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November 20, 2012

Comments

Mostly what I get from pro-choice crowd is that the rights of the woman trumps that of the unborn. It becomes an issue of the woman has the right to remove a parasite from her body as that parasite has no right to use her body without her permission. I know that this is just dehumanizing the unborn in order to give greater rights to the mother and sanitizing her choice to have an abortion. It is playing mind games by twisting the reality of what the unborn is in order to justify the act. This is what we are up against in the more radical cases of pro-choice crowd. It is difficult to get them back to the real issue that Melinda pointed out in this piece. They simply dodge, evade and keep trying to get you to talk about nothing but the rights of women. Then they pretend that they already answered the issue of "what is it?". I really get to hate these kind of mind games.

Louis,

When pro-aborts say "that the rights of the woman trumps that of the unborn", i respond that parental obligation trumps bodily rights. Pro-aborts do not have a response to this.

http://www.l4l.org/library/whyparob.html

The most frustrating thing for me is that, being a man, I am told frequently that I don't get a say in this argument - that it's a woman's issue and women should be the ones to debate this topic. When you try to get past this and get to the question of 'what is the unborn'? I find I'm met more with anger than a willingness to have a reasonable conversation. Perhaps even more difficult is the fact that more and more people inside the church are taking the pro-choice view rather than giving consideration for the lives that are being taken for the sake of convenience.

Aside from the debate side of this issue, it's scary to to see the what human element is becoming. I have always been under the impression that people who support abortion do so because they haven't stopped to consider the argument that Melinda and Louis bring out; they just assume that medical science has somehow proven that it's not a real human being in the womb.

However, I have recently begun to believe that most people readily accept that the unborn fetus that is going to be aborted is a living human being full of life. Case in point; my friend's dad regularly goes to abortion clinics to witness and pass out tracts to those going in for abortions. He claims that nowadays, most people will look him square in the eye and say something to the effect of, "Yeah, I know it's a baby human life in my womb, but...", and then they insert from a selection of rationalizations ranging from "My life is terrible and I don't want to subject a newborn to what I'm going through" to "I can't afford to raise a baby" to whatever.

The point is, that it seems culture and society are now readily acknowledging that abortion is the killing of an innocent human baby, and further, that they're okay with it. And that scares me.

I could be wrong, but I think fear of the unknown is what's keeping many people in the pro-choice camp. If abortions are illegal, what will be the legal consequences of crossing that line? That hasn't been clearly communicated to the public.

If a woman's unborn child dies will she be investigated by the police and charged with manslaughter or murder or neglect, will she pay a fine or serve jail time, etc, etc? What if it was an accident?

Does anyone have any research or polling data on the subject?

Hi SteveK, I think if we as a society would be consistent in protecting life, there has to be consequences that match the offense. If an abortion is illegal, it will be because the life of the unborn has been rightly given personhood status, and if it is proven that an abortion has been performed, there ought to be consequences or else what deterrent is there?

I think that the civil magistrate in carrying out it's ministerial duty necessarily rewards good behavior and punishes evildoers/bad behavior. The killing of unborn humans can never be construed as good, so people really should be confuses/fearful about this civil authority that rewards bad behavior, and punishes good behavior[see how RICO was used against pro-life organizations/staff]. Anyway, I haven't seen any polling or research other than blog type research asking for opinions regarding what would/should it look like if Roe is overturned.

I agree about the need for consequences, Brad. I was just theorizing that, *perhaps*, some (many?) choose to remain pro-choice (for now) out of fear that they may needlessly be charged with a crime, investigated or sued over something they didn't want to have happen in the first place. I could be wrong.

For example: Mom was pregnant last week at the doctors office and lost her baby in a miscarriage at home. Does the doctor call the police, do they interview your family, are medical tests required - what happens?

The definition of what makes us human, where our personhood is located, what grants us thought, what generates our emotions, and where our sentience lies is clearly defined, and thus where “that” is found, “human” is found, “person” is found, “we” are found, and things really do become quite clear when we realize where “it” is. Where the genome is, We are. Where the genome is, You are. Where the genome is, I am. That is the floor, that is the ceiling, and that is all the supporting walls in between. Every bit of it. Every bit of I. Every bit of You. Every bit of We.


“DNA neither cares nor knows. DNA just is. And we dance to its music.” (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life)


We just are the music; it is the music, those inexplicable notes which come from we know not where, which speak of we know not what. Yes, it is that music, those lovely notes, that unique melody which has all the illusion of composition and all the feel of harmony wherein our voice is irrevocably pinpointed and out of which our song thus sings. We know songs do not sing; we know sings do not song, but so it is, and the how of it we cannot see. It just is. We call it Genome. Nature calls it nothing. An effervescence of seeming synchronization; a cul-de-sac of alleged orchestration.


