Response to My Position on Abortion

Response to My Position on Abortion November 14, 2015

I argue that personhood during pregnancy is a spectrum—a newborn is a person, but the single cell at the other end of the spectrum is not.*

My claim about personhood seems to be a simple and obvious point, but there are many who insist (1) that there is no meaningful difference and that the spectrum doesn’t exist and (2) their interpretation should be imposed on the rest of the country by law.

I got a rebuttal to my post by fellow Patheos blogger Tara Edelschick at the Homeschool Chronicles blog, and I’d like to go through Tara’s points. She begins with, “I’m an evangelical, homeschooling, anti-choice woman” and then adds, “I’m also a feminist who is against the death penalty, voted for Ralph Nader every time that was an option, and supported Obama in each of the last two elections.”

Looks like Tara doesn’t fit into the typical evangelical box—in fact, her post was titled “The Constraining Abortion Box.” Let a thousand flowers bloom!

Religious opinions have changed

She begins by responding to lists of American religious leaders in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade who supported it.

The fact that most evangelicals felt differently about abortion in the past is not relevant to whether or not it’s immoral.  After all, fifty years ago plenty of evangelicals also supported anti-miscegenation laws.

Those evangelicals used your Bible and Christian tradition to argue in favor of the pro-choice position. Let’s not dismiss them as fools or charge them with playing games. This makes it clear that the Christian position easily supports the pro-choice position.

When does life begin?

She responds to my saying that, as a father who has helped raise two children from babies to adults, I’m an expert on “babies” and reject that idea that a single invisible cell is one. She said:

Is he really claiming to be an expert on when life begins because he is a father?

Perhaps we’re talking past each other. First, I said that I’m an expert just on what a “baby” is, and something you need a microscope to see isn’t a baby. In other words, if you want to see both ends of the spectrum as a baby, that’s fine, but don’t impose that conclusion on the rest of us.

Second, when life begins was never the subject, but I doubt that we have much disagreement here. The new life with its unique DNA obviously begins at conception, though you could argue that, since fertilization isn’t abiogenesis, it isn’t a beginning but a continuation of life.

Freedom to choose

She said, “I want to hear the voice of God. I understand that many fellow citizens have no such desire. I respect that….” And I’m happy to reciprocate and respect that she wants to hear the voice of God. The United States Constitution establishes many important freedoms, and she has the right to that. Back to the topic, she can choose whether an abortion is right or wrong for her, and she can encourage her opinion on others. Where I object is when she wants to impose her conclusion that abortion is wrong on all of us. (I conclude that she wants Roe overturned because in her subsequent post she says, “In general, women should not be able to choose to end their pregnancies.”)

Back to the subject of what “baby” means, she says, “Even a clear scientific definition of what constitutes a baby will not bring us to consensus.” It may well be that nothing will bring us to consensus, but as for what “baby” means, the relevant Merriam-Webster definition is pretty straightforward: “an extremely young child; especially: infant.”

Given this definition, you can see why I object to the spectrum-collapsing approach of calling the single cell a baby.

Back to the spectrum argument

In my post, I listed a number of familiar before-and-after situations and culminated with “[and] a single fertilized human egg cell is very different from a one-trillion-cell newborn baby.” Her response:

Yup. That’s true. And I don’t know a single person who disagrees.

She should read the comments at my blog to find a slice of Christianity that does indeed disagree. Accepting the significant differences between the two ends of the spectrum is impossible to most of my Christian commenters.

Acknowledging that there is a spectrum of meaning between zygote and college graduate does not mean, as Bob suggests, that one would need to be pro-choice.

Let me back up and note that the goal of my spectrum argument is modest. I simply want to attack the argument: (1) human life begins at conception; (2) it is wrong to kill a human life; therefore (3) abortion is wrong. We need to think of a word (“person,” for example) that can be applied to the newborn but can’t be applied to the single cell.

It sounds like Tara and I are on the same page, which is a point of agreement worth celebrating, and yet she still thinks that killing that single cell is wrong. Fair enough—that she consider my argument is all I can ask. What I have a problem with is her wanting to impose her conclusions on the rest of us by law.

So we agree on the spectrum—what’s next?

She moves on to the question of where pro-choicers would draw the line.

Is [the line] at birth? Why? Why not a day before birth? Or three months before birth? What about after birth but before the umbilical cord is cut? Why not a couple weeks after birth? What’s the difference? And who are you to decide?

I sense that Tara sees these questions as some sort of show stopper, but how does society decide any tough moral issue? For example: what should the prison term be for robbery? For attempted robbery where nothing was stolen? For robbery with a gun? For robbery with an injury? For robbery with a death? Is the death penalty a possibility? Are extenuating circumstances relevant and, if so, how are they factored in? And on and on.

These questions are also about people’s lives. Six months or six years makes a big difference in the life of the person sentenced.

We have law-making bodies at various levels through the country, and one hopes that the relevant laws are decided with expert input and measured deliberation. Law making does its imperfect best to answer questions like these about robbery and thousands more.

Indeed, Tara’s questions have already been answered many times. In each state, a combination of state law and federal law defines when an abortion is legal and the various exceptions that might apply.

Who’s to decide?

The most insightful comment I’ve gotten on my many posts in support of abortion was this one from Chuck Wolber:

Have no illusions, if abortion really were murder, it would come as an instinctive reaction from women. It would come with such force that men would be confused by the average woman’s revulsion towards abortion.

Here’s a parallel observation from the other side of the gender aisle:

If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament (Florynce Kennedy).

In the same way that society trusts parents to raise their children properly, stepping in only when it’s clear that something has gone wrong, I want to trust the instincts of the pregnant woman. These instincts come from the front lines of the issue, from the person who understands both the importance of the potential person inside her as well as any reasons why a new life many not be a good idea.

I do not believe that just because
you’re opposed to abortion that that makes you pro-life.
In fact, I think in many cases, your morality is deeply lacking …
if all you want is a child born but not a child fed,
not a child educated, not a child housed.
And why would I think that you don’t?
Because you don’t want any tax money to go there.
That’s not pro-life. That’s pro-birth.
We need a much broader conversation
on what the morality of pro-life is.
— Sister Joan Chittister

* If you object to the word “person,” give me a substitute. It must replace “person” in the opening sentence, and so must be something that the newborn is while the single cell is not. With all the words we come up with for small distinctions in the first few years of life—infant, baby, newborn, child, toddler, kid, and so on—surely we can find a word to describe the transition during the nine months of gestation.

(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 1/24/13.)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Aram

    Anti-choicers continually conflate the potential to be a human being with being an actual human on this one.

    • jh

      I’d like to know how a baby would handle being frozen and then re-thawed. There is a difference between an embryonic state and a fetal stage. There is a difference between a 10 week developed fetus and a baby. There is a difference between a 20 week fetus and a baby.

      What I find abhorrent is that they diminish a woman’s right to her own body. Bodily autonomy is one of the fundamental rights of any sentient being. It shouldn’t be waived just willy-nilly because “it’s a baby” or “it will save a life”. There are serious consequences when one reduces another person’s body to a collection of body parts that must support another being.

      If they are going to go “Oh, it’s to save a fetus so you must give up your body”, what’s to stop them from going “Oh, it’s to save a life so you must give up x organ?” The “pro-life” stance is deeply anti-human and does regard women as a collection of body parts designed for the benefit of another being.

      • I think that pro-lifers would reject your argument if for no other reason than that it’s complicated. Much easier: “It’s a baby, period.” That doesn’t make sense, but it’s simple.

        • jh

          Until the day that they are equally vulnerable, they will continue going “your body, my choice”.

        • Susan

          That doesn’t make sense, but it’s simple.

          Welcome to humans.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          The pregnant woman is a baby aged up. That baby doesn’t want to be pregnant right now!

        • Kodie

          How do we know babies want to be born anyway.

        • Giauz Ragnarock

          I was never asked.

      • Rudy R

        I haven’t met any pro-birthers who would consider it immoral for a person to deny any bodily intrusion that would jeopardize their health, with the acceptation of carrying/birthing a baby. Pregnancies do not come without health risks to the mother, even death.

        • jh

          It’s always an exception when it comes to women. When it comes to women and pregnancy, than it’s perfectly okay to violate that woman’s basic human right to her body.

    • Bair

      I like to ask them if genetically defective embryos, the ones that spontaneously abort, are real people for sure.
      Is murder committed when an ivf doctor refuses to implant such a defective embryo?

      • Aram

        That is why to much of a logical question for these kinds of people to understand.

  • “Have no illusions, if abortion really were murder, it would come as an instinctive reaction from women. It would come with such force that men would be confused by the average woman’s revulsion towards abortion.”

    Bob, this assumes that everyone will instinctively recognize murder as such. Now, this is not argument that abortion is murder. However, it seems to be a fact that many people do not recognize some forms of killing as murder, when others do. I think that argument fails. We can all find examples for this. There are people who feel killing animals is murder. Some cultures feel killing dishonored women is not murder. Etc. Certainly others do or do not agree with these views. It is a fallacy to assume that everyone will intuitively happen on the same opinion.

    • I think the source of this quote would argue that, if abortion were murder, it would fit into the same sort of bin as “The Holocaust was wrong”–that is, a viscerally held, immediately felt, unambiguous conclusion.

      But I see your point. We all feel that way about “Slavery is wrong” … today. 200 years ago, this wasn’t true.

      • Exactly. Sad as it may be, the wrongness of the Holocaust isn’t and wasn’t that obvious to all, especially its perpetrators.

        • MNb

          Worse – genocides like that weren’t considered wrong at all say two millennia ago. In De Bello Gallico Julius Caesar proudly tells how he exterminated entire tribes.

        • Quite so.

      • Kodie

        What’s to stop us from being indoctrinated to have a revulsion at aborting our own fetuses? Some women feel that way, and if the Christians had their way, they would brainwash us all to consider our maternal obligation and react viscerally to the idea of terminating a pregnancy.

        That’s how objective morality works! That’s how morality actually works – we’re conditioned to think cruelty against a dog is bad, mean, horrible, while cruelty against a pig is bacon. Some people are conditioned to equate all pregnancies with the normal reaction of a wanted pregnancy, i.e., unthinkable to unwant your pregnancy. Some people are conditioned to believe DNA is irreplaceable, and a fertilized egg has an irreplaceable quality that you should not murder. Some people feel the same way about living pigs. These are emotional arguments entirely. It doesn’t matter if all women had a visceral reaction against aborting their own pregnancies. What matters is what they’re aborting. Is it a person, does it have feelings, does it require anyone to speak on its behalf of wanting the chance to live? I think rationally, no. It doesn’t have sentience, awareness of its life or its potential life, so why do we treat it better than a mosquito or a cow? There is no reason to insist on preserving this material until it develops into something you definitely (we decided) shouldn’t murder. Once it has a capacity to suffer, it should be wrong, but that’s also arbitrary. We have a culturally conditioned visceral revulsion to the killing of infants, even though they still have no idea what’s happening and wouldn’t miss anything they didn’t know about. Good thing there’s plenty of time before that to decide whether you are committing to deal with that. We didn’t decide this – having a baby is a huge commitment that once you have it, you can’t change your mind, but there is a generous return policy. Who can’t make up their fucking mind in 90 days to be really on the safe side of abortion?

        • TheNuszAbides

          cruelty against a dog is bad, mean, horrible, while cruelty against a pig is bacon.

          now i want to search for a historical diatribe against the spice trade on ‘slippery slope’ grounds – “but if we let this stuff in, who knows what people will be willing to eat with it?!”

        • Ol’ Hippy

          Actually a hair with a follicle has just as much DNA as a zygote. Is a hair a person? I think not.

        • Kodie

          A hair knot can be almost a person.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      even in the US south, before the Civil Rights era, *children* realized that killing / hurting black people was wrong. It was only after they were indoctrinated (usually in an xtian church) that they became inured to it.

      South Pacific has a song that says it best: “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAZ8yOFFbAc

      • People have been taught generally to not hurt others. They have to be taught the “exceptions”-i.e. the rules don’t apply for them.

  • Anat

    Why is the personhood of the fetus even relevant to the legality of abortion? The personhood of the woman (or other pregnant person) is what matters. People are not required to donate parts of their body to sustain anyone else’s life. People are not required to incur serious risk to their present and future health to sustain another’s life.

    • Anne Fenwick

      Tara is confused about the difference between actively killing a fetus and removing it from the woman’s body That’s because in the early stages of pregnancy it’s pretty much the same thing. That’s why she can say things like:

      Is [the line] at birth? Why? Why not a day before birth? Or three months
      before birth? What about after birth but before the umbilical cord is
      cut? Why not a couple weeks after birth?

      In all those examples, a fetus removed from a womb will usually live. You would have to commit violence or neglect before it died. If you wanted to develop a pro-life argument that was actually logical, you would probably have to insist that only third trimester terminations of pregnancy be permitted, since at that stage the child can usually survive outside the mother (at least in an incubator).

      • Bair

        Exactly.

        Embryos die because they are incompatible with life.

      • Ol’ Hippy

        And don’t forget all the money it costs. I wonder whose to pay that, the taxpayer?

    • jh

      It’s actually even more abhorrent when you look at in detail. The “pro-life” crowd look at women as body parts rather than human beings. Human beings have rights to their own bodies. According to them, a fetus is a human being, a man is a human being, an embryo (possibly if you’re really really anti-choice) is a human being. At no point do they acknowledge a woman’s humanity.

      And no – even if it were to save a life, it is a very dangerous line to cross when we deny other people their bodily autonomy.

      Black women were treated as baby factors in the south during slavery. Their bodies were not their own. Their wombs definitely weren’t their own. This is just Slavery 2.0 expanded to every woman.

