goes. I, on the other hand, do.

          Wrong. I see no inherent moral value in the single cell (though progressively more so as we advance through the spectrum). I you happen to see moral issues in killing a single cell or a 2-week old embryo or whatever, that’s fine. Don’t impose your views as if you’ve got it all figured out for everyone.

          I just can’t imagine a human being earning moral worth by his or her appearances rather than simply having it from being a new human life.

          So a single cell isn’t that big a deal. You will happily kill a mosquito or perhaps a mouse, but if it’s even one cell with Homo sapiens DNA in it, then it’s inherently special? It’s hard to believe that a particular molecule in a single microscopic cell is that big a deal, but again, that’s fine with me. If you get misty-eyed just thinking about human DNA, that’s fine. Just don’t impose your views on the rest of us.

        • Blushingun

          “Those are apparently distinctions with a difference.” No, every term you listed are both human beings and persons. You’re just listing stages of life we’ve chosen to name. So why does their moral value change from stage to stage if they’re the same life?

          “The problem is if you want to impose your view on the rest of the country.” That should be the default position. They’re human. The problem is you imposing that human beings, fetuses, are not morally valuable, at least inherently. How come? Because they’re not as fully developed as you’d like them to be? Can’t you see that as being arbitrary?

          “You just gonna say, “You knew what you were getting into, sister; deal with it”?” Are you asking if I have sympathy? All I can say is how does her not wanting a child give her the right to take a life? That’s the issue.

          “Uh, OK. And I guess a single cell is still a Homo sapiens?But it’s not a person—that’s the point.” My illustration had the opposite point; they are one in the same. A city is to a human being as New York City is to a person. Just because you can only see so much of the city doesn’t mean it’s not NYC. On your view, once you see more than 10 buildings or 20 or whatever number you like, it then becomes NYC because you personally can now recognize the city as being NYC.

          “Don’t impose your views as if you’ve got it all figured out for everyone.” Again, you’re the one imposing you subjectivity on what constitutes as a person and when you can kill that human being.

          “If you get misty-eyed just thinking about human DNA, that’s fine.” I don’t but if I did, my subjective feelings wouldn’t guide my reasoning why human beings are morally valuable. And I’m speaking about not taking the life of a whole new life.

          “Just don’t impose your views on the rest of us.” If you find it morally wrong, objectively, to torture a baby for fun or to discriminate, don’t you think you should be against anyone doing it? (Please note the comparison I’m making is to the objective moral wrongness, nothing more.)

          Mirable,

          “Why NOT bodily?” Understand, the pregnant woman has no choice but to donate bodily if she wants to keep her child alive. In a car accident there are other ways to keep that person alive. Fortunately, we have people who voluntarily donate and help.

          However, let’s get into an extremely unlikely situation; say only your liver would suffice, assuming you’re healthy and a match. Would it be your moral duty to keep their life alive like that of a pregnant woman? I’d say it’s person relative because an accident by definition is unexpected. You couldn’t possibly have fathomed all the circumstances that would lead to an accident beforehand. So how could you be obligated to sustain someone else’s life you didn’t foresee injuring? It was out of your control. Like a woman being raped. Now, SHE has a right to have an abortion.

          With a pregnant woman (I’m not referring to the woman who was raped.) there was nothing unexpected. She had consensual sex, she became pregnant. That’s expected. Perhaps unintended but how does that remove her responsibility?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          every term you listed are both human beings and persons.

          And now we’re looking at a gulf so vast that “person” can’t stretch across it. And if you disagree on that word, pick another one for which that does apply.

          So why does their moral value change from stage to stage if they’re the same life?

          Uh … because before a certain point they’re not persons? Why is this hard?

          They’re human.

          Big deal. They’re just a single cell. You’ve stretched “human” across a really, really big span.

          If you can see no difference between a single cell and me, whatever. Don’t impose that view on the rest of the country.

          Because they’re not as fully developed as you’d like them to be? Can’t you see that as being arbitrary?

          Nope.

          Let’s check you. Take these animals: mosquitos, mice, goats, dogs, chimpanzees, and humans. They’re all the same, right? If you disagree (for example: “No—mosquitoes and mice are pests!”) then you’re just being arbitrary. They’re all living things. Why is this hard to understand?

          Are you asking if I have sympathy?

          No, I’m asking if you’re consistent.

          Do you treat the unwanted pregnancy in the same way as the unwanted car accident? If not, why not?

          All I can say is how does her not wanting a child give her the right to take a life?

          I take lives all the time during mosquito season. Some lives just aren’t that big a deal. Or are you a Jain?

          Just because you can only see so much of the city doesn’t mean it’s not NYC.

          Your analogy is lost on me. I might only see a small fraction of NYC, but it’s still NYC. The rest is still there. It’s not like it’s potentially there, like it’ll be there in 50 years but isn’t now.

          By contrast, that’s all a single cell is—potential. Sure, that’s something we can get excited about, but it’s just potential. It ain’t here now.

          Again, you’re the one imposing you subjectivity on what constitutes as a person and when you can kill that human being.

          Again, I’m lost. I allow the person who’s in the best position to weigh the issues and know what’s best (the pregnant woman), and now I am imposing.

          I guess the woman is imposing on the zygote/fetus? Is that it? And I impose on a mosquito when I swat it. Does that bother you as well?

          I don’t but if I did, my subjective feelings wouldn’t guide my reasoning why human beings are morally valuable.

          I’m not following. So you do or don’t care just about the DNA in the case of the single cell? There’s not much else there.

          And I’m speaking about not taking the life of a whole new life.

          Is “whole new” special somehow? I’m missing that.

          If you find it morally wrong, objectively, to torture a baby for fun or to discriminate, don’t you think you should be against anyone doing it?

          It’s not objectively wrong, but it is wrong, and I’m happy to impose my will on others in this case.

          Why? Is this relevant? As you’ve perhaps deduced, I don’t consider a trillion-cell baby to be the same thing in any way as the single cell that it started out as.

        • Blushingun

          “Uh … because before a certain point they’re not persons? Why is this hard?” If I ask you a question you can safely assume I’m not looking for an answer you’ve already given. I’m looking for you to elaborate.

          The question I asked presupposed that persons have moral value and human beings just don’t have that same moral worth. That’s deduced from the word, “change” in the question. But the question is why. Why does that person have moral worth if he/she has been a human being since day one? You went on to say, “Big deal. They’re just a single cell. … If you can see no difference between a single cell and me, whatever.” Yeah, you’re more developed, that’s the difference (The distinction), “big deal.” But what was illuminating was when you said, “Nope.” That’s a transparent lie. Showing that you’re making a distinction without a difference in regards to human beings and persons. That’s a big no-no as far as your reasoning goes. It makes your argument for personhood invalid.

          You attempted to defend yourself when you spoke about other animals’ moral worth on my view. But I fail to see how that justifies your “non-” arbitrariness. Even if I was being arbitrary, and I’m not, it still wouldn’t make what you constitute as a person more rational than what I would. In fact, since both of us would be guilty of specie-ism, the best thing to do would be to say that all human beings are morally valuable. If you choose only certain human beings as being morally valuable then that’d be even more arbitrary. It’d be doubly absurd.

          “I might only see a small fraction of NYC, but it’s still NYC. The rest is still there. It’s not like it’s potentially there … By contrast, that’s all a single cell is—potential.” The only thing potential is it’s growth. The single cell takes time to be as fully developed as you’d like it to be, like a city covered in fog takes time for it to be recognized by any individual. Yes, the city fully exists, that’s the point. That single cell is a human being by definition and it fully exists. But a person doesn’t become a person because he/she looks the way you want him/her to look. Just as the city you saw a fraction of doesn’t become NYC because you now recognize it as being NYC. No, it was always NYC like the person.

          The potential you seem to be referring to is more akin to this: Sperm by itself is potential. It has the potential to become a new life if it fertilizes an egg. Similarly, material has the potential to become a building if there are builders. These are things that didn’t exist before.

          “Is “whole new” special somehow? I’m missing that.” Yes, it’s the same human being you personally later identify as being a person.

          “It’s not objectively wrong” I highly doubt you actually believe that. You’re telling me you believe that there could exist rational people who hold that torturing children for fun is morally right? That they’re completely sane? You wouldn’t find it one bit unjust that a society would allow pedophiles and sadists to abuse and torture your child and no one else’s? Really?

          “I’m happy to impose my will on others in this case. … Why? Is this relevant?” Not really, so you can ignore this. It’s just that you’re telling me not to impose myself while admitting that you would happily impose yourself on matters of moral wrongness. So why are you allowed to impose but not me? Especially considering that moral values aren’t objective on your view. How do your moral values trump mine?

          Mirable,

          “Oh, so suddenly a prenate loses the right to life based on how it was conceived?” Suddenly? Here’s what I’ve said from the beginning: “I’m not advocating an absolute ban on abortion. I could imagine certain circumstances in which it would be advisable.” By the way, the woman who was raped is not obligated to have an abortion, it’s her choice. That’s why I said, “person relative.” It’s a moral dilemma that can’t be an absolute moral right (Or wrong) to have an abortion.

          “Well in that case, you SURELY must agree that forced organ donation should be the norm for those who cause car accidents and put others in need!” Again, accidents don’t warrant an obligation: “I’d say it’s person relative because an accident by definition is unexpected. … It was out of your control.”

          “You got in a car. You injured someone. You took the risk, you knew you could injure someone. So, you should be forced to give up your kidney should they need it. That’s called TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.” You can injure anyone accidentally in a variety of ways. If you avoid the car and take a bike, there’s still a risk of injuring someone. It’s unavoidable. But there’s only one way to get pregnant.

          “So, I should assume that you now agree that organ donation should be forced in certain situations, yes?” If you’d like to you can. But I can’t think of a legitimate situation. Maybe if you’re conjoined twins?

          Kodie,

          “What are your reasons for thinking human beings are morally valuable?” The reality of objective moral values and duties. They’re imposed on us and no one sincere doubts that they exist. The difficulty arises when you realize that they need a foundation to be affirmed. They need to be grounded in something unchanging.

        • purr

          You can injure anyone accidentally in a variety of ways. If you avoid
          the car and take a bike, there’s still a risk of injuring someone. It’s
          unavoidable. But there’s only one way to get pregnant.

          Women don’t force themselves to ovulate. Women don’t force sperm and egg to get to get together. Women don’t force the egg to travel along the fallopian tube and attach to their uterine lining.

          So, why the double standard? Why do you ONLY want to deny women their bodily autonomy in favour of life and no one else? And seeing as how you believe that rape victims should be able to opt out of pregnancy, it’s pretty damn clear that you don’t really care about saving lives – you care about punishing women for choosing to have sex.

          If you’d like to you can. But I can’t think of a legitimate situation. Maybe if you’re conjoined twins?

          If you choose to drive your car in the rain, knowing that you could lose control and hit someone, but you do it anyway, and they need your kidney to survive, you should be legally obligated to give them your kidney to preserve their life since you put them in a place of need yes? When you got in that car you KNEW you were taking a risk that could put others in a place of need. So, surely, you should be treated no different than the woman that you would force to remain pregnant against her will, yes?

        • purr

          The question I asked presupposed that persons have moral value and human beings just don’t have that same moral worth.

          It doesn’t matter how much moral value humans have – be they DNA or people. Being human does NOT give anyone the positive right to use another human’s body as life support without consent.

          Do you believe that the right to life always trumps bodily autonomy?

        • Kodie

          “What are your reasons for thinking human beings are morally valuable?”
          The reality of objective moral values and duties. They’re imposed on us
          and no one sincere doubts that they exist. The difficulty arises when
          you realize that they need a foundation to be affirmed. They need to be
          grounded in something unchanging.

          That doesn’t answer my question at all. It is just platitudes and circular reasoning. Answer the question, I mean, just try to.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Why does that person have moral worth if he/she has been a human being since day one?

          Just to be clear, since these words can have multiple definitions, you’re saying that human = Homo sapiens. I can live with that; I’m just making sure that we’re on the same page.

          A person has moral worth because it’s not merely a human. That the cells are eukaryotic doesn’t interest me much. That they have H. sapiens DNA doesn’t interest me much. That’s all “human” means to you—eukaryotic cells with H. sapiens DNA in them. Wow. Color me unimpressed.

          Now, a person on the other hand (y’know—with arms and legs and eyes and ears and all that) is a different story. Because you’ve cast the net so wide is why I place no inherent in humans.

          That’s a transparent lie. Showing that you’re making a distinction without a difference in regards to human beings and persons.

          How many times do I have to clarify this? Is there really something here that you don’t understand? Make the problem clear and I’ll help if we still have something unresolved.

          You attempted to defend yourself when you spoke about other animals’ moral worth on my view. But I fail to see how that justifies your “non-” arbitrariness.

          You make distinctions between animals, I assume. I certainly do. Mosquito? Not important. Dog? Quite important.

          I make a distinction on a scale that I call personhood: not a person as a single cell, and very much a person as a trillion-cell newborn.

          You’re not buying it. I have no idea what the problem is.

          all human beings are morally valuable

          Sounds good to me … unless you’re going to define “human being” as including things that I need a microscope to see. Those I don’t see much inherent worth in.

          Yes, the city fully exists, that’s the point.

          And the person isn’t. That’s the point.

          That single cell is a human being by definition and it fully exists. But a person doesn’t become a person because he/she looks the way you want him/her to look.

          Do we just argue about what words mean now?

          Similarly, material has the potential to become a building if there are builders. These are things that didn’t exist before.

          Arms and legs and a brain and eyes and a liver didn’t exist before. Just potential. And then after nine months, they do.

          “It’s not objectively wrong” I highly doubt you actually believe that.

          Enthusiastically so. I continue to ask for evidence for objective moral truth. I continue to hear crickets.

          So why are you allowed to impose but not me?

          The point is not imposing but arguing. I say that you don’t have a case.

          And I don’t remember getting a response from you about the car accident. Do you continue to make the “you take responsibility because you knew that sex had a risk of becoming pregnant”? Show me how that’s not analogous to demanding the same responsibility (and the same tough-love response) to someone who gets in a car accident.

        • Blushingun

          “You’re not buying it. I have no idea what the problem is.” Because it’s needlessly arbitrary, plain and simple.

          I’ll reword the analogy one last time and if you still can’t grasp it then I’ll just move on. Think of it like a thought experiment, it’s just for the purpose of thinking through the consequences of your definition of a person.

          A human being (homo sapiens) takes time to be as fully developed as you, personally, would like him/her to be (Your recognition of a person – arms, legs, etc.), like a city (For simplicity’s sake, a collection of buildings) covered in fog takes time to be recognized by you (Your recognition of NYC – Empire State Building).

          There should be nothing confusing so far. Both the city and human being takes “time” for you, Bob, to recognize.

          Yes, the city (Collection of buildings) fully exists, that’s the point. The human being (homo sapiens) fully exists too. There is no new information being added to the human being. Just as the city doesn’t have any new buildings being built (There is no new construction for the purpose of the illustration). So we’re comparing something already physical to something informational.

          Yes, the human being’s arms, legs, etc. is potential in the sense of being physically seen by you in due time. Like the city’s Empire State Building is potential in the sense of being physically seen by you in due time (Fog clearing).

          I realize that the Empire State Building actually exists in the form of a physical building and the arms, legs, etc. do not exist physically yet. That’s irrelevant because, again, we’re comparing something physical to something informational. The important thing is that over time, the physical traits come to light.

          Now, the city you see doesn’t become NYC because you now recognize it as being NYC. The city was always NYC. Similarly, a human being doesn’t become a person because you now recognize it as being a person. The human being was always a person.

          If the human being becomes a person only because you can now recognize it then the city likewise becomes NYC only because you can now recognize it. Which means the city wasn’t NYC until you personally recognized it. Not only is that nonsense, it shows that you’re being arbitrary.

          I suppose another analogy would be using binary code (Zeros and ones) to spell NYC. Just because you don’t recognize binary that doesn’t mean it’s not spelling NYC. You’d have to say it only spells NYC once it’s computed but really it was always spelling NYC. You’re just making a distinction without a difference. Which if you’re not aware by now means you’re trying to make a distinction between two things that really has no difference.

          “Enthusiastically so. I continue to ask for evidence for objective moral truth. I continue to hear crickets.” It’s a properly basic belief grounded in moral experience. It’s similar to the belief in the external world of physical objects around us. Which is grounded in our sensory experience. There’s no way to get outside of them and test their truthfulness but since we’ve seen no defeater for these experiences we’re rational in holding to them. Or do you have a good reason for denying objective moral values and duties?

          Honestly, answer these questions for me, please:

          1. You’re telling me you believe that there could exist rational people who hold that torturing children for fun is morally right?
          1.1. That they’re completely sane?
          2. You wouldn’t find it one bit unjust that a society would allow pedophiles and sadists to abuse and torture your child and no one else’s?”

          “I say that you don’t have a case.” Okay, so to be clear, the answer to the question, “Why does that person have moral worth if he/she has been a human being since day one?” was that they have the physical characteristics you like? So arbitrariness is a better case than specie-ism? So if I say only human beings with consciousness are morally valuable then that’s acceptable?

          “And I don’t remember getting a response from you about the car accident.” That’s because I’ve already addressed it and continue to in every comment to Mirable.

