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« How to Help Your Students Evalute Media | Main | People of God »

October 15, 2008

Comments

SocietyVs wrote: "(commmon ground) ... I think Obama is trying to do this - maybe he is sick of the divide?"

If he is so sick of division, then he could change his stance to pro-life. Why not? That's what he's asking his opponents to do. "Let's not argue, just agree with me" is essentially the message.

"... it's not Obama's fault (abortions) are happening"

If he becomes president and makes it easier to kill unborn (or born, in the case of one of his votes, to not protect born live babies in unsuccessful abortions) children, then he certainly would share blame. Try putting a loaded gun on your front porch and then claim innocence when some kid picks it up and gets hurt.

"Obama isn't making that choice for them."

No, he just wants to make it easier for those women to kill their children.

"What is happening in these women's lives that they require this procedure?"

When someone (of right mind) kills an already-born person, do we try to justify their actions by looking at what was happening in their lives? Some might, but that only speaks to the low state of morality in our courts.

"... and even if (Roe v Wade is) over-turned - abortion will still happen."

So what? Murder and rape are illegal, but they still happen. Should we not make laws against things we know will still happen without those laws?

What a man thinks of the life of an unborn baby cannot be all that different from what he thinks of a man or woman he has never met. Would he dispose of us as easily?
Why would I wish for this man who so easily chooses one life over another to be a lawmaker for me?

If it is for concern of the woman involved, that is admirable. But "loving thy neighbor" above "loving thy God" reverses the order of the Law and makes an idol of our neighbor - it is impossible to love our neighbors equally without loving God first and foremost. That means love for the baby as much as love for the mother. That means supporting single mothers, adopting children who are "unwanted" and providing homes and housing for any and all in need (but is this not the vision of Christ as He gave it to us anyway?)

Partial Christianity is not Christianity but devilry. We must count the cost.

Laws are not to be "what one *can* do," but "what one *cannot* do."
If we live in a free society, then one should be able to do anything they want - wait! but that isn't freedom; it's anarchy!!

That is why laws restrict. Christ knew better than anyone that laws are necessary. The Ten Commandments saith "Thou shall not..."

The 'Positive Two,' "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and strength and love your neighbor as yourself" makes the 'Negative Ten' laws both bitter in the stomach and sweet to the tongue - the base of the negative laws is also the highest attainment above them. To love God and to love your neighbor, means that you certainly don't want to kill, steal or lie.
For one seeking God, the 'Positive Two' are enough. For a country, it cannot be so; we are not a theocracy. Nor, however, are we an anarchical society. We are free. We must have "negative laws."

So if we have one law that says do not kill, we cannot have another that says we can. If the law on which our nation stands proves so inconsistent, our nation will soon loose its balance.

"What a man thinks of the life of an unborn baby cannot be all that different from what he thinks of a man or woman he has never met."

James, would you make the same comparison with a human embryo at its earliest stage? Are you are using "cannot" in the sense of "should not," or in some other sense?

No, no, I mean that the difference is probably minimal, psychologically. Let me explain why I think so.

If Obama says he cares for everyone and somehow wants to bridge the divide between us as someone said, then says he supports partial-birth abortions (or abortions of any kind) then he has shown his hand. He clearly does not care about "everyone" because he disregards the child, however old the child may be.

Embryo, Fetus, or full term, it is really because that child has no experience of the world that we think it is not so much a "person" - The movie "Mr. Magorium's Wonder Emporium" gives Dustin Hoffman a line that hits this on the head.

'We weep for people when they are gone, not because they are gone, but because we knew the beauty and wonder of the life that came before.'

I don't think this is accurate of true love, the love of God, but it is of the common man, particularly the unsaved.
It is one thing for many people to think nothing of getting an abortion because they have never "known" that child as a person and so don't know that loss, nor does the child know what they lost. Is there much difference then in the person you have never met, never known; will you neglect that person as well? How do you differentiate between people you have never met? Why should you do so at all?

If a man says he cares nothing for an unborn baby, no one would vote for him. It's appallingly negative. So, instead, he spins it on its head and says, 'I care for the sake of the mother.' Which looks much nicer. It doesn't portray the morbid finality of the previous statement, but it isn't meant to. It is purposefully vague. It is politics.

"Embryo, Fetus, or full term, it is really because that child has no experience of the world that we think it is not so much a "person""

I would have thought that the reason we don't think of a human embryo at its earliest stage as a person is because it is a single diploid cell.

To the above anon poster -- how many cells does it need before it's a person? By the time most women even know they're pregnant, it's much more than a single cell, and it's only eight weeks old when it has a heartbeat. You can have philosophical debates about the personhood of the "single diploid cell", but it's a red herring in the real debate over abortion.

Paul, your "red herring" accusation is unfounded. Take a close look at the claim by James that I'm calling into question.