That tiny little universe we call humanity is found, every bit of it, there inside of that eerie double helix. It’s uncanny. That Ceiling. That Floor. Those walls. All if it. All of us. The song that sings. The sing that songs. In error we claim to sing our song and in error we brand the singing Human. In truth the song sings; in truth the former determines the latter. It is the song and not the singing which is real, which is us. All else is illusion. We have never sung a song. Not ever. Where the Human Genome is, the Human just is.


SteveK, we have plenty of evidence of what happens when abortion is illegal and women have miscarriages.

Before abortion was "legalized" in the US, were women investigated for miscarriages? Were women questioned by police?

Look at countries where abortion is currently illegal such as Ireland. Are women harassed when they have a miscarriage?

Pro-aborts would gladly show us evidence that Irish women suffer such investigations but they can't because pro-aborts have no such evidence. Pro-aborts would gladly show us evidence that American women were needlessly harassed by police before Roe, but they can't because there is no such evidence.

"Investigations over miscarriages" is just a scare-tactic without any basis in reality.

Police aren't going to waste their time investigating something unless they have good reason to suspect a crime has been committed. Because miscarriage is rather common, it doesn't provide such probable cause.

"The most frustrating thing for me is that, being a man, I am told frequently that I don't get a say in this argument - that it's a woman's issue and women should be the ones to debate this topic."

Exactly. The entire point behind "you're a man" is to shut you up. "Shut up" is intellectual weakness, intellectual cowardice.

Thanks Drew.

If by some chance abortion were outlawed in the U.S. tomorrow, the sad fact is that the practice would continue. Families that want them and can afford them were always able to find doctors to perform them in the past. For the poor there may not be as many "back alley" abortions as there are now chemical alternatives.

I have become more convinced as I've gotten older and older that the best solution to reduce abortions is to rip away the stigma off of contraception. Stop pregnancy before it starts with education and these "problem pregnancies" go away.

I don't see how answering the question of what an unborn human is should help the pro-life camp. It has been suggested that each unborn human is a "helpless, innocent human being." Well, I agree that it is a helpless, innocent human organism. I'm hesitant to say it is a human being, though, because typically by that term we mean a human which has been born, and/or which possesses a mind. Certainly no unborn human meets the former criterion, and not all of them meet the latter.

Is there some reason that we should outlaw the destruction of a human organism which consists of a single zygote cell (even if it is "helpless" and "innocent")? And if you agree that we have no good reason to outlaw the destruction of zygotes, what about other underdeveloped human organisms?

Hi Ben, since we are discussing unborn human beings, your attempt to blur the line by trying to hijack the definition by use of the
o-word really is a difference without distinction. IOW, a human organism is still a human being at every stage of life.

Here's your first sentence of the second paragraph again using the STR preferred name to show your foolery:

"Is there some reason that we should outlaw the destruction of a human organism being which consists of a single zygote cell (even if it is "helpless" and "innocent")?"

You really cant help but acknowledge in this switcheroo of yours that to even call a 1 day old conceptus a human being spells defeat for the pro-death camp. You were a 1 day old conceptus, with 1 day old conceptus characteristics that you readily demean/debase with terminology, yet your adult self critically depended on the survival of 1day old coceptus Ben, just like you did depend on 1 after birth Ben's survival and 10 year old Ben. Yet 1 day old conceptus, 1 day after birth, 10 year old Ben and adult Ben are all the same organism at different stages of life.

Like I said your attempt to hijack terminology is a distinction without a difference.

Brad B,

I don't appreciate being accused of "foolery." I was quite explicit in my distinction between human beings and human organisms. If you think there is no difference, then you had better explain what you mean by the terms.

I appreciate your input Drew.

scbbrownlhrm, I dont know what your post is really saying, since what I think you've said is that everything that it is to be human is in the genome, but this seems to be a kind of materialistic reduction. I dont think the soul is accounted for in the genome, maybe I'm really misinterpreting you.

Hi Ben, I explained why there is no difference when I outlined the maturation of the organism that you are, if you disagree, maybe you should spell it out. You attempted to make a distinction where there is none--and this to blur the offense when humans in the womb are killed--really worse than foolery, more like accessory to murder.

Brad B,

When I say that you had better explain what you mean by the terms, in particular I want you to tell me what you mean when you use the term "human being." What are you trying to communicate when you insist that every human organism is also a human being?

I already told you what I mean. Indeed, when I use the term "human being" I'm referring to a human organism which, at minimum, possesses a mind, and usually which is born. If you think this is a misuse of the term, then please explain how you think it should be used---that is, please explain what you mean by the term.

