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October 12, 2006

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This article discusses fetal development and includes foot notes.

http://www.uky.edu/Classes/PHI/305.002/fd.htm

It says "The second four weeks of development is a time of extremely rapid and crucial development as the embryo quadruples in size. Its cells are constantly differentiating to form new structures. The brain begins controlling the movement of muscles and organs. The brain waves can be detected and recorded. "

Though there is no foot note for brain waves specifically. There is a lot about brain development, and it seems agreed that by the 12th week every organ is formed. WebMD says the same.

http://www.webmd.com/content/tools/1/slide_fetal_dev.htm

That being said, I'm not sure a functional definition of when life begins is the best argument. It opens a whole can of worms and brings in the related argument of when does life end.

I think the better definition is when is a new life created. And that is when a new DNA is formed, at conception.

I agree that brain waves aren't the basis for human value. The point here is that pro-lifers use the claim to convince people that the unborn is a lot like themselves, but pro-lifers are usually unprepared to give evidence. This affects our perceived credibility when we want to speak to other issues like the ultimate source of human value.

Great post Steve. My response can be found here:
http://lti-blog.blogspot.com/2006/10/careless-pro-life-arguments-brain.html

here are a few reference articles from medical journals (copied from http://www.catholic.net/rcc/loveboth/chapter12.html)

When is the brain functioning?

Brain waves have been recorded at 40 days on the Electroencephalogram (EEG).

H. Hamlin, "Life or Death by EEG," JAMA, Oct. 12, 1964, p. 120

Brain function, as measured on the Electroencephalogram, "appears to be reliably present in the fetus at about eight weeks gestation," or six weeks after conception.

J. Goldenring, "Development of the Fetal Brain,"
New England Jour. of Med., Aug. 26, 1982, p. 564

sorry forgot to sign above...

of course the above citations were fairly well debunked by http://tigtogblog.blogspot.com/2006/05/fetal-brain-development-myths-and.html

as a Dr. I have to say that it would be extremely difficult to measure brainwaves in a fetus whether they were present or not

I agree with this:
"That being said, I'm not sure a functional definition of when life begins is the best argument. It opens a whole can of worms and brings in the related argument of when does life end.

I think the better definition is when is a new life created. And that is when a new DNA is formed, at conception."

I don't think I would use the 'brain-wave' argument for that reason...
I don't think it matters much when brain-waves are present because there is only one moment when a NEW HUMAN BEING appears... at conception. Any point after then that this new life is ended, a person has died. This is a fact that is true whether the death is caused by miscarriage, induced abortion, car wreck or old age.


This tendency is quite common among all factions in relation to all topics:

http://www.psych.cornell.edu/sec/pubPeople/tdg1/Pronin_Gilo_&_Ross_05.pdf

Sorry, that didn't quite work. Here it is again with my own added line breaks:

http://www.psych.cornell.edu/
sec/pubPeople/tdg1/
Pronin_Gilo_&_Ross_05.pdf

Ya the brain wave argument is really quite useless in the abortion issue. Totipotent cells don’t have “brain waves.”

But furthermore, the term “brain waves” is highly ambiguous. Theoretically speaking, even one neuron has “brain waves”. An electroencephalogram trace will register with only one. It’s just a question of the threshold used in measuring.

So if your prochoice opponent finds the brain waves argument convincing (and if he does he’s dumb), then why don’t you just say:

“Of course embryos are persons. After all, it only takes one neuron to register brain waves.”

Blahhh

For some further food for thought: some rats at Stanford have human neurons in their brains. And hence have human brain waves. Does that mean the rats are human persons? Or at UCSD some lobsters have some computer neurons. Does that mean the lobsters are computers? Or some humans have pig neurons in their brains in experimental brain damage research projects. Does that mean they are pigs?

Blahhh again I say.

The abortion issue comes down to one question. ‘Whose god is the right one, and which clusters of C N O H does he elect to value.’

The rest is fluff.

Hi Tony
you wrote:"For some further food for thought: some rats at Stanford have human neurons in their brains. And hence have human brain waves. Does that mean the rats are human persons?"