Moreover it simply isn’t true that the question of a zygote’s personhood is irrelevant to the question of whether a more highly developed fetus is a person. Reasoning about whether or not a fetus is a person sometimes begins with asking whether or not a young child is a person, and then, by working backwards to the fetus, arguing that there seems to be no principled point in the child’s development at which to cease calling it a person. That is, you start with what seems to be a clear case of personhood and work backwards. But one could also run this sort of argument in the other direction, beginning with the zygote and working forwards. A zygote seems to be a clear case of a non-person.

A zygote seems to be a clear case of a non-person.

Why is a zygote clearly a non-person? You were a zygote at one time, correct? Were you the same, separate being (albeit with different characteristics) then as you are now? Was there continuity in your development between then and now? I'm not sure I understand why you think this is so clear.

Why is it Condor eggs are protected, and not just Condors? It's because fertilized Condor eggs are Condors--just very young and small ones.

It has been horrifying to me to see professing Christians voting for this man.

Seriously Amy? Here’s another argument you might find convincing:

You were once a glimmer in your father’s eye. We therefore have evidence that glimmers in eyes are persons.

Here’s another argument you might find convincing: You were once a glimmer in your father’s eye. We therefore have evidence that glimmers in eyes are persons.

How do you see those as similar arguments? I can't follow you. Are you really saying that you think a metaphorical statement ("you were once a glimmer...") is analogous to a biological statement ("you were once a zygote")? Am I serious? Come on, let's have a reasonable discussion, here. I really would like to understand why you think it's so clear. So can we start by your taking my comment seriously? Do you deny that you've been the same organism since you came into existence as a new organism with distinct DNA?

And again, what are your reasons for thinking it's so clear that a human being at the earliest stage of development is not a human being?

Amy, just to try to find some common ground between us, how would you answer someone to whom it seemed obvious that dogs were persons? (Let's suppose also that this person agreed with you about all the psychological and physiological differences between dogs and human beings.)

I would answer that many beings can be called "persons" (since we even assign that label to the members of the Trinity), but for the purpose of this discussion, we're limiting our discussion to *human* persons.

Since you recognize the problem with the pro-abortion argument (that if a zygote is a non-person, why can't I progress forward and call infants non-persons, as some of the more radical (though prominent) have done) -- would you please offer your personal view of when "personhood" is attained?

Must there be a clear point at which personhood is obtained? More generally, why suppose that "person" or even "human person" is a perfectly definable concept such that for any given case it is possible to say whether or not the concept applies?

Finally, what is gained by limiting our considerations to "human person"? Why not think that we'll need to understand personhood generally before we can say which human things are also persons?

In this country, there is a basis for human beings having certain rights, not dogs, so let's stick to human beings for now. So again, here is the most basic question to begin with, and then we can move from there: What are your reasons for thinking it's so clear that a human being at the earliest stage of development is not a human being?

"What are your reasons for thinking it's so clear that a human being at the earliest stage of development is not a human being?"

Amy, your question seems to be either confused or unfair: a human being at its earliest stage is of course a human being. I don't deny that.

Why don't you take a crack at one of my questions. They are at least not trivially unfair.

>>Amy, your question seems to be either confused or unfair: a human being at its earliest stage is of course a human being. I don't deny that.

Okay, good. Now the next question: Do we have human rights because we're human--that is, are we all created equal simply because we're human, or do we decide who has rights based on characteristics that qualify us to be granted rights (i.e., race, gender, size, ability, etc.)? (I'm not trying to trap you, here. If you think we ought to earn rights based on our characteristics, then say so, and we'll go from there.)

We do not have rights "because we're human." Corpses and fingernail clippings can be human, but I'm not sure that this means they have rights. I would say that personhood would be the more important characteristic to look at--thus, the focus of my questions to you.

>>We do not have rights "because we're human." Corpses and fingernail clippings can be human, but I'm not sure that this means they have rights.

I'm certain you don't really think a fingernail is a human being, nor do you think I'm referring to fingernails as human beings. But maybe you misunderstood the question. I'm talking about human beings, not body parts--the kind that are said to be "created equal" in the Declaration of Independence. I'm just asking about how you think rights ought to be recognized, asking about the principle of granting rights, not any specific rights or any specific group of people at this point.

So reading between the lines of your comments about dead people and body parts, am I right in understanding, then, that as a principle, you favor giving certain humans rights based on their characteristics (for example, race, gender, size, abilities, or some other characteristic you prefer) and not to all living human beings regardless of their characteristics?

Amy, there is no need to read between my lines. I've answered your questions straightforwardly and with a fair degree of precision. That an object has the characteristic of being human does not imply that we should ascribe rights to that object. Example: a fingernail can have the property of being human. We can call such fingernails "human fingernails". This, however, does not mean that we should ascribe rights to such fingernails. As with fingernails, so with persons. It is not that persons have rights because they happen to be human. Rather, I tend to think that persons have rights because they are persons. This also is clear from my previous response: "I would say that personhood would be the more important characteristic to look at--thus, the focus of my questions to you."

May I suggest that you read the posts more carefully? I will also suggest, yet again, that you try to answer some of my questions.

