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February 07, 2006

Comments

"...so if we allow human fetuses to be dismembered because they have undeveloped brains, what principled reason can we give for protecting adolescents, whose brains are also undeveloped?"

What principled reason can you give for allowing women to dismember there unfertilized ovum - (i.e. if they wish to donate it to a biology class?)

How do you know which clusters of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are "human" and which are not?

In the vast chain of chemical reactions that occur in the mother's body throughout her life, how did you come to know that it is necessarily the case that, somehow, a particular construct achieves 'human-ness' at the fertilization event?

Does the biological scientific classification method reference a platonic realm – in the way that, say, geometry purportedly does? Is the practice of speciation coaxed from the manipulation of axiomatic truths? Or is it merely a list of criteria logging an observation that one blob over here is kinda like this blob, but not much like that blob…

Isn't the difference that "this blob" over here can and will develop into a human being while "that blob" over there will never and could never?

Justin,

Many constructs do not “fully” develop. For example most of what Christians call humans develop into structures that are not fully developed – i.e. the majority of pregnancies end in natural abortion. Others become dwarves. Some never grow feet. Some never grow arms. Surprisingly, some never grow a brain much beyond a brainstem.

If God gave us a list of what exactly it means for a cluster of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen to be in a form such that God say, “Ok, now that area of the universe contains a human” then that’s what we would need.

If he doesn’t do that, the secular community is just guessing.

Tony,

I think you overlooked part of Justin's statement. Isn't there a distinction between a "blob" that cannot fully develop and a "blob" that might or might not fully develop?

Andrew,

Well, for example, someone who suffers from dwarfism is someone who lacks a certain genetic instruction set, and "cannot fully develop." Yet Christians still consider a dwarf to be a "human".

In the same sense, someone who is an ovum, also lacks a genetic instruction set (sperm), and (like the dwarf) will not develop beyond a certain point.

Why have Christians elected to choose to treat the dwarf as "human" and the ovum as "not human"? And by whose authority do they appeal when they attempt to convince a secular nation that there personal starting line of humanness is the right one?

According to the latest Scientific Research, http://www.brucelipton.com/mind-over-genes.php , intelligent life begins **before** conception. On that basis the abortion people are all completely wrong.

I have always thought that the concept of abortion is wrong in any case.

If you don't want a baby either take precautions or don't have sex. Pretty easy really.

Abortion is currently used as a cheaper form of birth control.

Yes, I am male, I have been married and I do have children.

It is not a requirement of life that you have sex, it is a requirement of reproduction.

Lets try to keep the debate on the real facts. Redirect the abortion debate away from the unborn child's right to life and focus clearly on the parents obligation to take full responsibility for their actions before, during and after sex.

Children enrich lives, abortion destroys them.

People who don't want children should make sure they can't have them or not have sex. Easy choice, make the decision.

Brent,

"...intelligent life begins **before** conception..."

interesting statement. Why do you say that?

Tony,

I think you raise some legitimate questions, but I can't help thinking that you have some idea yourself about how they should be answered. You asked, "How do you know which clusters of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are 'human' and which are not?" I'm assuming that you believe yourself to be human, but you don't believe a mouse is a human. How do you distinguish between them?

I don't remember if I read this on your web page or not, but I vaguely remember you raising similar questions about what should be considered life and what shouldn't. Also, what should be considered a human being and what should be considered part of a human being.

I'm also assuming that you can tell there's a difference between a rock and a tree. One is living and the other is not. Do you think the orinary criteria (e.g. growth, metabolism, reproduction, reaction to stimuli, etc.) is arbitrary? What is your criteria?

I'm also assuming you can tell the difference between a finger and yourself. You are a human being, and your finger is just part of a human being. What is your criteria? Is your criteria arbitrary? Do you think any criterian we might come up with to distinguish blobs of tissue must be arbitrary? If so, do you think we should have as little regard for adult people as we should have toward an ovum?

Sam

..."do you think any criterian we might come up with to distinguish blobs of tissue must be arbitrary?"