Steve was certainly not making such an assertion. He merely asked if there was brain wave activity at six weeks. Of course thats easy enough to determine. Also, rats do not have human brain waves. They have rat brain waves influenced in some way by human neuwrons I would think. But you seem to know way more about that than I do.

You also wrote :"The abortion issue comes down to one question. ‘Whose god is the right one, and which clusters of C N O H does he elect to value.’"

I disagree. The question is "what is a human being" and does the unborn meet that qualification. Or are suggesting that we cannot define what a human is without deferring to thiesm in some sense?

Tony, I think the human nuerons got into the rats and the computers got into the lobsters by non-natural means, right? Surgically implanted, right? So, if those were not part of their initial constitution, they should not be considered human. And since neither of them came from human parents by means of human pro-creation (natural or invetro), that would be another reason to not consider the rats human.

Also, I think the brain waves argument is meant to be incrimental. You may not get someone to agree that a fertilized egg is a humam being, but the may be willing to move further back in the developmental timeline of when abortion should not be allowed (except to save the life of the mother).


Patrick,

ya i know its not the backbone of steve's argument. but it really shouldnt be part of the debate at all. it just adds confusion

>> Or are suggesting that we cannot define what a human is without deferring to thiesm in some sense?

totally

Robert,

to say one form of creation is "natural" and another is "surgical" is simply to say: "I Robert have a set of processes by which the creation of some construct of matter must follow for me to call it 'natural'"

in a godless universe, its a meaningless word - just based on convention.

tony wrote:"(re. brain waves)

"ya i know its not the backbone of steve's argument. but it really shouldnt be part of the debate at all. it just adds confusion"

I think the only utility to it is that it indicates "life" (biologival life) is taking place.

TM" Or are suggesting that we cannot define what a human is without deferring to thiesm in some sense?
totally"

Indulge me here. Suppose the god I recognize allows that 5th world women are something less than human, and that while working among them to feed them, I am free to idulge all my sexual pleasure with them - even against thier will. In other words, horses have little say as to plowing fields and we make them plow fields. What if I desire wanton sex with these who I considered less than human, and the fact that they resisted made it that much more pleasureable.

Besides scaring you (I hope !) how do you rebuke me?

patrick

ya in a godless universe it's not wrong to rape since objective morality doesnt exist.

But that’s not the issue. Even if I was a diehard stand to reason Christian, I would argue the exact same way – that we must defer to theism to define human persons.

To understand why, try to devise an argument by which you would convince an irreligious opponent that the below statement about 'life' (by biologist Robert Morison) is false:

"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'."


"But that’s not the issue. Even if I was a diehard stand to reason Christian, I would argue the exact same way – that we must defer to theism to define human persons."

I would say we have to defer to theism to ground our morality or to ground the epistemology that allows us to discuss the value of persons. But it seems tome there are plenty of atheistic scientists that have no problem ascribing human status to a 5 day old blastocyst.

"To understand why, try to devise an argument by which you would convince an irreligious opponent that the below statement about 'life' (by biologist Robert Morison) is false:
"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'."

That is purely descriptive of life though. It does not speak at all to the ontology of the thing or its value or hierarchy of value. Surely, we hold humans in higher esteem than ants. And while we may be a little freaked at frying living ants with magnifying glasses on sunny days (one of my boyhood transgressions), we are even more freaked at gassing humans in large buildings, or performing sexual experiments on children.

"to say one form of creation is "natural" and another is "surgical" is simply to say: "I Robert have a set of processes by which the creation of some construct of matter must follow for me to call it 'natural'"

in a godless universe, its a meaningless word - just based on convention."

Tony, I think you are just being difficult here. And I think intuitively you know that what I said is not just a convention. You yourself recognized that *human nuerons* are inside of a rat's brain. If it was just a convention, why not refer to them as rat nuerons? Because you know they naturally belong somewhere else, not in the rat.

Some of your ideas in this area are just intuitively wrong. I think you use the word "natural" in conversation and it is not based on an I-Robert or I-Tony push. There is a sense inwhich natural is that which is intrinsic to the human being. You would never confuse a prothsetic (sp) with the real deal these days. Even in the future if they make visually perfect prothsetics, would you feel the same type (not amount) of grief if you were the cause of destruction for a prosthetic arm as opposed to a natural arm?