>>That an object has the characteristic of being human does not imply that we should ascribe rights to that object. Example: a fingernail can have the property of being human.

I think you still must be misunderstanding me. Leave aside the question of "personhood" for a moment. I want to get behind the idea of "personhood"--to take the discussion back a little farther to its most basic element, and then we can move on.

Follow with me for a second--I think I can state my question and the two possible answers a little more clearly, and then you can pick one or the other--just tell me if you agree with the first or the second--there really is no possible third option. I want to be sure we're talking about the same thing here:

Using the term "human being" to mean "a single member of the Homo sapiens species" (not merely a part of a member, like a fingernail), do you think human beings have rights, regardless of their characteristics, simply because they are human beings and therefore created equal, or do you think human beings are not inherently equally deserving of rights, but should be granted rights by others based on their characteristics (e.g., race, gender, size, intelligence, abilities, number of limbs or fingers, or any combination of two or more characteristics like these that you would choose to define "personhood")?

Amy, I didn't misunderstand your question, but I may have misunderstood your intentions behind your question. This, however, is a fault of your question and of your failure to distinguish between "human" and "human being". For future reference, the former is most often understood as an adjective. To say that something is human is not to say that it is a “member of the Homo sapiens species.”

Now you ask, “do you think human beings have rights, regardless of their characteristics….?”

I am proposing that the answer to this question depends on whether or not personhood is an essential characteristic of a human being. If it is, then (on the assumption that persons necessarily have rights) human beings necessarily have rights.

You offer various characteristics by which one might try to define “personhood” (“race, gender, size, intelligence, abilities, number of limbs or fingers, or any combination of two or more characteristics like these”). The most promising of these characteristics you list would be “abilities,” very broadly understood. However, I am not convinced that it is even possible to given a reductive definition of the concept of “personhood” in terms of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept’s proper application. One of my earlier questions for you and your companion Paul raised this very concern: “why suppose that "person" or even "human person" is a perfectly definable concept such that for any given case it is possible to say whether or not the concept applies?” Why not try to answer this question? Or, if you still refuse, at least explain why you are avoiding my questions.

You offer various characteristics by which one might try to define “personhood” (“race, gender, size, intelligence, abilities, number of limbs or fingers, or any combination of two or more characteristics like these”). The most promising of these characteristics you list would be “abilities"

Okay, so you say that you do not believe in universal human rights for all human beings (meaning all members of the Homo sapiens species--and by "member of the homo sapiens species" I mean a biological member, not a member that meets a certain standard of characteristics).

Here is the principle of determining rights that you think should be applied to human beings in any society: You think human beings earn rights according to their characteristics--all human beings are not created equal, and so the majority of people in a society should decide which group of human beings should be given rights based on the preference of the majority (i.e., based on their preferred definition of "personhood"). If one group has lesser abilities than the rest of the group, or if they are under a standard of minimum ability deemed valuable by the rest of the group, then they can be denied rights.

>>why suppose that "person" or even "human person" is a perfectly definable concept such that for any given case it is possible to say whether or not the concept applies?”

In the way you are using the term, I do not suppose it is perfectly definable. Not at all. It is quite easy to determine and define who is a human being if you define "human being" as a biological member of the Homo sapiens species. There is no question, in that view, of who is worthy of rights. But a nebulous and arbitrary concept like "person"? No, that's not cut and dried, not perfectly definable--you're quite right. The concept of "personhood" is, of course, at the mercy of the people in power who are doing the defining. In fact, people have defined persons differently at different times. At times black people have not been persons, or Jewish people have not been persons. Sometimes women are defined as not being persons. Abilities, also, (the characteristic you think most promising for determining rights) have at times been used to determine personhood. Developmentally disabled people have been exterminated, and in some countries disabled infants are left out to die.

Are you starting to see how dangerous it is to deny universal human rights to all members of the Homo sapiens species--to deny the idea that they're worthy of rights simply because they are human beings made in the image of God? It turns out that when societies take it upon themselves to determine which human beings qualify as "persons" worthy of rights based on characteristics, it doesn't turn out so well for the weak, for minorities, and for the disabled. I'm sure you're thinking, "But I would use proper standards of characteristics to define human beings out of personhood." Yes. So every society has thought they were defining out the correct human beings. Were they? How do you know they weren't? Who would you trust to decide who's in and who's out? Who should decide? How should they decide? When has this ever gone well?

The use of this method of determining rights based on characteristics (like abilities) follows naturally from a nontheistic worldview. We're not equal if we aren't all made in the image of God and have something worthy of rights in us, regardless of our characteristics. There is no grounding for universal human rights outside of a theistic worldview. What I'm puzzled by is why you, a Christian, would have this view of rights. Or perhaps I've assumed too much from your comments in the past, and you're not a Christian? If that is the case, when you see the implications of this characteristic-driven view of rights spelled out clearly, what are your thoughts? Does it seem wrong or dangerous to you? Or are you still willing to bite the bullet and define some human beings out of personhood with the hope that you'll get it right this time around in history? Does it horrify you at all that the West might start treating human rights as arbitrary?