      Even many pro-lifers are arbitrary in their positioning. They will quickly diminish the rights of the fetus (that they previously ardently espoused) when it comes to rape victims or the woman’s health. They have no consistent criteria in how to apply the “who gets an abortion”. (and the gross inhumanity of the catholic position, especially with regards to a fallopian pregnancy, is horrifying.)

      In terms of timing, we have the uneasy standard of medical viability. But with the advances in modern medicine, it’s earlier, earlier and earlier. There are preemies who are “born” at 22 weeks and who survive with the aid of medical equipment. But instead of investing in technology and research to allow the transfer of a fetus to society (like giving up the baby for adoption but at an earlier date), they clamp down on that woman’s uterus.

      • Kodie

        I’d imagine those who are willing to make exceptions for rape are “in theory” – i.e. rape is another category where women’s victimization is automatically suspect, so this exception is really just something they say .. to be politically correct, I guess. If someone is impregnated by a violent crime of sexual assault from a stranger in an alley, of course, how traumatic to force a woman to carry to term. But not a lot of rapes happen just so, and is another source of controversy as to the victim’s sexual history and general willingness to have sex. If her boyfriend whom she’s had consensual sex with before rapes her, or she got pregnant while drinking at a party in a short skirt after someone drugged her drink, we have to ask these people to mean rape is rape, and not have a personal impression of rape and not-really-rape-she-was-asking-for-it.

        Do you think they’d fully make an exception to allow rape victims to have abortions, no questions asked? And not to go too far off the path with the “he said she said yes, she said he raped her” propaganda, but if the law were to only allow rape victims to have abortions, doesn’t it seem obvious that the incidence of reported rape would go up? My impression of people who would make exceptions for victims of rape to get abortions is that the rape would have to be proved in a court of law, not just something you might say happened, and nobody believes you and in fact blames you for getting yourself raped. I think so, people who are against abortion are just talking, and don’t really mean it.

        • Aram

          The way I heard it growing up in a ‘Pro-Life’ crowd, of course the raped woman shouldn’t have an abortion because she’s already been traumatized by the rape so why put her through a second trauma (because abortion is always followed by intense regret and self-loathing according to the Pro-Life crowd).

        • Kodie

          Of course, the best is when “everything happens for a reason,” and so god’s plan involves the woman getting raped just so she can have these particular babies.

        • Aram

          Sure, that too. But more than that they really honestly think ‘one trauma is better than two’. They’re utterly convinced you can’t have an abortion and not spend the rest of your life crying about it.

        • and here’s another example of someone overstepping their bounds, a male commenting on how women feel. recommendation – don’t even try.

        • Aram

          Your point?

        • Kodie

          Only Christians are allowed to tell everyone else how they should feel – guilty, hopeless, meaningless, about everything, not only how women who have sex and get pregnant are supposed to feel, dirty and ashamed unless married, then happy, only happy.

        • Aram

          I just don’t get how Greg’s comment follows on from mine. I grew up being told women who had an abortion would feel utter shit forever (unless they seek out God’s forgiveness).
          Since then I’ve been told by many women that they had an abortion and feel fine. None of my comment is based on my own feelings about how women feel.
          Greg is pathologically oblivious indeed. A sad case.

        • Kodie

          Yes, he is a hypocrite. I’m sure he’s said before how women feel after an abortion, because he listened to church. Of course, since the culture heavily reminds all of us what a drastic decision it is to make, and how normal it is to be happy when you find out you’re pregnant, I’m sure it naturally follows that having made that decision can be regrettable to some women. That happens when an anti-sex cult impresses upon women how they ought to feel, and that having an abortion is the worst thing you can do, and all that emotional propaganda.

          It is similar to some calling themselves atheists do bear the burdens of the church’s propaganda of how it feels to be left out of the Jesus club.

        • Aram

          Absolutely I agree. My own mother still says she carries guilt about her abortion, despite having Jesus in her heart for over 30 years. (She’s since disowned me for leaving the holy path of course.) And definitely more than religion it’s the whole culture forcing the guilt and regret on women. And yet, even in my immediate personal experience I know many women who have transcended that bullshit and see their abortion for the zygote-removing operation it was. Nothing more.
          As I said before, anti-choicers get caught up in the ‘potential’ to the point they don’t see reality.

        • Aram, Jesus and religion is a gift from God to heal feelings not cover up them up. Healing sometimes takes a life time and even then is not complete.

        • Kodie

          There are some things you don’t need to feel guilty about – Jesus and religion is a disease to make you feel feelings you don’t have to feel in order to pretend they are doing something good. Look how stupid it has made you. Is that supposed to be “healing”? It’s killing me.

        • Aram

          Sorry Greg. This is not the drone you’re looking for.

        • Kodie

          Do you have emotional scars from the chicken in your freezer?

        • Aram

          So in other words, just like there is no God.

        • There are a lot arguments for the existence of God, BobS, might call them “crappy” but the arguments do exist. It is up to you to decide if they are convincing. The Church is a by product of society’s belief in God and should not influence negatively your relationship with God and your being spiritual.
          Your blaming the “Church” is a cop out. Try to heal your relationship with your Mother and work on your spirituality -but you need to shed this blame mentality and start doing the heavy lifting.

        • Kodie

          You need to recognize what a brainwashed moron you look like to everyone else when you spew bullshit like this.

        • Aram

          You’re the one who described the ‘healing process’ like no God was present. Not me. Reading comprehension is at least a bare minimum when attempting to psychoanalyze someone. It’s painfully obvious ‘Greg’ that you’re only projecting your own sad state of affairs in life to the people on Bob’s site, nothing more.

        • MNb

          “and should not influence negatively your relationship with God and your being spiritual. ”
          Excellent. Now only if you took the next small step and recognize that not any religious organization should influence my (non-)relationship with any god and me being (non-)spiritual either, whether, positively or negatively, let alone force those things upon me by means of law then you’re aboard.
          Of course you also would have to drop the argument that your country is build on your favourite belief system (whether the argument is correct or not), so I rather expect you to be a hypocrite. Again. Like the good catholic you are.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Provide me with *evidence* for your dawg as convincing as that for gravity.

          I have no use for your stupid ‘arguments’, as their axioms never prove out.

        • MNb

          Greg, after getting rid of christian guilt, shame and regret you simply don’t need that poisoned gift from your imaginary friend anymore.
          Plus you as always totally miss the point. I know several women who have had an abortion and didn’t need to be healed at all, because despite them believing in a god the vile scheme of religious organizations like your favourite one to burden them with such totally superfluous feelings has failed.
          It’s the biggest lie of all religious organizations, with your RCC being nr. 1 (though several protestant and islamic ones give it a serious run for the money): that a human being should be ashamed when standing before an imaginary sky daddy. Predictably this lie has been used for millennia (since humans began to form cities and needed to be controlled) to keep people down – and especially women.
          That’s the vile scheme: by means of education, upbringing and propaganda religious organizations (and yes, secular organizations like the Soviet communist party have done the same) teach people to feel guilt, shame and regret – and then offer the remedy, always on their conditions. It’s a powerful mechanism. As these natural emotions are used in an artificial way the top of those organizations typically loses such guilt, shame and regret. That’s why all religious organizations get morally corrupt one time or another – with again your very own RCC being nr. 1, but far from an exception.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Try again. Religion and jebus are stories spread by those in power to keep it, fairy tales with gruesome endings as well.

          Demonstrate your dawg, then maybe we can discuss it.

        • MNb

          Don’t worry. He doesn’t get that himself either. He just tries to be clever.

        • Kodie’s comment below on how the decision is regrettable to some women is insightful – of course it goes off the rails when she tries to blame it on the church.

        • Kodie

          In your misguided brainwashed opinion. Abortion doesn’t need to be regrettable – it’s only when you believe in fantasy that you take the church’s advice and feel ashamed and batter yourself. That’s what church is all about.

        • Aram

          The Christian church has played a huge role in Western culture. That is what she means. And she’s right. The Church has a lot of bullshit cultural hangups to answer for; including your brain.

        • Kodie

          You’re pathologically oblivious.

        • Do you follow this rule yourself? Do you figure that you’re in no position to critique a woman’s decision to get an abortion?

        • Ol’ Hippy

          They go to hell, apparently something to be avoided.

        • Aram

          So I’ve heard. Very hot, gnashing of teeth, bones being crushed, no end. Sounds unpleasant.

        • Ol’ Hippy

          No wonder I never liked the god approach, because he must be really cruel to subject me to all the shit I had to endure growing up.

        • MNb

          And again christians attempt to use the ethical system they claim to reject: utilitarianism.
          They reject it for instance when considering cases that not having an abortion, but forced to give birth result in traumas.

        • Bair

          They also invoke utilitarian values whsn they say that it is moral to force a certain % of women to die from forced birth in order to save many more fetuses.

        • Ann Morgan

          So why isn’t it moral to force a certain percentage of men to die from forced kidney donation in order to save many more born children who need a transplant?

        • Plus, a lot of them aren’t willing to make any such exception, as they say how a fetus is conceived should not be held against it. For those that do, I’ve seen proposals that the women must have filed a police report charging rape. However as you said that might cause more rapes to get reported assuming abortion was allowed then but not in other circumstances.

        • Kodie

          I think there’s an idea here about the principle of the thing. I think fewer people are willing to make an exception for rape because it was pointed out that it violates the principle, that the embryo is a person, no matter what. There’s also the foolish idea, and without looking it up, I don’t want to put the words in the mouth of the wrong fucked-up politician, but that women who are raped are too traumatized physically to become pregnant. Besides being wrong biologically, this goes on again to the idea of what rape is and isn’t, and whether a woman forced to have sex against her will was subconsciously or overtly inviting and/or enjoying it to the point where she could get pregnant, ergo, not “true” rape, i.e., the pregnancy would prove that she was lying about having been raped, and she would get no exemption… as in, all pregnant women were not raped, so they can safely make that exception because all pregnant women are not going to fall into that category anyway.

          At this point, I just don’t know what they want more people for. What’s the point of every unique “soul” being born if the goal is to conform to thinking like every other idiot.

        • What’s the point of every unique “soul” being born if the goal is to conform to thinking like every other idiot.

          Many see themselves as building an army, and of course not every soldier gets to be an officer…

        • Kodie

          I think their stated goals contradict each other. They are building an army, when it’s their own children. When it’s poor children born to a single teenage mother, or whatever, well they want to find any way they can to get their hands on it and try to encourage adoption. On the surface, the abortion issue for them seems to be isolated from other factors, and every soul has the unique chance to finally cure cancer, or whatever triumph it was necessary for them to be born. From my point of view, all factors are related, so they discourage sex ed in school and available birth control with the ideal that if people can’t afford the consequences of sex, they will simply avoid having it, as the religious are trying so hard to enforce their morality through disincentive. Likewise, welfare programs that make it at all possible for a woman who finds herself pregnant and wishes to continue to term, and those who use it, those who have “too many kids”, are stigmatized and scrutinized as if they must be cheating…

          The idea is that anyone foolish enough to look at their own prospects and still risk pregnancy by having sex deserves whatever they get, and call it a “crisis,” as in “crisis pregnancy centers”. Why should it have to be such a crisis? The whole deal is that their beliefs depend on women having unprotected premarital sex anyway, and deprive her of any resources allowing her to make the choice what to do next according to her own conscience. If she can’t afford it, I say abortion is the right choice, but why can’t she afford it? Because they want to raise an army of conforming indoctrinated babies via pressuring pregnant women to believe they can manage to keep their babies if they want to, and then swiftly changing the message as soon as it’s too late. They depend on irresponsible behavior to run this scam, and use (and believe what they are saying) irrational emotional arguments, like “unique soul” “could be” “the next Einstein.” What if you are aborting the only human superhero ever? Look around you at how many abortions we could have afforded and still been waiting for this unique superhuman that’s destined to be hammered into shape as a Christian idiot anyway to form their army.

          TL;DR – they don’t make any fucking sense. Their arguments are in isolation from related arguments to the framework of having sex, having children, and raising children.

        • TL;DR – they don’t make any fucking sense. Their arguments are in isolation from related arguments to the framework of having sex, having children, and raising children.

          You’ll get no argument from me on that. I do particularly enjoy the Unborn Beethoven argument, as though they can furiously handwave the Unborn Hitler corollary away, which leads to hilariously inept attempts to argue that Hitler was born innocent and chose to sin his way into killing millions while Beethoven came prepackaged in the womb with musical genius.

        • TheNuszAbides

          indeed, Mozart and Beethoven in particular were having musical habits drilled into them by ambitious/hopeful family long before they could have been ‘tested for aptitude’ [if that sort of ‘talent detection’ were even particularly developed at the time]. bandying about words like ‘talent’ or ‘gift’ deserve more skepticism than they generally seem to get (not that such ‘affinities’, inclinations, interests etc. shouldn’t be nurtured within reason, of course).

        • TheNuszAbides

          also, stealing ‘Unborn Hitler corollary’ – terribly apt.

        • TheNuszAbides

          Their arguments are in isolation from related arguments to the framework of having sex, having children, and raising children.

          + googolplex ups

        • Ol’ Hippy

          I’m curious about all the psychopathic killers that aren’t born. Do they want to pay the costs raising, educating, then defending them when they go on a murderous rampage? What will they tell their victims families that they’re sorry for bringing a killer among us or pay restitution? There is always a reason just as good for not bringing a life aboard planet Earth as there is, maybe better.

        • Kodie

          This is where we start to get into a little eugenics, deciding who should be born according to the gifts they may or may not bring to humanity, if we’re able to tell before they are born. It’s still entirely up to the woman (all women) if they want to take a chance that their baby isn’t perfectly ordinary and redundant like we expect.

        • How does pregnancy due to rape violate the idea that a fetus is a person?

          I’m sure they might think that if you make an exception for rape, women can just claim they were raped to get one.

