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March 28, 2006

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It appears that the world is going to have to confront eugenics, euthanasia and social Darwinism again. Advances in medical and biological technology could radically transform definitions of what it means to be human.

We see this already in the debate over the humanity of embryos for use in stem cell research. Reproductive technology contributed to the controversy with IVF and abortion.

The worldviews of Peter Singer and Richard Dawkins, for example, illustrate the possibilities for our society if we accept their ideas.

The value of human life held by Christianity is directly challenged by the predominant evolutionism in science. I believe the underlying philosophical materialism of this movement strips away any foundation for valuing human life.

I my opinion the philosophical implication of these ideas is why there are battles in education around challenges to evolutionary theory and the extent of religious freedom in schools. These ideas in science are not neutral or objective although many scientist insist they deal only in the facts of reality.

In the past, I read alot of science fiction so I can imagine some pretty radical changes for our future. Francis Schaeffer & C. Everette Koop said this in "Whatever Happened to the Human Race": "The thinkables of the eighties and nineties will certainly include things which most people today find unthinkable and immoral, even unimaginable and too extreme to suggest. Yet--since they do not have some overriding principle that takes them beyond relativistic thinking--when these become thinkable and acceptable in the eighties and nineties, most people will not even remember that they were unthinkable in the seventies. They will slide into each new thinkable without a jolt."

This is certainly prophetic! Also known as boiling the frog!

Thank God resistence is not futile! There is good news!

Life unworthy of life, that's the phrase the Germans used. They started with the hopelessly insane and the extremely aged. Then they moved to the epileptic and the aged. Then they moved to the "evolutionarily inferior."

The fact is, we were warned in the early 70's that this is where Abortion was headed and we've seen the truth of that as years have unfolded. When you begin defining humans as not being human or worthy of life, then the line can only end at your own feet, each person that is troubling and problematic that you face in life or are convinced is too much hassle can be defined away.

All countries must complete this sentence:

It is ok to bury a ‘human’ in the earth when ______________.

We have our own list of criteria that answers the question.
The Dutch have their list of criteria that answers the question.

How might you convince a Dutch man that he is wrong and you are right?

It is a fallacy to say that biology can discover the starting line of “lifeness” and the ending line of “lifeness”.

This is NOT a discoverable fact.

I repeat. This is NOT a discoverable fact. Biology categorizes things in the universe (mostly clusters of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen) via a somewhat agreed upon chart. It is a convention. It is a rule of thumb. It is nothing more. Biology is NOT like geometry.

Melinda is mad at the dutch because they have chosen a set of criteria that she doesn’t like. That’s cool. But let us drop the notion that somehow Christianity is in possession of the one true scientifically formulated definition of life. All scientific formulations of this sort are exclusively manmade conventions.

Why isn't the lump of coal in my hand and the nitrogen in the air around my hand considered to be life, Tony? We really can't figure that out?

Why isn't the lump of coal in my hand and the nitrogen in the air around my hand considered to be life, Tony? You mean, the coal could be alive? The nitrogen in the air might be life? We really can't figure that out?

Justin,

when we decide which clusters of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen we want to call "life" that day, we are just chopping up the universe into things that are important to us for whatever reason that day.

But there is no science here.

Just an organization exercise.

http://www.gregiswrong.com/site-gregiswrong/thought_experiments/world.htm

this picture helps some people to see the point

Something called a T-O-N-Y keeps posting but for the life of me I don't know if it is real or if I am just imagining it! :)

By the way Tony, I like the graphic you use on your masthead.

Tony, would you agree that your responses to Justin indicate an epistemological position? If so, it might be more effective to define it for discussion, rather than presenting thought experiments or scenarios.

You say, "It is a fallacy to say that biology can discover the starting line of “lifeness” and the ending line of “lifeness”.

This is NOT a discoverable fact."

I think you mean that humans using the knowledge of biology can't make this distinction. How do you know? And again: "But let us drop the notion that somehow Christianity is in possession of the one true scientifically formulated definition of life." How do you know it is not?

William,

Because distinguishing between constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen is just a categorization exercise (usually in the name of utility). This is all we do when we say that one thing has life and another does not.