          Here’s a copy and paste:

          “Why NOT bodily?” Understand, the pregnant woman has no choice but to donate bodily if she wants to keep her child alive. In a car accident there are other ways to keep that person alive. Fortunately, we have people who voluntarily donate and help.

          However, let’s get into an extremely unlikely situation; say only your liver would suffice, assuming you’re healthy and a match. Would it be your moral duty to keep their life alive like that of a pregnant woman? I’d say it’s person relative because an accident by definition is unexpected. You couldn’t possibly have fathomed all the circumstances that would lead to an accident beforehand. So how could you be obligated to sustain someone else’s life you didn’t foresee injuring? It was out of your control. Like a woman being raped. Now, SHE has a right to have an abortion.

          With a pregnant woman (I’m not referring to the woman who was raped.) there was nothing unexpected. She had consensual sex, she became pregnant. That’s expected. Perhaps unintended but how does that remove her responsibility?

          Keep reading for another response about this topic…

          Mirable,

          “you care about punishing women for choosing to have sex.” No, I care about people taking responsibility for their actions, whatever that responsibility entails.

          Does a mother playing Russian roulette with her newborn do anything wrong? She loaded the gun, spun the cylinder, placed it against her child’s head and pulled the trigger. The newborn dies. Does her carelessness of the probability of death resulting excuse her? Of course not. Just because she got a high from playing the game that doesn’t muddle the consequences of the game. So why does it for a pregnant woman’s situation?

          I’ve heard your reasons but I’m sorry, the issue is NOT about “donations” or the right to life. The issue is about ending a human life unjustifiably.

          She’s directly responsible for bringing that life into the world. It’s not as if she went jogging one day, tripped, and became pregnant. In a car, yes, you acknowledge that an accident can happen but it’s out of your control. Both parties realize the unexpected can happen but life goes on. Some things are unavoidable.

          I’m still not following how something unexpected is analogous to something expected. That’s like comparing someone choking on popcorn with someone chocking on a half dozen Twinkies. One is just asking for it, the other isn’t.

          Kodie,

          You said, “That doesn’t answer my question at all. It is just platitudes and circular reasoning.”

          It answers your question if you’re aware of what morality is and it most certainly isn’t circular reasoning.

          1. If objective moral values and duties do not exist then human beings are not morally valuable.

          2. Objective moral values and duties do exist.

          3. Therefore, human beings are morally valuable.

          So what are the reasons for affirming premise (1.)? Well, because of the very nature of morality. If it’s subjective then there isn’t anything really good or evil. It’s just pitiless indifference as Richard Dawkins might say. So what are the reasons for affirming premise (2.)? Our moral experience.

          If you’re looking for an answer like, “Because we’re made in the image of God.” then that misses the point. That’s more about moral ontology; the foundation for moral values, not moral epistemology; how we come to know moral values. So the question, “What are your reasons for thinking human beings are morally valuable?” should appeal to moral experience which is the reason why I said the reality of objective moral values and duties.

          Everyone knows what’s right and wrong simply by going through life. Some may be clearer than others but I think everyone realizes the obvious ones, like torturing little child for fun as being morally wrong.

          If none of this answered your question then I honestly have no idea what kind of answer you’re looking for.

        • purr

          The issue is about ending a human life unjustifiably.

          My life depends on torturing you. It’s the ONLY way I can survive, really. And since you hypnotized me into torturing you, you must take responsibility and let me torture you – even if you end up permanently disabled as a result.

          Right to life –> your right not to be tortured.

          Glad we are in agreement. When can I shove that bowling ball up your ass to preserve my life?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          There should be nothing confusing so far.

          You overestimate me. I’m confused.

          The city covered in fog may take me time to discover, but it’s all there. It’s not like it will be a big city in 50 years, though it’s not much now. If the fog blew away in 5 minutes, I’d see the whole huge city. “Yep, that’s a city, all right,” I’d say.

          Now you show me a single cell. Nope that’s not a person. Not now, and not in 5 minutes. It’s not like its personhood is hidden somehow. It takes 9 months to realize. It’s a potential person, which is very different from a person. That’s the point here.

          There is no new information being added to the human being.

          Whaaa … ?? The single cell is at best a blueprint. It ain’t a person.

          We’re on the same page that something remarkable happens during those 9 months of gestation, right? That’s what I’m talking about. That’s the elephant in the room; let’s address that.

          I realize that the Empire State Building actually exists in the form of a physical building and the arms, legs, etc. do not exist physically yet.

          Yep, and that’s the problem with this analogy.

          That’s irrelevant because, again, we’re comparing something physical to something informational.

          We’re comparing something that exists (the city) with something that will exist (the person). Yours is an Argument from Potential.

          The important thing is that over time, the physical traits come to light.

          Sorry—your analogy doesn’t work. You’re trying to compare discoverability (the fog slowly vanishing) with potential. The city really is there, you just can’t see it. The person really isn’t there, but come back in 9 months and it will be.

          Is this analogy actually convincing to you? Or are you introducing it simply to help me out?

          You’d have to say it only spells NYC once it’s computed but really it was always spelling NYC.

          Uh, no. Not an analogy.

          You must introduce the idea of time. The single cell will be a person (or give me a better word for what it isn’t now but will be in 9 months). The binary code actually does spell NYC right now; we just must interpret it correctly.

          Which if you’re not aware by now means you’re trying to make a distinction between two things that really has no difference.

          We have words like newborn, baby, toddler, and child to compare stages of development that are just changes in degree. Contrast that with the far larger changes (because they’re changes in kind) between the single cell and the newborn. What is the newborn that the single cell isn’t? Gimme a name—if we can name those other stages, we’ve got to have a name to describe this far larger change.

          It’s a properly basic belief grounded in moral experience.

          Huh? This is your argument that objective moral truths exist?

          Moral truth is universally shared, not objectively true. That explains what we see without the need for finding some grounding for objective morality (what would that be??).

          Or do you have a good reason for denying objective moral values and duties?

          Sure. That’s my point.

          2. You wouldn’t find it one bit unjust that a society would allow pedophiles and sadists to abuse and torture your child and no one else’s?

          Yes, I would find that unjust.

          Now, let’s get back to the topic at hand: give me evidence for objective moral values. So far, you’ve only shown evidence for shared moral values.

          “Why does that person have moral worth if he/she has been a human being since day one?”

          They’ve been a human since day 1, which is simply having Homo sapiens DNA in their cells. Wow—unimpressive. I scratch off living skin cells with that very property, and you know what? I sleep like a baby. Does that make me a monster?

          So arbitrariness is a better case than specie-ism?

          I use “person” to define the result of the 9-month gestation process. We both use words like baby or toddler to define far smaller gaps.

          Where’s the arbitrary?

          She had consensual sex, she became pregnant. That’s expected. Perhaps unintended but how does that remove her responsibility?

          ?? The same thing applies to my example of the car accident. Getting into an accident is as “expected” as getting pregnant while using birth control. In both cases, the end result is unintended and unexpected.

          You turn away the woman with an unwanted pregnancy from the hospital? Then be consistent and do the same for the car accident victim. They both got themselves into their respective pickles voluntarily, right?

        • Blushingun

          What you call a human being with arms and legs isn’t the problem; it’s you making it a difference. Which is really a distinction without a difference. It is moral value based upon the distinctions you find significant. It’s completely subjective, which shouldn’t surprise me considering your views on morality. It reminds me of slavery. Blacks were sub-human and therefore had no intrinsic human rights. In the same way, you see fetuses as being sub-human and therefore having no intrinsic moral worth.

          “We’re comparing something that exists (the city) with something that will exist (the person).”

          The comparison is between something that exists (the city) and something that exists (the human being).

          Then we’re seeing what distinguishes the two for you. The city from being just a city is the Empire State Building. The human being from being just a human being are arms, legs, etc..

          “Now you show me a single cell. Nope that’s not a person. Not now, and not in 5 minutes.”

          The specific time it takes NYC to be recognized and the specific time it takes a person to be recognized by you is inconsequential to the analogy. The point is that there is a time when you can distinguish them.

          “You’re trying to compare discoverability (the fog slowly vanishing) with potential. The city really is there, you just can’t see it. The person really isn’t there, but come back in 9 months and it will be.”

          The purpose of comparing a city covered in fog to a fetus’ development is to show you that time doesn’t change what it ultimately is. Of course after 9 months the human being looks different. Humans will look slightly different every single day of their lives.

          I’m trying to show you that picking a day to differentiate human beings’ moral worth is like picking a time of day when that city becomes The City. If you’re still baffled, forget about it. It’s not as if this analogy is going to convince you that human beings are morally valuable. Only that you’re being arbitrary.

          “Moral truth is universally shared, not objectively true.”

          Some moral truths may be universally shared but that doesn’t show that objective moral values and duties don’t exist. In fact, you’ve given me no reason at all why they don’t exist.

          “Now, let’s get back to the topic at hand: give me evidence for objective moral values.”

          I already did but you only acknowledged 1/3 of it. When you said, “Yes, I would find that unjust.” you offered yourself evidence for objective moral values. Remember, there is no such thing as fairness.

          I can guarantee you that if someone was raping a little child in front of you, your reaction would get the best of you. It would betray the lip-service you’re giving me about how morality isn’t objective.

          Because what you’re really doing is saying that nothing is really right or really wrong. That people can be rational and sane while torturing children for fun. That they’re not demented and sick. That what they do is indifferent.

          “In both cases, the end result is unintended and unexpected.”

          There is nothing unexpected when it comes to pregnancy unless your birth control method is 100% effective.

          Now, accidents are unexpected by definition. They aren’t the direct result of choosing to drive. They’re a result of human error and things simply being out of your control.

          This really is a silly argument and I rather not address it any longer. If you think this is a strong argument for showing that I’m inconsistent then we have no hope in resolving anything.

          Mirable,

          You’re too much, you had me laughing. So, I’m gonna have you close your eyes now…

        • MNb

          “Which is really a distinction without a difference.”
          Exactly! That’s why a foetus totally should have voting rights.

          “Blacks were sub-human and therefore had no intrinsic human rights.”
          Spot on! Women were sub-human as well and therefore had no voting rights. Women, blacks, foetuses are all human beings and should even be eligible. That or your argument sucks.

          “if someone was raping a little child in front of you, your reaction would get the best of you.”
          Yes, that’s what the soldiers in the armies of Attila the Hun thought as well – the best being BobS (or you or me) back then very likely to join the party grab another little child to rape.

        • purr

          You’re too much, you had me laughing. So, I’m gonna have you close your eyes now…

          Why? Is it because you think that pregnancy is some sort of a joke? That labour and birth are eazy peazy and not painful at all? Is that it?

          Labout can be 6-72 hours of horrifically painful contractions. Could you imagine going 72 hours being unable to move because you are in such pain? And childbirth – you laugh at my imagery – but a baby’s head is pushed, violently, through a tiny opening. Are you going to deny that that isn’t only painful, but that it can also cause permanent damage to a woman’s genitals? In many cases, the doctor has to take a KNIFE to the woman’s genitals in order to get the baby’s head out. And then there are cases when the baby gets stuck in the birth canal, and it literally rubs away the womans vaginal wall, resulting in what is known as an obstetric fistula. Which, in the worst cases, results in the woman being afflicted with urine and feces running uncontrollably down her leg. THAT is what childbirth is all about. And if these birth injuries, and the pain of labour were induced by any other means, they would be considered torture according to the UN Declaration of Human Rigihts.

          Yes, my analogy to getting a bowling ball shoved up your ass was entirely legitimate. You are just pretending that labour and childbirth are one big joke, and that they don’t count, because they are ‘natural’. Which btw, is a logical fallacy – the appeal to nature fallacy. Well, cancer is natural too – and I don’t see you defending it.

          Now, how about you answer my question.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Which is really a distinction without a difference.

          Do I simply not understand your point here? This point would seem to apply in the situation where I want to call all red cars “snoggles.” I mean, clearly, they’re different from the other cars because they’re red and the others aren’t, right? That’s good enough for a different name.

          That would be a distinction without a difference. That’s splitting hairs.

          In very sharp contrast, we’re not splitting hairs in seeing a huge, yawning difference separating a single cell with a trillion-cell newborn.

          It is moral value based upon the distinctions you find significant. It’s completely subjective

          So I see a difference between these two, and you don’t? The fact that one has a brain and eyes and ears and limbs and all that while the other doesn’t even have a single cell of any of that is just splitting hairs on my part? We see the difference between baby and toddler enough that we have names to highlight it, but there’s nothing meaningful about the difference between single cell and newborn?

          That’s crazy enough, but I suppose we could just agree to disagree. But that’s not good enough when you want to impose your view on the rest of the country. Wow.

          which shouldn’t surprise me considering your views on morality

          Should I bother asking again for evidence of objective morality? Or would you rather just mock my views without having to defend your own?

          Blacks were sub-human and therefore had no intrinsic human rights. In the same way, you see fetuses as being sub-human and therefore having no intrinsic moral worth.

          An oldie but a goodie! I guess it’s time to trot out all the past failed arguments just to see if anything will stick.

          You ask the slave master to describe the difference between his son and the son of one of his slaves. Then ask him to describe the difference between the single cell and newborn (yes, we’re assuming that he’d already been educated about the biology of gestation). And now you ask the slave owner to evaluate these two differences. Which do you suppose he’d find to be the bigger gap?

          The comparison is between something that exists (the city) and something that exists (the human being).

          Huh? Then what was that about the fog? The city exists; it’s just covered by fog. The person will exist in 9 months. (Choose your own word if “person” doesn’t work for you.)

          The specific time it takes NYC to be recognized and the specific time it takes a person to be recognized by you is inconsequential to the analogy.

          The analogy sucks. Recognition applies in the case of the fog. We’re looking at the single cell with a microscope, and there’s no problem recognizing what it is right now: it’s just a cell. It develops over 9 months. It changes into something very, very different. That’s what we’re talking about.

          Of course after 9 months the human being looks different. Humans will look slightly different every single day of their lives.

          We’re wasting our time here, aren’t we?

          It’s not as if this analogy is going to convince you that human beings are morally valuable. Only that you’re being arbitrary.

          What’s arbitrary? The date on which we say, “OK, now it’s a person”?

          Whatever. Legislatures decide punishments for a myriad of crimes. They have to pick a specific, unambiguous punishment. Is that arbitrary? They pick the date beyond which abortion is illegal the same way.

          Some moral truths may be universally shared but that doesn’t show that objective moral values and duties don’t exist.

          Granted! We have no good reason to point to objective moral values when we have the much more plausible natural explanation that they’re simply universally shared. So drop the idea.

          In fact, you’ve given me no reason at all why they don’t exist.

          Moral truth is grounded outside humans somehow, somewhere? I think the burden of proof for that remarkable claim is on your broad shoulders.

          When you said, “Yes, I would find that unjust.” you offered yourself evidence for objective moral values.

          Uh, no, I pointed to (yet another) case of shared moral values.

          I can guarantee you that if someone was raping a little child in front of you, your reaction would get the best of you.

          Sure, we agree that I’d try to stop it. You, too? Aha—yet more evidence for shared moral values!

          Because what you’re really doing is saying that nothing is really right or really wrong.

          For the umpteenth time: you got evidence for this? Show me.

          There is nothing unexpected when it comes to pregnancy unless your birth control method is 100% effective.

          There is nothing unexpected when it comes to a car accident unless you’re driving a tank.

          (Wow—I hope you’re not in charge of the hospital’s emergency room …)

          Now, accidents are unexpected by definition. They aren’t the direct result of choosing to drive. They’re a result of human error and things simply being out of your control.

          Wait, what? Are you describing car accidents or pregnancy accidents? Because they’re both accidental.

          This really is a silly argument and I rather not address it any longer. If you think this is a strong argument for showing that I’m inconsistent then we have no hope in resolving anything.

          The car accident vs. accidental pregnancy is an excellent analogy.

        • purr

          Understand, the pregnant woman has no choice but to donate bodily if she
          wants to keep her child alive. In a car accident there are other ways
          to keep that person alive. Fortunately, we have people who voluntarily
          donate and help.

          NO, we don’t. In many cases people die because an organ donor is NOT available.

          Besides, you seem to think that if a woman has sex, she should *take responsibility* for her actions. Well, if you go driving, and you injure someone, and they need one of your kidneys to survive, then surely you too should *take responsibility* and give them a kidney, right/

          Or do you only think that prenates have the right to use another person’s body as life support without consent?

          With a pregnant woman (I’m not referring to the woman who was raped.)
          there was nothing unexpected. She had consensual sex, she became
          pregnant. That’s expected. Perhaps unintended but how does that remove
          her responsibility?

          You got in a car. You injured someone. You took the risk, you knew you could injure someone. So, you should be forced to give up your kidney should they need it. That’s called TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.

          So, I should assume that you now agree that organ donation should be forced in certain situations, yes?

        • purr

          Like a woman being raped. Now, SHE has a right to have an abortion.

          Oh, so suddenly a prenate loses the right to life based on how it was conceived?

          Really?

          Well in that case, you SURELY must agree that forced organ donation should be the norm for those who cause car accidents and put others in need! And you must also agree that the men who impregnate women must also be forced to donate organs to save the child they created – in or out of the womb. Right? You do want to give everyone fair treatment under the law…yes?

        • Kodie

          I don’t but if I did, my subjective feelings wouldn’t guide my reasoning
          why human beings are morally valuable. And I’m speaking about not
          taking the life of a whole new life.

          What are your reasons for thinking human beings are morally valuable?