And when you do this, it would really help to be civil, and not accuse me of "foolery" and "accessory to murder."

My apologies if there are double copies of this post.

Brad B in a selfish sort of way I was glad you got the gist of my post. A materialist’s reduction. All of this is a kind of bridge into the inevitable attempt to dissect Mind and Body, which Ben will claim he can do, but which he will provide no mechanism for, and he will thus remain enslaved to Genome and never find his Voice to Sing beyond Song. We launch something truly *immaterial* in theism, and specifically our Spirit and our Soul. Is it Dawkins’ Song which Sings? Or is it we who Sing? Can a Sing really break away from Song and Sing? Whence the Voice? Can a Song, a page of notes, ever Sing with what we all *mean* by Sing? What is *Voice*? The Materialists and Atheists really do concede all things Human to the Genome. In fact they shake their fist while screaming at the Theist for attempting to break free of it. Except here, where they claim to have magical powers to break free of it too. Perhaps they are closer to our Theism than we think? As for Mind, and as for Immaterial, which is the Singing for which there is no account beyond the Material as yet provided by Ben, we have only a play on words on his part, for he seems to join Dawkins *inevitably* as the Music plays, and we Dance, and we cannot see a way through to ever leave the Music behind.


All that we call Human is nicely seen in the raw, physical, and empirical observance of our existence from stages A to Z along varying, successive stages of our existence. Dawkins reminds us where that starts in the eyes of Science. There are no *inherent* grounds to claim the Mind and Body of a 60 year old man with Alzheimer’s Disease who eats his own feces is worthy of death while the Mind and Body of his earlier self is worthy of life on *that ground* alone and the only grounds available to make that claim are found either in Utility or in Whim, neither of which is empirically verifiable under a microscope, nor inherent, nor immutable. And so we end with Ben’s wholly arbitrary (an unscientific) re-classification schemes somewhere within either Whim or Utility, unless he can show us his mechanism by which the Immaterial Mind has escaped the Material and Sings beyond it, free of it, and thus trumps it, leaving it behind to die while it itself retains worth and life. Does Ben mean to say the Mind outlasts the Genome? Precedes it? If Mind precedes Genome, from whence does it come? If Mind outlasts Genome, where does it go? Can a Song Sing? Can a Sing Song? Shall a senile 60 year old man who has lost his mind and who eats his own feces be deemed a beautiful mind free of his Genome? If not, shall we in some pain free fashion end his existence? We must ask Ben this: wouldn’t a pain free end be a “Better Experience” or a “Good Experience” in relation to a pain-filled, Mind-Less existence / experience? Aren’t Good Experiences all that matter? Hasn’t Ben made that argument elsewhere? If we cannot end that old man’s existence in some pain free fashion, but he has truly lost his Mind, then why can we not end his existence in some pain-free fashion, as he has truly lost his Mind already? Does Ben mean to (seemingly) contradict himself and argue that a Pain Filled and Mindless Existence is a “Better Experience” or somehow more worthy/good than a pain free end? On what grounds? Societal Utility? Collective Whim? What is Mind? What is the Immaterial? Clearly science and materialism show us the Human nicely developing all along various stages of its life, from Zygote to Senile Old Man and finally to Death. Raw science shows us no breaks in that observable and Singular Sum that is the A to Z of a man’s existence from Zygote to Senility to Death. Any dissection of that empirically verifiable and singular, unbroken path is not supported by raw, physical materialism nor by raw, observable data (science) by default. Dawkins is at least *honest* as he runs out of Eden. We can’t help but admire Honesty.


As for the Immaterial, which is Ben’s only escape out of Determinism in which he can claim to Sing beyond Song and therein break free of his enslavement to Genome, he must provide his mechanism, or, he must resort to Utility, or, he must resort to Whim. Now, the later two amount to mere wordsmithing. Arbitrary. Contextual-Whim in which he will take observable physical data (the A to Z of a man’s development all along its unbroken sum total stages of existence) into his own unobservable machine that is his own self-defined classification schemer, yet, he will fail to show us the mechanism of the necessary Immaterial by which he can escape mere Utility, mere Whim, and arrive finally in an inherent, and by inherent we mean *real*, escape out of Materialism and thus make the claim that Mind is Immaterial and therein show Dawkins his error and perhaps lead Dawkins once again back into Eden. I do not think Ben means to lead Dawkins back to Eden. One cannot have it both ways. I think inevitably we will find Ben and Richard kicking and pulling, attempting to break free of their material enslavement all the while knowing they can never *really* pull it off. Precede Genome? Outlast Genome? Free of Genome?