Robert,

>> Even in the future if they make visually perfect prothsetics, would you feel the same type (not amount) of grief if you were the cause of destruction for a prosthetic arm as opposed to a natural arm?

When does the matter that makes up the ‘prosthetic’ arm equate to the matter that made up the arm that got blown off? If researchers used all the same elements (mostly carbon nitrogen oxygen and hydrogen for a human arm) would that be enough to constitute a “natural” arm? If the researchers made one that was materially equivalent, would that be enough?

I know that this is sometimes a difficult point to visualize. Truly, the notion that “life” is SOMETHING and NOT just a convention used to categorize matter in the universe is heavily ingrained in our world view.

Ask yourself this, based on Robert’s rules of “natural”, is the Red Clover naturally made or artificially made. Consider this quote:

“Surely if a machine is able to reproduce another machine systematically, we may say that it has a reproductive system. What is a reproductive system, if it be not a system for reproduction? And how few of the machines are there which have not been produced systematically by other machines? But it is man that makes them do so. Yes; but is it not insects that make many of the plants reproductive, and would not whole families of plants die out if their fertilization was not effected by a class of agents utterly foreign to themselves? Does any one say that the red clover has no reproductive system because the humble bee (and the humble bee only) must aid and abet it before it can reproduce? No one. The humble bee is a part of the reproductive system of the clover.”

- Erewhon by Samuel Butler (1872)

or this quote:

"The computer - a new form of life dedicated to pure thought - will be taken care of by its human partners, who will minister to its bodily needs with electricity and spare parts. Man will also provide for computer reproduction. Computers do not have DNA molecules; they are not biological organisms. We are the reproductive organs of the computer. We create new generations of computes, one after another…"

- Robert Jastrow

Patrick

>> Surely, we hold humans in higher esteem than ants.

Assume your opponent agrees with this statement. Now how do you convince him that you know which constructs of matter in the universe are human, and which are not.

Hi Tony

Doesn't the idea that we cannot define what a human is without deferring to theism, seem (doesn't prove) to suggest that theism exists?

I guess my question would be, if you assume theism not to be true, what type of reality actually exists?

Is it just all particles and there isn't any real objective distinction between them?

sincerely,
Todd

Todd

>> Doesn't the idea that we cannot define what a human is without deferring to theism, seem (doesn't prove) to suggest that theism exists?

na

>> I guess my question would be, if you assume theism not to be true, what type of reality actually exists?

A better question to ask is: If you assume theism not to be true, how do you ground your epistemology? - which I think is a major challenge to materialism. But my arguments about life don’t depend on it. I would argue that exact same way (that without an appeal to a supernatural force, matter distinctions are arbitrary) even if I was Christian.

>> Is it just all particles and there isn't any real objective distinction between them?

In a godless universe? Totally.

Hi Tony

This is what I am trying to understand: If there is no god then there isn't any real objective distinction between particles.

Can you explain this a little bit. Are you saying that there is no difference between Carbon and Nitrogen or are you saying that there is no difference between things made up of Carbon and Nitrogen?

sincerely,
Todd

Hey Tony

I reread your post: That is a good question! If you assume theism not to be true then do you really know anything? (Including Theism not being true?)

Does it follow that if we know something to be true then theism must be true?

later,
Todd

>> Are you saying that there is no difference between Carbon and Nitrogen or are you saying that there is no difference between things made up of Carbon and Nitrogen?

Ya to say you have identified a thing in the cosmos is just to draw a cirlce around a cluster of atoms you find interesting.


>> If you assume theism not to be true then do you really know anything?

ya this is a big problem in a godless universe to which i dont think there is a good answer.

But my post was about the nature of material catagorization. I would argue the same way even if i was christian and subscribed to a christian flavor of epistemology.

Re: "there isn't any real objective distinction between particles"

I think this fact needs to be taught more thoroughly in our schools. Tony clearly demonstrates this by saying, "to say you have identified a thing in the cosmos is just to draw a cirlce around a cluster of atoms you find interesting."