Yes, any criterion that distinguishes between any two blobs of matter is an arbitrary list. The only way for it not to be, would be for God himself to give us said list.

It’s very hard for me to get people to see this point but it’s obvious. We tend to think that biology is done in the same way that geometry is. When, in actuality, speciation simply draws imaginary circles around blobs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen that kinda look like (or kinda don’t look like) other neighboring blobs.

Look at these two pictures:

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

The top shows a typical forest scene as our eyes would render it. The bottom is the same scene as a stylized schematic of the material components. (Note: This scene actually contains zillions of structures – but my photoshop file isn’t that big so bear with me.)

When we practice biology, we do nothing more than decide on which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen we want to study that day. But why is, say, the water in the Panda Bear different than the water in the river? We draw imaginary lines around the panda bear and focus our attention on it. The “panda” construct constantly sheds and inherits molecules all day. But is there “panda-ness” in these molecules? Does the oxygen and the hydrogen in the panda lose its pandaness and gain riverness if the panda takes a drink in the pond?

No. Science can not tell us which molecules have pandaness. Just as science cannot tell us which molecules have humanness. These are not questions for science. These are questions for philosophy. But open any prolife book, and the first chapter will contain heaps of quotes from biologists saying that Human life starts at totipotent_1. Understand that this IS A CONVENTION – NOT A DISCOVERED LAW. Biologists do not gaze into their microscopes and somehow find the “staring line” of humanness. They just see a construct of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen. It’s hip now to start the line at totipotent_cell_1. But there is no law to be had that says that lifeness begins at totipotent_cell_1. Again, it’s just a useful convention.

Biologists Ernst Mayr (arguable the most esteemed living biologist - before his death last year) stated, “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.”

There is no ultimate life definition to be discovered. Answering the question “Which hunks of matter are human and which are not” is the same as answering the question “Is pluto a planet or not a planet?” Of the millions of constructs that orbit the sun, to point a telescope at one and call it a planet is just a categorization exercise. There is NO ANSWER to the question. It’s just a fight over arbitrary rules about how to name a ‘rock collection.’

It’s the same with all matter in the universe including you and me. To believe otherwise, implies a belief in God. I think there are some good arguments for the existence of God. It is a pity that Christians don’t use these. Instead they jump into the battle with the above outlined appeal to biological naming convention. They just don’t tell their opponent (or don’t understand) that it’s just that - a convention.

Most of your other questions, and a synopsis of my attempts to find the source of the classical definition of life, are outlined in my call-in paper with greg – you can read it in the essay, “Why Ought a Secular Nation Subscribe to the Christian-Endorsed Classical Biological Definition of Life?” over there on the left on my website.


Tony,

I have a hard time believing these distinctions between life and nonlife, human and non-human, are just conventions. I think we all recognize the difference between things like rocks and clouds on the one hand and trees and wolves on the other. Having recognized that there are obvious differences, we then try to nail down exactly what distinguishes them. We may not do a perfect job of figuring out those distinctions, but surely they aren't arbitrary.

But assuming these distinctions are arbitrary, I'm curious how you would apply this to things like public policy. Do you think rocks should have the same rights as humans? If it's illegal to crush a "living" human with a sledge hammer, should it also be wrong to crush a rock with a sledge hammer? If it's illegal to force a human to pull a plow, should it also be illegal to force a mule to pull a plow? If it's okay to take the conventionally described life of the unborn, should it also be okay to take the conventionally described life of the born? Or do you think it matters? Are laws also arbitrary?

“…i think we all recognize the difference between things like rocks and clouds on the one hand and trees and wolves on the other…”

Sure until you start cutting the wolf into smaller and smaller pieces. Then you just see the same old hunks of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen. You have to understand that there is no such thing as a discreet construct in the material universe. To say that one circle of space is discreet, is to simply invoke some tolerance rules about why your circle of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen belongs in your category X and this other circle over here belongs in category Y.

Again, see the pics here: http://www.gregiswrong.com/site-gregiswrong/thought_experiments/world.htm

“…we may not do a perfect job of figuring out those distinctions, but surely they aren't arbitrary.”