There is so much more, or, the heart has so much more, or, the Genome has so much more, or, the Mind has so much more to say here, but, it is a holiday, and, so, perhaps a bit at a time in small bits as time permits. Today is a Good Day to give Good Thanksgiving to our Good God, Whose Name just is Love, Who just is Love Himself, and Who has given Mankind His forgiveness of all offenses whatsoever, and Whose Ransom has made everyone of us, regardless of offenses, whiter than snow. If one should raise his former sins to God and ask “But what of THIS which I have done?” God would in return ask, “What of what thing which you have done? I see NOTHING there.” Thank You, God, for that.

Hi Ben, I'm not trying to be uncivil, maybe just too blunt. The bluntness is really aimed at your argument, not you personally [I dont believe that you can determine your ultimate presuppositions just like I cannot]. All I can do is expose inconsistencies in the comprehensive worldview by use of logic, a tool available to everyone, no matter their ultimate presuppositions. Even then, to let logic be the taskmaster is not easy since language gets in the way.

Here's my argument against your distinction[why I call it a distinction without a difference]

Current day Ben, as of Nov 22 2012 is the same organism as the 1 day old conceptus Ben in utero. There is a continuity there of being. Your being is human, has always been human, and will continue to be human.

Your distinction about personhood is also tied to this continuity in an undeniable way. The 1 day old post birth Ben, and the current day Ben
depended on the future/survival of 1 day conceptus Ben. Everything that it is to be Ben is in the 1 day old conceptus Ben, he is complete, although a young, immature, undeveloped Ben. Current day Bens tomorrows are rightfully his and to deny him his future days of life unjustifiably is something we call murder. 1 day old post birth Ben's future days of life belong to him and to deny him those days also deny current day Bens life.

Since 1 day post birth, and current day Ben also depend on 1 day old conceptus Ben's survival, it is consistent to say that unjustifiable denial of 1 day old conceptus Ben's future is murder of Ben.

Now you might suggest that 1 day old conceptus Ben has no right to expect support, but Drew's point above is practically self evident that parental responsibilities trump choice. Even as adult human beings, needing aid to survive by means of lifes necessities, food, water, air etc.., you cannot deny one of these unjustifiably without bearing responsibility for their demise, and in a similar but less potent way, to not support one who is incapable of attaining their needs would be morally reprehensible. Even if one tries to argue away the point of responsibility, you cannot break the chain of continuity of being without losing credibility as a logician.

Brad,

Thanks for the clarifications. It seems like you define the term "human being" exactly as I define the term "human organism". Apparently, for you a human being is just any individual member of the human species. Is that correct?

But if that's how you define a "human being," then I fail to see why all human beings (or all innocent human beings, or whatever other qualifiers you wish to add) must have the right to life. Take the extreme example of a zygote. On your definition, a zygote is a human being. But what about the zygote requires us to grant it the right to life?

It seems like you want to say that the mere fact it is a human individual is sufficient, or perhaps sufficient in conjunction with its general innocence. But why is that? It's not clear to me why every innocent member of the human species should be granted the right to life. A zygote seems the perfect counter-example. It's a single cell, has no consciousness and feels no pain. It has no thoughts or hopes or dreams. It is entirely biological, with no evident mental characteristics. If it is destroyed, it will have at no point ever been a conscious being. Why should we grant this individual zygote the right to life? That is not at all obvious.

So it won't do to merely invoke the notion of an innocent human being as you have defined it.

Also, I'd like to respond to this comment you wrote:

"Current day Bens tomorrows are rightfully his and to deny him his future days of life unjustifiably is something we call murder."

Well I don't call it that. Maybe you do, but then you had better justify your label. Why is it a bad thing to rob from a zygote its potential future?

Hi again Ben, you are ignoring the concept of continuity of being. There is an unbreakable chain of continuity--you break into that chain anywhere by interfering with life, life's sustenance and progression/maturation and well being without justification, you are morally responsible for a human life, this is necessarily true by virtue of undeniable logic. ie Ben today,[and every other human who surviced the womb] has been robbed of his right to life, if at any day prior to today his progression of life was unjustifiably interrupted, even backe to the point when Ben was a zygote. If you disagree with this, you are logically inconsistent.

Somehow I think we're miscommunicating when you said:

"Well I don't call it that. Maybe you do, but then you had better justify your label. Why is it a bad thing to rob from a zygote its potential future?"

The default position throughout the whole world is that it is murder to unjustifiably deny a human his future days of life.

",[and every other human who surviced the womb]"
should be survived

Brad B,

Logic clearly shows continuity. But also so does our microscope and all our observable, verifiable data. A to Z. If Ben refutes this, well then he is just unscientific/illogical. All that is Ben is [visibly touchable] through Time both forward/backwards from Zygote to Senility to Death. Prior to Zygote & after Death our Materialism looses touchable-ness. All that remains for Ben is either an attempt toward Immaterial Mind or a move toward Utility or toward Whim to slice up that always intact continuity which our fingers can actually touch from Ben/Zygote to Senile/Mindless Ben to Just-Died-Ben.