        • Kodie

          If the fetus is a person, then they shouldn’t be aborted either way. It may be my imagination, but it seems like allowing abortion for rape victims used to be more of a thing, a cognitive dissonance thing. Now they have come back to the idea of the principle, that if a fetus is a person, the manner of conception is entirely irrelevant to that ideal. If the manner of conception made some sort of difference, it was obvious they didn’t want to punish rape victims, but only women who had consensual sex and didn’t like their consequences. Since rape is still a matter of controversy among them, as in, their idea of rape is still some deviant stranger attacking a woman from the alley, and all date rapes and marital rapes, etc., don’t count as “rape” anyway, they were never going to make exceptions for rape victims if they could blame the victim for inviting that situation. And so, they already think most rape victims are claiming they got raped because they made a decision and regretted it afterwards, and have no sympathy for it.

        • Okay, I misunderstood. I agree.

        • I think the pro-lifers who reject abortion from rape are more consistent. How can you reject the mother’s concerns when she can’t afford another or doesn’t want a baby or is alone or lives in bad conditions … but say that her concerns are valid when she says that continuing with a pregnancy due to rape would be unbearable.

          Is it a person or isn’t it?

      • Anat

        Viability is when it becomes possible to terminate a pregnancy while preserving the life of the fetus. From the POV of women’s rights over their bodies that is an acceptable resolution – both birth and abortion terminate the pregnancy and preserve the pregnant person’s bodily autonomy.

        (Of course there is the question of who ends up raising the child born prematurely under these conditions, but that is a separate issue.)

        • Ol’ Hippy

          Who pays the cost, the figure can go over a million dollars today. Then the child has the cost of raising until 18 at least. Will they ensure the funds to see this through? Who will, the taxpayers?

        • I think you’re forgetting something. These are conservatives, remember? They love taxes.

          You need tax money to do good in the world? You’ve come to the right place.

        • Deliberately inducing an abortion at, say, 7 months as a way to satisfy both parties? Sounds like Solomon’s solution to the baby question.

    • I guess their reasoning is that in most pregnancies, women are responsible for the fetus being there (at least partly). Therefore they owe them a duty of care, rather than with organ donors. So assuming the fetus is a person, it’s got a right to not be arbitrarily killed. However, Judith Jarvis Thomson has pretty clearly eviscerated this in her essay “A Defense of Abortion”.

      • Bair

        Tort law.

        And we don’t demand that fathers have their bodily autonomy violated to save the lives of their offspring, although they are equally “guilty” of the criminally negligent act of having consensual sex.

        • Not criminally negligent, but liable to support in the same way. That is a separate issue anyway.

        • Bair

          Except pregnancy and parenting are not the same kind of support.

          We dont force people to parent.

          We don’t force parents to even donate one drop of blood to their children.

          Forced birth expressly deprives women of their bodily autonomy, harms them physically and sometimes kills them.

          And for what crime? Having sex while female?

        • We dont force people to parent.

          We don’t, although this isn’t symmetric. Someone else can pick up the parenting responsibilities, but when a woman is pregnant, no one but her can continue as an incubator.

        • Bair

          Yes, which is my point.

          Pro lifers like to state that pregnancy *is* parenting.

          Yet, we do not force bio parents to parent. Heck, we don’t force anyone to parent, not even adoptive parents – they are free to give up the kid.

          And most important of all, we do not deprive parents, bio or not, of their bodily autonomy, in order to save a child’s life. The government cannot compel a father to donate bone marrow to his dying child.

          So the pro life argument that pregnancy is just simple, ordinary parenting, with zero health risks and no infringement of bodily autonomy is pure bunk.

        • Aha–got it.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        Bulls**t. Unless the woman *wanted* to be pregnant, just having sex is NOT an invitation to be a host to a parasite for 9 months or thereabouts.

        Nasty-ass attempt at shaming, you a**hole.

        • Greg G.

          Michael is stating somebody else’s argument. His JJT reference refutes that argument.

        • Um, did you notice it wasn’t my argument? I’m just describing it.

  • Esquilax

    The thing that gets me is that all of the pro-forced birth advocates who trot out these “who are you to decide where the line is regarding abortion?’ arguments are more than happy to do exactly that themselves, just in the opposite direction. Tara evidently thinks that individual people aren’t fit to make such determinations, but she also says she’s anti-choice, meaning that she’s made precisely that determination; seems like they only want these big, haughty questions to be asked of the people that disagree with them.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      I think the pro-force birth advocates (unstated) position is “Who are you to make a decision that *I* don’t approve of?!?”

  • Kodie

    Seems like the idea that a basic nothing is already a “baby” is the projection from the norm status that most people who get pregnant wanted to be so, and the idea that someone would nip it in the bud goes against a lot of popular emotions – one of which is that a woman’s sole purpose is to birth babies. I read an article the other day about a woman who didn’t have any children being asked about that specifically when she does readings/special appearances to promote whatever else she’s written or is lecturing about. I don’t know this person, but I don’t think we can look at abortion totally without noticing society’s regard for all women and whether they should have babies because you think they should, even if they’ve done a good job of preventing having them so far.

    We’re taught as little girls that this is what we want. I don’t know why, but talk about indoctrination. Women who don’t grow up to be mothers are seen in a different way; women who do grow up to be mothers are regarded differently too! If you have children like you must and should, or probably will, you’re treated as lesser, and if you don’t have children like you must and should have, you’re treated like you have some kind of disease as a woman, and no matter what else you can accomplish, you’re not fulfilling your potential. Having a baby is so idolized by the culture that you can’t even escape the question, so people who are against abortion think, of course it’s sick. You were just about to fulfill your potential as a breeding cow, and you limited yourself intentionally! People who want to have children also tend to think of their embryo as their child from very early on, and expecting this child to show up one day. Everyone is happy for them. They are happy for themselves. To break from this ideal is just upsetting for some people.

    And then I think of tribal ancient cultures, where a fertile woman is kept like property because, think, this is the only way to regenerate the population. She will be pregnant almost a year, and only bear one offspring that may not even live. It may even live and kill her, so what. And yet, cultures like such do not prize baby girls as the future of their tribe. We live in the modern world with so many people, it is perhaps in the ancient mentality that we can’t let even one potential person go to waste. They use terrible arguments, like, what if you aborted another Einstein or Mozart.. I say, look around. How do we stifle such talent as it already may be, most people don’t have that talent, and we don’t do a lot as a society to encourage it to blossom. Especially if we’re sending girls home from school for wearing the wrong clothes, from distracting the valuable boys from their studies, especially if we’re not able to offer a superior education to every child in every city in every state, regardless of their income or neighborhood, and especially if some parents are so paranoid about other people having a grip on their kids that these boneheads choose to teach them at home what little they know.

    It’s an emotional racket – they want every young woman to feel so guilty about having sex that they are required to fulfill their obligation to the end, and if they can’t afford it, because society often votes to make raising a child unaffordable, they get to scoop these newborns up and redistribute them to “good Christian homes”. At this point, I have to reiterate that I don’t think abortion is the shame even pro-choicers would like to say it is. I guess birth control is the simpler option, to prevent pregnancies so they won’t have to be aborted, but I would not like any focus on reducing abortions to be a gain of any sort. If you do it soon enough and without distraction, what’s the problem? If you’re in favor of a woman’s choice, I don’t like any chatter about how there’s still something icky about it and we’d rather have none if we could prevent all those unwanted pregnancies in the first place. I am not in favor of any side of this choice dictating or suggesting how many times a woman has to think in order to weigh some heavy decision. We should know better by now – work out the numbers and see if it works. If your birth control failed, it’s not a “sign”. If you are still in school and want to do lots of other things, be realistic. Having babies is so overly romanticized in our culture that I’d like to see a lot more of people being realistic about it, and what it costs, not just in money, but in time, and what other life sacrifices need to be made to fit it in, not even just for mothers but fathers also.

    • MNb

      “We’re taught as little girls that this is what we want. I don’t know why.”
      I do.
      Armies need young men willing to die. Run out of young men and you run out of armies. So ambitious governments (to say it friendly) need high fertility rates.
      Can’t have stubborn women in the way.

      • Ol’ Hippy

        This explains a lot. War is why we need lot’s of children. I never saw it in this light. Thanx

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Also explains the Quiverfull movement…

    • TheNuszAbides

      like, what if you aborted another Einstein or Mozart.. I say, look around. How do we stifle such talent as it already may be, most people don’t have that talent, and we don’t do a lot as a society to encourage it to blossom. Especially if we’re sending girls home from school for wearing the wrong clothes, from distracting the valuable boys from their studies, especially if we’re not able to offer a superior education to every child in every city in every state, regardless of their income or neighborhood, and especially if some parents are so paranoid about other people having a grip on their kids that these boneheads choose to teach them at home what little they know.

      + gajillion ups

  • AdamHazzard

    Tara’s argument, like many Christian objections to legal abortion, seems to assume a sort of Augustinian essentialism, or the naive equivalent of it — the idea that humanity is an “essence” that inheres in the fetus from conception, that this “essence” is a fundamental moral object, and that abortion is inevitably a murder of the human “essence” even in a case where the embryo consists of a handful of barely-differentiated cells.

    Unfortunately for this point of view, human beings aren’t immaterial ghosts that inhabit and possess fertilized human egg cells.

    • Steven Watson

      Augustine held, if I recall correctly, that the soul arrived one month after conception. Augustine was a loony but not as big a loony as his modern day successors.

      • MNb

        Thomas of Aquino thought (I coincidentally looked it up yesterday) that the soul arrived during conception, which lasted 90 days according to him.

        • Steven Watson

          Really? Knock me over with a feather! That makes the current crowd even more fruit loop than I thought 🙂

        • MNb

          Really.

          http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=4295

          “The conception of the male finishes on the fortieth day and that of the woman on the ninetieth, as Aristotle says in the IX Book of the Animals” (Aquinas, Commentary on III Sentences 3:5:2).”

        • Steven Watson

          Lovely; many thanks!

  • Ah, and here we are, back at the ultimately irrelevant ‘personhood’ argument. It doesn’t matter if that single cell is person. It doesn’t matter if the ‘person’ in my womb 9 and a half months developed.

    Nobody has the right to use my body against my will. Not a full grown adult. And not a fetus.

    There is no question that a fully grown adult male is a person. And if one attempts to use my body against my will, I can defend myself with any level of force necessary up to and including lethal.

    It is my body. I decide who gets to use it, and for how long.

    Now, if the fetus can be removed safely in a manner that keeps it alive, I’m all for that and it should be the method used instead of killing it. But it’s still my body. And if I withdraw my consent to its use, then whoever is using it needs to GTFO.

    There is no ‘pro-life’ argument that doesn’t work equally well as a ‘pro-rape’ argument.

    • RichardSRussell

      Bravo!

      We do have a word for taking over women’s bodies against their will. It’s called slavery.

    • Steven Watson

      A googolplex of ups and all the next twelve months internetz. 🙂

  • Deven Kale

    I think that the argument of “personhood” in itself is flawed, because nobody agrees on what it means. Some believe that every being that has human DNA is a “person,” others believe that individuals with severe mental retardation are not “persons”. This also begs the ridiculous argument of “Does that mean a tumor is a person, since it has human DNA?” So arguing for “personhood” just doesn’t work.

    The best argument I’ve discovered took me a while to come to, but it gets down to the root of what the majority of people value when it comes to determining what a “person” actually is, and that is consciousness. I came to this after considering when most people consider killing an individual to be moral: severe brain damage, anencephaly, long-term coma, etc. Conditions in which an individual (likely) is not able to retain their own consciousness. There are rare cases where such a case is taken to court, Terry Schiavo is the most well-known example, but convictions are almost non-existent.

    At that point, the question then becomes which individuals should be able to make the decision to terminate that non-conscious life (be sure to make the distinction between unconscious and non-conscious, they’ll try to catch you on that). I’ve found this better directs the conversation in a more reasonable direction and avoids the whole “You’re killing a baby!” argument before it even starts.

    • Bair

      If a brainless zygote is a real person for sure, then anencephalics and parasitic twins also qualify.

      • Deven Kale

        Exactly my point. That’s why I believe arguing for “personhood” is pointless. It eventually devolves into statements such as yours, which make the person making that argument seem petty. This is why I always frame the argument around consciousness instead, because the ridiculous arguments almost always come from the other side.

        • Bair

          If only they would not lie or misunderstand the concept of sentience.

          Did you know that while sleeping you are as non sentient as that zygote?

          Yep. And, every single zygote already has the capacity for sentience “because it is human”

          So see, zygotes are as sentient and sapient as you or I. Pro lifeogic 101.

        • Ann Morgan

          **Did you know that while sleeping you are as non sentient as that zygote?**

          Really? That would be pretty damn sentient, since I can think about orbital mechanics and algebra in my dreams, and force my arm and hand to move to pry open my eyelids while sleeping, because I realize I’m having a nightmare and want to wake up.

        • Greg G.

          I bet zygotes have dreams where they think they are awake.

    • Rudy R

      The use of “Personhood” by theists is akin to their use of the term “Intelligent Designer”, in that personhood is a secular term for “soul” as ID is for God, and is just another Pro-birther strategy in trying to rationalize their position when debating those that are Pro-choice.

      • MNb

        Of course. The same with mind, which is something material or something immaterial just according their needs. When they would start using unambiguous language their “logic” would for a large part fall apart immediately. Neil Carter, who is reviewing a certain Keller, gives some fine examples.

        • Rudy R

          Or the brain-mind connection, with mind being the substitute for a soul. Theists have yet to demonstrate that a human mind can exist without a brain. Without the mind, you have no soul.

  • MNb

    “give me a substitute”
    Let’s ask biology.

    Gametes. Zygote. Morula. Blastula/blastocyst.
    Afterwards it’s just called Embryo.