Dear Amy, your hasty inferences are somewhat counterproductive. Please re-think your response in light of what I have actually written. I'll later re-read your post (as staff at STR, I think you have the ability to revise your submissions), and I'll then respond.

You're welcome to tell me where I've gone wrong:

1. You believe that human rights should be determined based on certain characteristics (i.e., you think that certain characteristics determine the "personhood" that gives rights) and should not automatically be given to every biological member of the Homo sapiens species.
2. "Abilities," for you, would be a good place to start to define which member of the Homo sapiens species is a person and which is not.
3. The standard of "personhood" will be determined by what the majority prefers, or by those who have the power to enforce the standard. (This is just a practical matter that logically follows.)
4. When people have determined who is worthy of rights in the past based on their characteristics, things have gone badly.

You may not have thought through the implications of your view of human rights before, and you may not like what you're seeing here, but I stand by the implications I've laid out.

We can definitely move slowly, question by question, to determine your view if you wish. This is why I was trying to go step by step. You've already answered my first question (my #1 above), saying that "personhood" is defined by a characteristic that may or may not be present in a particular biological member of the Homo Sapiens species, and you explicitly stated #2. Numbers 3 and 4 are the implications that logically follow.

If you think I've gone wrong somewhere, we can start again with my original question:

Using the term "human being" to mean "a single member of the Homo sapiens species" (not merely a part of a member, like a fingernail), do you think human beings have rights, regardless of their characteristics, simply because they are human beings and therefore created equal, or do you think human beings are not inherently equally deserving of rights, but should be granted rights by others based on their characteristics (e.g., race, gender, size, intelligence, abilities, number of limbs or fingers, or any combination of two or more characteristics like these that you would choose to define "personhood")?

If you'd like to change your answer to affirm the first option rather than the second, then I would happily welcome it, and of course that will change my response. You're more than free to change your mind.

And please keep in mind, in case you are misunderstanding me, that I don't think you're intentionally advocating killing retarded children. What I'm trying to show is the logical implications of a particular view of human rights. I'm assuming that you have not thought carefully enough through the principles behind this view. I'm not assuming that you have thought through them and heartily endorse the implications of the principles. But this is a very serious matter, and the implications deserve to be laid out in all seriousness. I do hope you will carefully read through my response again and see the seriousness of it.

I also want to reiterate:

I'm sure you're thinking, "But I would use proper standards of characteristics to define human beings out of personhood." Yes. So every society has thought they were defining out the correct human beings.

And I would also like to again ask:

When you see the implications of this characteristic-driven view of rights spelled out clearly, what are your thoughts? Does it seem wrong or dangerous to you? Or are you still willing to bite the bullet and define some human beings out of personhood with the hope that you'll get it right this time around in history? Does it horrify you at all that the West might start treating human rights as arbitrary?

Dear Amy,

Thank you for this restatement. I find the numbered statements helpful, both for referencing purposes and for their somewhat modified wording. The key is to move forward carefully, which may mean progressing slowly. We’ll go through statements 1-4 in order.

“1. You believe that human rights should be determined based on certain characteristics (i.e., you think that certain characteristics determine the "personhood" that gives rights) and should not automatically be given to every biological member of the Homo sapiens species.”

So that we don’t presuppose the very thing in question, let’s drop the modifier “human” from “human rights”. Let’s also suppose that we’re talking about the sorts of fundamental rights that we normally think ought to be ascribed to adult human beings regardless of contingent factors about them (like location, skin color, IQ, height, religion, etc.). Now, what I’m proposing is not that personhood “gives” these rights, but that the rights attach to personhood, or are grounded in personhood. Finally, I have not yet gone so far as to affirm that these fundamental rights “should not automatically be given to every biological member of the Homo sapiens species.” Rather, such rights necessarily belong to every member of the species, if every member of the species is necessarily a person. Thus, logically speaking, it is quite possible that such rights should be automatically ascribed to every biological member of the species.

“2. "Abilities," for you, would be a good place to start to define which member of the Homo sapiens species is a person and which is not.”

This is slightly misleading. Here’s what I actually wrote: “You offer various characteristics by which one might try to define “personhood” (“race, gender, size, intelligence, abilities, number of limbs or fingers, or any combination of two or more characteristics like these”). The most promising of these characteristics you list would be “abilities,” very broadly understood. However, I am not convinced that it is even possible to given a reductive definition of the concept of “personhood” in terms of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept’s proper application.”

“3. The standard of "personhood" will be determined by what the majority prefers, or by those who have the power to enforce the standard. (This is just a practical matter that logically follows.)”

You’re parenthetical remark is interesting. I think I can see why you call 3 a “practical matter”. It’s practical in the sense that it is a predicative claim about how the notion of “personhood” is going to be understood by people, assuming 1 and 2. However, this claim doesn’t LOGICALLY follow from anything that I’ve said (nor, for that matter, even from your statements 1-2). Please explain this inference (and of course, in terms of what I’ve actually said).