Identifying distinctions is simply a matter of tolerance. No two panda bears are alike. The biological classification system is simply a chart of tolerances. If we find a bear that’s not within the ‘panda’ tolerance window, we make a new species for it. That’s all. But these tolerance restraints didn’t come from God. It’s just a number – usually chosen for its utility.

“…I'm curious how you would apply this to things like public policy. Do you think rocks should have the same rights as humans…”

The question as to which constructs in the universe ought to have rights and which ought to not have rights is up for the public to decide. I call my stance “pro-definition.” i.e. not pro-choice and not pro-life. Because I would support a public discourse to decide exactly which constructs in this country are “Americans.” i.e. when does an American start.

If the people vote that totipotent_1 is the starting line of American-ness. I’m ok with that. At least at this point we’ll all be intellectually honest and not be hiding behind the fallacy that biology has anything at all to say about which constructs are “human.”

“…if it's okay to take the conventionally described life of the unborn, should it also be okay to take the conventionally described life of the born...”

As medical and biotechnology increases this question is becoming more and more pressing. To say that an adult is “born” or “living” or “has life” is a very vague abstraction of the human construct. First off, most of “our” cells are not human. They are bacteria in a symbiotic relationship with us. Also, in the case of organ donation as practiced now, pieces of the donor never “die” as per the classical definition. A hunk of living cells is placed in another body. People are sometimes surprised to know that the donor is kept very much “alive” until these organs can be removed. Watch this:

http://www.journey.transweb.org/donor_journey/education/video_htm/step5_surgery_t1.htm

Of the octillions of molecules of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen floating around a ‘dead’ man’s body, who among us holds god’s list that dictates the precise state at which this construct can now be viewed as “dead”?

What the Christian must claim is that God has (somehow) communicated the knowledge of when a person starts and when a person stops. It would be nice if the bible had a nice schematic in the back that outlined this. But it doesn’t.

But even assuming it did, why ought a non-believer follow your outline, if he doesn’t believe that God wrote it?

Tony,

“What principled reason can you give for allowing women to dismember there unfertilized ovum - (i.e. if they wish to donate it to a biology class?)”

By Tony’s same reasoning, sperms should be considered full human (since they also contain genes). Hence, since masturbation kills sperms, millions of men in American should be charge of murder. Sadly, we don’t have that many graves for those sperms to rest in. :P

“Well, for example, someone who suffers from dwarfism is someone who lacks a certain genetic instruction set, and "cannot fully develop." Yet Christians still consider a dwarf to be a 'human'.
In the same sense, someone who is an ovum, also lacks a genetic instruction set (sperm), and (like the dwarf) will not develop beyond a certain point.”

Your argument seems circular. The dwarf (though it may never reach) is undergoing a human development. The phrase “human” implies that the party, undergoing the development, is human; for to develop into a “full” human being, you must have a human nature. However, for your argument to work, you must, first, assume that the ovum is undergoing a human development, rather than developing into a mature ovum, which will be use make a human being. See, there is a different between saying “that the ovum is merely growing, so when it makes contact with a sperm, its nature will change to that of a human”, and saying “that the ovum is developing to a human, but is merely missing the genes of the sperms to continue its development”. If you take the second statement and use it to argue that the ovum is human, you make your argument circular.

(In other words, both parties are undergoing different development. One is developing to a full grown ovum and the other (though it may never reach to) is developing to a full life human. For Tony, to argue that both parties are undergoing the same development is question begging)

Once that said, though it may be true that the dwarf will not complete his development, his body is still developing towards this way. It is just missing a piece of information that will enable him to reach this goal. Is there a problem with this? No! There are many things that can stop our development, i.e mutation, death, and disabilities (if a person dies and fails to complete his development, should he be be considered as not a human being?). However, you can’t compare us with a “blob,” when it has not even started development. It is like saying that the runners who are running the race are the same as those who are not even in the race!