  • RichardSRussell

    I’ve discovered that those who get all weepy-eyed over “unborn babies” seem to pause for a little bit when you refer to “unborn teenagers”, even tho it’s no less inaccurate than the phrase they prefer.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      Fun! 🙂

  • Speedwell

    My old copy of Beethoven sonatas, produced by human minds and human hands, and with a human’s years of attachment to that particular copy, is more human than anything that has no mind, has been created automatically by a biological process, and has at best a few months of, and at worst no, value to its possessor. The slide rules my father used as an engineering student more than 50 years ago, that he left me when he died, and that I now amuse myself with now that I am also an engineering student, have more actual, meaningful “heritage” than something whose DNA is only half mine. If I were to find myself someday, by accident or illness, as dependent and nonfunctioning as a fetus, I would not want my family to have any qualms about “aborting” me, since I don’t expect them to beggar themselves keeping me around like a knick-knack for sentimental reasons.

    • Miguel de la Pena

      You’re literally arguing that music is more ‘human’ than a human. Brilliant!

      • Speedwell

        A fetus is not “a human”, it’s just “human”. Other things that are also human without being “a human”: my menstrual period, my hair, my right kidney that had problems and needed to be removed for the sake of my health, and so forth. And yes, a piece of music is a deliberate creation of the human mind and hands and a part of human culture and history that would be a huge loss to humanity if it was destroyed, and a fetus is a biological by-product of a sperm cell meeting an egg cell under the right conditions without active participation even being necessary, that possesses no human mind or human history, that would affect nothing if the body discharged it (as the body very frequently does without the woman even knowing she was ever pregnant).

        • Miguel de la Pena

          It sounds like a condition for being a human, that you’re suggesting, include affecting human history/culture, You may want to reconsider that.

          Things like your cycle, a kidney, hair, etc. are qualities of human beings but aren’t human beings in and of themselves. A fetus/zygote is different. Left to develop/grow, a kidney will not eventually become an adult human. A fetus/zygote on the other hand… it’s just another name for a developmental stage of human beings.

        • Speedwell

          No, I do not want to reconsider that. I know quite well what I said and implied. Left to develop and grow, a fetus/zygote will not develop either, unless it remains implanted in a fully mature human woman. Remember her? She’s the one who counts.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “Left to develop and grow, a fetus/zygote will not develop either, unless…”

          Unless… things go along as they have for most everyone else on the planet.

          I’m not sure how the importance of the mother is even remotely related to whether or not a fetus/zygote is a human being, but it sure sounds emotional. : )

        • You’re stating the Argument from Potential. It fails. Yes, the zygote will be inherently valuable. Right now it ain’t.

          If you lump single cells into the definition of “human being,” then it has very little meaning anymore. You’ll want to say, “Surely we can agree that killing an innocent human being is wrong” and I will, of course, disagree.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Lol, no, you need me to make the argument but that’s not what im saying at all.

          “If you lump single cells into the definition of “human being,” then it has very little meaning anymore.”
          Little meaning to who?

          You’re arguing that a human is comprised of a certain amount of cells.

        • MNb

          Yes. Are you saying that humans are not comprised of cells? See, from zygote to adult the amount of cells is constantly increasing. That’s exactly what the spectrum argument is about – a gradual transformation from a human non-person to a human person.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I hear what you’re saying, that humans develop on a spectrum. My point is that any point used to differentiate ‘non-persons’ from ‘persons’ is arbitrary.

        • Greg G.

          No it isn’t. We can distinguish blue from orange even if we cannot distinguish the point when blue turns to green. We can distinguish a zygote with no brain from a person with a fully functioning brain.

          But that is beside the point. Nobody has the right to live off an unwilling host. If your brother has complete liver failure and needs a transplant to live, he cannot force you to give up a part of your liver, even if you are the only compatible donor in the world..

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I don’t see color perception as a very good analogy for human development, but to speak to it, regardless of which color is perceived, there is no doubt that some type of color is perceived throughout the transition. At no point is there a question of whether or not were dealing with a color. As with human development, looking different from more developed humans doesn’t mean a zygote isn’t a human.

        • You might want to ask yourself what it means when you can’t face your opponent’s argument squarely and must play word games to save face. We can disagree on where blue turns into green, but we surely agree that blue is not green.

          http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/crossexamined/files/2014/01/Blue-and-Green.jpg

        • MNb

          As most christians that enter this blog you prefer to stick to your favourite lie, no matter how often it is exposed.

          “doesn’t mean a zygote isn’t a human”
          Nobody claimed that a zygote isn’t a human.
          A single cell from my skin also is human.
          The claim is that a zygote is not a human person, liar. And for personhood the color analogy is excellent.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          A single cell from your skin is considered a human being? Awesome argument!

        • What’s your problem? Modify that single skin cell to make it totipotent, and then it’s a “human being.” (Or so some Christians would have you believe.)

        • Miguel de la Pena

          The point made was that unmodified skin cells are human beings. You don’t see a problem with that?

        • And I was talking about making that little tweak to make them totipotent, which is insignificant in the big picture. If the totipotent skin cell is a human being, does the skin cell awaiting that process count for nothing?

        • MNb

          Nope. I wrote “A single cell from my skin also is human.” What’s the problem with that?
          That’s it’s not a human being?
          Then why is a zygote?
          Why is BobS’ “modify that single skin cell to make it totipotent, and then it’s a “human being”” invalid or irrelevant?
          It seems like you can’t answer these questions and that makes your “a zygote is a human” void.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          When your argument relies on word games to confuse a definition, it’s a weak argument. A skin cell may be ‘human’, but the use of the word here is merely descriptive (i.e. from a human). A ‘human’ hair is not a ‘human being’. This is easily differentiated – unless one is trying to justify killing human beings, which is the case here.

        • MNb

          “When your argument relies on word games to confuse a definition, it’s a weak argument.”
          Agreed. That’s exactly why I asked

          Then why is a zygote (a human being)?
          Why is BobS’ “modify that single skin cell to make it totipotent, and then it’s a “human being”” invalid or irrelevant?

          Thanks for not answering them. That confirms my conclusion:

          It seems like you can’t answer these questions and that makes your “a zygote is a human” void.
          See – that’s the problem. You are the one who has to provide the definition of “human being” – with the accent on being and thus far haven’t even tried.

        • MNb

          Yup. As awesome as claiming that a zygote is a human being. You are the one who defends this, not me.

        • Greg G.

          Color is perceived by the differential response of pigments in the eye, even in the human eye so the difference in colors is objective. Of course you don’t want to talk about that.

          Several years ago, scientists were able to clone a sheep. If scientists were able to do that with a human stem cell, then every human stem cell would be a human, according to your reasoning. That would put you in the position of arguing against not cloning every one of them, if you were consistent.

          That is, unless you are only using your argument to oppress women who have sex.

        • Arbitrary? Not arbitrary as in flipping a coin. Maybe you mean subjective.

          But of course lots of determinations are subjective. Why 18 for voting? Surely there are 16-year-olds who are responsible and thoughtful enough to vote. But if everyone agrees that babies should not be eligible and 30-year-olds should be, you can then argue about where the line should be drawn.

          Which is parallel to the discussion about personhood.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Sorry, but the majority opinion doesn’t dictate the reality of the human organism. It’s as meaningful as suggesting that the popular opinion can determine that life begins at 2 years of age.

        • We never have the truth; we just have our best approximations to it. You seem to imagine that we have some other route than we humans doing our fallible best to figure things out.

          Laws (indirectly and sort of) reflect the majority opinion, so don’t imagine that public opinion is completely removed from this topic.

          And I’m not sure where we’re going with this subthread. It’s been a month–what’s the topic being argued?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          well, the Supreme Court used ‘viablity’ as its measure.

          why can’t you accept it?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          They were wrong. : )

        • Greg G.

          Not a certain amount of cells but a certain arrangement of cells that allow the brain to produce a person.

          A person that is brain dead is ready to be an organ donor because the brain is no longer capable of supporting the function of a mind.

          A fetus has not yet developed a brain capable of supporting a mind so it is not yet “brain alive”.

          But even a person with a mind that requires a host to survive does not have the right to an unwilling host.

          If there was a god who doesn’t like abortion, he could just keep making people out of dirt.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Eh, not exactly. People who are brain dead are still people. It sounds like you’re making an argument from potential in that someone who is brain dead will ‘potentially’ be dead – so they’re considered dead even though they aren’t?

          God does keep making people out of dirt, we are star dust, right?

        • Greg G.

          There was a doctor and a patient who wanted to perform a body transplant. Medical science was concerned about the ethics of doing it though the man’s progressive disease will kill him anyway. He was hoping to extend his life with the procedure. His body would be dead but his brain would survive. But when your brain is dead, the function that produces your mind is gone and so are you. The fact that your body’s organs function is a separate matter.

          Your organs can be transplanted into several different people and go on living but you don’t.

          We are made of stardust but an omnipotence could bypass the whole reproduction process to prevent abortion if it wanted there to be no abortion.

          But about half of all pregnancies, or fertilization events, end in spontaneous abortion from causes such as lethal mutations or failure to attach in the uterus with nobody being aware of the event. That number makes the number of elective abortions insignificant. Maybe you should make like Abraham and argue with God that he should spare them. If you can argue that 10 of those embryos are innocent, maybe God will stop spontaneous abortions.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “an omnipotence could bypass the whole reproduction process to prevent abortion if it wanted there to be no abortion.”
          – I realize this is going a little off-topic here, but you’reright; and he doesn’t. The question is ‘why not?’. If there is an omnipotent/omniscient being, there are bound to be things that we don’t fully understand, because, well, we aren’t omniscient.

        • Susan

          If there is an omnipotent/omniscient being, there are bound to be things that we don’t fully understand, because, well, we aren’t omniscient.

          Then, on what basis can a human assert or accept the existence of an omnipotent/omniscient being?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Logic. : )

        • Susan

          Logic.

          Show it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          MAgic

          FTFY

        • What’s hard to understand? God obviously doesn’t care much about spontaneous abortion since he does so many of them.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          well, it’s possible this god *enjoys* spontaneous abortion….

        • He enjoys the smell of burning flesh, so with this guy, who knows?

        • MNb

          Ah, the ultimate apologist cop out. Whenever the apologist meets something he doesn’t like he goes “we can’t fully understand, so your argument is invalid”.

        • MR

          we can’t fully understand whether your god approves of legalized abortion or not.

          You’d think it would have been clearly spelled out in the Old Stories. A curious omission.

        • Greg G.

          Somewhere in the old scriptures, if you kill someone in a fight, you get stoned. If a pregnant woman loses her baby in a fight, it costs the guilty party 30 shekels.

        • MR

          I’m sensing a spectrum here.

        • Greg G.

          This passage immediately follows the passage that lets a slaveowner beat a slave to death as long as the slave suffers a day or two before death comes.

          Exodus 21:22-25
          22 When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. 23 If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe.

          It turns out that the set price of thirty shekels is in the following verses in the case of when an ox gores somebody else’s slave. The slave doesn’t even get the money, the owner does.

          EDIT: It seems that there is no penalty for causing the miscarriage of an unmarried woman.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          So, you’re saying we’re capable of acquiring all knowledge and understanding all things?

        • MNb

          What I’m saying is that your standard for deciding if we can understand something or not is just your personal preference – what makes you feel good. I have an objective standard.
          What I’m also saying is that if your standard is just your personal preference I can maintain that you can’t know whether your god approves of legalized abortion or not – that’s my personal preference and it’s not any worse than yours, unless you think yourself more important than me, which is a very unchristian thought.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Lol, if you’re using an objective standard for understanding all knowledge, I’d love to hear about it.

          “So every time you bring up god…”

          Bear in mind, you brought Him up.

        • MNb

          “Lol, if you’re using an objective standard for understanding all knowledge, I’d love to hear about it.”
          Try the scientific method. When the conclusions following from deduction at the one hand and induction at the other are the same then you can say we have gained understanding and knowledge.
          Good job – you just laughed at the very method that allows you to spout your nonsense on internet.

          “”So every time you bring up god…”
          Bear in mind, you brought Him up.”
          Perhaps I did, perhaps you did. That’s irrelevant. My point still stands.

          “If there is an omnipotent/omniscient being, there are bound to be things that we don’t fully understand,”
          Then you can’t know whether your god approves of legalized abortion or not.

        • Greg G.

          If God were omniscient, too, he would know that he could he could prevent suffering as easily as not preventing suffering. He would know that the suffering is therefore unnecessary. He would also know that ignoring unnecessary suffering when it could be easily prevented is sadistic.

          Your excuse doesn’t work. Pull your head out of the sand. If the Problem of Suffering doesn’t keep a Christian up at night, the Christian doesn’t understand it.

        • The Christian may say that suffering serves a purpose. I would say that God could prevent gratuitous suffering (example: Bambi dies a slow death in the forest where no humans would ever learn of this and profit from it). That he doesn’t then becomes the Problem of Evil.

        • Greg G.

          To make that claim, the Christian must surrender omnipotence, benevolence, or both. What purpose can an omnipotence achieve with suffering that cannot be achieved without suffering? If God is omnipotent, he is either indifferent or sadistic, and not benevolent in either case. Many people, and even some dogs I have known, would wave a magic wand to prevent suffering. An omnipotence wouldn’t need a wand. If God is impotent to prevent suffering, welcome to the club of beings who cannot do that, as it would disqualify him from God hood or dilute the definition of it.

        • MNb

          “What purpose can an omnipotence achieve with suffering that cannot be achieved without suffering?”
          Who knows? Not you and me, but that doesn’t make it impossible.

          http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/evil/

          Section 2.
          Another point is that the PoE is not an argument against polytheism.
          I prefer the inductive version as it allows me to focus on clear examples like Elizabeth Fritzl and the Japanese tsunami of 2011.

        • Greg G.

          That article seems to be arguing against its own definitions. The PoE is only effective against a truly omnipotent being who is also benevolent, like the Christian God of many people’s faith. “Truly omnipotent” would be capable of achieving any purpose with or without suffering. If the God cannot achieve a purpose without causing suffering, then the meaning of “omnipotence” is diminished to mean “not omnipotent”.