“4. When people have determined who is worthy of rights in the past based on their characteristics, things have gone badly.”

You state that 4, like 3, is an implication “that logically follow[s]”. I would have rather thought that this is a generalization based upon historical facts and some value judgments (and not upon the preceding premises). This makes me think that you may have unique understanding of the phrase “logically follows.” Could you explain?

To the anonomous poster who's conversing with Amy, you've passed by a point/question that I'd like to rephrase for you--if you'd be so kind to revisit. The question asked to you was to distinguish when you,anonomous came to be a person since you were also in fact a single cell new creation. I didn't see much made of the question but my intent is to look at that issue again.

Here is my question, anon. [since you seem to want to be ambiguous about when personhood is attained] at what point did you anon, depend on the survival of your younger anon? And further to that, does anon in the future depend on your[anon.] survival today? Does the person anon. depend on the single cell anon. organism's survival as much as the adult anon did to the survival of the teenage or adolescent anon?

Brad B

>>Now, what I’m proposing is not that personhood “gives” these rights, but that the rights attach to personhood, or are grounded in personhood.

There is no functional difference between the two. In your opinion, a human being should only have rights if he or she possesses the characteristics that make up "personhood."

>>I have not yet gone so far as to affirm that these fundamental rights “should not automatically be given to every biological member of the Homo sapiens species.” Rather, such rights necessarily belong to every member of the species, if every member of the species is necessarily a person.

Yes, you have gone that far. Let me explain: You are saying that rights do not automatically belong to every member of the Homo sapiens species just because he or she is a member of the Homo sapiens species. This is what you're saying when you say that rights only belong to each member if that member possesses the characteristics that you believe will qualify that member as a person. In your view, rights are dependent on the presence of characteristics that make up "personhood," not on being a member of the Homo sapiens species. You may not be sure yet if every human being qualifies as a person (because you haven't decided on your characteristics yet), but that makes no difference when determining your principle for granting rights. It is the principle itself that I'm arguing is dangerous.

>>Thus, logically speaking, it is quite possible that such rights should be automatically ascribed to every biological member of the species.

Possibly, but you're still basing the rights on the characteristics you prefer to use as a standard for personhood, and all my implications still stand because this approach has led to abuse every time in history it's been used.

>>I am not convinced that it is even possible to given a reductive definition of the concept of “personhood” in terms of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept’s proper application

Hence, the danger. Rights are arbitrary and will be decided on by those who have the power to determine the definition for everyone else.

>>However, this claim doesn’t LOGICALLY follow from anything that I’ve said

If rights in this country should be based on characteristics that determine "personhood," someone will necessarily need to create the standard of characteristics necessary for "personhood"--the standard for rights that will be used in order to determine who has rights. There is no other way to determine who has rights.

This is very different from basing the rights on being a member of the Homo sapiens species. In this second option for determining rights, every human being has rights, and no one can define anyone else out of "personhood" and rights, regardless of the preferences of the majority or the people in power.

>>I would have rather thought that this is a generalization based upon historical facts and some value judgments

The statement, "When people have determined who is worthy of rights in the past based on their characteristics, things have gone badly," is simply a factual statement. When this method of determining rights has been tried, some people have been defined out of personhood. How could it be any other way? As soon as you create a standard that a human being has to meet in order to have rights, some human beings will be defined out. Otherwise, why have the standard at all? It would be completely unnecessary and redundant if it only existed to describe every member of the Homo sapiens species.

Consider this: If a government thinks it's necessary to have a standard to determine "personhood," must they not be entering into the process expecting to find that some members of the Homo sapiens species do not currently meet that standard? They certainly couldn't be assuming the opposite, or why create a standard in the first place? If they were beginning with the assumption that no one is likely to be defined out, they would just assume that rights belong to every member of the Homo sapiens species and be done with it. But as soon as they start suggesting a standard of "personhood" is necessary to figure out who should have rights, they must have someone in mind that they think is a little "iffy" and probably should be defined out, correct?

The very suggestion of the need for a standard reveals that they do not think all human beings are created equal simply because they are human beings. Human beings only have the potential of being equal if they possess the necessary features.

That is a good point you make Amy, it is exactly what I wanted to force by asking the question I asked in the previous post. To make any distinction of *when* a being gets personhood rights makes little difference at all since everyone who does meet the universal standard of personhood did in fact begin with conception [at which time, no one possess *developemental* *so called" *characteristics* of personhood

The point is that this continuity cannot be broken without harming a person. [No less than it would to deprive an adult person of his future personal life as they develope toward old age].

Brad B

Amy, I find your fixation on the concept of a biological species curious. Before going further, could I get you to define the concept of a “biological species”?

>>Before going further, could I get you to define the concept of a “biological species”?

It was as specific as I could get in order to avoid some of the confusion that was happening. Since you are questioning who should qualify as a "person," you're deciding which beings among a certain group of beings that are categorized as biologically belonging to a specific species (Homo sapiens) should qualify, correct? For this reason, I'm using the term "biological" so you'll understand I'm talking about every member of the species and not a subset of the species that meets another standard of necessary characteristics.