Seriously, what is helium other than compressed hydrogen? Or ask yourself what any other "agreed element" on the periodic table is...nominalism is a tool we use to communicate specific phenomenas which we each deem important enough to remember and share.

Hi Tony

I know I was a little off track.

Regardless of wether you are a christina or not, I think it would be more effective to argue against abortion from the stand point that it is:

wrong to kill an innocent human being,
abortion kills an innocent human being,
therefore abortion is wrong.

For if someone really holds to an athesistic world view they could both argue that it is not wrong to kill an innocent human being and apparently they could argue that the classification of human being is completely abritrary (for all "human beings" regardless of their level of development).

Hence it would seem that you have to assume a theistic world view to argue the morality of any position. And perhaps to argue about anything at all?

But what I really want to look at is this idea:

"to say you have identified a thing in the cosmos is just to draw a cirlce around a cluster of atoms you find interesting."

Are you saying the distinctions are not real or that the classification of the distinctions are not real?

For example when Mark says what is helium other than compressed hydrogen? Is "compressed" real? How about hydrogen? How about anything?

And if anything is real does that point to a theistic view of reality.

sincerely,
Todd

Hi Mark

How do you know the "circles" are actually arbitrary?

What is a fact? Isn't a fact that which corresponds to that which is actually true?

And if there is a "fact", doesn't that point to the fact that everything isn't arbitrary, which in turn points to a theistic world view?

sincerely,
Todd

>> wrong to kill an innocent human being,
abortion kills an innocent human being,
therefore abortion is wrong.

ask yourself why an ovum is not a human being and a zygote is.\

How do you know and who told you and who told them?

Hi Tony

What I'm trying to say is, that if assume all the circles are arbitrary then how can you argue anything at all?

later
Todd

Here is a side thought: If these things are only distinguishable if God exists, and God needs to tell us, maybe we can distinguish because we are made in His image.

>> if assume all the circles are arbitrary then how can you argue anything at all?

this is simply an observation about matter catagorization. it really isnt related to epistemolgy per se. i could believe in Tod's version of epistemology and still notice that matterial items require a divine definer - a platonic referent - a natural catagory. Logical debate is a sepereate subject.

>> If these things are only distinguishable if God exists, and God needs to tell us, maybe we can distinguish because we are made in His image.

YES. This is the only honest way to argue the abortion issue. You must tell your prochoice opponent that you know which God is the right one, and that he has magically told you which constructs are human and which ones are not.

It not only is the only honest way to argue the abortion issue it would be the only honest way to argue ANY issue.

But we seem to argue all kinds of issues without going this route.

Why?

sincerely,
Todd

I have more to say but time is short.

Real quick, this is what I am thinking

It is wrong to kill an innocent human being
Abortion kills an innocent human being
Therefore abortion is wrong.

You have to have a theistic world view to say something is wrong, to say something is human and to say the conclusion follows from the premises.

Hence the WHOLE argument (or any argument) for that matter depends on a theistic world view?

later
Todd

>> You have to have a theistic world view to say something is wrong, to say something is human and to say the conclusion follows from the premises.

of course this is true. But my argument works EVEN IF your opponent believes in objective morality.

For even if they agree that it is wrong to kill humans, the prolife christian is still tasked with the job of convincing his opponent that god told him when a human starts.

"YES. This is the only honest way to argue the abortion issue. You must tell your prochoice opponent that you know which God is the right one, and that he has magically told you which constructs are human and which ones are not."

I think I have been over this territory with Tony before. It is true that Christians must be prepared to defend Christianity as true (corresponding to the reality of the universe). There are the fideist and rationalist approaches that are extreme opposites. I personally fall between the extremes believing that there is evidence and substance that are part of faith. I think that it is still possible to say that in God's creation it is possible to know truth using only one or the other of the extreme approaches.

It is not true that we must claim direct revelation from God(In Tony's view, being magically told by God)to determine what can be called human. I would maintain that a secular scientist could supply information that is reasonable to believe, that gives us not perfect, but true knowledge about what it means to be a human being. That said, it is because all creation is from God, and because of God's nature that we are given abilities to see in creation a bit of the truth of the nature of creation and the truth of God. Paul supports this concept in part in Romans 1:19-20.