        • purr

          You want to treat your single fertilized egg cell as special or sacred or whatever?

          Well, it’s not sacred if the 15yo girl was raped. It’s only sacred if she chose to have dirty sex:P

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Something tells me your argument really has nothing to do with “donations” but rather with the fetus not being a human. Which is absurd because the life can’t be anything but human.

        The fetus is a Homo sapiens. I’m happy to call that human. I’m not sure that I’d call it a human or a human being. And I’d certainly not call it a person.

        We could waste far too much time arguing about definitions. If you don’t like my definitions, I’m sure you can find words to say what the newborn is that the single cell at the other end of the spectrum isn’t.

      • purr

        Well if we can’t discriminate based on location, then surely you support mandatory tissue and organ donation to save lives yes?

  • fiona64

    ::standing ovation::

    Thank you for laying out so very clearly the facts of the situation.

    What the anti-choice always seem to forget, in their rush to afford “rights” to an embryo is that, in so doing, they abrogate the rights of the born, sapient, sentient *woman.* You’ve laid out clearly why that position is so wrong.

    • purr

      I have spent half the day reading many of Bob’s blog posts.

      I like it here :)

      Glad you could make it too!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks! My primary argument is the spectrum argument (link at the bottom of the post). Take a look and let me know what you think.

      • purr

        I’ve been reading all of your abortion articles bob. Good stuff.

        I have a large basket of links for you, that I will compile either tonight or tomorrow.

        There is a lot of science behind what you’ve been saying in regards to conception/fetal development/danger of pregnancy + some philosophical arguments I came across in regards to ‘what is a person?’

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com/ Q. Quine

    Very good piece, Bob. I wrote something parallel to your “spectrum” a while back that you might like called “When Does a Fetus Become a Person?”

  • TheRealRandomFunction

    Suppose a building were on fire, and you could save either a five-year-old child or ten frozen embryos. Which would you pick?

    Assume a building were on fire, and you could either save an old woman, or a young African-American man. Which would you save?

    Anti-abortionists focus on the horror of a late-term abortion. Did you ever wonder why they don’t focus instead on a woman swallowing a Plan B (emergency contraceptive) pill?

    Odd. I frequently hear right-wing anti abortion types talk about Plan B. Then again, I tend to listen to both sides of an argument while I think you tend to just make up the other side. It probably makes for a halfway decent fiction book, I suppose.

    By choosing as they do, they admit that all procedures are not equal and that there is a spectrum.

    Of course there’s a spectrum in procedures . To extrapolate from that and say that all pro-lifers recognize that there’s a spectrum in “personhood” and thus abortion at any stage is just fine (your argument) is just ridiculous.

    Let me make clear that I’m simply arguing for the existence of a spectrum. We can agree on this and still disagree on when the okay/not-okay line is for abortion.

    Fair enough. A newborn one second after birth, and a fetus one minute before birth are at almost identical places on this “spectrum” so certainly whatever is permissible for one should be permissible for the other right?

  • Clinton

    I’ve given a response to this article, which you can find here:

    http://prolifephilosophy.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-response-to-five-intuitive-arguments.html

    • http://batman-news.com Anton

      I thought it was interesting that you used the term zygote fourteen times in your article, blastocyst six times, woman just three times and the term mother only once.

      Perspective problem?

      • Clinton

        Would you please explain why you consider it a perspective problem? Blastocyst refers to the time of human development from about the fifth day post-fertilization until imiplantation. When I use the term “zygote,” I’m just referring to the pre-implantation embryo, but technically the embryo stage lasts from fertilization until about two months (so the stages of zygote, blastocyst, morula, etc., all fall under the umbrella of “embryo”). So when I said “blastocyst” I was just, in that moment, trying to be specific to the argument that the author was presenting here.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          By “perspective problem,” I meant that you seem to define this matter completely without regard to the fact that the fetus is gestating inside a woman’s body. Focusing on the developmental stage of the embryo appears to distract from the woman’s role in, and responsibility for, this process.

          In your article, you equated the rights of the unborn with civil rights for African-Americans. There’s an important distinction you’re ignoring here, and it’s the woman herself. By equating adult humans with a gestating fetus, you’re essentially erasing the woman from this issue entirely, making her absolutely irrelevant in the matter.

          I think that’s dehumanizing.

        • Clinton

          That’s not what I’m doing at all. The reason that racism is wrong is because you’re focusing on a surface difference and discriminating based on that, ignoring what makes us all equal: our common humanity, which the unborn share with us from fertilization. I’m not taking the woman out of the equation entirely, but the reality is that sex conceives human beings. Since the woman willingly engages in an act that creates human beings, she (and the father, too, of course) is responsible for the child’s creation. She tacitly waives her right to bodily autonomy by engaging in that act because she is responsible for the child’s existence and his/her being in her womb.

          What makes a human being valuable is their inherent nature as rational moral agents. That’s what sexism and racism are wrong, and it’s also why it’s wrong to allow the killing of unborn human beings, who share in our common humanity with their nature as rational agents (and because this may be a point of confusion, the unborn certain cannot presently exercise rationality as we can, but they have the inherent nature for rationality, which is the relevant feature — that’s why we don’t lose our personhood when we lose the ability to act or think rationally, such as when we fall asleep, go under general anesthesia, or enter a reversible coma).

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          She tacitly waives her right to bodily autonomy by engaging in that act because she is responsible for the child’s existence and his/her being in her womb.

          Except she’s not doing that at all. An abortion prevents a child from being born, regardless of your sentimental belief that a fertilized egg is essentially a child.

          that’s why we don’t lose our personhood when we lose the ability to act or think rationally, such as when we fall asleep, go under general anesthesia, or enter a reversible coma

          But we don’t gain full personhood just because sperm meets egg. The woman inside whose body the fetus is gestating should have a say in this process. Unless, of course, you feel that the woman herself is completely irrelevant as a rational agent herself.

          You know, because you’ve dehumanized her.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          ignoring what makes us all equal: our common humanity

          And what is common between us and that first fertilized egg cell? We’re a eukaryotic cell with Homo sapiens DNA. That might make you get all gooey, but it doesn’t do much for me.

          Since the woman willingly engages in an
          act that creates human beings, she (and the father, too, of course) is responsible for the child’s creation.

          Do we pick up the pieces when a drunk driver is injured? Or just let him bleed?

          And, just to clarify, you do want to impose this on the rest of the country, right? I’m wondering if this is supposed to apply just to you.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Thanks for taking the time to write such a detailed response. I had a couple of thoughts …

      There are some intuitions that all human beings share and which make a good argument, such as the intuition that morality is really objective.

      Gotta disagree with you there. I see no evidence of objective moral truth. I think you’re conflating “universally felt” or “viscerally felt” with “objective” (and I’m assuming you’re defining “objective” in the William Lane Craig sense).

      the reason that pro-life people see this as an ethical dilemma is precisely because we consider human embryos to be full human persons.

      Then where’s the dilemma? Ten frozen embryos are ten times more important than one five-year-old child. It’s easy—let the child burn.

      So Seidensticker (whether he realizes it or not) is assuming a continuity of existence between the embryo stage and the toddler stage

      And … ? They’re the same being, but things develop. A single cell ain’t much to write home about. Nine months later, different story.

      obviously an infant is less developed than an adult, as a human zygote is less developed than an infant.

      You don’t understand what I’m talking about. The difference between an infant and an adult is trivial compared to that between the infant and the single cell that it came from.

      So what about Plan B? Why don’t we have the same level of reaction? That’s because there’s a debate raging about whether or not certain pills like Plan B cause an early abortion.

      You’re avoiding the question. Let’s suppose that Plan B did cause an abortion. The cell had implanted and would, if left undisturbed, potentially create a baby 9 months later. Now the woman takes Plan B. Abortion. So you’re saying that this is equally horrible to a third-term abortion?

      most pro-choice people argue that it doesn’t cause an early abortion

      Excellent. Now tell the pharmacists who try to make life difficult for pregnant women by denying Plan B.

      pro-life people see the unborn as intrinsically valuable at all points of his/her development.

      A startling statement coming from someone who just said, “[He claims] that no one equates an “invisible clump of cells” with a newborn or infant. This is just silly. Of course not.”

      So, to correct you, they are equivalent from the only standpoint that matters: intrinsic value. Is that right?

      More confusion from Seidensticker.

      With such a confused mind, one wonders how I make it safely across a busy street.

      This does not mean the cow is more valuable, it simply means the cow will suffer and the zygote will not. This doesn’t mean it’s not wrong to kill the zygote, because suffering and fear are not morally relevant in the question of whether it’s moral to kill someone.

      Hey, if you want to believe this, that’s great. What I object to is your imposing your views on the rest of the country. I assume that’s your goal?

      This active potentiality matters because they are already full human persons, they are just immature human persons.

      Word games. Define “persons” however you want; this doesn’t erase the enormous difference between a newborn with arms, legs, eyes, ears, brain and nervous system, and all that and a cell.

      So his claim that the only trait a blastocyst shares in common with a person is DNA isclearly mistaken.

      Not in the least clear to me. Back up and try that one again. I don’t get it.

      It also share the inherent nature of a person

      “Inherent”? You mean “potential”? You mean that it doesn’t have it now, but it will? I agree. Get back to me in 9 months when the cell has turned into a newborn, and we’ll have something to celebrate. As a cell, not so much.

      Also, the argument that spontaneous abortions happen is just silly (again).

      It destroys the “abortion makes baby Jesus cry” argument. That may be silly to you (it certainly is to me), but an imagined Christian underpinning for the pro-life movement is important to many pro-lifers.

      at all points in human development the entity is developing herself on her own into the next stage of development.

      I get it. Yours is an argument from potential. At the end of the development, it’s murder; at the beginning, it’s not. I get it.

      There is a clear difference between a skin cell and a human zygote; it’s just basic biology.

      True, and not what we’re talking about.

      If we were to clone a skin cell and develop it into a 2-year-old, you and I would agree that that toddler had the rights to life that both of us demand for ourselves.

      So we have several different starting points to a baby—a passionate encounter in bed, in vitro fertilization with implantation, or cloning with implantation. You’re right that the origination is different. So what? You and I both value the baby that results, no matter which route it takes.

      Your attempt to wriggle away from the issue fails.

      I think the question is confused as no one can seriously be expected to give up their life for a blastocyst, as the child is no longer a blastocyst when the mother finds out she’s pregnant, or when she can first feel the baby kicking.

      Uh, then consider it a thought problem. Facing it head on is too uncomfortable for you?

      Every reason that blacks are equal to us are the reasons that the unborn are equal to us — because of our common human nature.

      Ah, the sanctimonious “I’m more racially sensitive than you” argument. Nice move!

      You said “inherent nature of a person” before. Why the change? Yes, adults of any race don’t have potential personhood but realized personhood. And you seem to agree that zygotes don’t. That their personhood is inherent or potential.

      So you see the problem.

      Clinton: as you respond, try to avoid dodging the issue. Face it squarely. I found this to be a problem in much of what you wrote here.

      • Clinton

        Thanks for your reply. I was not dodging the issue, I was tackling it head-on. I’ll try and clarify if you didn’t understand the arguments I was making.

        Regarding objective morality, if I accept for the sake of argument that you’re correct here, then that only works in my favor by showing that many intuitions are felt due to our fundamental assumptions, and not necessarily because they’re true. But I do believe that everyone knows that morality is objective, even if they deny it, because when faced with certain moral truths they have no response to it and many are unwilling to follow their arguments to their logical conclusion. For example, if morality was merely relative, then that means that rape, murder, or torturing children for fun would be moral acts if the culture or person decided it was, and in some situations may even be morally obligatory. I consider this patently absurd, and I think it shows that morality really is objective. At any rate, it’s really a minor point and even if I conceded your point, it would just work in my favor.

        I think you’re misunderstanding my comment about the ethical dilemma (if you read my linked article, it will give a thorough examination of that thought experiment). The dilemma is we recognize that the ten embryos are valuable human beings and intrinsically valuable lives will be lost in the fire. But there may be many reasons why one would rescue a toddler over those embryos, such as the fact that the toddler has a 100% chance of survival but the embryos may be scheduled for experimentation, or if they are scheduled for implantation it’s not guaranteed that any of them would survive. Also, the toddler has a family that he/she can be returned to, but again, the embryos might not have anyone slated to have them implanted. And on and on. Plus, we can imagine that there might be a situation in which someone would rescue the embryos over the toddler. What if the scientist who conceived the embryos is the father of the embryos and wants to save them to implant them in his wife?

        Yes, things develop, but that’s not an argument against someone’s value. Level of development does not determine our value, otherwise human value would exist as a bell curve. A teenager would be more valuable than an elderly person nearing the end of their life, so he would be justified in ending the life of an elderly person, even one in full health, just because he is more developed than she is (despite her being older, because certain things are lost due to age, like memory, motor skills, etc.).

        The difference between an infant and an adult are *not* trivial. The adult can reason, care for themselves, they’ve gone through puberty, etc. There is a world of difference between an infant and an adult. So what is the difference between a human zygote and an infant that makes it okay to kill one but not the other? It can’t be development, as I’ve just shown in my previous paragraph.

        I was not avoiding the question regarding Plan B. If you would read the article *in its entirety*, rather than taking a sentence or two out of context, you would see that I actually answered the question. You’re reading what you want to read, not what I actually wrote. Case in point: “If Plan B does cause an early abortion, the pro-life people would be just as vehemently opposed to it.”

        The unborn and born human beings are equal in their humanity. The problem is you were saying that we wouldn’t equate a “newborn” or “child” with a “clump of cells.” The problem is you seem to be confusing categories here. We don’t equate a newborn or child with a zygote because the newborn or child are more developed. We do consider them as equals, but they are obviously *different* because they’re not as developed. But going back to my previous paragraph, level of development does not determine value. So if you are talking about intrinsic worth, then yes, we would equate newborns with the human zygote. But taken in the context of your paragraph, you were talking about development, not about intrinsic worth as a human being. I was responding to that.

        I didn’t say your mind is confused, just that you continually confuse ethical and philosophical principles.

        “Hey, if you want to believe this, that’s great. What I object to is your imposing your views on the rest of the country. I assume that’s your goal?”

        After this paragraph, you have the gall to accuse me of dodging the issue? I gave arguments to support my contention. If you have no response, then you must agree that I’m correct. Brushing it aside with “that’s just your opinion” is childish, plus, it’s just your opinion and you can’t push it on me.

        “Word games. Define “persons” however you want; this doesn’t erase the enormous difference between a newborn with arms, legs, eyes, ears, brain and nervous system, and all that and a cell.”

        This is exactly what I’m talking about. I’m not trying to be mean, but I have supported all of my statements and you keep brushing them aside as “opinions” and “word games.” It’s not semantics. If what makes someone a person is their human qualities, then is someone without arms less of a person than someone with arms? Is someone with brain damage (but still functional) less of a person than someone with a fully functioning brain? Your position leads to all sorts of absurdities. This is not just my definition. If you can’t provide a decent counterargument then again, you have to concede my point. You can’t just assert that you’re right and I’m not.

        I’ll try to make this clearer for you. What makes us a person is not the functions that we can perform. If it was, that would mean that whenever we lose the present ability to perform these functions (e.g. fall asleep, enter a reversible coma, etc.) we cease to be a person, and become a brand new person when the organism we used to reside in wakes up. That’s what functionalism leads to, and that’s why it’s absurd, because you are you at all points in your life. You are able to think back to when you were five years old and say that was *you*. You can say *you* went to such-and-such a school, and *you* had the people who were your parents. That was you. But not if functionalism is true. And if our personhood would depend on our constitutive parts, then you would become less of a person if you lost a limb, or lost any sort of function (such as the ability to speak). Functionalism leads to a number of absurdities.

        The reality is that we are persons, and the same person, through all points in our life. You were a human being from fertilization (and all embryologists, pro-choice and pro-life, concede this point). You must be human before you can develop human parts, like arms, legs, spinal cord, brain, etc. In the same way, you must be a person before you can develop personal properties (e.g. rationality, consciousness, etc.). What makes us a person through all points in our life is the fact that we have a rational *nature*. We don’t cease to be when we fall asleep, we continue to be because there is a continuity of human existence. If you didn’t have an inherent nature for rationality or consciousness, you would never develop it. That’s why flies never become rational because it’s not in their nature. It’s that inherent nature that makes us valuable, and the unborn have that inherent nature from fertilization. They are just immature and have yet to develop it.

        So by “inherent,” I mean a type of “potential,” but it’s an active potential, not a passive potential (as I explain in the article). It is already a human being with the active potential to develop arms, legs, spine, brain, rationality, consciousness, the capacity for speech, etc. And that active potentiality matters. That’s why the sperm and egg aren’t valuable because they’re only potential humans in the same way that flour and sugar are a potential cake. But the unborn from fertilization are already human beings, they are just developing all of their parts and functions from within themselves. That’s just what development *is.* It doesn’t stop at birth and it doesn’t begin at birth. It begins at fertilization and doesn’t stop until you’re an adult.

        I can make a Biblical argument for abortion, but I don’t have to. The fact that it refutes the “it makes Jesus cry” argument is not only debatable, but irrelevant to my article. The fact that people die naturally doesn’t justify our killing them intentionally.

        My argument is not from potential. My argument is from actuality. The unborn *already is* a full human person. The potential is not to “become” a human person, but is to develop human and personal properties.