Yes, but I am simply wondering how you define "species".

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Species

If you've read your Wikipedia article, you'll know that there is quite a bit of deep controversy over how "species" should be defined. Do you have a principled way to settle this controversy? Does our lack of a rigid and principled definition of "species" imply that what we choose to count as a member of a given species is merely arbitrary? (surely not, but why?)

For the purposes of our conversation: Once an organism comes into existence with its own, unique genetic information, it is of the same species as its biological parents and will continue to be in the same species until it expires. I can't imagine anyone would find this controversial.

"I can't imagine anyone would find this controversial."

I see three possibilities for explaining this:

(1) You've not read the Wikipedia article you referenced.

(2) You've not understood the Wikipedia article you referenced.

(3) You don't understand what it means to give a definition in terms of necessary and sufficient conditions.

Alternatively, perhaps it is just in your interest to avoid the challenging considerations I am raising for you. But this kind of evasion would not be "for the purposes of our conversation" - given that the purpose of our conversation is to consider the relative merits of grounding fundamental rights in species membership rather than in personhood.

The article contains information about the difficulty of classifying all organisms into similar enough categories. That's not what I said was uncontroversial. If, on the other hand, you see anything in that article that suggests that parents of a single species can sometimes produce offspring of another species, then you'll have to point it out to me. That is the only part that is relevant to our conversation since I'm assuming you are able to determine which adult, offspring-producing organisms are Homo sapiens.

You asked me what I mean when I refer to an organism being a biological member of the Homo sapiens species, and this is what I mean:

Once an organism comes into existence with its own, unique genetic information, it is of the same species as its biological parents and will continue to be in the same species until it expires.

Now that I've made my meaning clear, I look forward to your response to my earlier comment.

Amy, the article you referenced is largely about the problem of defining the term “species.” This problem is relevant because you are trying to make the following inference:

Premise: It may not be possible to given a reductive definition of the concept of “personhood” in terms of the necessary and sufficient conditions for the concept’s proper application.

Conclusion: “Hence, the danger. Rights [based on personhood] are arbitrary and will be decided on by those who have the power to determine the definition for everyone else.”

What your Wikipedia article shows is that the concept “species” is relevantly similar to “personhood” with regard to the above premise. I’m simply pointing out that if the argument works for personhood, it also works for species membership. Perhaps you can improve your argument, but by now you should realize that it will take a bit more work.

Finally, it may be of interest to you to know that the sufficient condition that you give for membership in a common species is not used in any of definitions that biologists have proposed (of the 13 definitions, the one closest to incorporating your sufficient condition is that of “Darwinian species”). Worse, some viable definitions of “species” seem to contradict your claim that offspring necessarily share species membership with their parents (consider, e.g., “Biological/reproductive species”).

We’ve learned something in all of this. It is not just my writing that you have trouble understanding. You have trouble understanding even the articles you cite.

>>Worse, some viable definitions of “species” seem to contradict your claim that offspring necessarily share species membership with their parents (consider, e.g., “Biological/reproductive species”).

Maybe I should clarify that I'm talking about two human beings and their offspring, not a human being and a monkey or any other species. All that section stated was that if two groups of organisms can reproduce but only create infertile hybrid offspring, like a mule, then those two parental groups are of different species. Since two human beings create more human beings that are able to reproduce, then, according to this section, the two human parents are the same species. (That section doesn't even address the status of the offspring.) Again, I see nothing to suggest that the offspring of two parents of the same species will be anything other than the same species as the parents.

>> the concept “species” is relevantly similar to “personhood” with regard to the above premise. I’m simply pointing out that if the argument works for personhood, it also works for species membership. Perhaps you can improve your argument, but by now you should realize that it will take a bit more work.

I'm sorry…are you saying that the definition of a member of the Homo sapiens species as an organism that comes into existence with its own genetic information as a result of genetic material from Homo sapiens parents is not all-inclusive? Or that it is in any way unclear? Or that it is arbitrary?

Let me just clarify this before we waste any time: Are you saying that you, personally, are unclear as to which biological organisms on this earth are Homo sapiens? Not which ones are worthy of rights, but which ones are Homo sapiens? Are you really having trouble picking out the human beings from the monkeys, the frogs, the birds, the dogs, etc.? Can you offer any example that could give me an idea of why this would be difficult for you or anybody else? I'm trying to be fair to you, but I'm really having a hard time understanding why you're having this difficulty.

As soon as you're able to acknowledge that you know what falls into the biological category of "human being," we can get back to discussing which is a better strategy for recognizing rights--biological status as a member of the Homo sapiens species or "personhood" (whatever that can be later determined to involve). The creation of a new human being by human parents is a clear, non-arbitrary starting point that everyone can agree creates a biologically human organism. That is not in question. What's in question is when that biological organism should have rights.

"Again, I see nothing to suggest that the offspring of two parents of the same species will be anything other than the same species as the parents."