Hi scblhrm, I figured my reading of your post was not in character with your normal position on naturalism and your follow up was exactly what I would have thought you'd have to say about this subject. As far as your latest post, I agree with your summation, and would add it doesn't matter whether someone has an arbitrary point where they'd assign personhood as a label to demark the point of legal protection vs no protection. The point is that there is no doubt that the same human organism goes from zygote to adult all the while needing only to survive.

Brad,

It's not that I'm ignoring the continuity of life. Rather, I just don't see how it's relevant.

You wrote:

"...ie Ben today...has been robbed of his right to life, if at any day prior to today his progression of life was unjustifiably interrupted, even backe to the point when Ben was a zygote."

If I had been aborted, then the Ben of today would never have existed. And you can't rob a nonexistent entity of anything.

Instead the abortion would rob the embryo (or zygote, or fetus, or whatever) of its future. But what is it such a bad thing to rob a preconscious embryo of its future?

You also write:

"The default position throughout the whole world is that it is murder to unjustifiably deny a human his future days of life."

Clearly this is not the case, else abortion would not cause such controversy. But even if it was, why would I care about what those other people think, more than the millions of women who want to have abortions?

Hi Ben, if you are willing to consider every experience of your past of no value at all, then you can consistently say:

"But what is it such a bad thing to rob a preconscious embryo of its future?"

If you maintain consistency, and if you say that, you are saying that your life past is of no value[to you or your loved ones], you'll lose credibility by virtue of either dishonesty or phychopathy.

You cannot escape the necessary continuity of Ben today with Ben at the zygote stage of life.

"Clearly this is not the case,"
It is not the case that if I end your life today unjustifiably and take your future from you[by ending your life], that I have committed murder? I dont think you are really understanding what "robbing someone of their future days" is meant to convey. If you dont think it is the crime of murder, maybe you can explain your definition of murder so I can figure out what value/if any, human life has.

Drew H. , You're absolutely right about Pro-borts 'gladly showing us evidence that women suffer due to a lack of abortion rights.' Check out one of CNN's "Top Headline" stories today.

http://www.cnn.com/2012/11/23/world/europe/ireland-abortion-controversy/index.html

If we arbitrarily value "life" regardless of "missed days" (experience) then that which was alive being dead constitutes murder.

If instead we arbitrarily value "missed days" (experience) rather than mere "alive" then capacity for lost days (experience) which goes unfulfilled due to the bullet constitutes murder.

If we value both "alive" and missed days, then its murder on either count.

If we value neither, we forfeit the intellectual right to call anything valuable, even our own past and our own future, and no definition is feasible.

If one is not careful it is easy to be inconsistent and/or dishonest.

Zygotes have capacity for tomorrow's experience in the very same way that I too have capacity for tomorrow's experience. It is the "alive" part which we both need in exactly the same way to realize those experiences or thoughts or etc. If we say its the "alive" thing, or, if we say its the unfulfilled capacity thing, either way, we find a problem anywhere from Zygote to Man. Consistency does permit us to say we do not value life but do value robbed capacity fulfillment and therein kill senile adults, but no move permits us to do this to the Zygote (assuming consistency).

Killing senile adults is arguable perhaps. We could also shield them by asserting they have SOME capacity......but I mean to refer to Ben's thesis on Good Experiences as it relates to loosing one's mind and suffering....

Hi scblhrm, I would say[to what you wrote] "it seems so to me", but really my own reference has no more value than the next person. But, we have a witness greater than anyones testimony

"Psa 139:13 For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb.
Psa 139:14 I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.
Psa 139:15 My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;
Psa 139:16 Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them."

It is no wonder that mankind, with near complete universalality, and with an un-rivaled tenaciousness searches for meaning. We know it's there, but can really only ground it in Him.

Brad,

You keep talking about inconsistency, but you haven't yet specified what this alleged inconsistency is supposed to be. In particular, what inconsistency do you think you see between my valuing my past experiences on one hand, and not finding anything wrong or bad about robbing a zygote of its future experiences?

You write:

"It is not the case that if I end your life today unjustifiably and take your future from you (by ending your life), that I have committed murder?"

Sure. But we are talking about zygotes and embryos, not adults.

You continue:

"I dont think you are really understanding what 'robbing someone of their future days' is meant to convey. If you dont think it is the crime of murder, maybe you can explain your definition of murder so I can figure out what value/if any, human life has."