          If God is really omnipotent, then it can achieve any purpose without suffering, so the suffering is superfluous. Allowing superfluous suffering is either indifference or malicious. We don’t need to worry about what “morally perfect” means. The omnipotent God who allows unnecessary suffering is not benevolent.

          Then it comes down to how one defines a “God”. The existence of suffering rules out the omnipotent, benevolent kind. How far from omnipotence can a being be and still be a god? If the being is malicious, is it a god or just a demon? If the being is indifferent to the suffering of sentient beings, how irrelevant can a being be and still be called a god?

        • MNb

          It also comes down how to define omnipotent etc. Then we get silly questions like “can god lift a stone heavier than himself?”, which I’ve never been able to take seriously, because it looks too much like the amount of angels dancing on the tip of a needle.

        • Greg G.

          “Can God make a black hole so big even he can’t escape from it? ”

          I don’t have a problem with restricting omnipotence to the logically possible. Sophisticated apologists might make omnipotence to be the most powerful being. Then we can ask, “Is it logically possible for that omnipotence to eradicate polio from the universe?” “Does God have the benevolence to eradicate polio?”

        • adam

          I do if they are going to claim omnipotence.

          If they are going to claim that an omnipotent being created the entire universe, created mankind by breathing into a mud model, then there should be no limits.

          It is like the word ‘faith’, if we are going to use it in a biblical sense, we should be using the definition from the bible.

        • Greg G.

          Matt Dillahunty talked about that on The Atheist Experience last Sunday (December 13, 2015, for readers in the distant future).

          Some Christians, theists, theologians, apologists, and philosophers have realized that some claims of omnipotence are impossible, so they soften it. I think that means one should tailor the arguments to fit the beliefs of the other person in the argument. You can’t argue someone out of a belief they don’t hold.

          Some Christians, who don’t actually read the Bible, may adopt ideas from the Christians mentioned above yet assume the ideas are from the Bible. These are the Christians who need to be shown what the Bible actually says.

          Any theist who prays for the alleviation of suffering believes that God is capable of doing that and that the suffering is not necessary. Why worship a god that would allow preventable unnecessary suffering in the first place?

        • adam

          I like Matt, I will have to check it out.

          Some Christians, theists, theologians, apologists, and philosophers have
          realized that some claims of omnipotence God are impossible, so they soften
          it.

          FTFY

          ” I think that means one should tailor the arguments to fit the beliefs
          of the other person in the argument. You can’t argue someone out of a
          belief they don’t hold.”

          I agree and this makes sense,
          But what I find is:

          “Some Christians, who don’t actually read the Bible, may adopt ideas from
          the Christians mentioned above yet assume the ideas are from the Bible.
          These are the Christians who need to be shown what the Bible actually
          says.”

          Many if not most of the average christians I converse with, personally and here dont examine their beliefs, but just accept what they WANT the bible to say (or even just what they have been told the bible says). I find this most true for the New Christians who ‘know’ ‘Jesus’ as a personal relationship.

          There is often too much cognitive dissonance to determine what they really believe.

          So to begin with, they never examine what a personal relationship really means.

          Almost all claim it is unjust that the innocent get punished for the crimes of another, yet they accept original sin and the substitory Jesus, without question.

          Virtually no one believes in Jesus when he says not one jot or tittle, and only the cruelest believe in eternal torture, again Jesus.

          “Why worship a god that would allow preventable unnecessary suffering in the first place?”

          “Because they must deserve it!”

          Belief in a cruel god………….

        • adam

          “It also comes down how to define omnipotent etc.”

          omnipotence
          noun om·nip·o·tence äm-ˈni-pə-tən(t)s
          Definition of OMNIPOTENCE
          1: the quality or state of being omnipotent
          2: an agency or force of unlimited power

          I find the amount of angels dancing on a pin head to be interesting and telling.

          If angels are infinitely small, it says that they are most likely imaginary.

        • What I hear you saying is that if God wants us to gain some understanding that we normally get through difficult experience, he could just poof it into our heads. And if hard-won experience is more powerful than simply poofing that bit of wisdom into our heads, he could simply poof the powerful-ness along with it.

          I agree.

        • Greg G.

          Exactly. Some people suffer and become embittered from it. If God wanted to teach something with the suffering, he could transfer the knowledge through fruit like the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. There could be a Tree of Knowledge of Not Putting Your Hand on a Hot Stove.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “He would know that the suffering is therefore unnecessary.”
          Why do you believe suffering is unnecessary? This is a strange idea.

        • Greg G.

          What can suffering do that an omnipotent being cannot do? An omnipotent should be able to accomplish any wish with or without suffering. If it chooses for there to be suffering, it is unnecessary, and therefore sadistic. Sadistic and benevolent are at opposite ends of the spectrum.

          Is your God omnipotent and sadistic or benevolent and impotent. The existence of suffering means it can’t be both. It could be neither or it could not exist.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I was actually reading up on that argument the other day.

          “If it chooses for there to be suffering, it is unnecessary…”

          Can you share how you established that any suffering is unnecessary? What criteria are you using to determine this? Simply stating so doesn’t make it so. Do share.

        • You’re saying that all suffering must be necessary? It seems like an easy counterexample is the deer that gets injured deep in the forest. Unable to tend for itself, it gets weaker over the days from hunger until rats and birds begin to eat it while it is still alive.

          That is gratuitous evil. There is no value to humans since this unknown torment benefits no one. The naturalistic explanation has no problem with it; not so the idea of an omnibenevolent god.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Sounds like you’ve described a great meal that was prepared for some rats and birds. Animal suffering/torment is a whole other topic on it’s own.

        • I just gave an example of gratuitous suffering. No all-good, omnipotent god would allow that. Conclusion: such a god doesn’t act in our world.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          You’re offering an argument from ignorance. You don’t know that what the animal in your example went through was gratuitous.

        • I’m assuming that gratuitous in this context means “did nothing useful for people.” If the deer died in agony in the forest so that no one knew, it was gratuitous.

          No all-good, omnipotent god would allow such a thing.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Ah, I see. I’m going off of the actual definition of ‘uncalled for, lacking good reason, unwarranted’; meaning, it wouldn’t be considered gratuitous without adding the condition of benefiting humans; which doesn’t seem to make sense unless you’re creating your own definitions to make your point work.

        • adam

          “Ah, I see. I’m going off of the actual definition of ‘uncalled for,
          lacking good reason, unwarranted’; meaning, it wouldn’t be considered
          gratuitous without adding the condition of benefiting humans;”

          Is there suffering in ‘heaven’?

          Is THIS the best that YOUR ‘god’ can do?

        • Greg G.

          I don’t think the suffering needs to benefit humans. If the suffering has no necessary redeeming value whatsoever then it is gratuitous. If there is a god that is actually omnipotent, then the suffering is not necessary even if it has a redeeming value.

          If the omnipotence prefers there to be unnecessary suffering, the omnipotence is a sadist.

        • adam

          “If the omnipotence prefers there to be unnecessary suffering, the omnipotence is a sadist.”

          Hear, hear….

        • Right: there is no moral reason for the deer to die in agony in the forest, since there is no human benefit.

        • adam

          “Right: there is no moral reason for the deer to die in agony in the forest, since there is no human benefit.”

          Well unless Miguel’s ‘god’ enjoys that kind of thing.

        • Greg G.

          Then you should address the suffering/torment part instead of the gourmet meal for rats and birds that you are relishing. Couldn’t an omnipotence have produced a better meal for them without the gratuitous suffering?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Sure – your assumption that the suffering is gratuitous… can you give me sufficient info on why this was (or any suffering for that matter) gratuitous?

        • adam

          “Sure – your assumption that the suffering is gratuitous… can you give me sufficient info on why this was (or any suffering for that matter) gratuitous?”

        • Greg G.

          I have explained this to you more than once. I did it HERE.

          This not an assumption. It is the implication of the definition of the word “omnipotent” in a world where suffering exists.

          If there is an omnipotent being, it could achieve any outcome desired with or without any suffering. It could prevent all suffering as easily as not doing it, or it is not omnipotent. If it chooses the suffering option, the suffering is gratuitous. That includes anything from a bleating antelope having its guts eaten by a pride of lions to a paper cut.

          If there is an omnipotent being, all suffering is gratuitous. It would then be a choice that the omnipotence has made which is more like sadism.

          If suddenly there was no suffering in the world, it would show that there is a being capable of stopping it. But there would still be a question of why it allowed suffering up to that point.

          A sadistic god shouldn’t need defending.

          I have asked you, “What can suffering do that an omnipotent being could not do without the suffering?” You haven’t answered. If the answer was something necessary, then the suffering wouldn’t be completely gratuitous. But it would mean that there was no omnipotence.

        • adam

          ” can you give me sufficient info on why this was (or any suffering for that matter) gratuitous?”

          Well not for a ‘god’ that enjoys suffering so much.

        • adam

          ” Animal suffering/torment is a whole other topic on it’s own. ”

          Meaning what?
          That it is beyond the powers of your ‘god’?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          That’s a strange assumption from the notion that animal suffering is different from human suffering.

        • adam

          “That’s a strange assumption from the notion that animal suffering is different from human suffering.”

          How so?

        • Susan

          Animal suffering/torment is a whole other topic on its own.

          Of course, it isn’t. The topic is suffering.

        • adam

          “Sounds like you’ve described a great meal that was prepared for some rats and birds.”

          No just birds….

        • MNb

          It’s the same as “my trousers being blue is unnecessary for me being a teacher”. Whether my trousers are blue or not doesn’t influence the outcome – me being a teacher. That’s the criterium.
          In the same way suffering or not doesn’t influence the outcome – any wish accomplished by an omnipotent being.

        • Rudy R

          And simply stating your criteria for necessary suffering doesn’t make it so. What sets your criteria apart from others? Cuz God said so?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I see. So you’re saying the criteria is basically whatever anyone wants it to mean. Cool.

        • Rudy R

          My criteria is based on secular humanism and naturalism. I’m assuming your criteria is based on a gods will, which is mysterious and unknowable.

        • Greg G.

          If there is no omnipotent being, then pain and discomfort are necessary motivators for animals to make them avoid detrimental behaviors, as well as for pleasure and comfort to promote beneficial behavior.

          If suffering can do something , it is logically possible to do it. If a being cannot do that something, then it is not omnipotent. An omnipotence could do whatever it took to prevent suffering as easily as not doing. Suffering serves no purpose that an omnipotent being could not do without suffering. Since there is suffering, it serves no necessary purpose that an omnipotent being could not a achieve without suffering. Suffering exists therefore if there is an omnipotent being, it chooses that animals suffer unnecessarily which implies that the omnipotence is sadistic and not benevolent.

          There are many entities who would prevent suffering if they could. Unfortunately, these beings are not omnipotent gods.

          The existence of suffering proves the omnipotent, benevolent God of most Christian faiths does not exist. You should stop pretending that it does.

          Before you demand that I explain this again, answer the question I started with in the previous post.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “Suffering serves no purpose that an omnipotent being could not do without suffering.”

          This premise is flawed. It presupposes the moral absolute that if God can prevent it then He should. How is this moral absolute justifiably true?

        • Greg G.

          No, a moral absolute has nothing to do with it. If the suffering exists and an omnipotent being could prevent it, not “would” or “should”, but could prevent it, then the suffering is gratuitous. It serves no purpose other than possibly the amusement of the omnipotence.

          Suffering, if omnipotence esists, is gratuitous whether the omnipotent being is benevolent, indifferent, sadistic, morally obligated, or not morally obligated.

        • Greg G.

          And another thing. If that omnipotence was the creator of the beings that suffer, then the ability to suffer was put in by the omnipotence, which makes it a deliberate act and therefore, maliciously sadistic. If an omnipotent creator has the option of making a world with suffering and one without, then a choice was made for the suffering, only as everything else could be the same.

        • adam

          “This premise is flawed.”

          Will there be suffering in ‘heaven’?

          Why not?

        • adam

          “Can you share how you established that any suffering is unnecessary?”

          It is obvious that the “God of Abraham” enjoys suffering, so it is necessary for it’s entertainment and enjoyment.

          The question then is WHAT KIND of human being worships such a creature?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Lol, “it’s obvious”. Sure.

        • adam

          It is.

        • Susan

          I was actually reading up on that argument the other day.

          What did you learn?

          Can you share how you established that any suffering is unnecessary?

          You’re claiming that there’s a triple-omni agent that pulled reality out of its metaphysical ear metaphysical nothingness and sustains it, aren’t you?

          “God is good by definition” is not a moral argument. So, what is “God” and why is it “good”?

          There’s no logic that leads to your belief. Not until you show that suffering is necessary. Your claim depends on it.

          Also, all the evidence points against it. I can’t think of a morsel of moral discussion that doesn’t somehow lead back, no matter how indirectly, to the suffering of beings with nervous systems.

          “If you cut us, do we not bleed?”

          Worse for your claim, it has no explanatory power.

          Blech!

          If you are going to claim what you’re claiming and all you have is “You can’t prove it’s not true.”, then not only does your reasoning seem riddled with fallacies, but your rationalizations seem to be very cold-blooded.

        • MR

          “You can’t prove it’s not true.”

          We seem to be getting quite a lot of that lately.

          To me it’s pretty remarkable to be sold from one side on “God is Love,” only to be told on the other that the suffering of an innocent beast may be necessary. Doesn’t pass the smell test again. Or maybe I should say lemon test. It’s like a car salesman telling you that the huge dent in the fender is a feature.

        • adam

          “Can you share how you established that any suffering is unnecessary?”

          It is OBVIOUSLY necessary for the bible ‘god’s’ enjoyment and feeding of its ego.

        • Greg G.

          He keeps asking that question and I keep answering it. I keep asking him to show that any suffering is necessary if his omnipotent god exists, but he can’t give an example.