Seriously Amy? Don't you want to be making the less ambitious claim:

"Again, I see nothing to suggest that the offspring of two [Homo sapiens] will be anything other than [Homo sapiens]"?

Remember the confusion you created earlier by conflating "human" with "human being"? If you want to "clarify," take heed to your words. You can write less if you'd simply be more precise.

(By the way: can the mule produce fertile offspring with members of either of it's parent's species? What does this tell you about how the cited definition would classify the mule - which is the offspring you refer to?)

As a Christian, social justice platforms must include the protection of innocent life. Solutions to overcome poverty, oppression, and care for the truly needy can be debated among those with different political leanings, as can discussions about whether a war is just or not; but the protection of innocent life offers no such distinction. I would prefer a candidate who seeks a broad platform of social justice, but that breadth means nothing if it does not include a pro-life commitment.

Amy,

Let me first apologize for being so testy in my replies and comments. I would like to make a real effort towards clarifying the issue dividing us. Here it goes:

You advocate the idea that our fundamental rights depend upon our membership in the species Homo sapiens, rather than upon our status as persons. One reason you give is that the category Homo sapiens is such that for any given creature that we might expect to encounter on Earth, we can identify whether or not that creature is a member of Homo sapiens. But if this is the only reason for selecting our species membership as the all important characteristic upon which fundamental rights depend, then the choice would be arbitrary. After all, there are a lot of categories that have this same feature of cleanly dividing the creaturely world. And so why not choose rather the family Hominidae, or the category human-beings-under-6-feet-tall? We must be careful that we are not choosing the category “Homo sapiens” simply because it makes the cut where we want it to be made—to include the unborn human fetus. Such a choice involves no justification. It merely begs the question.

There are, moreover, positive reasons to be dissatisfied with the choice of species membership as the ultimate criterion for deciding whether or not a creature has rights. First, we find that species membership is ultimately a somewhat arbitrary classification device for grouping individuals that resemble each other biologically. More seriously, the particular properties by which species membership is determined seem to have very little to do with anything common sense would say actually matters in determining whether or not an individual has rights. Pick any of the canonical definitions of “species” (according to your Wikipedia article, you’ve got 13 to choose from). Why should any of these definitions be thought to pinpoint the characteristics upon which our fundamental rights depend?

To make this criticism more intuitive, consider a couple of thought experiments. In the first, suppose that the Pintupi of Western Australia began intermarrying with Bavarian tourists. The children of these couples are healthy, intelligent and beautiful. Remarkably, however, it is soon discovered that these Bavarian Pintupis (the children of these biracial marriages) can only produce offspring with others of their kind. Now, by the Biological/reproductive definition of “species,” the Bavarian Pintupis are not, in fact, Homo sapiens. Should we therefore question whether they possess the fundamental rights we claim for ourselves? Do we begin thinking that it is alright to force them into cages and give them to our children for pets? (Certainly not. But why? I would say that it is because the Bavarian Pintupis are quite clearly persons, like ourselves.)

In a second thought experiment, suppose that in exploring the remote regions Indonesia, we come across an island previously thought to be uninhabited. We discover a flourishing community of people. We learn their language and are fascinated by their rich culture, their respect for others, and their heightened sense of self-awareness. However, these islanders eventually convince of a startling truth: they have arrived here from another planet. We are shocked. Although they resemble us in every physical and psychological detail, they are clearly not sons of Adam. Upon genetic analysis, they turn out to be different, but these differences appear only at the genetic level. Now, upon hearing of the genetic test results, do we begin thinking that we can force the islanders into cages and bring them back as pets for our children? (Again, I would think not. And again, this seems to because the islanders a clearly persons. Whether or not they are Homo sapiens seems irrelevant.)

The difficulty of specifying a highly fine tuned definition of species or kind is no diferent than the difficulty making distinctiions about characteristics of the beings to qualify as persons. The biblical phrase "after their own kind" I think leaves room for this: "Again, I see nothing to suggest that the offspring of two parents of the same species will be anything other than the same species as the parents."

from Amy.

I think common sense and experience would find it hard to disagree with that.

But it has been here by the anon. poster:

"Seriously Amy? Don't you want to be making the less ambitious claim?"

Does the species definition make any difference at all if we are talking about human beings, image bearers of God? Are we trying to also include monkeys in this discussion as if monkeys are aborting themsselves? A human mother and a human father will produce human offspring. Does it have to be any more defined than that[?], for this discussion is surrounding the abortion of the product of human conception.

The fact is that every one that we do agree to call persons were less developed and necessarily depended on the survival of their own personal beings developement . If they ever are defined as a person, they are continually persons based on what type of being they are.

I am not trying to minimize the importance of the proper classifications that anon. wants to labor, but this is a distraction in my opinion.

Brad B

Here’s a thought experiment that works in the other direction.