Secondly, just because you have found an exception to the rule does not mean that we must throw away all of our ideas. Just because a human is unable to function in a particular way, does not mean that he is not a human. For instance, human are reproductive being. But, just because you find an exception of a human who is unable to reproduce (due to some disability or decision), the statement is not proven false. For all human are wired to reproduce, all healthy human are capable to reproduce. The unhealthy one should not be deprive from their nature, merely because she is incapable to function as a healthy human. By the same reasoning, a dwarf is wired to develop to a full human. The fact that he will never reach “full” human development does not deprive him from his nature.


“And by whose authority do they appeal when they attempt to convince a secular nation that there personal starting line of humanness is the right one?”

Actually, we are not trying to convince the nation that a dwarf is human and an ovum is not. Most people believe that an unfertilized ovum is not a human and that a dwarf is a human. Our whole government is founded in this every idea that there is a difference between human and none-human, and that human have intrinsic value. I think it’s just you Tony. You just want us to convince you, not the nation. So, please, at least, be honest.

“…by Tony’s same reasoning, sperms should be considered full human…”

No I haven’t yet offered an opinion of which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen should be considered human. I only inquired as to how Christians have stumbled upon the knowledge that an ovum ISNT and totipotent_1 IS.

But even if I did elect to start the human labeling convention at ovum_1, your inability to find enough real estate for graves doesn’t mean my chosen convention is wrong. Don’t forget, even Christian mothers almost never have funerals for their miscarriages anyway.

“…for to develop into a “full” human being, you must have a human nature.”

Are you referring to the Aristotelian concept of ‘human nature?” Can you provide some evidence that such a concoction is resident in the platonic realm?

“…however, for your argument to work, you must, first, assume that the ovum is undergoing a human development, rather than developing into a mature ovum…”

How do you know that achieving ovum-ness isn’t a perfectly acceptable stopping line for ‘human life.’ Afterall, most of what you call human only achieves zygoteness before being naturally aborted. Again, why do you think you are in possession of the starting line formula with which you may examine carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen constructs and deliminate humanness from non-humaness? Who gave you this criteria?

“…once that said, though it may be true that the dwarf will not complete his development, his body is still developing towards this way…”

No it’s not. It’s following a genetic instruction set leading to the development of a dwarf.

“…however, you can’t compare us with a “blob,” when it has not even started development.”

The carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen have gone through millions of developmental steps to achieve ovum-ness. You just don’t want to label these steps “human development steps” because you don’t like it. It’s a preference and a convention. Nothing more.

“…for instance, humans are reproductive beings. But, just because you find an exception of a human who is unable to reproduce (due to some disability or decision), the statement is not proven false…”

Well, ya that statement proves that not all humans are “reproductive beings.”

“…for all human are wired to reproduce…”

No, some are wired (genetically predisposed) to not even have a lower half.

“…healthy human are capable to reproduce…”

Do you have in your possession the formula for “human healthiness”? And if so, who gave it to you?

“…by the same reasoning, a dwarf is wired to develop to a full human.”

No. The majority of causes of Dwarfism are genetic and hence, the dwarf is wired (genetically predisposed) to be a dwarf.

“…the fact that he will never reach “full” human development does not deprive him from his nature.”

Why can’t I say, “The fact that the ovum will never reach full human development does not deprive him from his nature.”

“…we are not trying to convince the nation that a dwarf is human and an ovum is not. Most people believe that an unfertilized ovum is not a human and that a dwarf is a human.”

Yes most people are not aware that speciation is simply a categorization exercise – and does NOT coax out information via the manipulation of axiomatic truths – like, say, geometry does. It’s simply a sorting game like organizing a rock collection.

If your goal is to convince the pro-choice populous that you are right and they are wrong, there are many ways to do this whilst sidestepping the truth.