        • adam
        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Okay….find me ANY moral and ethical framework where your position is valid but not applicable to a being of greater power.

        • Pofarmer

          You do realize you’re deep into wishful thinking territory here?

        • “If you lump single cells into the definition of “human being,” then it has very little meaning anymore.”

          Little meaning to who?

          To just about anyone you’re going to try to argue with. “You agree that no innocent human being should be killed, right?” brings to mind a particular definition of “human being.” You change that definition to something ridiculous, and the assent you get will vanish. (But of course if you change the definition covertly, you might just get away with it! Sneaky.)

          You’re arguing that a human is comprised of a certain amount of cells.

          It’s far more than that, but that’s part of it. One cell vs. 1,000,000,000,000 cells is a big, big difference. As Greg G. noted, then you’ve got the specific differentiation of every single cell that makes a person. With one pluripotent cell you have none of that.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          nope. BobS is arguing a *person* is of a certain number of cells of a certain complexity.

          the fetus is a parasite, like a tapeworm.

        • Speedwell

          “Emotional” is code for “dumb female”, but I’m not quite dumb enough to miss observing that you’re a mansplaining wanker who resorts to snide sexist insults. To me that says all I need to know about you. I’m too disgusted with you to bother with you anymore. Go eat a million tacks… or, no, I got a better one… go GET PREGNANT AND NOT HAVE ACCESS TO PROPER HEALTHCARE.

        • adam

          ” go GET PREGNANT and not have options.”

        • Good one–I didn’t notice that. I’ll work on being more aware of that in the future.

          Yes–I’ll have more respect for the arguments of the loud pro-life men in favor of forced pregnancy when they can say that they’ve personally had an unwanted pregnancy and they kept the baby.

          http://wp.patheos.com.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/crossexamined/files/2014/01/Atheists-and-Christians-blog.jpg

        • Speedwell

          …psst… forced pregnancy, not forced abortion 🙂 Though truly they are both two sides of the same coin, just two alternate ways of coercing the pregnant person to give up autonomy over their body, will, and pregnancy.

        • Oops. I write faster than I can edit. Correction made, thanks.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          someone wanting to control women, either way…

        • Miguel de la Pena

          When your arguments fail you resort to name-calling and personal attacks? Oook

          You know, men also experience emotions and can resort to emotional arguments to try to make a point. It’s actually a very effective strategy when used right.

        • Speedwell

          No, when your arguments fail and you resort to slimy insults, I no longer consider you someone to have a conversation with. Get out of my face.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          because the zygote is a *parasite*.

        • Left to develop/grow

          So is that your argument? The Argument from Potential, that the zygote isn’t much now, but it will be?

          Cool, we’ll be on the same page when it’s inherently important. But at the moment, as a zygote, it’s within the woman’s purview.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          No argument from potential. As with any stage of development, when any human is allowed to develop and grow the answer only becomes clearer.

          “The zygote isn’t much now, but it will be?”
          No. A zygote is every bit a human being as anyone else.

          “when it’s inherently important… it’s within the woman’s purview”
          When life is inherently important? That’s weird and unrelated, but perhaps you felt compelled to end by writing off the topic completely.

        • MNb

          “No argument from potential.”
          No?

          “As with any stage of development, when any human is allowed to develop and grow the answer only becomes clearer.”
          Yes! Potential!

          “A zygote is every bit a human being as anyone else.”
          Then zygotes should have voting rights as well – every bit, you see.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Ha! Now, if voting rights were a condition of being human, then pretty much anyone under 18 is not considered to be human! Not the most persuasive argument.

        • MNb

          Indeed.
          And it’s your argument, not mine.
          Thanks for confirming what I wrote above – you’re still not the smartest guy around.

        • No argument from potential. As with any stage of development, when any human is allowed to develop and grow the answer only becomes clearer.

          Did sentence 2 just deliberately undermine sentence 1, or was that inadvertent?

          No. A zygote is every bit a human being as anyone else.

          Then don’t keep alluding to how it’s changing. Man up and tell us boldly that the single cell you must use a microscope to see is equivalent on every relevant metric to you.

          And then you’ll have to explain how they’re equivalent … cuz they sure don’t seem like it to me.

          “when it’s inherently important… it’s within the woman’s purview”

          When life is inherently important? That’s weird and unrelated, but perhaps you felt compelled to end by writing off the topic completely.

          I don’t see how that’s off topic. Maybe I didn’t make clear what I was saying?

          If your focus is on “life,” who much cares? I just had salmon in an omelet for breakfast. I contributed to the taking of the life of the salmon, and that doesn’t trouble me. Should it?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “Did sentence 2 just deliberately undermine sentence 1, or was that inadvertent?”
          – No. The clarity on the part of the person considering the question doesn’t mean a zygote is less human, it just becomes easier for the person to understand. The situation becoming clearer doesn’t mean a change in human-ness for the developing zygote.

          “Man up and tell us boldly that the single cell you must use a microscope to see is equivalent on every relevant metric to you.”
          – Sure, they’re equal on every relevant metric. How so? It goes back to what’s developmentally appropriate for each human at any point on the spectrum of life. Newborns can’t speak or walk – are they not human because of this? No, because it’s developmentally appropriate for where they’re at.

          Salmon and eggs sound good right about now. Did you throw a bagel in the mix? Maybe a little cream cheese? Mmm

        • Greg G.

          Sure, they’re equal on every relevant metric.

          What about autonomy? What about sentience? Those are relevant metrics.

        • MNb

          No, they are not according to MdlP, because zygotes are not equal to adults on these metrics.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Indeed, they are. But not in regards to whether or not a human being is a human being, they are relevant metrics in regard to age/stage of development.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          one’s a parasite. answer that.

        • MNb

          “Sure, they’re equal on every relevant metric.”
          And every metric they are not equal on is irrelevant to you. Excellent circularity.

          “are they not human because of this?”
          Repeating this strawman makes you a liar. Just reread the first sentence of the article:

          “a newborn is a person, but the single cell at the other end of the spectrum is not”
          and tell us where BobS exactly even uses the word human, let alone suggests that newborns and zygotes are not human?
          The strawman fallacy is a form of false testimony. You violate your own 9th Commandment. Fortunately I am more forgiving than your favourite Holy Book.

        • The clarity on the part of the person considering the question doesn’t mean a zygote is less human, it just becomes easier for the person to understand.

          You’ve got a problem, and if you reduce it here, it’s going to pop up over there. In your situation, you want to say that the zygote is a human to make your pro-life point. After all, that’s not much of a stretch, is it? Same DNA as you and I, so saying that Homo sapiens DNA means “human” is fairly reasonable. But where the problem pop up is when you then want to say, “Surely you’ll grant me that killing an innocent human is morally wrong?” Since you’ve extended the definition of “human” to include a single cell, then your request becomes ridiculous.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “Since you’ve extended the definition of “human” to include a single cell, then your request becomes ridiculous.”

          The only problem I see with this is that you don’t agree, since ‘ridiculous’ isn’t the most solid argument as to why the assertion is wrong.

        • Good point. If you’re determined to shake up the dictionary like a bag of Scrabble tiles and pick out whatever you want, we won’t be able to communicate much.

          And this gets back to the challenge of mine, which you’ve yet to answer: fill in the blank of “A newborn is a ___, while the single cell that it was 9 months ago isn’t.” I’d say that a newborn is a person while the single cell isn’t. You apparently have a better word to describe this spectrum, and I’m eagerly awaiting it.

          I assume you’ve ignored this question because it defeats your argument; if that’s so, just let me know so we can put this argument aside.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I think I’ve answered this already. Here it goes again though, “A newborn is a newborn, while the single cell that it was 9 months ago isn’t.” I’d say they’re both human beings.

          Along the same lines, “An adolescent is an adolescent, while the newborn that it was years ago isn’t.” It sounds like you’re arguing that the mere title of a stage of human development determines whether or not an organism is a human being, person, etc.

        • adam

          A newborn is a newborn

          Full Definition of born Merriam Webster
          1 a : brought forth by or as if by birth

          Kind of defeats your whole ‘argument’….

        • The spectrum defeats your argument, so you ignore the question. I should’ve known.

          My goal is pretty clearly futile. I’m asking you to honestly approach a question and answer it fairly, without an agenda. I need to take some responsibility here; I should’ve known that this was a fool’s errand.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I’m a bit confused. You asked what we call a single-celled human and a newborn human, which, if you say it out loud, is redundant. Similar to the blue/green analogy, regardless of where a human is on the spectrum of life, they are still a human. In the same sense, wherever a color is on the blue/green spectrum, it is still a color. Simply identifying changes in a human being (or color) doesn’t disqualify him/her from being considered a human being. I’m fine with being accused of ‘having an agenda’, but it doesn’t mean the reasoning behind the ‘spectrum’ argument all of a sudden makes sense because of a personal bias.

        • I’m a bit confused.

          Is that it? Or are you just acting confused? This is a very simple challenge. Just drop the agenda and answer it. Failing that, I’d be happy if you simply admitted that your agenda prevents you from answering it honestly.

          You asked what we call a single-celled human and a newborn human, which, if you say it out loud, is redundant.

          Let me quote what I asked just a couple of comments before so you’re not confused: “fill in the blank of ‘A newborn is a ___, while the single cell that it was 9 months ago isn’t.’” Understand now?

          Similar to the blue/green analogy, regardless of where a human is on the spectrum of life, they are still a human.

          Seriously, this isn’t hard. Read it twice and maybe you’ll get it: I’m not asking how the single cell and the newborn are the same, I’m asking how they’re different. I’ll bet a smart guy like you can find a word to describe what the newborn is and the single cell isn’t.

          You can stumble around and wonder what the heck I’m talkin’ about with all those big-ass ideas like “fill in the blank,” but you should admit to yourself, even if you won’t to us, that this is an issue that you need an answer to.

          In the same sense, wherever a color is on the blue/green spectrum, it is still a color.

          OK, you’re getting really good at playing, “What is common about these two things?” Good for you! Now, see if you’re man enough to tackle the challenge I’m actually asking you.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          It sounds like you’re getting frustrated. Blame me if you like, but with or without an agenda, it only highlights the frailty of your argument. “But there are a lot of differences!” This is supposedly a reason for not considering a human being a human being? I think history shows what that type of thinking had led to.

          Once it’s understood that what’s in common is the fact that they are both human beings, your spectrum argument begins circling the toilet and is off to where it belongs. It’s just a really poor argument when it comes down to it. I’d probably be frustrated in your position too.

        • Another dodge! You won’t be honest with us, but you must ask yourself what it means if you can’t respond to the question.

        • ElRay

          So, if a single, undifferentiated cell, with no brain, no consciousness, no motor control, no sensory organs, etc. is a person, that then means:

          1) An excised tumor is a person. Why isn’t excising a tumor murder?

          2a) A pint of donated blood is a person. Why isn’t donating blood murder?

          2b) What happens to that donated blood when it’s transfused? If the person it’s donated to dies, does that mean that the donor also went to Heaven/Hell?

          2c) If donated blood is a person, and donated blood went to Heaven/Hell and then the donor dies, does that mean there’s two copies of the donor in Heaven and/or Hell?

          3) Trimmed hair, toenails, etc. are people. Why isn’t getting a haircut/pedicure murder?

          4) All those cell cultures in labs fit your definition as a person. Why aren’t the principals in the labs being arrested for kidnapping?

          5) Given that tumors, trimmed hair/toenails, donated blood, lab cell cultures, etc. all fit the definition of a person, why isn’t the Pro-Life crowd fighting against the murder/kidnapping happening here?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          because it’s a parasitical single cell with human DNA.

          or shall I infest you with guinea worms and tapeworms so you can get an idea of what being a ‘host’ is like? and NOT allow you to remove them?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Newborns are also parasitical with human DNA.

          It’s telling of how weak a case the pro-choice has when unborn humans are compared to worms.

        • Rudy R

          Would you make the same argument against killing a salmon as you do for killing a fetus?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Unlike many vegans, I differentiate between the value of a human life and the value of the life of a fish.

        • adam

          So it is not LIFE that you find precious…..

        • Rudy R

          What is the difference between the value of human life and non-human life?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Not when it’s a parasite.

        • adam

          “A fetus/zygote on the other hand… it’s just another name for a developmental stage of human beings.”

          And a pine nut, or an acorn is just the developmental state of a woodframed house.

        • I long for the day when everyone understands Miguel’s point of view. You know those construction sites with a completed foundation and a big pile of lumber and roof trusses, waiting for the construction crew to come and put up the house? Perhaps, with God’s help, we’ll see just a bag of seeds.

        • adam

          “Perhaps, with God’s help, we’ll see just a bag of seeds.”

          OBVIOUSLY, the very same thing in MIguel’s eyes.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Quite the poor analogy. Humans aren’t trees.

        • Honestly–it’s not that hard. The Argument from Potential is ridiculous when applied to trees, and it’s equally so when applied to humans.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I’m not making an argument from potential though, nor are we talking about the reproduction process of plants.

        • adam

          “I’m not making an argument from potential though,”

          But you ABSOLUTELY are.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Uh, no. Reread my comment.

        • adam

          Uh, yes.
          I did you are.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          I don’t care what you *believe* you’re saying, I care what you’re actually arguing. You’re calling a fetus a human, MEANING ‘person’, as that’s the only way your argument has legs. BUT, if you were challenged on each point of how it’s possible to interact with even a newborn, you’d have to concede that a fetus can interact in NONE of these ways. So it’s a potential, and you KNOW it.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Being able to interact with others is the criteria you’re using to define a human being? People with severe autism also aren’t consisted human according to your standards? Newborns? Brilliant!

        • Steven Watson

          Leave my fellow autists out of this will you? They are more human than you by some considerable distance.

        • So then you’re agreeing with my statement?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Personally, i don’t agree with the argument from potential regarding abortion. I don’t agree that a fetus is merely a potential person.