In this view I think that is reasonable to suggest that thouroughly secular individuals using observation of the material world could arrive at the same conclusions about what constitutes a human as a Christian might who only has had access to the revelation of Scripture.


>> secular individuals using observation of the material world could arrive at the same conclusions about what constitutes a human as a Christian might who only has had access to the revelation of Scripture.

ok but how could a secular individual do so?

and what part of revelation tells us that humaness begins at totipotent_1?

"ok but how could a secular individual do so?"

Maybe the same way you arrive at totipotent 1?

"and what part of revelation tells us that humaness begins at totipotent_1"

For a single passage Jeremiah 1:4-5 would suggest at least that.

Hi Tony

>> You must tell your prochoice opponent that you know which God is the right one, and that he has magically told you which constructs are human and which ones are not.

I'm still not clear why you would have to use this type of argument for determining whether something is human or not, but not have to use it for everything else.

And even if God magically told you when something is human you could still argue that it really wasn't God (for how would you 'know' it was God or not) or how do you 'know' God was telling the truth?

I just do not think this type of reasoning is reasonable.

But hey, it is fun thinking about this stuff

take it easy,
Todd

William,

>> "ok but how could a secular individual do so?"
Maybe the same way you arrive at totipotent 1?

I didn’t arrive at this conclusion. Christians did.

>> "and what part of revelation tells us that humaness begins at totipotent_1"
For a single passage Jeremiah 1:4-5 would suggest at least that.

This verse says: “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you”

But totipotent cells aren’t formed in the womb. They are formed in the fallopian tubes. They don’t reach the womb till about the fifth day.

Todd,

>> I'm still not clear why you would have to use this type of argument for determining whether something is human or not, but not have to use it for everything else.

Ask yourself why is the study of biology NOT like the study of mathematics.

>> And even if God magically told you when something is human you could still argue that it really wasn't God (for how would you 'know' it was God or not) or how do you 'know' God was telling the truth?

Well like I said above, the abortion issue comes down to ‘Whose god is the right one, and which clusters of C N O H does he elect to value.’

You gotta know which religion is right first.

Selflessness and honesty is the path to the God that transcends all faiths. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.

I am not going to take the time to read all the comments, but I do know from taking care of people who are brain dead (flat EEGs) awaiting organ harvesting, that there is absolutely no movement coming from the body. And I know from being pregnant that there is plenty of movement coming from a fetus within a few weeks of conception. Nobody who moves has a flat EEG. And since one must have a flat EEG to be prounounced dead, anyone who moves is alive.

ok, first off, the reason pro-life people talk about measureable brain waves is because of the theory by Rudolph Ehrensing that "if death happens when brain activity ceases, shouldn’t life begin when brain activity starts?" doesn't that make sense to you?

25 weeks gestation=accepted time of brain function by most. At 12 weeks all organs are supposed to be developed (not necessarily active/functional--certainly not capable of survival outside of the womb. Some are developed earlier. Brain activity as early as 6 weeks could be the sporadic electrical activity that is believed to be the fetal brain's way of weeding out bad neuronal connections and refining the nervous system. In that case, does it count as the "life" defined by the reverse of the medical definintion of "death"-a flat EEG/the absence of normal human brain waves/activity?

On another note, religion, while not necessarily inextricably linked to the abortion issue, is a major part of the sentiment and argument for any person who is religious. If you believe that human life is sacred/special/different aka. "let us make them in our own image"--has a soul/spiritual being as well as physical-- then it isn't just a matter of reversing the definition of death that determines life. At conception the potential of human life would be endowed with a soul and would qualify as human life/a person. A dead person's soul would have vacated the body/physical entity at death, etc. Of course-if you are either atheistic or of a religious strain that takes a tack different from Judeo-Christian...that doesn't quite follow.

OMG! So what is the answer to the simple question is it detected at 6 weeks or what! I want a yes or no with reference. thats it. Or a reference to an 8 week conclusion.
The best answer Ive seen so far is Anne's....and no one has responded.

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