I don't think murder is well-defined, which is why I tend to avoid using the term if I can. But here's a working definition I like: Let X be a social group of human individuals, and let A and B be individuals who belong to X. Then A murders B if A kills B when A's judgment is not impaired, and B has greater or equal social standing relative to A.

Ben,

I was hoping for an actual logical argument rather than mere whim. You already said so many people disagree about murder in your post before last, yet here you appeal to that same Collective Whim which you just told us didn't exist. You are now inconsistent on three fronts.

To clarify

You value life or "alive" but not consistently.
You value experience but not consistently.
You value whim but not consistently for you drop it when groups X and Y differ.
You value Mind but not consistently as group Z does not value it.

All you have really said is "Its whatever everyone else says it is".

One more front of inconsistency:

Ben values capacity for experience, but not consistently.


.......Thus far he merely appeals to the 49%/51% rule. But then THAT too he leaves open to dropping, if 51% say to drop it.

If we wish to see Ben's logical inconsistency we need only bring up Social Group X and a murdered adult slave of no social standing and then juxtapose to that all his talk of Good Experiences vs Mind vs life vs Collective Whims in differing groups......an endless circle of self negations.

Hi Ben, you're just being obtuse I think. Rather than saying you dont see any consistency in the fact that your [current day Ben's]past experiences were zygote Ben's future experiences. This is not a difficult connection to make, it has been laid out in such a way that the only way someone as capable as you are can miss it, is simply not wanting to see it, scblhrm sees it of you too.


Our microscope shows us that consistency both forwards through time and backwards through time. Now, our logic does too, and my capacity for thought/experience tomorrow is wholly dependent on the life of the body alone, whether I am a Zygote or a 20 year old man or a 60 year old man and the continuity of my situation in that regard is consistent through time, and consistent through logic, and consistent under the microscope, until I die. Now, there comes a point where Mind/Soul breaks away from the Material via the Immaterial, but, Ben will not go there and thus it is the physical body alone to which he must appeal. But I do not think Ben will allow himself to appeal to either the microscope nor to logic *if* or *when* either one or both contradicts his notion of contextual semantics. He just is not concerned with developing a view which is coherent or consistent *through and through* but instead has a rather strong attraction towards, quite simply, Relativism. This is why we find his moving targets in various posts here and elsewhere, first of Individual Whim which shifts to Mind which shifts to Experience which shifts to Capacity which then shifts to where he’s shifted to now: Collective Whims. His relativism is couched in fancy cloak and dagger narratives but when all his various appeals from various OP’s here at STR are juxtaposed along side of each other he is essentially all over the map. Brad B's appeal to consistency is just of no concern to Ben. In fact in a discussion with Wisdomlover he went so far to say that error is not in itself a bad thing, and thus his logical errors are, in his own words, not bad things and that is why he just is not concerned with this odd thing called ‘logical consistency’. It is not Logic, nor Love, nor Life, nor Any-One-Thing at all which he values as all that is valued is that perpetual drift into nothing in particular.


As for the slave in Social Group X (an adult slave), I leave it to Ben to appeal to any sort of inherent worth “somewhere” on “some thing” whether his particular mood of the day lead him to write of Mind, or Good Experiences, or Individual Whim, or Collective Whim, or Capacity, or Life, or Social Utility, or Social Whim, or whatever. And, as he does so, we need only pit one against the other and run round and round his circle, ad infinitum. There comes a point when a man must be honest with himself and if he cannot stand up to the face of round squares and presuppositions despite both Logic and Love showing him a necessary Immaterial End of Ad Infinitum then there will always be a Subtext beneath his feet which cannot support the weight of the Context above his head.

Ben argued like this:

A zygote seems the perfect counter-example. It's a single cell, has no consciousness and feels no pain. It has no thoughts or hopes or dreams. It is entirely biological, with no evident mental characteristics. If it is destroyed, it will have at no point ever been a conscious being. Why should we grant this individual zygote the right to life? That is not at all obvious.
This paragraph has a lot of layers that need to be peeled away to get to the core. When we get to the core, I think it will be seen to be deeply mistaken,

For starters, the fact that a zygote is a single cell is a red herring. Even Ben, I think, would have to admit that if a single-celled organism had all the other capabilities he mentions (consciousness, ability to feel pain, etc.), then it would be fully worthy of a right to life in a way that a chicken, for example, isn't.

Let's list the other items that Ben mentions:

  • Consciousness.
  • The ability to feel pain.
  • Presence of thoughts hopes and dreams.
  • Has been conscious.
  • Evident mental properties.
Some of these seem to repeat. Some seem not to go far enough. The mere ability to feel pain, for example, might count as a reason not to needlessly injure a thing, but I hardly think that full-blown personhood (or any rights at all) follow from it. What's more, some creatures might have a very low level of consciousness. I suppose that a housefly has a low level of consciousness. That's not going to keep me from swatting them.