        • It’s good to hear you say that, but it sounds like asking a teenager something and getting “Fine” as an answer. That’s what you want to hear … but that doesn’t mean that it’s necessarily accurate.

          You’ve shown no evidence of appreciating the vast difference between single microscopic cell and the trillion-cell, fully differentiated newborn.

        • Greg G.

          http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2015/11/response-to-my-position-on-abortion-spectrum/#comment-2400262315

          A fetus/zygote is different. Left to develop/grow, a kidney will not eventually become an adult human. A fetus/zygote on the other hand… it’s just another name for a developmental stage of human beings.

          A person is just a developmental stage of a corpse. Do you know the difference between a fried egg and a fried chicken? The egg is not a chicken but it is a developmental stage of a chicken.

          Some fish eggs are fertilized after the female lays them. The laying of eggs is just a stage of development for those fish.

          Some animals reproduce parthogenetically. No fertilization occurs but the egg develops into a lizard, a shark, or what have you. Ova are just a developmental stage of animals. Failure to get an egg fertilized is effectively like an abortion in your argument.

          Fertilization is just an arbitrary point you have chosen to define being human.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Lol, yeah, no. Instead of referencing the reproduction process for fish, trees, etc. how about we stick with humans, for clarity? I don’t believe that a sperm cell is a human being. I don’t believe an unfertilized egg is a human being either. As either develop, this too simply becomes clearer.

        • MNb

          Well, that’s just your argument, isn’t it? “I (don’t) believe”.
          Unfortunately what you believe and don’t believe can oxidate at my bottom.

        • Greg G.

          Then for clarity’s sake, let’s stick to the stage of life when a person has the capability of recognizing oneself as a person. I believe a human sperm cell is a human cell but I do not believe it is a human being. I believe an unfertilized human ovum is a human cell but I do not believe it is a human being. I believe an fertilized human ovum is a human cell but I do not believe it is a human being. I believe a human heart is a human organ but I do not believe it is a human being. I believe a human brain capable of the function of a mind is a human being.

          But even a functioning brain doesn’t have the right to impose on an unwilling host.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          By stage (stages?) of life when a person has the capability of recognizing oneself as a person, you’re referring to a toddler, right? If this is your standard, killing newborns is a-ok. This is why it’s a poor standard.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          late entry here again, but try ‘viability’…you creep

        • You can believe whatever you want. You can call a zygote a “baby” or a “submarine”–no one much cares. It’s when you demand that your views be imposed on others by law that we get into difficulties.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          I see. So you’ve thrown in the towel on the weak analogy, thankfully. Plus, the pro-choice view which is imposed on others (primarily the children who are killed via abortion) are fine, but we get into difficulties when we talk about the pro-life view being imposed? That isn’t reasonable.

        • adam

          ….

        • So you’ve thrown in the towel on the weak analogy, thankfully.

          You’re quicker than me, again. You’ll have to share with me what I’ve thrown in the towel on. I know of no retrenchment on my part.

          The spectrum from single cell to newborn eclipses any changes we see after birth—including being a brain in a jar. If you want to dismiss that spectrum as insignificant, declaring that the single cell is identical for all practical purposes to the newborn, I suggest you give that a rethink.

          Plus, the pro-choice view which is imposed on others (primarily the children who are killed via abortion) are fine, but we get into difficulties when we talk about the pro-life view being imposed? That isn’t reasonable.

          Then you must have no clue what we’re talking about. Did you stumble here when looking for the gardening blog?

          If I say, “You can pick A or B; it’s your choice,” that’s not an imposition.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Cancer cells…your point?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Good old Miguel left out cancers, as well. THEY keep developing and growing, have unique human DNA, are parasites on the host, and can kill or radically damage the host.

          So Miguel, why is cancer excision okay?

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You’re lying or deluded.

          of COURSE you’re using the argument from potential…and it’ll REMAIN that argument until a zygote does the same things a 5-yr old does…or even a newborn.

        • MNb

          From which observation you could as well conclude that it’s totally OK to abort zygotes, but not to cut down trees.
          Still not the smartest guy around, I observe.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          It’s your argument. If it’s absurd to you in another life context, maybe you should re-examine the argument…

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Sure… all humans have a right to life. Tree are equal to humans. Therefore, all trees have the right to life and cutting down a tree should be illegal.

          Still absurd.

        • adam
        • ElRay

          So, when cloning is viable, and that kidney or other mass of cells “has the potential” to become a living, thinking, feeling person, does that mean that removing a kidney, existing a tumor, donating blood, cutting your hair/nails will be murder?

          Does that mean that a complete set of plans is a house, because it has the potential to become a house?

          Does that mean that the turkey, grain, fruits and vegetables in the field are a complete Thanksgiving dinner, because they “have the potential” to become a dinner?

          But, before you claim that all of these don’t count, because they require “outside” help, assistance, resources, etc., realize that “Left to develop/grow” that zygote will die without the environment, nutrients, etc. provided by the uterus. Why? Because it’s no more a “living” person than an excised tumor, a pint of blood, etc.

          In fact, that zygote is less alive than a cup of yoghurt.

        • Earlier today, my arm was itchy, and (in a moment of distraction) I scratched it. Once I realized what I had done–scratching off God only knows how many living skin cells, each potentially clonable into another beautiful child of God–I fell to my knees and begged forgiveness.

          My new ministry will be standing on a street corner, giving people squirts of hand lotion to itchy people.

      • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

        To Speedwell in Speedwell’s life right now, as a matter of sentiment.

        Nice use of the broad brush, though….properly tacky.

  • Korou

    Bob, thank you for this article. Very interesting, as is the comment thread.
    When I get into debates with Christians about abortions – and I’ve gotten into quite a few, what with all the outrage about Planned Parenthood lately – I always rely on the argument Adam Lee presents on Daylight Atheism – basically, that personhood depends on a fetus having developed the capability for conscious thought, and that almost all abortions take place before this happens.
    It strikes me as quite similar to your spectrum argument, and may be useful. A pro-choice person on an Evangelical thread told me that it was the closest thing he’d read to his own views:

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism/2008/04/abortion/

    • Rudy R

      Where the argument breaks down is that there have been studies that indicate that conscious thought doesn’t start until the age of 2. And when you think about it anecdotally, it makes sense in that most of us don’t have memories during the time we were born until we are about 2 to 3 years old. Don’t get me wrong, I think you make a good argument for personhood, it’s just that it’s never been a convincing argument in my experience when debating Pro-birthers.

      • Bair

        Actually, the capacity for basic awareness develops at 25 weeks gestation.

        Babies *are* capable of consciousness. They can perceive, and feel.

        Animals are conscious too. Babies are like little animals.

        But rational thought does not emerge until roughly the age of 2.

      • That seems like an odd definition of “consciousness.”

        Not remembering events from the first few years of life is called childhood amnesia, so yeah, that’s a real thing. But when an infant responds to stimuli, why isn’t that consciousness?

        • Rudy R

          Plants respond to external stimuli, growing towards sources of water and light, which they need to survive. So I wouldn’t necessarily correlate response to stimuli as being a feature of consciousness.
          The relationship between memory and sentience or consciousness is directly related, at least to the studies I’ve read.

      • Greg G.

        I have a distinct memory from about 7 months of age. We had a picture taken of me and I recall the picture being taken because of the flash bulb. That was back when they put the month and the year on the picture when it was developed which is how I know my age at the time. I remember the feel of the chrome bumper, comparing it with the feel of the fender, my mother pushing me back to the front of the car when I tried to feel the tire, reaching up for my father to pick me up because I wanted to feel the hood of the car, then wanting back down because I was too high, and getting to feel it on the way down. I was fascinated by how smooth and cold the bumper felt and how solid it was when I hit it with my hand while the fender was less smooth and not so solid.

        I think I am able to recall it because the memory was refreshed a few years later and a friend of my uncle pulled into the driveway in a Corvette and I could actually see the hood of the car.

      • Ann Kah

        I had my son (after he learned to talk fairly well) describe an incident that happened when he was about a year old. He told me they had half a door (Dutch doors at the day care), the TV was up high (out of reach), there were other kids there, and, he said, “You went away with a lady in a green car, and I cried.” All of them absolutely correct; I’ll take his word for the crying.

        …and I support abortion rights, absolutely.

    • I’ll take a look, thanks.

      Pro-lifers seem very eager to turn the conversation to when abortion should take place. They seem to feel more comfortable discussing that topic than the spectrum argument (I don’t know why–their arguments don’t seem to be any good).

      • Bair

        And they like to pretend that every abortion takes place at 6-9 months ‘on a whim’

      • Ann Morgan

        **Pro-lifers seem very eager to turn the conversation to when abortion should take place. **

        Which is basically pretending that we live in a magic universe where all birth defects can be detected by ‘when’ they say, and that pregnancies will never go wrong after the magic ‘when’.

  • Ann Kah

    Hello, Bob. I’m responding here because I can’t through “world table”. I’m on an Ipad using Chrome and it crashes Chrome every time I try. I don’t think world table is ready for prime time yet.

    • That’s not good. I’ll pass the word along. Come back later to see if it’s fixed or if another browser will work. I’ll be more than miffed if this change drives away readers.

  • Scott_In_OH

    The World Table comments never finish loading for me. I just see the square indicating they are loading. I’m using Safari. Anyone else having this problem?

    • Which post were you looking at where the comments never finish loading?

      Are you sure there are WT comments to begin with? (The World Table tab should have the number.) For example, when I click the “World Table ( 1 Comment )” tab above, it shows me one rating from powellpower.

      If you can give me more clues, I’ll pass this along to the WT people. Thanks.

      • Scott_In_OH

        I’ve not been able to load comments on any post since WT was introduced. On earlier posts, I see the WT tab, but I can’t load comments there. I’m only able to load the comments on the Disqus tab. (The abortion post is the last one with a Disqus option, which is why I’m asking my question here.)

        • Thanks. I’m passing this along to WT.

          Anything else interesting about your environment besides Safari?

          So you click on the WT tab above and see no comments? (For some posts, there are none, though this one has one.) And in WT-only posts, you see nothing?

        • Scott_In_OH

          You are (were) correct. I’ve upgraded Safari and am now able to see and leave WT comments. I’m leaving thoughts about WT in the comments as I encounter new aspects of the system. Seems like they’re reading the comments, so we’ll see if improvements are made.

        • I’m glad it’s working better. Yes, please leave feedback.

  • Miguel de la Pena

    The ‘conscious thought’ argument is wholly arbitrary. However, I see this isn’t stopping anyone from using it.

    • Bair

      Is not.

      We bury the braindead.

      Embryos = functionally mindless

      • Miguel de la Pena

        Embryos being functionally mindless = developmentally appropriate for human development

        You were still a human when you were at that point, as were all of us.

        You’re advocating burying any human who is brain dead but still has a heartbeat? Good luck to anyone you make medical decisions for if they ever get put in that situation.

        • Bair

          Embryos are human.

          They are not people.

          People are not brainless.

        • There’s a spectrum of personhood from single cell through development to newborn. A single cell isn’t a person; a newborn is. It’s a spectrum in between.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          It seems that a more appropriate description of the spectrum of personhood would extend from single-celled through development to death; at least that’s what every child development, health, biology, etc. class I’ve taken has spoken from.

          Regardless, I don’t see any reason why titling the differences between a single-celled organism and a newborn suddenly negates the fact that each is a living human being. Simply saying “it’s a spectrum” does nothing to show that there is any meaningful difference between the two. As you pointed out, it’s merely a difference in the number of cells which comprise a human at any given state. It seems the thinking behind it is, “but the difference in cell count is so big, the single-celled human can’t be considered human”; making it merely a numbers game.

        • adam

          ” I don’t see any reason why titling the differences between a single-celled organism and a newborn suddenly negates the fact that each is a living human being. ”

          Because a single-celled organism is not a living human being.

        • I demand voting rights for all persons! Including the ones that are just a single cell!

        • adam

          And welfare because they are unable to work.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “because it just does”
          … good one

        • adam

          Not what I said
          Reread my comment.

        • Greg G.

          A fertilized egg in the uterus is as sentient as a bacterium in the intestines.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          An unconscious person is not sentient. According to your criteria, they are then not a person.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Show me a fetus’s EEG, then.

          Unconsciousness does not equal lack of brain activity regulating an organism.

        • It seems that a more appropriate description of the spectrum of personhood would extend from single-celled through development to death; at least that’s what every child development, health, biology, etc. class I’ve taken has spoken from.

          That’s a different subject. I’m simply looking at the unbelievable changes that happen over that 9-month period. What is the outcome of that process? That is, what word do we use for the newborn that we can’t for the single cell? I say “person,” but perhaps you have another suggestion.

          Going further, from newborn on into old age is a different subject, because it’s “person” from that point on.

          Regardless, I don’t see any reason why titling the differences between a single-celled organism and a newborn suddenly negates the fact that each is a living human being.

          OK, I can play that game, too. You’ll say, with incredulity, “But you wouldn’t want to kill a human being, would you??”

          I respond, “Sure, who cares? You’ve defined ‘human being’ so broadly that it includes not only persons (that I very much don’t want to kill) and single cells, which I’m quite happy to leave up to the woman to decide.”

          Simply saying “it’s a spectrum” does nothing to show that there is any meaningful difference between the two.

          Are you saying that you doubt that there is a meaningful difference? A newborn has a trillion cells; a single cell has, well, a single cell. And that only begins to plumb the depths of the difference. The newborn has arms and legs, hands and feet, a brain and nervous system, stomach and digestive system, heart and circulatory system, skin, liver, eyes, ears, and on and on. The single cell, by contrast, doesn’t.