Hey Tony,
It is rather impressing and inspiring to see how willing you are to carefully, thoughtfully and consistently examine these matters. The diversity of opinions shows clearly how difficult it is to understand ‘life’. It seems one must approach it with a peculiar kind of humility—after all, intelligent people differ. That’s why I am trying to understand your unusual insights, which I am sure you have not arrived at negligently but with all epistemic diligence.
It seems to me your argument goes way beyond the typical debate about life. For most people (both pro-choice and pro-life) the crucial question seems to be, ‘when does life begin?’ There seems to be an agreement that both sides are referring to the same thing when they use the word life. However it seems that you come in the middle of the argument and say, ‘You are ignoring the real issue here’ because, it seems you would say, ‘the real issue is not when does life begin but who are we to decide what life is?’
So I wonder if I am understanding you. Do you mean to say then that we do not know what constitutes human life? It’s difficult to construe you other wise since you say that:
“When, in actuality, speciation simply draws imaginary circles around blobs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen that kinda look like (or kinda don’t look like) other neighboring blobs.
This is rather radical, don’t you think? First, if this whole process comes down to us making ‘imaginary circles’ then we are in a very unhappy state of affairs. How did we come to imagine these things? Could it be that most of us have some knowledge of what a human is supposed to be and we distinguish blobs according to this knowledge? But say this is merely arbitrariness. You say that only if we had a list from God we could know. So that means that you have already done all possible thinking and research and have come to the conclusion that since you (and we might include your circle of favorite biologists and philosophers here) have not come up with an appropriate criterion all who claim to have one must be irrational or dumb or intellectually deficient or using some sort of mind-altering substance?
It seems to me you have the burden of proof here. I can see the possibility that most people might be ignorantly deciding what life is. After all ‘the masses’ are always making decisions without the proper grounding. So I sympathize with you here. But you are the one that must explain how the rest of humanity has a wrong criterion.
You take this concept and apply it not only to ‘blobs’ but to all matter. That’s why I think your arguments don’t have much to do here with ‘blobs’ as they have to do with metaphysics. Most people simply assume humans discover and name and distinguish between inanimate matter and matter that makes animals, humans, etc. You seem to propose the universe is like a big rock and we come and divide it into little pieces using our imaginations. One we name ‘human’ and the other ‘plant’ but in the end we are just arbitrarily naming these pieces of matter. But who is making these imaginary divisions according to you? Isn’t us? Does that mean there is an ‘us’ and a ’you’? Are you using your imagination too? Why are you separating us from the rest of all matter to make such an accusation? Who are you debating?
I guess you see my point here. I agree with you this is a philosophical matter and not merely biological (although right after you say that you mention biologists who seem to agree with you). So, can you explain to you your hidden metaphysical assumptions? I thank you in advance.
Zthinker07

Sorry, I meant 'can you explain to 'us', I am sure already explained it yourself...

“…for most people (both pro-choice and pro-life) the crucial question seems to be, ‘when does life begin?’ There seems to be an agreement that both sides are referring to the same thing when they use the word life.”

Yes and this is the point of my argument. Both sides have adopted a fallacy I call the Linnaeus Fallacy. In 1735 Carolus Linnaeus published “Systema Naturae” which evolved into the modern scientific classification method we teach all high school biology students. We have a tendency to treat Linnaeus’ method as gospel. And we forget that its just a useful tree for categorizing constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen (i.e. ‘life’). It is NOT a “discovered” formal system like perhaps geometry or physics. It is SIMPY A USEFUL CHART for organization purposes.

So when prolifers say, “Of course zygotes are human. Afterall, most biologists say they are.” All they are referencing is a convention in cataloging reflecting a cell-o-centric view that states: “I am going to label this construct “human” when the carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen in this region form a shape that looks like a totipotent cell.”

“seems you say ‘the real issue is not when does life begin but who are we to decide what life is?’…”

Ya or whose list of criteria OUGHT we use and WHY?

Here’s some more recent examples of candidate criteria:

Francisco Varela and Humberto Maturana: Life is as an autopoietic (self-producing), water based, lipid-protein bound, carbon metabolic, nucleic acid replicated, protein readout system.

Stuart Kauffman: Life is an autonomous agent or a multi-agent system capable of reproducing itself or themselves, and of completing at least one thermodynamic work cycle.

“…do you mean to say then that we do not know what constitutes human life?”