        Yes, if a child is cloned, as soon as the child is conceived they are valuable human beings. But you’re still not clear on the basic fundamental principle. There is a difference between *passive* potentiality (like flour and sugar is to cake, or sperm and egg cell is to human being). The skin cell only has a passive potentiality. Left on its own, it will die and not become anything. The single-cell zygote is different. It is an organism of the human species, developing itself from within into a more mature version of itself. There is a clear difference, and this difference is morally relevant to the discussion.

        Regarding “giving her life for the blastocyst,” you’re still not reading the context of the article. I did show that women *do*, in fact, give up their life for their child. This is just an irrelevant argument, especially since whether or not anyone will give up their life for you is irrelevant to your value as a human being. You’re confusing intrinsic with instrumental value here.

        Again, you’re reading what you want to read, and not what’s actually there. The nature of the human *just is* a rational nature, which the unborn share and which I have talked about through the entire article.

        If you can’t be bothered to read my entire comment and keep everything in context, or provide a decent argument in response to mine (you’ve brushed off not one, but two of my arguments, which were supported in the article), then I don’t see much of a point in continuing.

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          So what is the difference between a human zygote and an infant that makes it okay to kill one but not the other?

          For starters, one hasn’t even been born yet, and is still developing inside its mother’s body.

        • Clinton

          So the next question would be, what is it about birth that bestows human rights and values on an individual? Why is the fact that it’s developing inside the mother’s body a morally relevant concern that allows us the right to take its life?

        • http://batman-news.com Anton

          It can’t be said to have life, Clinton, in the same way you or I can. It hasn’t been born yet.

          I know you want to make it sound like it’s a sovereign individual from the instant of conception. However, the only way to do that, like I’ve reminded you too many times for you to keep being disingenuous about not realizing, this stage of its “life” is taking place wholly inside a woman’s body. That she loses the rights over her own physical person when sperm meets egg is something you take for granted, while anyone with any human concern for the rights of adult females considers the notion unwarranted.

          I’m just not as willing to make completely arbitrary distinctions about when a zygote magically becomes a human, Clinton, and neither does science. If a woman decides to abort a pregnancy in the first trimester, no baby is born and it should be her choice.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I was not dodging the issue, I was tackling it head-on.

          At least we’re on the same page on the importance of responding to the question at hand, rather than the question you’d prefer to answer.

          that only works in my favor by showing that many intuitions are felt due to our fundamental assumptions, and not necessarily because they’re true.

          Good to hear that you think that works in your favor. I agree.

          if morality was merely relative, then that means that rape, murder, or torturing children for fun would be moral acts if the culture or person decided it was, and in some situations may even be morally obligatory.

          I don’t define morality as “whatever the majority within society says it is.”

          I use Wm. Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Let me know if you’re talking about something else.

          When you say, “X is moral,” what grounds that? Just you. Same as if I say it. Of course, you could be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and you’d have a lot more power than I do, but we haven’t shown that there’s any objective truth behind it.

          The typical apologist’s definition of moral relativism is, “You have your truth and I have mine, and I can’t say anything about the rightness or wrongness of your position.” I reject this.

          BTW, it would be easier to wade through something this long if you inserted the comments of mine that you’re responding to.

          But there may be many reasons why one would rescue a toddler over those embryos, such as the fact that the toddler has a 100% chance of survival but the embryos may be scheduled for experimentation, or if they are scheduled for implantation it’s not guaranteed that any of them would survive.

          Work with me. This is what I was talking about when I said you were dodging the issue.

          Let’s say they were not scheduled for experimentation or for the trash. They’re all strangers to you. Increase the number so that, when the dust has settled, you have ten babies at the end of the process. If that takes 30 or 130 embryos, make it so.

          I’ll repeat my point: your statement that embryos are “full human persons” means that ten embryos (or, if you insist, ten net embryos) are ten times more important than a child by your logic. The dilemma is easily resolved. Let the kid burn.

          Yes, things develop, but that’s not an argument against someone’s value.

          Yes, as I already stated. The difference between a toddler, someone with Down syndrome, and a healthy adult is negligible on the scale that we’re talking about.

          The difference between an infant and an adult are *not* trivial.

          Wrong again. On the scale that we’re talking about (remember: it has a single cell at one end), an infant is basically identical to an adult. They both have arms, legs, skin, stomach and digestive system, heart and circulatory system, etc., etc. Compare that to a single frikkin’ cell that has none of this stuff.

          You’re reading what you want to read, not what I actually wrote.

          Ah, thanks for taking time out of your long comment to scold me. I’ll take time out of mine to thank you.

          If Plan B does cause an early abortion, the pro-life people would be just as vehemently opposed to it.

          So an abortion through Plan B would be precisely as morally bad as a third-trimester abortion. Is that right?

          The unborn and born human beings are equal in their humanity.

          Yeah, I guess. Given the immensely broad definition of “humanity,” this is rather unimportant to me.

          We don’t equate a newborn or child with a zygote because the newborn or child are more developed.

          OK, you really need to slow down and make clear what is equivalent and what is not. They’re “equals” but they’re different? Whenever I think I know what you’re saying, you flip flop on me.

          On the spectrum of morality, it is equally bad to kill a single cell, a 2-month-old fetus, and you. Is that right?

          After this paragraph, you have the gall to accuse me of dodging the issue? I gave arguments to support my contention. If you have no response, then you must agree that I’m correct. Brushing it aside with “that’s just your opinion” is childish, plus, it’s just your opinion and you can’t push it on me.

          You’re annoyed about something. I have no idea what.

          You seemed to be about to respond to my question about whether you are pro-life just for yourself or if you are anti-Roe v. Wade. I guess you got yourself into such an indignant rage that you forgot.

          So, please clarify what pro-life means to you.

          If what makes someone a person is their human qualities, then is someone without arms less of a person than someone with arms?

          Since you don’t seem to understand my point, perhaps your outrage (deleted) was premature.

          No, someone without arms is negligibly less of a person. Now imagine that they’re a single cell. Are they less of a person. Uh, yeah.

          See where I’m coming from?

          I’ll try to make this clearer for you.

          Do you understand my point that the gulf between single cell and trillion-cell newborn is much greater than newborn to adult?

          That’s what functionalism leads to

          That’s nice. I don’t know what that is and wasn’t trying to support that position.

          The reality is that we are persons, and the same person, through all points in our life.

          Even back to a single cell, I assume?

          Again, if that’s how you roll, that’s fine. It’s when you want to impose that on the rest of the country (I’m still desperately waiting for you to deign to clarify your position here—I could be wrong in my assumption) that I have a problem.

          You were a human being from fertilization

          Your term before was “person.” It’s confusing enough without another term.

          What makes us a person through all points in our life is the fact that we have a rational *nature*.

          A single cell is a person? Does it also have a rational nature? If so, I assume that this is some appeal to potential, since a single cell isn’t actually rational.

          If you didn’t have an inherent nature for rationality or consciousness, you would never develop it.

          So yours is an argument from potential, right?

          but it’s an active potential, not a passive potential

          It’s an undeveloped potential (by definition). That’s the point. Get back to me in 9 months when that potential is developed, ’cause it ain’t here in the single cell.

          It is already a human being …

          Agreed. But you were talking about persons before. And we’ve got to figure out persons vs. human beings. Stick to just persons.

          I can make a Biblical argument for abortion, but I don’t have to.

          But you see now (despite what you said before) the topic of spontaneous abortions is not “just silly.” Whether or not a biblical argument is important to you, it is important to some.

          The fact that people die naturally doesn’t justify our killing them intentionally.

          Not a hard concept here. If God kills an embryo, he must be cool with killing embryos. It’s hard then to make the argument that killing embryos is contrary to God’s will, since he does it all the time.

          My argument is not from potential.

          Then you’re doing a bad job making it.

          You said, “It’s that inherent nature that makes us valuable, and the unborn have that inherent nature from fertilization. They are just immature and have yet to develop it.”

          For starters, try to be a little more understanding of my ridiculously stupid questions, given that you swap words (person/human being) casually and make statements that, at first glance, are contradictory. Perhaps it all makes sense. In that case, great—just make your case clearer.

          The skin cell only has a passive potentiality.

          Are all these qualifications necessary?

          If someone cloned a skin cell to be a viable pluripotent cell and implanted it and it was developing nicely, you’d object to that woman getting an abortion after a month. Same as with IVF. Same as will pregnancy through sex.

          Who cares how the pregnancy happened? It’s not like some are less valuable than others, right?

          You can’t make up a cell just from random chemicals in the lab. You must start with a human cell, and a skin cell (cloned) is one way to go. I don’t think your attempt to dismiss this route succeeds.

          You want to allow destruction of skin cells as always, and yet they will have potential to develop into babies just like an egg cell.

          Regarding “giving her life for the blastocyst,” you’re still not reading the context of the article. I did show that women *do*, in fact, give up their life for their child.

          Yes, they do, but what is this referring to in my previous comment. I have no idea.

          If you can’t be bothered to read my entire comment and keep everything in context, or provide a decent argument in response to mine (you’ve brushed off not one, but two of my arguments, which were supported in the article),

          Perhaps so. Why? Must I respond to everything?

          then I don’t see much of a point in continuing.

          Your call.

        • Clinton

          I can insert the things you say. I’m just not sure how to quote them the way that you do. I’ll put your words that I’m responding to in quotation marks.

          “I use Wm. Lane Craig’s definition of objective morality: “moral values that are valid and binding whether anybody believes in them or not.” Let me know if you’re talking about something else.”

          The term “objective” is usually used by philosophers to mean “independent of the human mind.” So objective morality means morality that is binding for all people and at all times. That’s usually what I mean when I use the term. I think Dr. Craig’s definition would fall under that definition.

          “When you say, “X is moral,” what grounds that? Just you. Same as if I say it. Of course, you could be the Commander in Chief of the armed forces, and you’d have a lot more power than I do, but we haven’t shown that there’s any objective truth behind it.”

          Actually, I believe that God grounds morality. This is where the atheist and the Theist differ. The atheist can’t ground objective morality (even though atheist philosophers even agree that morality is objective), and the Theist grounds morality in God. So when I say that something is wrong for all of us, I have a grounding for that. It’s not my opinion. In fact, my pro-life arguments are based on intuitions that even atheists share, as is evidenced by the existence of groups like Secular Pro-Life and Pro-Life Humanists.

          “The typical apologist’s definition of moral relativism is, “You have your truth and I have mine, and I can’t say anything about the rightness or wrongness of your position.” I reject this.”

          Moral relativism and objective truth are two different things. One can believe that truth is objective and knowable and yet still believe that morality is relative.

          “Let’s say they were not scheduled for experimentation or for the trash. They’re all strangers to you. Increase the number so that, when the dust has settled, you have ten babies at the end of the process. If that takes 30 or 130 embryos, make it so.”

          See, I wasn’t dodging the issue. I was working within the reality of the situation. If I could be absolutely sure that all ten embryos would successfully implant and survive the implantation until birth, then I think it would be entirely justified for someone to save the ten embryos (and I probably would), since they would be saving ten human lives. Since you could never be sure, then it would be wrong to save the embryos since the toddler has a 100% chance of survival. I also indicated that there may, indeed, be times when someone in real life may be justified in saving the embryos over the toddler, such as if the scientist in question is a father to the embryos.

          You, as a pro-choice person, may find this ridiculous, but this is made all the more poignant by a real-life case of Noah Benton Markham, who was rescued from a hospital as a frozen embryo from Hurricane Katrina, then later implanted into his mother, and eventually born, some 16 months after his initial conception.

          “Yes, as I already stated. The difference between a toddler, someone with Down syndrome, and a healthy adult is negligible on the scale that we’re talking about.”

          Perhaps you need to be more specific about this scale, because it still seems like an ad hoc justification for abortion, to me.

          “Wrong again. On the scale that we’re talking about (remember: it has a single cell at one end), an infant is basically identical to an adult. They both have arms, legs, skin, stomach and digestive system, heart and circulatory system, etc., etc. Compare that to a single frikkin’ cell that has none of this stuff.”

          And my response here is…so what? How many cells does it take for one to be considered a person? I should also point out that I’ve read many philosophers in the literature, both pro-life and pro-choice (including David Boonin, Peter Singer, Michael Tooley, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Mary Anne Warren, and many others) and not a single one argues that the number of cells makes any moral difference in human value. Neither does their appearance, for we can easily imagine someone like Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man, who was feared because he didn’t look human. Yet he was still a human being with intrinsic value as a human being.

          “So an abortion through Plan B would be precisely as morally bad as a third-trimester abortion. Is that right?”

          Correct.

          “Yeah, I guess. Given the immensely broad definition of “humanity,” this is rather unimportant to me.”

          How so? Even pro-choice embryologists and pro-choice philosophers agree that even from the single-cell zygote stage, the unborn are one of us *biologically.* Where the debate lies is in whether it has human rights and value at that point, or if “personhood” is established sometime later.

          “OK, you really need to slow down and make clear what is equivalent and what is not. They’re “equals” but they’re different? Whenever I think I know what you’re saying, you flip flop on me.”

          It’s possible that I misunderstood your point from your article. They are different in that zygote and infant are different stages of development, but they are the same individual at those two stages of development. So they are different in the sense that one is older than the other, but they are equated in that they are both full human beings, and being equal in their humanity is the morally relevant feature, not being unequal in their development.

          “On the spectrum of morality, it is equally bad to kill a single cell, a 2-month-old fetus, and you. Is that right?”

          Yes, correct.

          “You’re annoyed about something. I have no idea what.”

          I thought it was pretty obvious. I presented an argument, and supported my argument, and rather than respond to the argument and present a counterargument, you brushed it off with “that’s just your opinion.” You’re the one dodging, not me.

          “You seemed to be about to respond to my question about whether you are pro-life just for yourself or if you are anti-Roe v. Wade. I guess you got yourself into such an indignant rage that you forgot.”

          I wasn’t raging, though I was a little gruff (because you basically waved away my arguments with “that’s just your opinion”). I am anti-Roe v. Wade.

          “So, please clarify what pro-life means to you.”

          Pro-life means that we respect all human life equally (animal rights, of course, are debatable). Abortion is an artificial designation for simply “ending a pregnancy.” It’s not a special procedure. Since the unborn are full human beings from fertilization, whether or not we can kill them needs to be given the same consideration as to whether or not we can kill someone outside the womb. It’s not always wrong to kill a human being, of course (one can kill to protect one’s life, for example), so if we can kill the unborn through abortion, one must demonstrate why it would be moral (or at least, not immoral) to do so.

          “No, someone without arms is negligibly less of a person. Now imagine that they’re a single cell. Are they less of a person. Uh, yeah.”

          I don’t see where you’re coming from. It just seems like an artificial distinction to me. Why does having less cells make someone less of a person, but someone with less human features doesn’t? My cells are uniquely human. Why am I less of a person if I exist as a single cell rather than existing without human arms? What is it about cells that is the morally relevant feature for personhood?

          “Do you understand my point that the gulf between single cell and trillion-cell newborn is much greater than newborn to adult?”

          As far as cells, sure. As far as human value? No. But I’ve already asked you several times in this comment to clarify, so I won’t belabor the point here.

          “Even back to a single cell, I assume?”

          Yes, because the morally relevant features for personhood (an inherent nature as rational agents) exists at the single cell stage.

          “Your term before was “person.” It’s confusing enough without another term.”

          It’s not confusing. When I say human in this context, I’m speaking biologically. When I use the term person, I mean a human being with intrinsic rights and value.

          “A single cell is a person? Does it also have a rational nature? If so, I assume that this is some appeal to potential, since a single cell isn’t actually rational.”

          No, it’s about actuality. I’ll try to clarify a little further. A capacity is an entity’s ability to do something. For example, humans have the capacity to see. What an entity will be able to do depends on its nature; it is in a dog’s nature to bark, it is in a cat’s nature to meow, etc. So before these entities develop these capacities, they exist as inherent capacities (that is, they have it within themselves to develop it, but they have to mature enough to develop it).

          The unborn have a rational nature at the single-cell stage, but it’s inherent (in other words, it has the capacity to develop it). This is sometimes called a second-order capacity. When the zygote develops enough it will develop the presently-exercisable capacity (sometimes called a first-order capacity). There is potential, but the potential lies in the fact that it has to develop the present capacity from within itself. The argument is based on actuality; the zygote *is* actually a person because of its inherent nature as a rational agent. If it did not have this inherent capacity, or second-order capacity, it would not develop the ability to presently exercise it. A human being will develop the ability to reason. A hedgehog will not, because it is not in the hedgehog’s nature. The hedgehog does not have the inherent capacity for rationality, so it will never attain rationality.

          In order for a human to grow arms and legs (and other human features), one must *be* a human being first (as we are from fertilization, which is the uncontroversial claim). And in order for a person to develop personal properties (like rationality, sentience, etc.), one must *be* a person first.

          “It’s an undeveloped potential (by definition). That’s the point. Get back to me in 9 months when that potential is developed, ’cause it ain’t here in the single cell.”

          It is there in the single cell, as a second-order (inherent) capacity. If it was not, you would not now be a rational individual.

          “But you see now (despite what you said before) the topic of spontaneous abortions is not “just silly.” Whether or not a biblical argument is important to you, it is important to some.”