As Robert Morison said:

"What we observe are some unusual sets of objects separated from the rest of the world by certain peculiar ways of handling energy. These objects we elect to call 'living things'."

As Ernst Mayr said:

“Attempts have been made again and again to define "life." These endeavors are rather futile since it is now quite clear that there is no special substance, object, or force that can be identified with life.”

The only way for a Christian to argue against these men, is to convince your opponent that you know which God is the right one, and that he told which constructs in the universe have “life” (value/a soul/the force/etc.) and which do not.

If you neglect this step, you’re just jotting down William’s rules of when things are alive. And why should those be any better than the Dutch rules?

Tony mistakes "inability to learn something through science" with "inability to know."

It's a common mistake of someone that has a naturalist philosophy, but his truth proposition fails it's own test. If the only way we can know something is through science and observation... how do we know that test is true or not? It's not testable through science and observation.

the early 20th century had a short vogue of this philsophy but people pointed out the rather obvious dilemma I just noted and its proponents moved on to something else. But there are still some who cling to it - usually college students - temporarily.

chris,

ok. then how do you convince your opponent that you KNOW that "lifeness" enters a material construct of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen when it forms the shape of a totipotent cell?

do you have a super secret way that you're not telling us about?

Here's a hint, Tony: it has nothing to do with science in the technical sense. It has to do with your ability to reason and observe.

See, you aren't asking this reason because you're incapable of discerning whether someone is alive and human or not. You're asking this because you're trying to jam everything you think of through a faulty and erroneous worldview.


???

was that an argument, or...

You may want to check out some of the christian prolife literature on this matter. Christians appeal to biology. I don't know what you're appealing to...

For example, here is a classic example of pro-lifer Scott Kluesendorf committing what I call the “Linnaeus Fallacy.”

February 1, 2006

Ganny:
...it also kind of hard to know what “kind of thing” the embryo is. I’m pretty sure you’ll appeal to science here, but I think we both know that’s somewhat disingenuous. Biological laws are less important here than ensoulment. Wouldn’t you agree?

Scott Klusendorf:
Your skepticism is unwarranted here. The question of what kind of thing the embryo is can indeed be answered scientifically–See, for example, the texts by Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud; Bruce M. Carlson; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller; and William J. Larsen. When we consult these works, we find little or nothing in the way of scientific mystery or dispute. As Robert George points out, the texts tell the same story and answer the key question in the same way. Anyone who wishes to know when he or she as a distinct living member of the species Homo sapiens came into existence need only open any of these books and look up the answer.

= = = = = = = =

A blogger named Granny asks Scott how he came upon the knowledge of which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are “human”. Scott immediately appeals to convention in contemporary biology. It is currently hip for biologists to espouse a cell-o-centric view of “lifeness”. So when they see a cell, they make the statement: “lifeness starts now because we say so”.

But understand, this is not an ‘unearthed’ property of the universe, as the discovery of E=mc2 or F=ma. Its just a reflection of a popularly accepted chart that describes some objects in the cosmos.

Scott thinks granny should accept this chart too. Granny doesn’t think this chart is significant.

Why is Scott right and Granny wrong?

Tony, one question. Is first degree (premediated) murder wrong? Or should we not call it murder because murder takes a life - but life is only an arbitrarily defined collection of carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen - a category description. Since life is no particulat thing, then the taking of life is not.

And please, I beg your indulgence, do more than just insult me as you did last time - you owe your fellow man an explanation as to why you are (must be) okay with murder. Who knows, someday you may be my neighbor and find yourself bored, and determine to impose your unscientific, non theistic worldview on me and decide I am a combination of elements that isnt really anything, and decide to experiment on my children.


Tony,
How do we know anything? To me it looks like you are missing the fundamental question and it puzzles me.

You have not supplied me with any reason why I should believe what Robert Morison, Ernst Mayr, or Tony Montano believes to be true is actually the case. In fact it seems to me that your own argument works against you.

Its a philosophical question and I am no philosopher but I have been exposed to arguments that address this issue. You have taken a course in philosophy so I expect that you are also aware of the issue.

So why do you think we can know anything (if you do)? What does that mean to you?

I think Christopher is correct to focus on worldview because it allows a more complete understanding of an individual's system of thought, the reasons why people hold their beliefs.