There may be someone on the planet who has in there possession god’s formulation of which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen God has labeled LIFE. But that would require God telling one of us the definition for us to know it. This is THE ONLY way it can be discovered. DISCOVERING the definition of LIFE is NOT LIKE discovering the definition of Pi. Pi is a property of a formal axiomatic system. “LIFE” is a label for a set of matter. No different than the labels Cheesecake, mountain, or boat. Is there one among us who holds the one and only true formulation of cheesecake? Or is it just a recipe that serves a useful purpose – describing how to organize matter into a tasty treat.

“…how did we come to imagine these things? Could it be that most of us have some knowledge of what a human is supposed to be and we distinguish blobs according to this knowledge?”

Our primary concern in this existence often involves asking ourselves the question, ‘what is there to eat?’ and ‘is there anything here that can eat me?’ So it is very useful for us to envalue certain constructs in the universe. It is not useful to put the carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen that makes up the tiger’s mouth, in the same category as a nearby mountain stream. Even though, in the modern era we can see they are both made of the same elementary elements, the tiger and the mountain are important TO US for very different reasons. Try to imagine how long one could avoid being eaten, if he DIDN’T see the world in categories! Anyway, that’s why I think the categories exist.

“…since you (and we might include your circle of favorite biologists and philosophers here) have not come up with an appropriate criterion all who claim to have one must be irrational or dumb or…

Coming up with the Ultimate Criteria Of Life is equivalent to coming up with the Ultimate Criteria of Cheesecake. It’s just a list of rules about how to categorize matter. There is no RIGHT list or WRONG list, unless God exists and we know which one he is. Without that, there is just useful and not useful ways to categorize carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen.

“…but you are the one that must explain how the rest of humanity has a wrong criterion”

Not the WRONG criterion. But I ask to whose authority do they appeal when they tell me to use their criterion.

“…you take this concept and apply it not only to ‘blobs’ but to all matter.”

Ya when I say ‘blob’ I just mean an imaginary circle drawn around a corner of the universe with matter in it.

“…you seem to propose the universe is like a big rock and we come and divide it into little pieces using our imaginations.”

Exactly.

“…but who is making these imaginary divisions according to you? Isn’t us? Does that mean there is an ‘us’ and a ’you’?”

This question asks how does matter acquire a ‘mind’ to make such imaginary circles in the first place. I think the existence of mind is definitely a possible indicator of the existence of a God-given soul. The nature of consciousness is exceptionally complex and we have yet to scratch the surface. I have a B.S. in cognitive science so I spent quite a while tinkering with this question in college.
Couple points: First, the idea that we will never stumble across a naturalist explanation of mind is still an open question. But there are many deep cutting philosophical obstacles that may take generations to solve. But now that neurosci is finally starting to hit the scene hard and heavy, I think it’s WAY too early to conclude that “well, there must be a ghost glued to my neurons and that’s why I have a mind.” We’ll see.

Second, lets just assume that we are both religious and we both agree that some configurations of matter have souls and minds and that these constructs OUGHT to not be aborted. Who among us holds the schematic that tells us exactly which constructs of carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen are ensouled?

St. Augustine said a believe could avoid excommunication if an abortion is performed before the 40 day mark in a male and the 80 days mark in a female.

Sounds like nice round numbers to me. Why not? Given that we cannot prove that any given construct is or is not ensouled, how would we convince St. Augustine that he is wrong?

“…I agree with you this is a philosophical matter and not merely biological (although right after you say that you mention biologists who seem to agree with you).”

Note that my quote from Ernst Mayr buttressed my claim that there is no “life force” or no “life-ness” that rides atop the matter. It’s just a circle of the universe that behaves in a certain way. If you wish to get your opponent to believe otherwise, it is your burden to, not only illustrate that you have in your possession a grand reference chart for deliminating life from non-life, but that you received this chart from the creator of the cosmos himself.

If the prolifer neglects this step, he is just campaigning for his own material labeling schema, as is everyone else in the debate.