          Perhaps, but as it’s not central to the argument I gave, bringing it up only detracts from the issue. If someone makes a Biblical case to you, then you can reject it on those grounds.

          “Not a hard concept here. If God kills an embryo, he must be cool with killing embryos. It’s hard then to make the argument that killing embryos is contrary to God’s will, since he does it all the time.”

          This is just a confused argument. First, I don’t think it’s true that God kills embryos. People die of natural causes, that doesn’t mean that God is always behind their deaths. All of us will eventually expire, some just sooner than others. But second, not everything that God can do is justified for us to do. So even if God *was* behind the deaths of embryos, that would not give us grounds to do it. We have responsibilities to each other, and since we are all created in God’s image and no one is more or less valuable than I am, I have no right to take anyone else’s life.

          “Then you’re doing a bad job making it.”

          Perhaps. I hope I’ve been able to clarify further. To be clear: The argument is from actuality, because the zygote is *actually* a person. The only reason potential factors into it is because as a human person, the zygote has within itself (due to its nature) the capacity to develop human and personal properties. So it’s not that the zygote is developing itself *into* a full human person, it already is due to the inherent capacities in its nature.

          “Are all these qualifications necessary?”

          Yes. The reason that you are not committing mass murder when you get your hair cut is because hair follices, skin cells, etc., are only potential human beings because they have the passive potential to become human beings (through cloning, or what have you). They’re potential in the same way that flour and sugar are a potential cake. It would be incorrect to state that the flour and sugar are a cake already because it wouldn’t be true. But the unborn have the active potential to develop their parts and personal properties because they have the active potentiality to develop them. Left alone, they will develop these on their own, from within themselves.

          “If someone cloned a skin cell to be a viable pluripotent cell and implanted it and it was developing nicely, you’d object to that woman getting an abortion after a month. Same as with IVF. Same as will pregnancy through sex.”

          Correct.

          “You can’t make up a cell just from random chemicals in the lab. You must start with a human cell, and a skin cell (cloned) is one way to go. I don’t think your attempt to dismiss this route succeeds.”

          Once the cell has been cloned, a human being has been brought into existence, and it would be wrong to kill them (just like it would be wrong to conceive a clone with the express purpose of killing him/her to harvest his/her organs). Passive potential vs. active potential (as explained above) is the reason why. A regular skin cell is *not* a human being, and not even pro-choice embryologists would say that it is. But they are in agreement that what we have after fertilization is a human being. There is a difference between one of my skin cells and a single-cell human zygote.

          “Yes, they do, but what is this referring to in my previous comment. I have no idea.”

          It was regarding your assertion that I was dodging your argument about whether or not a woman would die for her blastocyst like she might die for a stranger.

          “Perhaps so. Why? Must I respond to everything?”

          If it’s essential to my argument, yes. It’s not just my opinion that the unborn are full human persons, because I have supported that contention. It may be possible that I wasn’t clear enough in explaining, and I have tried to be clearer here. But you dismissed my argument without indicating that you didn’t understand it, and since they were important points, that didn’t bode well for your response.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          I’m just not sure how to quote them the way that you do.

          Quoting works fine. The way I do it is to put [blockquote] at the front and [/blockquote] at the end of quoted material (but replace square brackets with angled brackets).

          Actually, I believe that God grounds morality.

          Yes, I understand that. I’m saying that the natural assumption is sufficient to explain the morality that we see here.

          The atheist can’t ground objective morality (even though atheist philosophers even agree that morality is objective)

          I see no evidence of objective morality (but I repeat myself).

          So when I say that something is wrong for all of us, I have a grounding for that.

          Can I just make stuff up, too, and say that that grounds morality?

          Moral relativism and objective truth are two different things.

          Yes, I understand that. I’m saying that neither moral relativism (as it’s typically defined by apologists) nor objective morality match my views.

          See, I wasn’t dodging the issue. I was working within the reality of the situation.

          Seemed to obviously be a thought experiment to me. With thought experiments, you go with the flow rather than redefine them to be something you prefer.

          I think it would be entirely justified for someone to save the ten embryos (and I probably would), since they would be saving ten human lives.

          Wow–I gotta beat these answers out of you, don’t I?

          We’re assuming 100 embryos to account for any loss. They’re all wanted, and they will be implanted in the near future. So you’re saying that you’d let the kid burn to save the 100 frozen blastocysts.

          Is that right?

          You, as a pro-choice person, may find this ridiculous, but this is made all the more poignant by a real-life case of Noah Benton Markham, who was rescued from a hospital as a frozen embryo from Hurricane Katrina, then later implanted into his mother, and eventually born, some 16 months after his initial conception.

          Explain to me how you would think that anyone would find this example ridiculous.

          Maybe you’ve confused “pro-choice person” with “murdering sociopath”? No, they’re not the same.

          How many cells does it take for one to be considered a person?

          More than one!! LOL.

          not a single one argues that the number of cells makes any moral difference in human value.

          Are you deliberately picking up on the little bits that you have responses to while ignoring the main argument?

          It’s not just the number of cells. It’s development.

          “So an abortion through Plan B would be precisely as morally bad as a third-trimester abortion. Is that right?”

          Correct.

          Then explain to me why anti-abortion activists never, ever show a photo of a box of Plan B instead of showing a cut-up third-trimester fetus. They seem to disagree.

          Even pro-choice embryologists and pro-choice philosophers agree that even from the single-cell zygote stage, the unborn are one of us *biologically.*

          Uh, yeah. So what?

          A fly is an animal, just like us. Its cells are eukaryotic, just like ours. We’re even related. So what?

          They are different in that zygote and infant are different stages of development

          Let’s just stop there. We agree. And that development is critical. As a single cell, it’s not a person.

          If you want to assign personhood to it, that’s great. If it’s your baby to be and you value it more than anything in the world, that’s great. Just don’t demand, by law, that everyone have an equivalent view, because we just don’t.

          “On the spectrum of morality, it is equally bad to kill a single cell, a 2-month-old fetus, and you. Is that right?”

          Yes, correct.

          And you want to impose this view on everyone else?

          Since the unborn are full human beings from fertilization…

          I thought we had an understanding—you pick a term and stick with it, OK? You can’t use both person and human being before birth. Pick one. I have no idea what you mean, and it looks like you swap terms as it suits you to avoid confronting my argument.

          I don’t see where you’re coming from. It just seems like an artificial distinction to me.

          You don’t see the difference between a trillion-cell newborn and a single cell? They’re not identical. That difference is important.

          Why does having less cells make someone less of a person

          Because we’re not talking about 10% fewer cells! We’re talking about 0.000000000001 as many cells. Kind of a big deal.

          My cells are uniquely human. Why am I less of a person if I exist as a single cell rather than existing without human arms?

          Because we don’t say “person” for a single cell. And if you want to define it that way, that’s fine, but you need to give me another word that explains what a trillion-cell newborn has that the single cell doesn’t. I’m flexible.

          The unborn have a rational nature at the single-cell stage, but it’s inherent (in other words, it has the capacity to develop it). This is sometimes called a second-order capacity.

          Oh, goody. More terms.

          Yes, it has the capacity to develop it. It hasn’t yet. That’s pretty significant.

          Yours is simply an argument from potential.

          A human being will develop the ability to reason. A hedgehog will not, because it is not in the hedgehog’s natu re.

          You mean the hedgehog’s DNA? Yeah, I get it.

          The newborn shares its DNA with the single cell. That’s it. They’re both the same species.

          If that’s special to you, fabulous. I don’t get real emotional about DNA, I’m afraid.

          Don’t impose your views on the rest of us.

          In order for a human to grow arms and legs (and other human features), one must *be* a human being first

          Yep, it’s all about the DNA. I get it. Uninteresting. DNA isn’t a person. Neither is the cell that contains it.

          It is there in the single cell, as a second-order (inherent) capacity. If it was not, you would not now be a rational individual.

          Argument from potential, for the umpteenth time.

          Perhaps, but as it’s not central to the argument I gave, bringing it up only detracts from the issue.

          Given that it’s important to some people, you see that it’s not “just silly.” Right??

          Yes, it’s a tiny point, but I had to wade through so many insults in your comment that it’s important to resolve this.

          So even if God *was* behind the deaths of embryos, that would not give us grounds to do it.

          God doesn’t have to play by the same rules of morality that we do?

          The argument is from actuality, because the zygote is *actually* a person.

          Define it however you want. Don’t expect the rest of us to be convinced, however.

          The only reason potential factors into it is because as a human person, the zygote has within itself (due to its nature) the capacity to develop human and personal properties.

          Argument from potential, for the umpteenth + 1 time.

          You want to imagine that it’s already there and not started at the same time. Save it for your sci-fi novel.

          But the unborn have the active potential to develop their parts and personal properties because they have the active potentiality to develop them. Left alone, they will develop these on their own, from within themselves.

          Yep. Argument from potential.

          But they are in agreement that what we have after fertilization is a human being.

          Another example of word switching.

          Yes, if human being = “thing with Homo sapiens DNA,” then I agree. But you were talking about person.

          My challenge to you: from now on, never use “human” or “human being” for the zygote/embryo/fetus. Use “person” instead. You would seem less evasive.

          It’s not just my opinion that the unborn are full human persons, because I have supported that contention.

          You have made clear that it’s your opinion that the unborn are persons. I got that 10,000 words ago. I’m unconvinced, however.

  • Clinton

    For the record, I also gave a response to your spectrum argument, which was recently pointed out to me. I think you’ll find that I responded to your argument directly:

    http://prolifephilosophy.blogspot.com/2013/12/a-response-to-spectrum-argument.html

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Some responses:

      it’s difficult to know where a child ends and an adult begins, but we all know that a child is different from an adult.

      No, the spectrum argument says that it’s difficult to know when the fetus ends and the child begins. It applies in the womb.

      The immediate problem with this argument is that he gives no attempt to argue at what point we actually do become persons.

      Why do pro-lifers always bring this up? I have nothing to say on the matter. I’m talking about something different. This is a red herring (perhaps because pro-lifers want to turn the conversation to areas where they feel they have more ammunition).

      This is a problem, because if there is the slightest chance that we may be killing human persons, then we ought not to kill them or we risk doing serious moral wrong.

      This logic would eliminate capital punishment. Do you go there?

      The argument “we don’t know when we become persons, we just know the unborn don’t qualify” is simply an ad hoc justification for abortion.

      No, that’s not what we’re talking about. Society’s job here is to say when we’re confident that it’s a person. Before that, we don’t have a “kill ’em all!” policy; we let the mother decide. Who better?

      It’s analogous to parenting. For bad parenting beyond a certain point, the state steps in. That’s just too far. For the gray area, we give the parents discretion.

      He resorts to the tired old arguments that an acorn is not an oak tree (no, but it is an immature oak tree)

      No, an acorn is truly not a tree. It has the potential to become one, just like a single cell can become a baby. But it’s not yet.

      The acorn is not a really tiny tree that just needs to get bigger, just like a single cell isn’t a really tiny baby, with arms and legs and eyes and ears, just waiting to get bigger.

      This kind of argument just denotes a complete lack of knowledge of basic biology.

      There’s a lot of that going around.

      So the problem with the spectrum argument is that it fails to respond to the fact that there is a continuity of human development that begins at fertilization, and doesn’t stop until after birth.

      You’re desperately trying to find problems where there are none. Sure, let’s extend the spectrum to adulthood. I agree—a teenager is more developed than a newborn. However, this difference is negligible compared to the difference between the newborn and a single cell.

      I’ve already mentioned this before, so I doubt you’ll get it with this repeat, but you simply aren’t thinking about the spectrum clearly if you see this as an issue.

      It is just an immature brain. It hasn’t had the chance to develop into a fully matured brain.

      Argument from Potential.

      When it has realized that potential, get back to me. As a single cell, it hasn’t.

      BTW, you try to seize the word “baby” or “person” and say that it’s a baby/person at both ends of the spectrum, that’s fine. You tell me: what is it that a trillion-cell newborn has that the single cell doesn’t? I’m flexible, and I don’t care to argue the definitions of words. You tell me.

      Seidensticker’s point about how evangelicals thirty years ago supported abortion is irrelevant. First, even if true, the Catholic church has been pro-life since its inception. Second, evangelicals are pro-lifenow, which is what matters. This point is just a red herring, as it detracts from the actual argument.

      Wrong. If this argument isn’t important to you, that’s fine. We can skip it. You’re not the sole audience. How the Bible treats this issue is quite important to some people.

      No, it’s not a red herring.

      (2) It is murder to take a human life;

      I disagree.

      His “spectrum” argument is clearly an argument against personhood, not biological human life. So the argument as presented here succeeds. And as the icing on the cake, I have also soundly refuted the “spectrum argument.”

      So seeking the truth isn’t really the goal, it’s towering over me, with me at your feet confessing my sins and begging for mercy? As Ghengis Khan is supposed to have said, “It’s not just that we must win; the others must lose.”

      I think your declaration of victory is premature.

      Human value clearly doesn’t exist as a spectrum.

      And yet the majority of Americans disagree …

      And here we get to the primary issue. If you want to hold these beliefs, that’s fine. If you want to argue for them publicly, that’s fine. It’s having the arrogance to conclude that you’re right and those who disagree are wrong and imposing your views on the rest of the country where we have a problem.

  • Jonathan

    What does capital punishment have to do with it? A baby has done nothing to deserve to die.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      I dunno. I’m not talking about either capital punishment or babies.

      I’m talking about fetuses and about not ignoring the situation of the mother and that which a baby would be born into.

  • newenglandsun

    The debate over whether a fetus is a person or not is utterly ridiculous and pointless. Why is it ridiculous and pointless? Because areas of biology, sociology, theology, and philosophy all disagree as to what constitutes as a person. As such, there exists no universally agreed definition as to what the heck a person is. So debates about the personhood of the fetus are all entirely centered around invalidating different ideas as to what a person is while picking and choosing other definitions to cling to as the norm.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Which is why I don’t argue much about the definition. Instead, I present the spectrum and ask the pro-lifer to give me a label–what is it that the newborn has and the single cell doesn’t.

      Many respond by simply refusing to engage with the issue.

      • newenglandsun

        Okey dokey. Then let me give you a response.
        1) Pro-lifers don’t always support IVF. In fact, if you’re debating a Catholic pro-lifer, you’ll find them referencing Papal encyclicals demonstrating IVF to be sinful. I think the Eastern Orthodox also hold that position on IVF as well but don’t cite me on that. So your question is based on what some in the pro-life camp believe but not all.
        2) All I can say is, where did you gather this from? What about people who suffer from miscarriages? Very pro-life people will go so far as to actually describe barrenness as suffering.
        3) Does not work on Hindu pro-lifers, theological pro-lifers, or vegetarian pro-lifers. It doesn’t work on Hindu pro-lifers since cows are considered sacred and they would find both equally horrifying. It does not work on theological pro-lifers since they start with the assumption the human life is that which has a soul. Thus, the difference between the cow and the fetus in this instance is that the cow doesn’t have a soul and therefore our reaction to its suffering should be indifference. The vegetarian pro-lifers are exactly like Hindu pro-lifers.
        4) Skin cells constantly die and are replaced. Not only that but only zygotes produce totipotent cells (cells that can turn into anything). The embilical cord is also totipotent so the fetus to some extent as well. This means that a skin cell can’t even produce a potential other human being in the first place. Note by mentioning the Jain, you again are making a mistake in assuming everyone uses the same arguments about what constitutes pro-life as well.
        5) On this one, I’m a little confused. Should we use some of this logic to justify killing off an injured veteran since his legs were bombed off?
        Conclusion: I find your arguments here unconvincing. Definitely work on improving them a little bit more. For instance, maybe on 1 don’t contend for a “lesser of two evils” argument. Maybe also focus on defining that we know for fact that these embryos will become potential lives rather than just being tossed into the trash can like most IVF facilities do.
        On 2 I would recommend focusing on the couples that actually want to have a baby and yet are barren.
        On 3, I would recommend throwing this one away altogether.
        On 4, I would recommend investigating totipotency as well as concepts of what constitutes as human life in various different cultures (since again, Jainism is not the only culture that may or may not attack abortion and you’re only challenging them right now).
        On 5, I would specify what you mean by fully developed.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Pro-lifers don’t always support IVF.

          That doesn’t change our example. Whether IVF is embraced or not, the example uses it, and we have 10 babies (from IVF) in step 2. Surely where they came from is irrelevant.

          All I can say is, where did you gather this from? What about people who suffer from miscarriages? Very pro-life people will go so far as to actually describe barrenness as suffering.

          I don’t see how this responds to my point #2 above.

          Does not work on Hindu pro-lifers, theological pro-lifers, or vegetarian pro-lifers.

          That’s nice. Now, why don’t you respond?

          Skin cells constantly die and are replaced.

          So?

          only zygotes produce totipotent cells (cells that can turn into anything).

          We’re imagining a skin cell being turned into a totipotent cell.

          This means that a skin cell can’t even produce a potential other human being in the first place.

          It’s called “cloning.”

          you again are making a mistake in assuming everyone uses the same arguments about what constitutes pro-life as well.

          Not quite following your point here. Instead of responding for the entire world, I suggest you let the world speak for itself and just respond for you. Are you convinced? If not, show me where the problem is.

          Should we use some of this logic to justify killing off an injured veteran since his legs were bombed off?

          An adult without legs is basically identical to that adult with them compared to the enormous gulf between a newborn and the single cell it started with.