If meaningful communication in search of truth is our goal, going to fundamental questions seems to be most helpful. Of course you have to believe that meaningful communication is possible!

Tony says: "The only way for a Christian to argue against these men, is to convince your opponent that you know which God is the right one, and that he told which constructs in the universe have “life” (value/a soul/the force/etc.) and which do not."

Actually, the rock in my backyard told me they were wrong.

Justin,

please email me the audio recording.

patrick,

>> Tony, one question. Is first degree (premediated) murder wrong?

Like I said, for this question, assume I’m Christian. So yes.

But no, I don’t believe in platonic morality.

>> And please, I beg your indulgence, do more than just insult me as you did last time

I would never insult you. unless you pissed me off

>> you owe your fellow man an explanation as to why you are (must be) okay with murder.

Recognizing that murder doesn’t have evidence of a platonic referent, is not the same as “being ok with murder”. It is your burden to reveal its existence.

William,

>> You have not supplied me with any reason why I should believe what Robert Morison, Ernst Mayr, or Tony Montano believes to be true is actually the case.

Well because this is all biological classification is by nature. It’s a practice in circling things the universe. To believe otherwise, you would have to argue that Carolus Linnaeus was somehow channeling the material organizational chart of God when he published Systema Naturae in 1760.

If you cannot provide evidence of this, then I will conclude that indeed Systema Naturae does not layout a platonically axiomatic system. But I’m open to counter arguments if you have any.

>> So why do you think we can know anything (if you do)?

Epistemology per se is not of issue here. Save it for the next blog.

>> I think Christopher is correct to focus on worldview because it allows a more complete understanding of an individual's system of thought, the reasons why people hold their beliefs.

In this particular question posed, I would argue the same way even if I were Christian.

It is unfortunate that the bible does not provide us with a rigorous way of labeling constructs in the universe as gods people, or NOT gods people. It is en vogue for Christians to appeal to contemporary biology as Scott does above.

My only goal is to get you to understand that this is a fallacy.

Both sides of the argument come down to intuition. I forget the quote, but it goes something like this...

"Without intuition we can never know anything"

We know scientific discoveries are true - not because we can prove that our proofs are true, and then prove that those proofs are true (infinite regress) - we know they are true because intuitively we just know it, by way of reasoning.

Where does this take us now?

"You may want to check out some of the christian prolife literature on this matter. Christians appeal to biology. I don't know what you're appealing to..."

The fact that people appeal to biology does not negate the possibility or recognition of other means of determining life and humanity.

See, your argument presumes we cannot know humanity in an objective, scientific sense. Which would extend to the end of any human life - thus making it technically permissible from that point of view to kill this person any time they are inconvenient or problematic for you.

The fact of the matter is that truth is not determined by scientific inquiry or observation.

Christopher,
I agree. If science can't tell us when humanity or personhood begins then that line of thinking can be carried out to it's logical conclusion - which means you can kill anybody at any time because you have no proof they are a human person.

You put it nicely I think but I'll add my own twist...

"truth is not determined by scientific inquiry or observation, it's determined by intuition" (as in God given intuition that is hardwired into our being).

Can I prove this? No, but Tony can't prove he's a person/human either.

Tony,
The tape is in the mail. Of course, to most people it will seem like silence. But unless said people can give show me a platonically axiomatic system conveying what audible sound is, I guess they'll have to take my word for it.

Tony:"Recognizing that murder doesn’t have evidence of a platonic referent, is not the same as “being ok with murder”. It is your burden to reveal its existence"

You don't need an arguement from me, Tony. Regards. I shall trouble you no further. "I go to the gentiles".

Patrick,

philosophy is not for everyone

justin,

Yes,

who among us holds the list of exaclty which gas vibrations constitute "sound."

Indeed there is no such list. SO what do people do? They vote on a set of rules and make conventions.

sound engineering conventions, acceptable media evidence in court, etc...

its the same with life.

most people just dont understand that yet.


chris,

"The fact that people appeal to biology does not negate the possibility or recognition of other means of determining life
and humanity."

list one

Steve,

"Tony can't prove he's a person/human either."

can you prove that pluto is a planet or a rock?