What seems crucial is that these mental abilities rise to a level that the entity in question can itself have moral duties.

So I'm going to edit the list to this:

  1. Presence of moral autonomy.
  2. History of moral autonomy.
  3. Evidence of moral autonomy.
Now even though Ben did not express the list in exactly this way, I'm going to call it Ben's List. I don't think I've been too cavalier, but I'll apologize in advance, Ben, if I've put words in your mouth. If you wish to repudiate any major parts of the list, we can suppose that my foil in these comments is not you, but an imaginary pro-abortion advocate who shares your name.

In any case what I've got does represent a recognizable pro-abortion list of criteria.

Now, I'm not quite sure what's going on with #3. I think 'Ben' has thrown it in as a hedge against skepticism about other minds. The entity in question must not only be autonomous, but other persons, based on their experience of the entity and things like it, must be expected to believe that the entity is autonomous. The ability to use language to communicate would be an example of what, I think, Ben has in mind.

For example, one might contend that there is a moment of ensoulment, early in the history of a human being, where a mind is created and attached to a zygote. That mind has the unexercised capacity for autonomy right away quite apart from the usual connection with brain structures. And when the zygote is destroyed, you are violating the rights of that mind.

Now, I've stated this point with very little subtlety, but I actually think something like that is true. (Were I to be super careful about how I expressed my point, I'd surely not seem to presuppose mind-body dualism.) But in any case, what Ben could argue is that, even if I am right, there is no way that anyone would be able to observe a moment of ensoulment or the presence of the mind that exists at that point. So no one could be held responsible for killing it.

So anyway, #3 seems to be a hedge against that sort of case.

Now, I think you actually can be expected to believe that a capacity for autonomy is present early on. But in all events, I think Ben need not have polished his criteria quite so brightly by adding #3.

The issue is not, initially, whether I am, or any other individual is in the wrong for killing something. The issue, initially, is whether a thing has a right not to be killed. Ensouled zygotes, if there are such things, do have such a right...whatever other people might be able to find evidence for.

Now, let's return to Ben's list, but let's leave out item #3. Persons exhibit:

  1. Presence of autonomy.
  2. History of autonomy.
Notice first that there is no question that the zygote, and for that matter, a pretty late term embryo probably lacks autonomy. But the problem is that so does a person under anesthesia. So #1, by itself is not enough.

So, I suppose that Ben is going to say that either #1 or #2 is sufficient for personhood. As such, even though the anesthetized human is not autonomous, they have a history of autonomy. So the history of autonomy is enough in the case of the anesthetized person.

Now notice that any being for which item #1 is satisfied is a being for which item #2 is satisfied (though as we have just now seen, the reverse is not true). If you have autonomy at time-t, then you, thereby, have a history of autonomy for all times t and later.

So the important thing in Ben's list seems to be item #2: a history of autonomy. Item #1, present autonomy, is just a special case.

But a history of autonomy is quite clearly not an adequate criterion of personhood.

The morgue is full of corpses that have a history of autonomy, but the only persons in the morgue are the living people who work there.

So the history of autonomy seems to be of no importance at all.

What's important is the capacity for autonomy in the future.

The point is actually dreadfully obvious. But people on the pro-abortion side don't like to admit it because it completely tubes their position.

What's being taken away when my body is killed is my future capacity to be autonomous through that body. My history of autonomy through that body is not being taken away. God could (but won't) take that history away, and no human being even could take it away.

If I am autonomous, then my present autonomy is taken away when I am killed. But it's also taken away when I am anesthetized. What the anesthesiologist does not take away is my capacity for future autonomy. And that is why he is not, and should not be, charged with murder for doing his job.

But, of course, all humans have a very significant capacity for future autonomy from a very early stage of their existence. Corpses, the brain dead and lesser animals, like chickens, by contrast, have very little capacity for future autonomy.

As such, the early stage humans have a right to life, but the corpses, the brain dead and the chickens don't.

By the way, it's also quite evident that all humans have this capacity early on. No extraordinary measures need be taken to get a an infant or a five-day embryo to the point that they will act autonomously. Normal care and feeding will do. In contrast, no amount of normal care or feeding will get a corpse or a chicken to exhibit moral autonomy.

WisdomLover,

I think you misunderstood the point of the paragraph I wrote and which you quoted at the beginning of your comment above. I wasn't attempting to draw up a list of necessary and sufficient criteria for personhood or right to life, or anything else. Rather, I wanted to produce an example of a human individual for which it is not obvious that it has or should have the right to life. And a zygote seems the best example available.