          Do you see now why I see that spectrum as really, really vast? Why lumping the newborn in with the single cell and calling them the same name (“baby” or “child” or “human being”) deliberately papers over the very important differences?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “I’m simply looking at the unbelievable changes that happen over that 9-month period. What is the outcome of that process? That is, what word do we use for the newborn that we can’t for the single cell? I say “person,” but perhaps you have another suggestion.”
          – Unbelieveable huh? It’s as easily said there are unbelievable changes from newborn to octogenarian. A degree of development doesn’t determine when a human becomes a human. It’s only change. A word we can use for a newborn that we can’t for a single-celled human? How about… “newborn”? Why do we need another term? Because you’re looking to differentiate the two in order to declare one human and another not.

          “Do you see now why I see that spectrum as really, really vast?”
          – Absolutely. However, your argument seems to say that, despite being at one of many stages of human development, someone isn’t human because of the amount of growth they have yet to make. When it comes to determining who’s human, things like limbs, a brain, muscle strength, rate of development, etc. aren’t meaningful.

        • MNb

          “A degree of development doesn’t determine when a human becomes a human.”
          And of course you’re dishonest. This is not what BobS wrote. What he wrote is that a degree of development determines when a human person becomes a human person.
          See, an isolated cell of my skin is also human. It’s not a person though.

          “It’s only change.”
          Uh yeah. That’s exactly the point.
          Just like “it’s only change” is the point of giving some human persons voting rights (when they’re 21, 18 or 16) and other not (when they’re younger).”

          “When it comes to determining who’s human, things like limbs, a brain, muscle strength, rate of development, etc. aren’t meaningful.”
          When it comes to determining who’s a human person it is. When it comes to determining who’s a human citizen (ie has for instance voting rights) the development of the brain is also totally meaningful.
          Have you read too much apologetics lately or does my memory fail me? You come across dumber than the last time you were here.

        • Aram

          If you really believed this you’d be fighting to save the vast number of naturally aborting zygotes that are ‘dying’ every day. You’d be up in arms about finding away to ‘cure’ the plague of miscarriages that happen spontaneously, begging and pleading that more funding be put towards saving the naturally ‘dying’.
          But you’re not. Because really, whether you realize it or not, you’re only about telling women what to do with their bodies.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Now, you do understand the difference between dying of natural causes and being murdered. Right?

          The “telling women what to do with their body” argument is garbage. Nobody has a problem with laws against child abuse, which is a woman using her body to abuse a child. Where’s your argument then? Of course laws seek to restrict what we do with our bodies.

        • Aram

          Goddamn you’re thick. My very simple point is why aren’t you screaming and begging the government for funding to cure the massive plague of naturally dying zygotes. You support cancer research, I wager. AIDS trials. Curing MS. Figuring out Parkinson’s Disease. Et cetera. All natural deaths, and yet we spend money and fight to cure them. So why aren’t you petitioning to start the research on curing natural miscarriages? Almost half the human race, dead before they even developed a nose! Surely that must be a cause you’re fighting for. Surely you won’t rest till we’re pouring at least the same amount of money into research to save the zygotes as we do into cancer. Perhaps even more since a far greater number of zygotes (‘humans’ according to you) die naturally in the womb than anywhere else. You must be consistent, Miguel. Fight to save them all. Or shut up.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          a ‘child’ can be cared for by any other being near by .

          a *pregnancy* is a parasite on ONE particular woman.

        • Valerie Tarico wrote an article along these lines. In short, if pro-lifers actually cared about reducing abortions, they’d be going about it a very different way. What they care about is controlling sex.

        • MNb

          That article largely reflects my views on abortion. The best way to prevent women from facing the choice (to abort or not to abort) is making sure they don’t get in a position that they have to face it in the first place.

        • Aram

          That’s a good one. Thanks.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “naturally aborting” is an oxymoron. Natural death happens.

          Plus, how do you know what I’m ‘up in arms’ about?

        • adam

          “”naturally aborting” is an oxymoron. ”

          Nope,

          “Miscarriage, also known as spontaneous abortion and pregnancy loss, is the natural death of an embryo or fetus before it is able to survive independently.[1][2]”

          Miscarriage is the most common complication of early pregnancy.[10] Among women who know they are pregnant, the miscarriage rate is roughly 10% to 20% while rates among all conceptions is around 30% to 50%.[1][5] About 5% of women have two miscarriages in a row.[11]
          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscarriage

        • Aram

          I know what you’re up in arms about because you’re up in arms about it all over this comment section. Yet not a whisper about finding the cure for miscarriages, a far more prevalent ‘killer’.

        • adam

          “Yet not a whisper about finding the cure for miscarriages, a far more prevalent ‘killer’.”

          Because in his mind he believes that HIS ‘god’ is responsible and THESE ‘human beings’ DESERVE abortion.

        • Aram

          No doubt you’re right. So the question remains: Do the souls of the dead zygotes and fetuses go to heaven or hell? And what will their personalities be like when they get there?
          Oh man, being a Christian is such a mind-fuck.

        • On the topic of souls and zygotes, what happens when one zygote splits to become twins? Does one become two, or does the zygote phone home to get another, or do they stumble through life with half of one? What happens to the soul when a zygote begins to grow but then stops?

          And so on.

        • Aram

          Being religious sucks.

        • Steven Watson

          This is where earlier xians were more logical; Augustine of Hippo for instance has the soul arrive a month after conception. The idea of Original Sin still makes him a loony though.

        • MNb

          Half a soul is still a complete soul.
          The growth of the soul does not depend on the growth of the zygote.
          When a zygote receives a soul it’s already complete.
          Look, if we’re going to make up stuff we just can walk the entire road, can’t we? No use asking such questions.

        • OK, now you’ve taken a course in Soul Calculus and I haven’t, so you’ve got an advantage over me. I’ll just have to take your word for it.

        • adam

          “Oh man, being a Christian is such a mind-fuck.”

          How else could they keep so many fools believing? https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/5022095dfc10bccc5f1ea7c2d3b70782723e9a2166ba2077309e9c43aad10a47.jpg

        • MNb

          Call it “natural death” if you like. You say that your god is the creator of the entire shenanigan, hence he’s responsible for arranging things in such a way that all those “natural deaths of human beings called zygotes” totally happen. According to your own argument your god is the biggest killer ever.
          Btw the technical term for what we just call abortus is abortus provocatus, in contrast to abortus naturalis. It’s because the procedure is nothing but inducing a miscarriage.

        • Philmonomer

          It’s as easily said there are unbelievable changes from newborn to octogenarian.

          Let’s make a list of all the things that a single cell has, and all the things a newborn has. Let’s see all the changes.

          Then, let’s make a list of the the things that newborn has, and all the things that an octogenarian has. Let’s see all the changes.

          Then compare the two lists. Those two lists would be vastly different.

          A degree of development doesn’t determine when a human becomes a human.

          Are you talking about a human being or a person? I agree that a zygote is a member of the human species at the earliest stage of development. (It is human.) So what?

          A word we can use for a newborn that we can’t for a single-celled human? How about… “newborn”? Why do we need another term?

          So what do you call it, if it is two days before the scheduled delivery date? Newborn doesn’t work.

          However, your argument seems to say that, despite being at one of many
          stages of human development, someone isn’t human because of the amount
          of growth they have yet to make. When it comes to determining who’s
          human, things like limbs, a brain, muscle strength, rate of development,
          etc. aren’t meaningful.

          You are confusing human and “person.” Although if you want to use another word rather than person, we can try that word.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “let’s make a list…”
          – What you’re asking for is a physical description/comparison of two human stages of development. Emphasis on ‘human stages of development’.

        • Philmonomer

          What you’re asking for is a physical description/comparison of two
          human stages of development. Emphasis on ‘human stages of development’.

          Ok. Human stages of development. So what?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          So, they’re still a human being regardless of what stage they’re at.

        • Philmonomer

          I’d say it is human life at the earliest stage of development. “Human being” can be a loaded term, as it can mean different things to different people.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          It seems that it only means different things to those who seek to justify doing horrible things to other humans.

        • Philmonomer

          I’m curious as to this definition of human being that you are using. What makes someone a human being?

          In this regard, I don’t know of anyone who thinks that, if you need a microscope to see it, it is a “human being” (in the normal/everyday sense of the word).

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          nope, it’s the difference between a parasite and a being that is not subsisting on a particular person’s body for survival.

        • Greg G.

          When it comes to determining who’s human, things like limbs, a brain, muscle strength, rate of development, etc. aren’t meaningful.

          The difference between human biology and a human being is sentience.

          But even sentience does not come with the right to take nutrients from and dump wastes into an unwilling host’s bloodstream.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “The difference between human biology and a human being is sentience.”
          – Sounds like a personal opinion. I generally agree though, so long as sentience is developmentally appropriate (i.e. zygote, fetuses, newborns).

        • Susan

          Sounds like a personal opinion.

          As is yours. It sounds like Greg has thought about this concept of “personhood” a little more thoroughly but hey, that’s just my opinion.

          I generally agree though, so long as sentience is developmentally appropriate

          Sentience

          You’re not addressing Greg’s point.

          .

        • Greg G.

          “developmentally appropriate”? If it doesn’t have an organ for sentience, it cannot be sentient.

          It is the difference between being human tissue and being a person. A fingernail can be human but it is not a human being.

          But a human being should never be compelled to have another human’s waste products transferred to her bloodstream against her will.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Lol, this only highlights how weak the argument for abortion really is. But let’s say someone does transfer human waste products – should the consequence be death without judge, trial, or jury?

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Sorry, but they do have that right when it’s developmentally appropriate, as with a child in the womb; it’s absurd to suggest a baby doesn’t have the right to live but anyone else does.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          a *parasite* has no right to live if the host doesn’t want it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          yeah…viability, what Miguel appears to be ignoring.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Not when a lack of sentience is developmentally appropriate for a human. Are you saying that a human taking nutrients from someone else should be grounds for killing them?

        • Unbelieveable huh? It’s as easily said there are unbelievable changes from newborn to octogenarian.

          Sure, you can say that, but you’d be wrong. That you think newborn to octogenarian is anywhere close to single cell to newborn shows you have no idea what the hell I’m talking about.

          A degree of development doesn’t determine when a human becomes a human.

          Ah, yes, we’re back to the definition “human means ‘has H. sapiens DNA.’”

          A word we can use for a newborn that we can’t for a single-celled human? How about… “newborn”?

          Damn—do you really not understand my challenge to you or are you playing games with me?

          I’ll type slow so you can understand: Take the sentence, “A newborn is a person, but a single cell is not” and replace the word “person” with a word you’d prefer. The word “person” is quite defensible, but you don’t like it because it eviscerates your argument. OK then: give me a word that works better.

          Think of the words we have for the first year or two after birth: newborn, infant, baby, child, one-year-old, and so on. Each one expressing slight differences of meaning. These differences are nonexistent compared to the change from single cell to newborn, so a smart guy like you should be able to find a word that describes what a newborn is that the single cell isn’t.

          your argument seems to say that, despite being at one of many stages of human development, someone isn’t human because of the amount of growth they have yet to make. When it comes to determining who’s human, things like limbs, a brain, muscle strength, rate of development, etc. aren’t meaningful.

          By your odd definition of “human,” sure. So let’s explore that difference by looking at the word(s) that distinguish between single cell and newborn.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          “give me a word that works better.”
          – Human

        • So you go from “A newborn is a person, but a single cell is not” to “A newborn is a human, but a single cell is not.” OK, I’ll accept that.

          Your argument now lays in tatters at your feet.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Try ‘viability’…when the new ‘life’ ceases to be a parasite and can survive independent of another person’s body.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Viability is arbitrary. There are college kids who are also considered parasites.

        • 90Lew90

          I’ve never seen a college kid attached to its mother by an umbilical cord.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          No, they change those in for wallets. … plus, an attached umbilical cord is likely the weakest argument for justifying killing someone.

        • 90Lew90

          At which point did I argue to justify killing someone?

        • Douglas McClean

          You realize that the logical extension of this argument is that the mother should have no right to cut the college kid off from funds, correct? But indeed she does have such a right. Just as she has a right to bodily autonomy which includes the right to cut off the parasitic fetus.

        • The pro-lifer will probably respond to your argument by saying that the mother does have the right to cut an adult child off from college funds because that adult can plausibly live on their own. Not so with a fetus that can’t live if removed from Mom’s life support.

        • Douglas McClean

          Indeed, but doing so will contradict his prior position upthread on using the example of economically parasitic college kids to argue that viability is an arbitrary cutoff.

        • Ah, I see your point now.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          Eh, not quite. Cutting off funds doesn’t directly lead to the death/killing of the child. Dismembering a baby on the other hand…

        • Douglas McClean

          On that argument you’re OK with abortion by removing the placenta, or clamping the cord.

        • MNb

          He just defined viability.
          But then again you’re a dishonest believer.

        • Miguel de la Pena

          He may have defined it, i described it, then you randomly offered a personal attack. Very rational.

        • MNb

          You ignore deliberately his definition, which confirmed a conclusion I drew a long time ago.
          Nothing personal here.

  • GubbaBumpkin

    The new life with its unique DNA obviously begins at
    conception, though you could argue that, since fertilization isn’t
    abiogenesis, it isn’t a beginning but a continuation of life.

    The egg is alive, with a unique set of DNA.
    The sperm is alive, with a unique set of DNA.

    [conception]

    The zygote is alive, with a unique set of DNA.

    Therefore, conception involves a reduction in the number of living things.

  • Steven Watson

    Not one woman weighed in on the pro-life side I see. There seems to be a dearth of them commenting pro-religion on other threads as well. Funny that. But then again only Greg and Miguel chipped in here; and with the same one note argument that has already lost any chance of my interacting with either of them again. Seriously; how much rope are you prepared to play out? ‘The Patience of Bob’ should probably be an atheist thing!LOL. 🙂

    Glad I arrived here after World Table went. No idea who Patheos have for programmers but this is by far the crappiest blog engine I have ever come across by the way.