It seems to me that we have two choices here:

(1) life/humanity/personhood starts at point X; or

(2) life/humanity/personhood has no starting point because it’s just a human construct - an illusion.

If (1) then that truth is independent of our ability to perceive it. If it’s independent of our perception then it transcends the human mind. If (2) then we’re all fooling ourselves into thinking humans at any age are any different than rocks or carbon atoms. The reason I reject (2), and the reason most people do, is because it goes against everything our collective minds tell us.

If (1) is true then ultimately science can't prove/disprove it because it isn't something you can stuff into a test tube. I think Tony and I are in agreement here.

Where we seem to disagree is that (1) implies that something lies beyond our mind and I believe that something is the god of the bible.

steve,

assume everything you said is true.

Then would you admit that Christians OUGHT to stop appealing to biology in an attempt to convince the irreligious that christians know where x is?

Given the set of rules that science has decided to play by I'd say yes. But don't forget that it cuts both ways! Naturalists/physicalists/atheists/etc OUGHT to stop appealing to biology... but then where will they go - to the philosophy department?? But that isn't scientific (smile).

I think philosophy can answer the question best. In my opinion, the most valuable knowledge is obtained that way.

absolutely agreed.

this is the only work the Linnaeus Fallacy can do.

it gets prolifers to (FOR GODS SAKE) abandon an appeal to biology.

you do realize steve, that most prolifers dont agree with you though. and they will continue to make the appeal as scott does here: http://str.typepad.com/weblog/2006/03/unlivable_life.html#comment-15524558


But yet you are correct. Philosophy or perhaps more appropriately, theology is the only way to answer the personhood question.

What the christian must do is convince his opponent that the lord god told him which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are valuable humans and which are not.

good luck with that.

"But yet you are correct. Philosophy or perhaps more appropriately, theology is the only way to answer the personhood question."

As I said, you knew the answer but were playing a game. But you fail in the next paragraph:

"What the christian must do is convince his opponent that the lord god told him which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are valuable humans and which are not."

Because you ignored the first part of your sentance where you noted Philosophy can answer this question. You tried to qualify it by saying "more appropriately" but you'd already let it slip.

Philosophy is the method by which you are able to determine rationally things which science cannot prove. It's the method of determining truth, as opposed to facts. Philosophy does not require lord God telling anyone anything.

All it requires is a recognition that the world is not made up and defined exclusively through naturalistic and scientific terms.

i'm not really interested in distinguishing between philosophy and theology at this time. I am open to the notion that an argument could come from 'secular' philosophy. See the arguments of 'property things' and 'identity'.

But no one here has brought any of those up so, oh well... then theology it is...for now.

My goal is to get prolifers to the point steve is at.

are you in agreement with steve?

Tony, my point is to get you to admit that naturalism and science are not the only ways to know something. You have spent days here trying to get people to tell you how something can be known in scientific terms. You've finally admitted that truth can only be known by philosophy, and that humanity is not defined by scientific terms.

One can use scientific terms to decry killing unborn children however, despite your work to move people away from that. For instance, even if you could in some manner prove that a 32-celled foetus was not human, it will inevitably become human barring some unnatural event or accident. It has human genetic material, and is not a PIECE of a human, but an incomplete one at worst.

That makes it reprehensible to kill it without just or moral cause by any sane definition - and it's entirely based on science.

So sorry Tony.

Tony said:
"What the christian must do is convince his opponent that the lord god told him which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are valuable humans and which are not."

Now you're being silly - or are you mocking me, Tony? You make it sound like the christian has the burden of proof and you have none. You have just as much burden as we do - actually more.

The vast majority agree that humans are distinct and more valuable than carbon atoms, plants, rocks, trees, etc. so the philosophical advantage goes to my side. You have very little support for your position.

Since science can't give you the answer, how do you propose convincing the rest of us that a fetus is no more valuable than a tomato plant or a lump of dirt?

Steve,

>> Now you're being silly - or are you mocking me, Tony?

Absolutely not. For this indeed IS the Christians proper course of argument. And it’s not bad. There are some good arguments for the existence of god and a creator of the cosmos. My only goal was to get Christians to understand that THIS is the course they must follow. NOT biology.

>> You make it sound like the christian has the burden of proof and you have none. You have just as much burden as we do - actually more.