The reason I listed some features of a zygote is for reflective purposes. Maybe a zygote still should have the right to life even given that it is not conscious, has never been conscious, and indeed has no mental component whatsoever. But, reflecting on this great distance between the zygote and the even slightest glimmer of consciousness, it sure is hard to see how that could be the case.

But as it turns out, you think I'm missing something obvious here. Namely, you write:

"What's important is the capacity for autonomy in the future."

But why is this important? You don't explain. It's true that when I reflect on the fact that a zygote could develop into a conscious being, I feel more protective of it than I would otherwise. However this feeling does not escalate anywhere near to the point of putting its protection ahead of the interests of actual conscious beings, i.e. the women who want abortions.

Ben,

*You* were not defining personhood / value criteria. But what does that have to do with the fact that WL just provided a consistent value logic across the board? We know you don't mind logical error, as you have told us that logical error and non-truths are not bad in themselves, but is it now *also* true you cannot value good logic, as here and as in Brad's line of continuity, which you still have not responded to?

Ben,

Another point: your prior definition of murder leaves room for Social Group X murdering a slave who is not of social value. I am curious of your tolerance of such in your definition?

scblhrm,

You wrote:

"your prior definition of murder leaves room for Social Group X murdering a slave who is not of social value. I am curious of your tolerance of such in your definition?"

In fact, that is a great strength of my characterization! In antiquity, I don't think most people considered killing slaves to be murder. They may have thought it was wrong, or impious, or something to that effect. But it wasn't always a crime, and it seems like most people regarded it as a lesser evil than killing someone of greater or equal social standing.

We look back on the situation with horror, because we don't differentiate between social standings in the same way. Most of us nowadays seem to think that enslaving someone is an injustice, and that no slave deserves his lot. In other words, the enslaved person, despite being treated as if he has lower social standing, does not actually have lower social standing. Slave and free are alike created equal.

So on my characterization, what counts as murder depends on a social context. From the vantage point of our own social context, killing a slave in antiquity was murder. From the vantage point of the ancient Greek (or Roman or Persian, etc.) viewpoint, it was not.

WL,

Ben has appealed to personhood in the past. And of course how that breaks down into cases and components is both obvious and necessary, as you've summarized. Brads continuity of being ties in nicely. Now of course Ben will drop that "value" and pick another slice. Perhaps when you attempt to "reason with" someone who has already stated that errors in logic & non-truths are not, in themselves, bad, and when that same person defines murder in a fashion which necessarily tolerates the logic behind1640's slave murders, it seems "reason with" may not be an option.

"But why is this important? You don't explain."

Hi Ben, I think WL's point about future autonomy is explained in his thorough treatment of the discussion so far.

"So the history of autonomy seems to be of no importance at all.

What's important is the capacity for autonomy in the future.

The point is actually dreadfully obvious. But people on the pro-abortion side don't like to admit it because it completely tubes their position."

I so agree with him that it is dreadfully obvious, somehow you missed it though. He goes on:

"What's being taken away when my body is killed is my future capacity to be autonomous through that body. My history of autonomy through that body is not being taken away. God could (but won't) take that history away, and no human being even could take it away.

If I am autonomous, then my present autonomy is taken away when I am killed. But it's also taken away when I am anesthetized. What the anesthesiologist does not take away is my capacity for future autonomy. And that is why he is not, and should not be, charged with murder for doing his job.

But, of course, all humans have a very significant capacity for future autonomy from a very early stage of their existence. Corpses, the brain dead and lesser animals, like chickens, by contrast, have very little capacity for future autonomy.

As such, the early stage humans have a right to life, but the corpses, the brain dead and the chickens don't.

By the way, it's also quite evident that all humans have this capacity early on. No extraordinary measures need be taken to get a an infant or a five-day embryo to the point that they will act autonomously. Normal care and feeding will do. In contrast, no amount of normal care or feeding will get a corpse or a chicken to exhibit moral autonomy.

bold emphasis is mine

It is that continuity thing again. WL's detailed treatment my friends is logically unassailable, none of the premises are subeject to rational dispute, having solid support even in and among the secualar world.

Hi Ben, you say:

"So on my characterization, what counts as murder depends on a social context. From the vantage point of our own social context, killing a slave in antiquity was murder. From the vantage point of the ancient Greek (or Roman or Persian, etc.) viewpoint, it was not."
So it seems that you have no problem with social context providing a moving/sliding scale of value for human life. If our current social context changes and some charismatic lunatic drives a mob who then convinces enough people to adopt a view that de-values humans by arbitrary standards, like Hitler's Germany to Jews, do you say it is not murder in that time/context? I wonder how many does it take to constitute social context? A simple majority?

Law is king, not king is law.

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