          I find your arguments here unconvincing.

          It’d be cool if you could show me why. Maybe you actually do find the thought of a pregnant woman ingesting Plan B to be far more horrible than watching a terrified cow get stunned, hauled up by one leg, and eviscerated. In that case, argument #3 doesn’t work on you.

          And so on.

          And tell me what the spectrum should be labeled if “personhood” is inappropriate.

  • Love

    Think about this? Who gave you life? Every person in this existence was given that same right. Who are you to judge who lives and who doesn’t?

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      And think about this: do you let every fly and slug live? If not, who are you to judge who lives and who doesn’t?

  • Ladrell

    The “no one knows when life begins” argument is a dead argument due to scientific progress. At the time of Roe V Wade this was rather unknown, (however we should have erred on the side of caution in light of such a grand variable) but now we don’t have to wonder anymore.

    Here is small amount of data in existence on the subject. These are irrefutable facts, about which there is no dispute in the scientific community.

    At the moment when a human sperm penetrates a human ovum, or egg, generally in the upper portion of the Fallopian Tube, a new entity comes into existence. “Zygote” is the name of the first cell formed at conception, the earliest developmental stage of the human embryo, followed by the “Morula” and “Blastocyst” stages.

    The zygote is composed of human DNA and other human molecules, so its nature is undeniably human and not some other species.

    The new human zygote has a genetic composition that is absolutely unique from itself, different from any other human that has ever existed, including that of its mother (thus disproving the claim that what is involved in abortion is merely “a woman and her body”).

    This DNA includes a complete “design,” guiding not only early development but even hereditary attributes that will appear in childhood and adulthood, from hair and eye color to personality traits.

    It is also quite clear that the earliest human embryo is biologically alive. It fulfills the four criteria needed to establish biological life: metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.

    Finally, is the human zygote merely a new kind of cell or is it a human organism; that is, a human being? Scientists define an organism as a complex structure of interdependent elements constituted to carry on the activities of life by separately-functioning but mutually dependant organs. The human zygote meets this definition with ease. Once formed, it initiates a complex sequence of events to ready it for continued development and growth:

    The zygote acts immediately and decisively to initiate a program of development that will, if uninterrupted by accident, disease, or external intervention, proceed seamlessly through formation of the definitive body, birth, childhood, adolescence, maturity, and aging, ending with death. This coordinated behavior is the very hallmark of an organism.

    By contrast, while a mere collection of human cells may carry on the activities of cellular life, it will not exhibit coordinated interactions directed towards a higher level of organization.

    Thus, the scientific evidence is quite plain: at the moment of fusion of human sperm and egg, a new entity comes into existence which is distinctly human, alive, and an individual organism – a living, and fully human, being.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Why think of fertilization as “when life begins”? You have two living things that combine. Wouldn’t the beginning have to go back further?

      And I’m not sure what your point is. Say that this human life begins at conception. So what? It’s not like it’s a person yet.

      BTW, where did you copy this article from? You should include the link. It looks like you’re claiming that this is your own work.

    • Niemand

      At the moment when a human sperm penetrates a human ovum, or egg,
      generally in the upper portion of the Fallopian Tube, a new entity comes
      into existence.

      Do you mean the moment at which the sperm penetrates the zona pellucida? Or the acrosome reaction? Or maybe the second stage of meiosis which allows the oocyte to become an egg? Or maybe the fusion of the pronuclei. All these and more are part of the process of conception. Which one causes the “fully human” being to come into existence?

      The zygote acts immediately and decisively to initiate a program of
      development that will, if uninterrupted by accident, disease, or
      external intervention

      Ah, but it is interrupted, more often than not, by “natural” forces. Whether you call them victims of “accident” or “disease”, the majority of fertilized eggs never implant, never form zygotes or embryos or babies. If abortion is a holocaust, this is a pandemic that should cause a worldwide panic and response. At the very least, the “pro-life” movement should be raising awareness, sounding the alarm, making us aware of the deaths of these “babies”. And yet…**crickets**.

    • swbarnes2

      The zygote is composed of human DNA and other human molecules

      Human molecules? Do you think they are color coded?

      So you think if I made a mouse with a human sequence for, say, transferrin receptor…is that zygote now human? What if someone did genetic engineering on a human zygote, and exchanged the transferrin receptor gene there for the mouse version? This organism would have the potential to grow into a human organism with just as much capacity for thinking and feeling as any other member of Homo Sapiens…would you argue that it’s not human? If I made an slave population of such organisms, would you argue that they have the full moral worth of humans, despite their murine DNA sequences?

      The new human zygote has a genetic composition that is absolutely unique
      from itself, different from any other human that has ever existed,
      including that of its mother

      So if I make a clone of someone, that clone has no moral importance at all, because its DNA is not unique? So I can make a clone army of slaves, and you will argue that they are of lesser moral worth than yourself because their DNA sequence is not unique?

      he zygote acts immediately and decisively

      To hijack the person of its host…is that what you meant to say?

      if uninterrupted by accident, disease, or external intervention,

      You’ve got a conservation of mass problem here. How does the zygote grow to a 9 pound baby with no external intervention?

      proceed seamlessly through formation of the definitive body,

      Umm, we just saw in Texas that that’s not how it works. The fetus in a braindead mother did not seamlessly pull itself up by its own bootstraps.

      • Kodie

        Very good.

    • Kodie

      What I’m wondering is why it’s not ok to interrupt it proactively? What is precious about it that requires its retention at great cost?

  • Kevin Walsh

    The spectrum argument, while interesting, doesn’t have a whole lot of weight. Points 1 and 5, for example, present hypothetical situations in which we must choose between conflicting actions (save A or save B). Most abortion scenarios don’t involve this sort of binary, in which someone else will die if the fetus is not aborted. Certainly, the alternative may involved a degree of suffering, hardship, for the parent and all those whose lives are affected having to care for/find a home for the child. But that is not equivalent to the scenarios illustrated.

    This is the problem with asking “what does the newborn have that makes it more valuable than a fetus?” The question sets up the same binary of killing A vs. killing B. Thinking in term of spectrum, one might argue that killing babies is worse than killing middle-aged people is worse than killing fetuses. Even if one holds this (or something like it) it does not exonerte the acting of killing just because the details of the heirarchy might be questionable or impossible to define precisely. In other words, it seems perfectly reasonable to say that newborns are in fact different than fetuses but that neither should be subjected to unnecessary death. Someone holding this view might think that newborns are already alive and have a higher chance at experiencing a full life than that of an underdeveloped fetus and would experience more pain than a fetus would if the process were carried out. But at the same time, this view acknowledges that abortion in either case precludes life from fully emerging. This position is like that of a dog owner who values his or her children’s lives more than the dog, but nonetheless is committing to keeping both of them alive and well.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      The point of the hypotheticals is simply to smoke out one’s true feelings. “Do you really think that a microscopic zygote is equivalent in all meaningful ways to a newborn? OK—then ask yourself this question …”

      it seems perfectly reasonable to say that newborns are in fact different than fetuses but that neither should be subjected to unnecessary death.

      Sure. But let’s dismiss nonsensical arguments like “Not only do I think that it’s a baby all the way back to the single cell, but you, by law, must see it the same way!”

      this view acknowledges that abortion in either case precludes life from fully emerging.

      That’s right. But “life” isn’t necessarily that big a deal. This may shock you, but I kill mosquitoes as often as possible.

  • asmondius

    1. If the building were on fire and you could only save one of five children – which would you pick? If the building were on fire and you could save either your mother or your daughter, which would you pick? If the building were on fire and you could only save either a severely handicapped child or a blind child, which would you pick? Thus the transparency of your rhetoric.

    2. Every human being who ever lived was a blastocyst and then a fetus – this is a specious argument.

    3. ‘DNA, a vague and abstract commonality’. Not a very scientific viewpoint.

    4. You have a misunderstanding here – a skin cell is not unique.

    5. An elephant has many more cells than a human being – which is more important? And why?

    • purr

      1) If the building were on fire and you could only save either a severely
      handicapped child or a blind child, which would you pick? Thus the
      transparency of your rhetoric.

      If a building were on fire and you could save 1 child vs. 10 children, would you let the 1 child die to save the 100? Or would you save the 1 and let the 10 die?

      Now replace ’10 children’ with 10 embryos, and do the thought experiment again. Remember, those embryos, according to you are actual living children, with the same moral value as a toddler.

      2) Every human being who ever lived was a blastocyst and then a fetus – this is a specious argument.

      And we were all once a sperm and an egg. Big deal. Sperm/egg and fertilized ovum were only *Potential* us. Microscopic cells are only genetic blueprints, nothing more. They can give rise to a sentient, sapient being with a *self*, but they themselves have no self.

      3) DNA, a vague and abstract commonality’. Not a very scientific viewpoint.

      Persons are more than just DNA.

      4) You have a misunderstanding here – a skin cell is not unique.

      So? Lots of things are unique. Cancer cells are unique. Hydatidiform moles are unique. And that skin cell can be cloned through somatic cell nuclear transfer, and it can become an embryo. By your logic, it is acceptable to murder clones, because their DNA is not unique.

      5)An elephant has many more cells than a human being – which is more important? And why?

      A microscopic genetic blueprint is not a person.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      If the building were on fire and you could save either your mother or your daughter, which would you pick?

      You can’t address the problem as defined and must propose a different question.

      2. Every human being who ever lived was a blastocyst and then a fetus – this is a specious argument.

      How your observation is relevant, I’ve completely missed. You’ll have to explain it to me.

      3. ‘DNA, a vague and abstract commonality’. Not a very scientific viewpoint.

      If there’s a point here, I’ve missed it.

      5. An elephant has many more cells than a human being – which is more important? And why?

      I you honestly don’t understand, I can explain it to you, but these posts have already discussed this so often that I imagine that this is just some sort of rhetorical point whose value I’m missing.

      • asmondius

        ‘You can’t address the problem as defined and must propose a different question.’

        To me that means either your pretext is incorrect or you are presenting us with dogma.

        ‘How your observation is relevant, I’ve completely missed. You’ll have to explain it to me.’

        It’s illogical to state that a human life somehow passes through stages of ‘worthiness’ when every single human life undergoes an identical process.

        ‘If there’s a point here, I’ve missed it.’

        You made a unscientific claim – evasive maneuvers!

        ‘I you honestly don’t understand, I can explain it to you, but these posts have already discussed this so often that I imagine that this is just some sort of rhetorical point whose value I’m missing.’
        Cell count is obviously not a reliable way to judge value of life – evasive maneuvers!
        All you have done is evade. Disappointing.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          To me that means either your pretext is incorrect or you are presenting us with dogma.

          Most Christians take the route that you’ve taken: they avoid the challenge. I encourage you instead to think about your answer. That you are trying to avoid it is telling you something.

          It’s illogical to state that a human life somehow passes through stages of ‘worthiness’ when every single human life undergoes an identical process.

          Yeah—every single human life has little inherent worth initially and much when it’s a newborn. If anyone wants to assign great worth at the beginning, that’s fine, but that’s a relative evaluation.

          You made a unscientific claim – evasive maneuvers!

          No, I don’t think it’s me who’s being evasive. If you want to clarify your point about DNA, however, go ahead.

          Cell count is obviously not a reliable way to judge value of life

          And I don’t make such a claim. High five!

          All you have done is evade. Disappointing.

          There must be some named law whereby someone accuses his antagonist of the very thing he’s doing.

  • Sean

    I think your issue is talking in a very physical way about morality. Morality is a world of decisions, which are essentially metaphysical. My belief would be that when a women willingly takes part in those activities that eventually result in a child, she has made a decision, and the natural results of that decision are a child. The moral aspect of creating a baby has already taken place, while the physical aspect appears 9 months later. When she aborts, she makes a decision to remove something which, if she does not act, will enter the world. She has already created the baby on the moral level, if not the physical, now she destroys the baby on the moral level. Physically, we may argue that it was not a baby she killed, but morally, we cannot. Let’s say pregnancies lasted only three minutes. The fact that in the aforementioned activities we have already created a baby on the moral level would be more apparent, and the fact that in aborting we are preventing a life from taking place would be more striking. Under those circumstances, could we really go by some sort of sick “5 second rule”, and not feel we are killing? I think you make some good arguments for why the baby isn’t a baby on a physical level at certain stages, whether or not I agree with you. But I see nothing which challenges why it is not a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, on the metaphysical level, where I think moral questions like this must hinge.

    • MNb

      “The moral aspect of creating a baby has already taken place”
      Quite often that is simply not the case, like two teens forgetting in the heat of the moment to use contraceptives. I know what I’m talking about; it happened to me. Sure we went to a doctor for a Morning After Pill.

      “Let’s say pregnancies lasted only three minutes.”
      As soon as that is the case I’ll reconsider my position.
      I’m not interested in metaphysical babies, even if I grant you that ethics belong to metaphysics indeed. If I give you 1 000 000 metaphysical dollars, will you call yourself a millionaire? My decision to give you money or not is also a moral question.

    • purr

      Where does the moral worth of a zygote come from?

    • Pofarmer

      Unfortunately, actions and consequences happen in the physical, not the metaphysical, if there even is such a thing. Is it moral to consign a woman to poverty fr getting pregnant? Is it moral to consign society to caring for all the unwanted children as a product of some of these pregnancies? The violent crime, the assisstance? If you are truly worried about abortion, you should be pushing for education and contraceptive use among teens and young people. If you are not, you are not serious about the issue.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      My belief would be that when a women willingly takes part in those activities that eventually result in a child, she has made a decision, and the natural results of that decision are a child.

      Similarly, when you willing take part in activities that eventually results in a car accident, even if the accident isn’t your fault, you have made a decision. The woman didn’t want to get pregnant, and you didn’t want to have another car wreck into you. Nevertheless, when both of you show up at the clinic or hospital, we take care of the problem.

      Physically, we may argue that it was not a baby she killed, but morally, we cannot.

      So she aborts at 2 weeks, and you say she killed a baby? Sure doesn’t look like a baby.

      Is your argument an argument from potential? That is, it could become a baby (half of all pregnancies end in spontaneous natural abortion)? Sure, but it’s not a baby now. That’s the important thing. You can’t kill something today that wouldn’t have existed until 9 months from now.

      I don’t think much of your argument, but if that’s how you roll, that’s fine. My only demand is that you not try to impose this on the rest of us through the law.

      I see nothing which challenges why it is not a baby, a child, a teenager, and an adult, on the metaphysical level

      And here’s where you’ve totally lost me. The 1-day-old cell is metaphysically equivalent to an adult? I suppose it’s equivalent to the adult and all his thousands of descendants as well?

      • Sean

        I honestly expected better. You’ve completely missed the point. A better example than a regular car accident would be one resulting from drunk driving, since she could have done those activities in a way that would have prevented pregnancy, but chose, for whatever reason, to take a more risky approach. You’re still arguing from the physical perspective. You’re still ignoring the metaphysical. You didn’t even respond to my argument at all. Time is an arbitrary way in which we perceive the universe and events take place. So on the metaphysical level, a conceived baby is a baby born. Physically you may be right, but what is essential is that there is a decision to create the baby and a decision to destroy it. You can’t seem to answer me on that.

        • purr

          So your ‘argument’ is that having sex while female and ovulating is the equivalent of the criminal act of drunk driving?

          No, really, that’s what you are saying.

          And how about those women who use birth control and it still fails? What then? Are they also guilty of reckless endangerment?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          I honestly expected better.

          Nice! Now that I’ve been condescended to, I’m primed to hear what you have to say.

          A better example than a regular car accident would be one resulting from drunk driving, since she could have done those activities in a way that would have prevented pregnancy

          Sometimes you don’t want to get pregnant but you do. Contraceptive methods aren’t 100%.

          Which is rather like driving a car. If you’re a careful driver and your car is in good shape, you’ll get there safely … probably.

          But you can take the drunk driver if you want to, or the guy who shot himself while messing around with his gun. They’re idiots, but we don’t kicked them out of the ER. Society patches them up and sends them on their way.

          As with unwanted pregnancies.

          You’re still ignoring the metaphysical. You didn’t even respond to my argument at all.

          It sounded like gibberish. And I did respond to it (as best I could). I notice you didn’t respond to that.

          Time is an arbitrary way in which we perceive the universe and events take place.

          Huh? Time is pretty darn essential to how our lives unfold. Get metaphysical (or high) on us if you want, but don’t try to impose anything you discover by so doing on the rest of us.

          So on the metaphysical level, a conceived baby is a baby born.

          If you want to imagine this, go ahead. Sounds like bullshit to me, but whatever. We live at the physical level. A fertilized egg cell is 9 months from being a baby.

          Again, if you want to call it a baby at day 1, that’s great. Don’t impose that on the rest of us.

        • Sean

          I got what I needed from you. Thanks. I was trying to figure out what the disagreement was, and it seems to stem from two things:
          1. You think I am answering whether or not we should have abortion laws
          Not your fault for thinking along those lines. I guess I should of realized you would make that assumption. I’m actually ignoring the legal aspect entirely, and I’m just looking at morality. I’m a philosopher, not a political activist. I’m not trying to impose my views, just discuss them.
          2. You don’t think killing a metaphysical baby is morally equivalent to killing a physical baby.
          Since I’m not willing to fight you on the physical aspect, as it seems to me irrelevant, and your not willing to fight me on the metaphysical aspect, since it seems irrelevant to you, we are, I think, at an impasse. Thanks for your time, and I apologize for that condescending tone earlier. I had hoped I had found someone to argue the metaphysics with, but apparently pro-choice people who primarily focus on metaphysics are few and far between. I shouldn’t take out my frustration like that, however. I hope you’ll forgive me.