Well the Christian prolifers have made the claim. They have claimed that that they know which constructs of matter are platonically human. I only ask how they know that. I claim nothing.

>> The vast majority agree that humans are distinct and more valuable than carbon atoms, plants, rocks, trees, etc. so the philosophical advantage goes to my side.

Yes. But note that even if I agreed that yes constructs called humans are valuable, that still leaves the question as to when carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen becomes a human open.

>> You have very little support for your position.

Are you crazy? I have NO support for my position. Haha. Doesn’t make me wrong though.

>> Since science can't give you the answer, how do you propose convincing the rest of us that a fetus is no more valuable than a tomato plant or a lump of dirt?

I think the fetus (or an adult for that matter) is a construct of matter. It is the Christian who thinks it is something more. The burden is on them to convince the world that they know when said “moreness” attaches to material constructs.

This cannot be known via biology.

chris,

>> my point is to get you to admit that naturalism and science are not the only ways to know something.

k. Read the conversation carefully and you’ll see I never claimed they were.

>> You have spent days here trying to get people to tell you how something can be known in scientific terms.

Actually Scott and Melinda were trying to do that.

>> You've finally admitted that truth can only be known by philosophy, and that humanity is not defined by scientific terms.

Hmm. They wouldn’t agree with you.

>> One can use scientific terms to decry killing unborn children however, despite your work to move people away from that.

Huh?

>> For instance, even if you could in some manner prove that a 32-celled foetus was not human, it will inevitably become...

The argument from potential is a different line of reasoning not applicable here.

You seem to espouse elusive access the lords criteria for human-ness. Can you use this access to tell me how many ‘humans’ you see here?

http://www.snopes.com/photos/medical/maged.asp

>> "Are you crazy? I have NO support for my position. Haha. Doesn’t make me wrong though."

Philosophically it does make you wrong. Most of the greatest minds in all of history are on the opposite side as you are. How will you counter them?

>> "I think the fetus (or an adult for that matter) is a construct of matter. It is the Christian who thinks it is something more."

It is YOU who think it's all the same - a positive claim if I ever heard one. As I said above, how do you propose convincing the world that they are wrong and that you are right?

>> "The burden is on them to convince the world that they know when said “moreness” attaches to material constructs."

Again, the world is basically united in the idea that humans are more valuable than other physical material constructs. This concept is not unique to christianity.

>> Philosophically it does make you wrong.

Haha. Nooooooo that’s the point of philosophy. The majority opinion IS NOT necessarily true.

>> Most of the greatest minds in all of history are on the opposite side as you are. How will you counter them?

Well, I’ve actually never seen this point addressed anywhere, that without the submission of a supernaturally conveyed schematic of what exactly human life entails, the Christian must realize that in arguing for conception as the starting line, he is merely campaigning for his own material labeling schema. I would be curious to sere what the “top minds” say.

>> As I said above, how do you propose convincing the world that they are wrong and that you are right?

Well it is true that most of the world is a dualist. But this argument still works even with an assumption of dualism, cuz we’re still arguing about WHICH constructs the soul attaches to. We could make a rule like, “all cognizant constructs are human.” But babies aren’t cognizant for years.

Tony,
Keep saying that I've proved nothing if you want. The way I see it is you've got a long way to go in convincing about 99.9% of the world that your worldview is the correct one.

Good luck to you Tony.

"I think the fetus (or an adult for that matter) is a construct of matter."

So to you it wouldn't be wrong to kill, rape, maim, torture or starve a fellow human being. It would be perfectly fine for anyone to do this to anyone else.

As I've demonstrated before, you do not believe this, nor does any other sane person. Your actions and life again contradict your stated position.

What bothers me is that you don't seem to care that there's a disconnect. One can only assume this is because you're in a situation where the two do not conflict and it doesn't matter that you're living a contradiction.

It's not Christianity that makes people recognize that humanity is distinct from any other lump of matter. Philosophy is able to distinguish these differences - just like you're able to distinguish between the words on this page and form them into comprehensible words in a manner science cannot explain or understand.

ahhhh man you never address any of my questions.

oh well

dead blog.

see you on the next one

I'm more interested in getting to the heart of the matter rather than playing a socratic game.

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