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January 20, 2007


If the essence of our worth is our being created in the image of God, what does our DNA have to do with that?

Just found this: http://foreigndispatches.typepad.com/dispatches/2007/01/analyzing_human.html

If the essence of a building's worth is that it is built to be like a much larger, more magnificent building, what does the lesser building's bricks have to do with it?

Perhaps nothing. Perhaps the lesser building is constructed "in the image" of the more magnificent building in ways that trancend its bricks.

Then why the fuss over the "transhumanist movement"?

Perhaps the fuss has to do with who is doing the creating.

What exact properties constitute the "human essence"?

I thought it was the soul which has nothing to do with DNA.

Alan, man is a logical, reasonable, and personal type of being, these are also characteristics of God that man images.


What if the logic and reason can be enhanced with science?

Hi Alan, I'm certain that logic comes from the devine "Logos" and that the logic of God is a part of the whole creation, and it is complete and perfect in itself. When I use the word perfect, I'm meaning complete, mature, in no way wanting. So I dont believe that logic can be improved. I may have errored in attributing logical AND reasonable in the above post. Man is reasonable meaning that he's bound to logic in an inalienable way. It is a mark of God on him.

As far as mans reason, what do you invision when you use the word enhanced?

Reasonable beings use logic even if incorrect conclusions are the result. Would it then be that you'd ask what if science could improve the humans ability to reason?


What about a human vegetable who is not "logical, reasonable, and personal" in any way? He is still human, right? The usual answer is that he has these in potentiality, but this is a really odd way of putting it: he *actually* has his *potentiality*, such that the potentiality is itself present or actual in some unspecified sense.

Even beyond this rather strange reversal, is it really a possibility in the case of the vegetable? Something is possible if it can occur, if it can happen. In the case of the vegetable, in his current state, "logical, reasonable, and personal [relations]" are not a possibility. To which we then return to the question of the possibility in the soul and the strangeness of *actual* possibilities, or possibilities that are *had* like lollipops and cars.

This does raise another question, very much related to the above: is possibility a predicate? If we accept the sustance/property metaphysic as fundamental, then possibility, as something that a substance "has," must be a property. If it is not, then how can we say that the vegetable (or fetus, if we are to bring this discussion into the abortion issue) is human because he "has" the possibility of "logical, reasonable, and personal [relations]"?

I do not bring this up as a pro-abortion argument, though (admittedly) it may be used that way. Then again, I disagree with the ontological basis on which the above understanding rests, which doesn't mean that there are other ontological bases on which an anti-abortion argument can rest. So, please do not think that this is the intent of the argument. I am seeking clarity more than I am seeking to "refute" anything.

It is also an opportunity to give an answer to those who are searching and feel worthless.

This reminds me of something I read in J. Budziszewski's book "What we Can't Not Know" (p.55-56).

He is qouting J.Bottum of the Weekly Standard in regard to a company sucessfully crossing a human being with a pig by inserting the nuclei of cells from a human fetus into the pig's eggs.

"...the creation of a human-pig arrives like a thing expected. we have reached the logical end, at last. We have become the people that, once upon a time, our ancestors used fairy tales to warn their children against - and we will reap exactly the consequences those tales foretold. Like the coming true of an old story-the discovery of the philosopher's stone, the rubbing of a magic lantern-biotechnology is delivering the most astonishing medical advances anyone has ever imagined. But our sons and daughters will mate with the pig-men, if the pig-men will have them. And our swine-snouted grandchildren-the fruit not of our loins, but of our arrogance and our bright test tubes-will use the story of our generation to teach a moral to their frightened litters."

Later he goes on to say: it makes no difference whether they plan to create subhumans or superhumans, for "either they want to make a race of slaves, or they want to make a race of masters."

This is what we get when powerful men are left without moral restraint.


Hi Kevin, it is my understanding and firm belief that all humans are such from conception on. Even though I listed some things besides a soul to answer Alan, I didn't intend to lead anyone to think that without those in some degree, that they cease to be human.

I'd rather not make odd or unusual cases the determinating case for all, like the human with no brain activity. I'd rather err on the side of life in those cases, and trust that it's what God'd have me do.

The arguement against life when calling it potential life is in fact going on as you suspect. I dont see it as being any different than the future life that anyone of us expects to experience. The less developed among us cannot be denied their future days unjustly any more than us more developed, post uterine humans. To rob a 1 day old conceptus of her future days unjustly is a crime against her directly, AND anyone who'd have been part of that human persons life--possibly thousands of people, [through experiences that never were allowed to happen].

We call it murder when a more developed person is deprived his future in an unjust manner. The loved ones in some cases get compensation demonstrating that their loss is real too. What is actually lost is valuable experience through relationship.

How is this not the same case for the less developed human womb inhabitants? Im asking this question to anyone/everyone not specifically to you Kevin.

Brad, again, I'm not necessarily pro-abortion. At present, I think that in a few exceptional cases abortion should be allowed, such as in the case of rape or if the baby is a danger to the mother's health. Ultimately, in those cases, it is up to the individual. But I do not believe that abortions should be allowed for selfish reasons.

With that understanding, it is the particular line of thought that I have issues with. I have never been a fan of the substance/property metaphysic, particularly because I find it far too limiting given the richness of our world (i.e. it is inadequate). Plus we then have the problem that I mentioned, where potentialities are in some way actual, or (most importantly) that they are reified--I *have* potentialities, like I have a computer. Again, it is more the rationale than the position on life.

Brad, one more point: the fetus is not much unlike the human vegetable in that both are, at present, incapable of "logical, reasonable, and personal [relations]." Thus, I do not think my bringing up that case is inappropriate at all nor very exceptional given the subject matter of the disagreement.

The merits of the substance/property metaphysic aside, I really don't see a problem in saying that a potentiality is an actual property, other than being an interesting word play. The concept is not unclear or incoherent to me. One could argue that we all possess actual potentialities (not possible potentialities) - for example, a baby actually possessses the potential to reach puberty, and should a baby die before getting there, it wouldn't make that potential any less of an actual property.

Hi Kevin, I'm pretty sure that we're not disagreeing on much if anything--not in my thinking. The difference between a human vegetable and the unborn is that it is fully expected with normal growth that the baby will in fact gain mental faculties where there may be significant doubt surrrounding a human in a vegetative state after birth from some cause. This is enough of a difference between the two cases that makes them completely separate, I believe.

Anyway, if you missed it, I dont think a 1 day old conception is less of a person because they dont yet have mental activity. This was the intended meaning of the first paragraph of the last response to you.

That aside, why would your logically consistent pro-live view depend on the reason for conception? Why is it the baby who should die if the reason for conception is rape? The moral dilemma between the life of the mother is of course stronger to protect the mother if no compelling evidence suggests that the pregnancy is reasonably safe to continue. The moral weight of protecting life vs. hardship from an unwanted pregnancy to continue leans far toward the protection of life in my opinion.

The most recent issue of Touchstone magazine has much of interest on this topic. Here is one article avaiable on line:


Hi Kevin,

You wrote: "... At present, I think that in a few exceptional cases abortion should be allowed, such as in the case of rape..."

Why are you (generally) against abortion? Why is it that the reasons you hold (probably something to do with the value of human life) become invalid when the method of conception changes? In other words, why is that unborn human suddenly no longer afforded the same rights if it was conceived through rape? I understand the emotional dilemma the scenario poses, but if you allow the unborn to be devalued in this instance, then why shouldn't it be able to be devalued in other instances (that is, for any reason at all)?

(oops... didn't see that Brad already responded to that point...)

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