        • purr

          Can a skin cell be a metaphysical baby? With a little bit of help, a skin cell can become a human embryo through somatic cell nuclear transfer.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          1. You think I am answering whether or not we should have abortion laws

          Not your fault for thinking along those lines.

          You can have whatever nutty beliefs (from my standpoint) you want and even proclaim that others should accept them. The problem is if you’d want those ideas imposed on the rest of the country. Sounds like this issue is off the table.

          2. You don’t think killing a metaphysical baby is morally equivalent to killing a physical baby.

          Since I’m not willing to fight you on the physical aspect, as it seems to me irrelevant

          Expand on this. It’s irrelevant what the single cell is?

          I think, at an impasse.

          I think you’re right.

          I had hoped I had found someone to argue the metaphysics with, but apparently pro-choice people who primarily focus on metaphysics are few and far between.

          The argument was meaningless to me. You might want to work on your elevator pitch.

          I hope you’ll forgive me.

          No problem.

        • Dys

          A bit late on this, but do we have any idea what a ‘metaphysical baby’ even is? Was he talking about the bizarre dualistic notion of ensoulment or something?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I don’t know about you, Bob, but I do make different considerations about the morality of abortion between a zygote and a fetus. Correct me if I’m wrong, but a fetus is developed enough to feel pain as opposed to the zygote. I don’t think a fetus should be aborted (unless the mother is at risk) but I think it’s okay to abort it at the point where it’s still a cell or clump of cells (or however many cells a recently formed zygote is made up of).

          I only say this, because I consider the baby to be an actual baby a before the ninth month (but not immediately after conception).

        • purr

          A fetus lacks the capacity for awareness up until the 25th week, perhaps even later, 29th week, after which point abortions are only for medical emergency/health.

          Furthermore, fetuses are sedated and anaesthetized while in the womb – they can’t feel a thing, even if the underlying capacity for sentience exists.

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          I don’t think it’s immoral the same way scratching my skin and killing some skin cells isn’t immoral.

          Destroying someone’s house is immoral. Destroying a brick that could potentially be part of a house in the future is not immoral. This analogy probably isn’t perfect but I think it demonstrates my point adequately.

        • purr

          I would tend to agree with you regarding late term abortion, however, it does bring up an interesting question.

          Does personhood automatically grant the right to use someone’s body as life support without consent?

        • The Man With The Name Too Long

          The major point of contention in this debate is that when a woman has sex purposely, knowing the possibility of pregnancy, then she is responsible for taking care of the future baby if she does get pregnant. So a pro-lifer might say that the mother consented by having sex in the first place. I’m not going to debate what the “purpose” of sex is, but I clearly don’t view what forms immediately when a sperm meets an egg to be a person (yet), and that’s what’s important to me.

          What makes a person a person is not that easy to define, but at the very least it should be something that is cognizant, which a zygote is not. Killing a newborn baby is wrong in my opinion because it is taking the life of a conscious, feeling being that has done nothing to deserve being killed. But killing something that has no consciousness is as wrong to me as killing your skin cells by scratching them (i.e. it isn’t). It doesn’t matter to me that it has human DNA. If something is sentient and has feelings then killing it when it has done nothing wrong is immoral to me. I don’t care if it’s a human, or a sentient blob.

          I make a distinction, like Bob, that a person, and an organism with human DNA are not necessarily equal, even if the organism might develop into a conscious human. If the time comes that a woman wants to have a baby then she can allow the zygote to become one.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Forcing the definition of “person” or “baby” all the way back to the single cell is simply to embrace the DNA, which seems dogmatic to me. They can believe whatever they want, but it’s forcing that on the rest of us that I have a problem with.

        • MNb

          That forcing aspect is the big problem for me.

        • purr

          I am familiar with the responsibility objection. Its why they offer a rape exception. Its all about punishing women for having sex. A form of social control. Control female fertility and you cobtrol women.

          Anyway, if parents can’t be forced to even donate blood to their toddler, then how can they be forced to do the same for a zygote? What makes a zygote so special that it should be entitled to a woman’s body when no one else is?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          Sedated by the abortion process or sedated naturally?

        • purr
        • purr

          Oh, forgot to mention, my citations are partly from scholarly journals, and the ones that are unlabelled were written by a neurobiologist I know.

        • purr

          Oh, forgot this:

          http://www.rcog.org.uk/fetal-awareness-review-research-and-recommendations-practice

          Also in 2005, David Mellor and colleagues reviewed several lines of evidence that suggested a fetus does not awaken during its time in the womb. Mellor notes that much of the literature on fetal pain simply extrapolates from findings and research on premature babies. He
          questions the value of such data:

          Systematic studies of fetal neurological function suggest, however, that there are major differences in the in utero environment and fetal neural state that make it likely that this assumption is substantially incorrect.

          He and his team detected the presence of such chemicals as adenosine, pregnanolone, and prostaglandin-D2 in both human and animal fetuses, indicating that the fetus is both sedated and anesthetized when in the womb. These chemicals are oxidized with the newborn’s first few breaths and washed out of the tissues, allowing consciousness to occur. If the fetus is asleep throughout gestation then the possibility of fetal pain is greatly minimized.[15] “A fetus,” Mellor told The New York Times, “is not a baby who just hasn’t been born yet”

          And this:

          http://www.cell.com/current-biology/abstract/S0960-9822%2811%2900885-2

          Highlights

          The human brain may discriminate touch from pain from 35–37 weeks gestation

          Before 35–37 weeks, touch and noxious lance evoke nonspecific neuronal bursts

          After 35–37 weeks, touch and noxious lance evoke modality-specific potentials

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          We’re saying similar things. I don’t have a firm date in my mind, but if the cutoff is a month or two before birth, that would work for me. The experts here are the doctors and legislators.

          I think you’re wrong about pain in a fetus–in humans, it goes from embryo to fetus roughly at 2 months. Pain perception is more like at 5 months, I think. But perhaps others can correct me.

          My main argument is that there’s a spectrum of personhood (or whatever we want to call it) from 0% with the single cell to 100% with the newborn. If someone wants to override that for themselves with a subjective definition and call it a “baby” (or a “rhinoceros” for that matter) at Day 1, that’s fine. Just don’t impose that on the rest of us.

        • purr

          Citation #1:

          A brain-dead person with a functioning heart/lungs/brain stem
          will still show electrical activity in the brain, but they won’t show the
          particular “brainwaves” that are characteristic of the higher
          cortical functions of cognition. So the whole EEG isn’t “flat”, just
          the part of the EEG profile that shows a thinking person is using that brain tissue.

          (A better description would be the more scientific exactitude of “clinical significant electrical brain activity” to avoid confusion.)

          Capacity:

          At this point no “person” with sentience or awareness is present in
          the body, and it is legal to discontinue life support, and harvest organs for transplant, as without a functioning brain the body is just a collection of tissue.

          People who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead are routinely disconnected from life support and used to provide the organs for transplantations (no murder charges have ever been filled for this and none ever will be)
          A fetus does not have the bilaterally synchronous electroencephalographic patterns in the cortical area of the brain
          to be considered alive until 26-30 weeks of gestation, exactly like those who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead by physicians.

          People who are considered clinically brain-dead, have brainwaves (and sometimes even a beating heart), just not in the part of the brain that means that they are still alive.
          At this point doctors can start organ harvesting or turn off life support, no murder charges have ever, or will ever be been filed.

          A fetus younger then 26-30 weeks does not have all the brain structure (cortex) or the synapse, neurons etc in place to show more brain activity then a person who is clinically brain dead, as measured with the same machine (EEG)
          The heart might beat, but nobody is home.

          No embryo or fetus has ever been found to have “brain
          waves,” before 26-30 weeks gestation, although extensive EEG studies have been done on premature babies.

          In fact a fetus does not have a functional cortex before
          20-24 weeks gestation, no neurons, dendrites, and axons, with synapses between them are physically present.
          (Pretty hard to show activity in a structure that is not even present yet)

          Since these requirements are not present in the human cortex before 20-24 weeks of gestation, it is not possible to record the clinical significant electrical brain activity indicative of any form sentience and awareness prior to 20-24 weeks. (at that point the cerebral cortex can display some small intermittent non synchronous activity (“stutter”)
          This is not surprising since it is pretty hard to show activity in a brain structure that is not even present yet.

          Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns, bilaterally synchronous
          electroencephalograpic are ONLY seen at a minimum of 26 to 29 weeks gestation.

          Studies used are;
          -Hamlin,H. (1964), “Life or Death by EEG,”Journal of the American
          Medical Association, October 12,113
          -J. Goldenring, “Development of the Fetal Brain,” New England Jour. of Med., Aug. 26, 1982, p. 564
          -K.J.S. Anand, a leading researcher on pain in newborns, and P.R. Hickey, published in NEJM
          -2010 http://www.rcog.org.uk/fetal-awareness-review-research-and-recommendations-practice
          -2005 http://jama.jamanetwork.com/article.aspx?articleid=201429

          Citation #2:

          If one thinks that a fetus at least needs to have a rudimentary “hardware” capability for consciousness before the right to life language becomes in any sense meaningful one needs to see when the cortex-thalamus circuit becomes at least partly functional. For those who are not aware cortex is the seat of consciousness while thalamus is the main relay station that transmits all sensory data to the cortex from the body. Very simply while the brain stem is responsible for many of the involuntary regulation for keeping the body alive, the cortex-thalamus unit is the unit that makes consciousness happen. This process usually happens between the 20th-26th week of pregnancy , associated with the first true brain EEG signals (rather than random neural firings from the spine) and seems to be the most reasonable place to begin to think about personhood and rights.

          Pain is one of the earliest, strongest and most primitive conscious experience one can have (rats have it) and therefore thinking of when a fetus’s brain is developed enough to feel pain first is a good surrogate for establishing an argument for consciousness. I noticed that the pro-life article mistakenly thought we are using pain to base right to life directly.NO.Pain awareness is one of the earliest forms of conscious processing and checking to see if it has been developed gives us a good surrogate to seeing how developed the higher brain architecture is that houses consciousness. Here is the consensus position of a review article that was published in 2005 and has 200 citations.

          Fetal Pain:- A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence (Susan J Lee)

          “Evidence Synthesis:- Pain perception requires conscious recognition or awareness of a noxious stimulus. Neither withdrawal reflexes nor hormonal stress responses to invasive procedures prove the existence of fetal pain, because they can be elicited by nonpainful stimuli and occur without conscious cortical processing. Fetal awareness of noxious stimuli requires functional thalamocortical connections. Thalamocortical fibers begin appearing between 23 to 30 weeks’ gestational age, while electroencephalography suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in preterm neonates probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks.”

          The paper goes on to conclude (correctly) that some state laws saying that a 20 week old fetus can feel pain is OBJECTIVELY FALSE.

          This paper goes into greater detail as to why this conclusion is reached. In short at the 24th week of gestation (22nd post-conception week) the thalo-cortical circuit begins to exhibit enough connectivity (with what is called the cortical subplate) that idea that the fetus “may” be processing some pain or sensory stimuli in a conscious manner becomes viable. It needs to be noted that a fetus in uterus is effectively in a hormonically induced deep sleep and does not feel any pain, however the capacity develops at around the 24th week and a prematurely born fetus from that age at least has some possibility of awareness of basic sensations.

          For me this would be the point at which one begins to confer to the fetus the right to life.

          ——————————————————————————————————-

          “The development of the subplate and thalamocortical connections in the human foetal brain”, Kostovic et al.

          The cortical subplate (a key transient structure that helps in the eventual development of the cortex) forms in the 21st week of pregnancy (19 weeks post conception) and nerves from the thalamus penetrates it in the 26th week of pregnancy (24th week post conception).

          “Thus, the available evidence suggests that the human foetus can receive a thalamic input through the transient subplate zone at the end of the midfoetal period [end of 2nd trimester](2,11,12,20,46). Although that period of connectivity development has been described as non-driven by sensory input (2,3,30), one cannot exclude the possibility of an extrinsic influence during the end of the midfoetal period. In relation to this intriguing question, it should be noted that the development of the thalamocortical input occurs more or less simultaneously in all sensory cortices (11,15,16).

          During the 22 and 23 PCW (25th week of gestation) (preterm infants with extremely low birth-weight), the majority of thalamocortical axons reside in the superficial subplate of sensory and associative (Fig. 2C) cortical regions (1,11,13–15), whereas few axons have already entered the cortical plate. This dual pattern of thalamocortical connectivity with transient (to the subplate) and permanent (to the cortical plate) component was described as a salient feature of the preterm cortex (2,12). Thus, preterm infants at 22–23 PCW do possess an anatomical substrate for extrinsic cortical input from both sensory and associative thalamic nuclei. Of all the layers of the foetal cortex, the subplate is the most active in the generation of action potentials (30,38,52) and contains the synaptic machinery for the most well-known cortical neurotransmitter systems, including monoaminergic and cholinergic arousal and activating systems (3,53). Thus, the cortical system of very young preterm infants is on the verge of transition from an endogeneous spontaneous processing (30,42) to a sensory-expectant functioning (2,12). The presence of thalamocortical synapses in the subplate is a necessary, but not sufficient requirement for the conscious cortical processing, which was emphasized in attempts to explain cortical mechanisms of responding to a painful stimulation (3,5,6,18). The general agreement seems to be that due to the functional immaturity of thalamocortical connections, there is no cortical processing and no feeling of pain before 23 PCW, i.e. 25 weeks of gestation (7).”

          Citation #3:

          “A person who is asleep or in a coma can and will feel pain or pleasure and respond accordingly, a fetus under 26-30 weeks does not! Consciousness is private, subjective and experienced from a particular point of view: yours. This is what accounts for your point of view, for the unique ‘interiority’ that gives the feeling that you exist inside your head somewhere. For instance, ‘Is your version of the color red unique to you or the same for everyone?’”

          A baby has the ability to feel this, but cannot yet verbalize it. MRIs clearly show a lighting-up of the still-growing area of the brain that is involved in self-awareness, much like in full-grown adults and older (verbal) kids.

          Because its brain is still growing, a young baby does not yet have self-awareness (and so cannot pass the “mirror test“). It only has mere-animal-level awareness. We note that that level can be pretty significant; a praying mantis, the insect, has non-faceted focusing eyes, stereoscopic vision, and enough consciousness/awareness to notice a potential meal, and it has enough volition to hunt and catch that meal –yet no abortion opponent would claim that suffices to make a praying mantis a person! So, why should a less capable unborn human qualify as a person?

          In very young humans the part of the brain that eventually houses self-awareness is functional and does register the baby’s experiences that pertain to self. The baby is registering that experience as a self experience even if the baby can not yet recognize who self is. Meanwhile, a fetus under 26-30 weeks does not even have these brain structures, and the unborn close to that time frame do not show any activity in these structures until they are sufficiently formed. An older fetus, able to be aware of things it experiences, is no more capable than a new-born baby in this regard. Months of brain-development after birth is required for true self-awareness to begin to exist.

          More regarding the color red:
          “For instance even if a baby is not self aware yet it already has his/her interpretation of that color red. That interpretation is unique and specific to that baby. The baby will not have a different view of the color red by becoming self aware.”

          If the baby has an additional experience tying its awareness to the color red (think of how “Pavlovian conditioning” works), then at that point there is an additional emotional component that the baby now connects to that color.

          “In short, certain experience are registered in the area of the brain that houses sentience and self awareness even when the brain in question has not made those connections yet. Similarly a coma patient shows activity in the area of the brain that houses self-awareness even while in that coma. This does not mean that the patient is always self-aware, merely that the brain cycles in and out. It is actually very similar to how alpha beta and gamma waves work and how they connect to the different sleep cycles.”

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

          That’s a lot of material–thanks.

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  • KatieL

    I think you are missing a vital point since you insist on using medical terms like blastocyst and zygote. The point you are missing is that abortions do not happen to blastocysts (5-6 days after conception) or zygotes (from immediately after conception until about 2 wks later). Abortions generally occur when the fetus (> 8 wks after conception) is from 8+ weeks old. You can find the statistics on this at http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/ss6015a1.htm
    These 8 week old fetuses have a heart beat, arms and legs and face developing, even teeth developing inside the gums.
    At 10 weeks old, the fetus is fully developed with fingerprints and hair follicles.

    Maybe you need to do some real research on abortion and not base your whole argument on a scenario that doesn’t actually exist (abortion for blastocysts).

    • purr

      If it is “fully developed” at 10 weeks, as you claim, then it can be removed and fed milk just like any other “fully developed” baby, no?

      • KatieL

        I meant fully developed as in it has a heart, a brain, all its organs, even to fingerprints and hair. All it needs is time and nutrients. If you think that it’s ok to abort a baby that is not fully developed, then do you agree with killing 15 year olds? They’re not fully developed either. All they need is time and nutrients too.

        • Dys

          The distinction is whether or not they’re viable outside of the mother. The 15 year old already made it. The 10 week old fetus hasn’t.

        • KatieL

          So do you support late-term abortions? A 24 (perhaps even earlier now) week old fetus is viable outside the mother.