Tony,
Most of your arguments seem to be based on a naturalistic/existentialistic worldview. Of course, if we exist in a close system, ideas as humanness and life become meaningless; since once broken down to the smallest piece, we are all the same. Before arguing, whenever the ovum is human or not, this issue has to be address. For, if we live in a open system, then we can(or have the hope to) distinguish a human object to non-human object(since there is something more than merely matter). However, it is interesting that though you do not identify yourself as an atheist, you claimed that any criteria of humanness and life are necessary subjective. Then, how can you conclude that life is an imaginary and arbitrary label (made by us), when you give the possibility of a higher being? Also, how do you go from “We have been unable to give a criteria which will distinguish living matter from none-living matter(in a naturalistic worldview)” to “There is no difference between living and none-living objects, any criteria given is necessary subjective”? You seem to go from a descriptive claim to a prescriptive claim; how do you justify this jump?


"But even if I did elect to start the human labeling convention at ovum_1, your inability to find enough real estate for graves doesn’t mean my chosen convention is wrong. Don’t forget, even Christian mothers almost never have funerals for their miscarriages anyway.”

I agree, but this was only a joke.

“How do you know that achieving ovum-ness isn’t a perfectly acceptable stopping line for ‘human life.’ Afterall, most of what you call human only achieves zygoteness before being naturally aborted. Again, why do you think you are in possession of the starting line formula with which you may examine carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen constructs and deliminate humanness from non-humaness? Who gave you this criteria?”

I never provided a criteria or argument explaining on why the ovum was not a human and the embryo was. I merely criticize the counterargument you presented against Justin, for being circular. You assumed that the ovum was already human, when you claimed that it was the same as a dwarf, but just stopped its development sooner.

”…for, if we live in a open system, then we can(or have the hope to) distinguish a human object to non-human object(since there is something more than merely matter)…”

Yes it would be nice if God (assuming he exists) gave us a soul meter with which we can simply make the rule: Anything that has a soul, is a human_being worthy of rights. Then we could just hold it up to the mom’s tummy and get a yes or no answer. But we have no such meter.

“…how can you conclude that life is an imaginary and arbitrary label (made by us), when you give the possibility of a higher being…”

Yes it’s only a possibility. I’m just not sure if there is a God or not. If there is a God and I knew which religion he started, then my ideas are wrong. Until then, I’ll keep searching.

“…how do you go from “We have been unable to give a criteria which will distinguish living matter from none-living matter(in a naturalistic worldview)” to “There is no difference between living and none-living objects, any criteria given is necessary subjective”?...”

Yes both statements are true. In other words, not only does no universally accepted definition of life exist, but even if it did, (unless it came from God) it’s just subjective anyway.

This quote about life by Robert Morison is the key to understanding the abortion issue:

"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'."


Hey Tony,
I don't think I saw anything about your metaphysical beliefs (I mean in a clear way).
Thanks.

go to my website

G'Day Tony,

Apologies for the long delay before answering your question

("...intelligent life begins **before** conception..."

interesting statement. Why do you say that?)

but I have been otherwise occupied.

It actually all depends on your attitude to what is LIFE. I have come to the belief that LIFE is actually the energy within us (and everything else for that matter) which prevents us decaying. This energy is contained in all cells and therefore LIFE begins before conception.

Having read through the bulk of the previous posts it appears that there is some questioning about the existence of GOD. If you accept that energy can neither be created nor destroyed (true) then LIFE, as energy, has no beginning or end.

If we are made in the image of GOD as the Bible tells us (as do most Holy books) and GOD has no beginning or end then GOD must be the energy of the entire universe and we are a very small part of that energy in the same way a raindrop is a very small part of the ocean.

Some people prefer to call this energy the Universal Mind but I really don't care what label you give it, we are all talking about the same thing. We are one with the energy as we are part of it in the same way you can remove water from the ocean but it still has the same characteristics.

We are also one with every part of the universe for the same reason, it is all energy.

I don't wish to stir up or offend anyone here, I am perfectly happy for you to access the energy in whatever way has meaning for you and call it whatever you like.

It is only when you want to use that energy to harm others that I get annoyed and that includes abortion. But, I accept that the aborted baby just gets it's energy recycled, because you cannot destroy that, and comes back to parents who will love and nurture their gift from the Universal Mind.

That's probably enough to digest for one post. Comments cheerfully and lovingly received.

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