        • Dys

          My current opinion is that late term abortions (third trimester) should only be allowed for extenuating circumstances.

          I also support comprehensive sex education and free (or at least easily affordable) and easy access to contraception.

        • KatieL

          Such as??
          And why is it any different at 24 weeks to 20 weeks? Is it all about viability?

        • MNb

          Why is voting rights any different at 9 years to 19 years? Is it all about viability? In your line of thinking we should grant babies voting rights as well.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Katie’s interest is turning the conversation from one where she isn’t winning to the quagmire of when, exactly, the abortion cutoff line should be.

        • MNb

          Guess what? Abortion is legal in The Netherlands until 24 weeks and there have been discussions if this limit should be lowered.

        • KatieL

          I don’t get your point.

        • MNb

          My point is that in your previous comment you didn’t make any point.

        • purr

          No. That isn’t fully developed. Those are just the mere beginnings of organs, and they won’t survive outside the uterus.

        • KatieL

          At 10 weeks the unborn has fully functioning organs, not part organs.

        • purr

          If the organs are fully functioning, then please explain why it can’t live outside the uterus?

        • Kodie

          You believe that’s true, and you are basing your involvement in this cause on that being true? Who lied to you and why?

        • purr

          If you knew as much about embryology as you claim, you would not make such an ignorant assertion.

        • purr

          Wrong. The lungs are solid and the heart is full of holes that do not close up until after birth.

          If the organs were fully formed and functional, it would not need the woman’s organs to process nutrients, breathe for it, and eliminate wastes for it.

        • KatieL

          Wrong. The organs are fully formed and functioning. Check it out here: http://www.babycenter.com.au/10-weeks-pregnant

        • purr

          Then explain why a 10 week embryo cannot survive outside the uterus.

          Please.

        • KatieL

          The embryo obviously needs the shelter and nutrient from the mother because its organs are immature. Just like a newborn can only drink milk and often chucks up little bits – the valve at the top of the stomach is immature. This is totally different to what you were saying about holes in hearts and hard lungs. A 24 week old can survive outside the uterus so do you still think it’s ok to kill them?

        • purr

          You’re wrong.
          http://www.texasheart.org/HIC/Topics/Cond/fetal_ht.cfm
          Every fetal organ is structurally and functionally different in utero.

          The reason that mortality rates are so high for extreme neonates is because the lungs are nearly solid and will not inflate with air. This makes breathing nearly impossible, even with help.

          Read this too. It exposes your ignorance
          http://www.embryology.ch/anglais/pcardio/umstellung02.html

        • purr

          I suggest you read this, which is more accurate.
          http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm
          Week 26

          Eyebrows and eyelashes are well-formed.
          All parts of baby’s eyes are developed.
          Your baby may startle in response to loud noises.
          Footprints and fingerprints are forming.
          Air sacs form in baby’s lungs, but lungs still aren’t ready to work outside the womb

          —-

          If all of the organs are fully functional and fully formed at 10 weeks, then explain why the lungs at 26 weeks will not work ex utero.

        • Kodie

          Animals we eat have those things but they’re not a person.

        • KatieL

          I guess you just have to ask yourself whether you want a world where killing people is ok. Recently two Australian philosophers put forward the idea of fourth trimester abortions – that is, infanticide. Their reasoning was that if abortion is ok then why is infanticide wrong? They were starting from the wrong premise; they should have asked if infanticide is wrong, why is abortion right? This comes back to Bill’s spectrum, and he is also starting from the wrong premise. Ultimately it appears that to Bill, size does matter. I agree with a spectrum of life, except I put personhood right at the very beginning of the spectrum. You need to ask yourself where you’d put personhood and your reasons for your decision.

        • purr

          Abortion exists because women do not owe their bodies to anyone or anything. There is no reason to commit infanticide, since unwanted children can be given away. An embryo cannot be given up for adoption. Abortion is the ONLY way that a woman can free herself from bodily violation.

          I would rather kill myself than be forced to gestate.

        • purr

          Its not size. It’s more complex than that. A zygote is not a tiny human – it is incomplete and unformed and may NEVER ever become a baby.

        • Kodie

          I guess you didn’t notice his name was Bob.

          An early term pregnancy is a projection, it’s not a baby, not even for people who intended to make a baby. If you don’t want to be pregnant don’t be pregnant. Why let other people’s emotional attachments make your decisions for you? I mean, let’s be rational – what is actually being removed? You’re superstitious about it, not rational. You have a superstitious aversion to interfering with someone’s life at any stage, and that’s also helped a bunch with propaganda – you know, the things your religious leaders and cause organizers use to grab you emotionally, that are lies, like a fully formed “aborted fetus” that fits on the tip of someone’s finger. You don’t get emotional about cows, do you? You’re in the grocery store and it’s just slabs of red meat in a cellophane package. And let me guess, you are probably offended when people try to make you care and stop eating meat, right?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So yours is an argument from potential–it’s not a person but it will be.

          Doesn’t much matter what it will be. The abortion question only cares about what it is now.

        • purr

          That is not the meaning of fully developed. And it may be missing some or many of those organs.

          Explain anencephaly please.

    • Dys

      “The point you are missing is that abortions do not happen to blastocysts or zygotes”

      You might want to tell that to all the anti-choice loons who have been attempting to pass personhood amendments that define a fertilized egg as a person, and seek to ban forms of contraception that do deal with blastocysts and zygotes.

      “Maybe you need to do some real research”

      Yeah..you might want to read up on what your own side is up to before making statements like this.

      • KatieL

        No need to be rude. I have done the research and life is truly amazing. See my reply to Bob above for why fertilization should be the point of personhood.

        • Dys

          You’ve already contradicted yourself…you said abortions don’t happen to blastocysts or zygotes, but now you’re changing things up and saying that fertilization should be the point of personhood. You can’t have it both ways – if abortions don’t happen to zygotes, then obviously you can’t think that personhood occurs at fertilization, because there are forms of contraception that will stop a fertilized egg from implanting and maturing.

          You also haven’t done much to support the notion that a fertilized egg is a person. There’s no consciousness, no organs, no heart, no brain, etc. A zygote isn’t a person.

        • KatieL

          You’re right, I did contradict myself. My apologies. I haven’t done much research on the MAP and its effects. Now I have and I found that while Bob is leaning on the side of being simplistic in talking about single-cells, I thought I’d let it go since single-cell to 16-cell in 3 days is irrelevant to the argument. My point is that there is only one time when two different DNAs become one new DNA and that is at fertilization. If it is not a person then, when is it a person? At what point do we call it a person?

        • Dys

          What constitutes a person is a complex question. But your answer is far too simplistic. DNA alone doesn’t make something a person. Development is required, and there can be a debate about how much development is necessary before it can be considered a person. But a fundamentalist ‘fertilized egg = person’ position is nonsensical. You’re basically telling a woman that she has no rights to her own body once one of her eggs becomes fertilized.

          My honest opinion on the desire for fundamentalist anti-choice activists to define a zygote as a person is that it has little to nothing to do with DNA or any biological component. Instead, due to dualistic thinking (and the fact that proponents are overwhelmingly religious), they believe there is a moment where a mystical ‘soul’ gets magically attached to the cells that may eventually become a person.

        • KatieL

          You’re right, DNA doesn’t make a person and what constitutes a person is a complex question. So how do we come to a conclusion about personhood. My argument is that we should err on the side of being too cautious and possibly too early on when personhood occurs. The only time a total change occurs is at fertilization so that is a definite and easily identifiable starting point.

        • Dys

          Even if you want to err on the side of caution, you don’t have a case for insisting a zygote is a person. As I said, there’s no organs, therefore no consciousness, ability to feel pain, etc. Nothing. It’s not a person.

        • KatieL

          But you haven’t answered the question. When is it a person (in your mind)??

        • Dys

          Well, in my mind, in order to be a person, consciousness is a requirement. And the currently available scientific evidence suggests that doesn’t emerge for years after birth. From a legal perspective, however, it makes sense to grant personhood immediately after birth. So while I stand by my stance of allowing late-term abortions under extenuating circumstances, I don’t consider personhood itself a factor until after birth. Fetuses are not self-aware.

        • KatieL

          DyslexicDNA, I would like to thank you for your honesty. Too many people avoid the tough issues and resort to abuse, but you haven’t, so I thank you for that.
          When you say ‘consciousness’, are you talking ‘awake’ or ‘self-awareness’? I am asking because awake happens before birth and self-awareness doesn’t happen until quite a while afterwards. That gives a large window of vagueness in terms of ethics. That is my reason for saying that personhood happens at fertilization because it is a definite, measurable point.

        • purr

          The fetus does not gain the capacity for sentience until roughly 25 weeks gestation. Sentience arises from the cortex and the thalamus. Prior to 25 weeks neither the thalamus nor the cortex is properly functional. A fetus at this point is less aware than a fly.

        • Kodie

          You know, what’s more important to me is removing obstacles to getting earlier abortions. You want to insert ethics into this, what is ethical about not letting a woman make her own decision? What is ethical about basically imprisoning her to your efforts to detain her decision so you can complain about late abortions? What is ethical about shaming and guilting and threatening women from your protest line? It’s clear to me that you’ve been told lies to gain your support for an unethical woman-hating cause that is really in the business of forcing women to carry too late in their term to abort and leave them with few choice but to give it up regrettably to adoptive parents – this is actually a business. They are using you like a pawn.

        • KatieL

          You have not answered my question.
          A woman is free to decide what she does with her body, but she has no right to kill another.
          I have never abused a woman going into the clinics. I don’t hate these women, I feel very sorry for them, actually.
          You are being very emotional particularly accusing me of imprisoning women! That is a ludicrous proposition. If I had a woman come to me with an unplanned pregnancy, I would encourage her not to abort her child, tell her my own story of unplanned pregnancy and promise her that I would do whatever I had to to support her. If she then went ahead and had an abortion, I would try to be there for her, not as a told-you-so, but as a friend.
          I think that abortion is very anti-woman and that’s why I’m’ against it. Abortion allows men to use women, scrape them out and start again. Abortion allows incest to go unnoticed and unchecked. Abortion kills children but hurts women most of all. It is a convenient tool used by men and women to continue their lives unhampered by the results of their actions – children.

        • purr

          Katie, the embryo has no right to the woman’s body. None. Nada. Zilch. Even if its very life depends upon it, it does not have that right.

          Also, abortion is self defense. Pregnancy has the potential to maim and kill. Is also a very intimate violation, and birth and labour = torture.

        • Kodie

          A woman is free to decide what she does with her body, but she has no right to kill another.
          I have never abused a woman going into the clinics. I don’t hate these women, I feel very sorry for them, actually.
          You
          are being very emotional particularly accusing me of imprisoning women!
          That is a ludicrous proposition.
          If I had a woman come to me with an
          unplanned pregnancy, I would encourage her not to abort her child, tell
          her my own story of unplanned pregnancy and promise her that I would do
          whatever I had to to support her. If she then went ahead and had an
          abortion, I would try to be there for her, not as a told-you-so, but as a
          friend.
          I think that abortion is very anti-woman and that’s why I’m’
          against it. Abortion allows men to use women, scrape them out and
          start again. Abortion allows incest to go unnoticed and unchecked.
          Abortion kills children but hurts women most of all. It is a convenient
          tool used by men and women to continue their lives unhampered by the
          results of their actions – children.

          If I sound emotional to you, it’s because your attitude is offensive to me.

        • Kodie

          Your question is irrelevant to me.

        • hector_jones

          Birth is a definite measurable point. Why not have personhood start there? Traditionally that’s how the law does it.

          Fertilization is not a definite, measurable point. You pretend it is so that you can arbitrarily declare it the moment when personhood begins.

        • Dys

          Self-awareness. But there’s simply no evidential support for the notion that personhood begins at fertilization without the unscientific and supernatural presupposition of a soul. Simply because there is a moment where something different emerges is irrelevant to the point, which is why the notion that personhood beginning at fertilization should be rejected. It’s entirely arbitrary, and doesn’t have any real supporting evidence.

          I understand the impetus for a hard and fast line for ethical decisions, but that doesn’t mesh with reality. Ethics is rarely black and white; for the most part it’s varying degrees of grey.

        • purr

          A person is sentient and sapient. Embryos are neither. We value human life for our minds, not our DNA.

        • purr

          We know for a fact that women are people. Why err on the side of caution for something that is definitely neither sentient nor sapient? Do you dislike women that much?

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          we should err on the side of being too cautious

          Legislatures make tough decisions all the time. Should we also err on the side of being too cautious when deciding the punishment for robbery? 1 year in prison? 5 years in prison? No prison at all? This is a person’s life we’re talking about.

        • purr

          Cow fertilization and gestation is also amazing. Do you eat meat?

    • MNb

      “http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emergency_contraception”
      One, two days after conception.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      In the case of Plan B, we’re talking about a single cell, so yes, it is appropriate to talk about the early end of the spectrum.

      But you’re missing the main point of my argument. I’m not dissecting statistics about when abortions happen. I’m proposing a thought experiment for the anti-abortion person: isn’t both the personhood of the growing fetus and the harm of an abortion proportionate to the time of incubation?

      • KatieL

        No, the harm of abortion isn’t proportionate because the single cell contains the exact DNA that the trillion-cell newborn has. Fertilization is the only time that the ovum and sperm fundamentally change from holding only their own unique DNA to a completely new DNA – a fusion of the ovum’s and sperm’s. This is the only time in a person’s life that something this radical (at the biological level) occurs. If we don’t have a definitive starting point (like fertilization), then when do we decide when ‘personhood’ occurs?

        • Dys

          When a fertilized egg isn’t even capable of experiencing pain, I’m not sure how harm can be assessed.

        • purr

          A zygote is just a genetic blueprint. 80% of them won’t even become babies. Why should a blueprint have more rights to a woman’s body than she has?

        • KatieL

          Wow, you really don’t know genetics. Are you really saying that a zygote is like a road map which then some other thing (maybe the ovum or sperm?) reads and works out what goes where? That is truly ridiculous! The zygote grows and becomes a fetus. It doesn’t change from one thing into another. Zygote, blastocyst and fetus are simply different medical terms to talk about the age of the unborn.

        • Kodie

          And its physical and developmental form. You really sound like you don’t know much about biology in general.

        • purr

          Yes, the zygote really is just a snippet of DNA surrounded by a cytoplasm. It won’t grow without specific signals from the woman’s body. If certain hormones, nutrients and bacteria are not present it might not grow at all, or will grow incompleteley.

          And yes, it does change, significantly. A zygote does not have a brain. An embryo only has a brain stem. And a baby has a brain. Unless, of course, the DNA was not correctly read, interpreted or expressed, and it failed to develop a brain at all.

          I would encourage you not to lecture me on embryology since I know a lot more than you. You do not have a clue what you are talking about, and I would suggest that you research epigenetics. I will even give you a link because I am nice.
          http://learn.genetics.utah.edu/content/epigenetics/

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          No, the harm of abortion isn’t proportionate because the single cell contains the exact DNA that the trillion-cell newborn has.

          As does a skin cell on my arm. Do we avoid scratching because skin cells are potentially clonable into a new baby?

          Fertilization is the only time that the ovum and sperm fundamentally change from holding only their own unique DNA to a completely new DNA

          And if you clasp your hands together and get misty-eyed at the thought of this invisible new molecule, go right ahead. We only run into problems when you want to impose your views on the rest of the country by law.

        • KatieL

          Ah, but isn’t that what is happening to me? Your views of the unborn not being human is imposed on me through the laws. For example, here in Australia, my taxes are being used to subsidise abortions. They are also being used to fund RU486 – Plan B as you like to call it. Obamacare in the US is forcing businesses to fund their employees’ contraception. If Christian tax payers are being forced to pay for “services” they don’t agree with, then why are you bleating foul when those same tax payers want a say on this issue? Why should we be forced to fund something which is against our moral principles? Why do you get to impose your views and beliefs and we don’t? Bit of a double-standard, don’t you think?

        • purr

          Unborn humans are human but they do not qualify as people. People have functional brains, they are sentient and sapient. An embryo is not even sentient and even if it was a person it would not have a right to a woman’s body without her explicit and ongoing consent.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          So religious citizens get to decide what is “health care” and veto the bits they don’t like? The Jehovah’s Witness wouldn’t want his taxes supporting transfusions. The Scientologist wouldn’t want them subsidizing mental health care. The Christian Scientist wouldn’t want to support any health care besides prayer.

          I don’t think that your taxes increasing a miniscule amount because abortions are government supported is comparable to your imposing the care of an unwanted child on a woman. What is that these days–about $250,000 U.S.?

        • KatieL

          Well, Bob, now it sounds like you’re justifying imposing your views on me. Double-standard?

        • Kodie

          I think you have no compassion for other people.

        • purr

          + ignorant dumbass

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          Say we have lunch together. You pay for the tip, and I’m forced to buy the entire restaurant. I think the scale is out of balance here. I don’t see it as a double standard to think that my burden is far higher than yours.

          Ditto in the abortion situation.

        • Dez

          Can you show any proof of a living person requiring food by being directly attached to another person and if detached will die?

        • purr

          Just so you know, that zygote is little more than a genetic blueprint. And that DNA has to be read, interpreted and expressed over 9 months of gestation. A zygote is not a tiny version of a human being that simply needs to grow larger. If every zygote was already a complete human being, just smaller, babies would never be born with missing brains, limbs, lungs, kidneys etc


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