In the not-too-distant-future, medical doctors are able to closely observe the mis-development of an embryo, which, but for their new technology, would have died at a very early stage. This is what they observe. While still at the stage of a single cell, most of the zygote’s normal processes malfunction except those responsible for developing the small intestine. Pro-life doctors realize this early and remove the early stage embryo from the womb via surgery (it still consists of only a few dozen cells), knowing that without artificial assistance, the embryo will die. As it is, though, even with this artificial assistance, the embryo will never develop into anything more than a small intestine. Nevertheless, using Amy’s criteria, the doctors convince themselves that the developing small intestine is in fact a human being. After all, it is living and it is the offspring of human parents. They therefore ascribe to it the same rights that they’d ascribe to any newborn child, realizing that with artificial care the organism will grow into a full-fledged small intestine, but will never develop into anything more. On the bright side, there is no reason that the small intestine should not, with the proper care, live for at least 80 years and likely longer. They therefore deliver it to the mother in a specially developed nutrient-rich incubator: here’s your child. Inside the incubator is a brainless, spineless, heartless, headless, armless, legless, bloodless, sexless small intestine. The parents are grieved. But are the parents wrong to regard this small intestine as anything less than a human being with regard to fundamental rights? After grieving, the parents claim that the small intestine is not a person. The courts, however, say that this doesn’t matter, for they have adopted Amy Hall’s criteria.

There is not much value in contemplating this thought experiment, since it's so far fetched in so many ways. The most significant way is the implied obligation to go beyond extreme ethical duty to save a life. In the above thought experiment, the harm to the person at whatever developemental statge is not inflicted from others. Abortion differs significantly here ala malice aforeghought albeit legalized against what is clearly seen as a human child. View the pictures if you dont believe me.

This is just another distraction.

Brad B

For the doubters among us.

http://www.abortionno.org/Resources/pictures.html

This issue is pretty cut and dry, no need to split hairs on whether abortion is a moral injustice.

Brad B

>>But if this is the only reason for selecting our species membership as the all important characteristic upon which fundamental rights depend, then the choice would be arbitrary.

The Homo sapiens species is the correct choice for rights because we're created in the image of God, not because we can tell the difference between that species and others. The fact that we can tell the difference merely makes the application of rights easier.

>>We must be careful that we are not choosing the category “Homo sapiens” simply because it makes the cut where we want it to be made—to include the unborn human fetus. Such a choice involves no justification...There are, moreover, positive reasons to be dissatisfied with the choice of species membership as the ultimate criterion for deciding whether or not a creature has rights.

I'm not choosing the Homo sapiens category because I want to include the fetus, I'm including the fetus because I'm choosing the Homo Sapiens category. As I explained before, the choice of universal human rights, regardless of characteristics like race or number of limbs, only has justification if God exists and He created us in His image and/or if you agree with the Declaration of Independence that "all men are created equal" and are "endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." (Many atheists still endorse the second, despite the lack of grounding.) This is the foundation for rights in our country. I'm merely agreeing with that foundation by saying we should apply those rights to everyone, regardless of race, gender, size, intelligence, or abilities. You disagree, along with many others.

As you have illustrated so well by stating that the choice of human beings as automatically deserving of rights is arbitrary, as soon as one drops the idea that we're created in the image of God, rights need to be based on characteristics; some animals might gain rights, and some human beings might lose them. There is no grounding for universal human rights, regardless of race, religion, height, or whatever, unless something grounds the same equality in every human being. This is why non-Christian/Jewish thought over the years has included PETA comparing killing chickens to the Jews dying in the holocaust and the Nazis killing retarded children.

This is why the increase of leftist thought--which is based on non-theistic assumptions about the nature of human beings--in this country is not a good thing. For them, human beings aren't a justified category for automatically deserving rights. It scares me, and it should scare you, too. For now, they define out human beings at the earliest level of development, so that may not bother you too much. But once the principle is in place (the principle of determining rights by acceptable characteristics), the rights of the minorities and the oppressed are at the mercy of the people in power, and there's no real guarantee that those rights won't be removed.

But again, if you're unable to determine which organisms in this world are Homo sapiens, there's nowhere to go from here. Thanks for the conversation and for presenting your view.

If the only reason to draw the line at membership in the species homo sapiens is the religious belief that we are created in the image of God, doesn't that mean that Pro-Lifers are either disingenuous or mistaken when they claim that, since science shows us that fetuses are human beings, the issue of whether or not abortion should be legal isn't a religious one?

And how do we know that membership in the species homo sapiens is sufficient for bearing the imago dei? We certainly don't know that it's necessary. In fact, I highly doubt that it is necessary. Maybe it's not sufficient either. Maybe, of homo sapiens, the only ones who bear the image of God are the ones that are capable of mental activity. I'm not sure what it means to bear the image of God if you can do it without being capable of mental activity. What if neither Adam nor Eve nor any other human ever had mental activity. Provided they were still homo sapiens, would we still be inclined to say that they were created in the image of God?

Of course, all of this is not to say definitively that one can't bear the image of God without being capable of mental activity. Just because I don't understand something doesn't mean it's impossible. But thinking about this sort of thing does make me wonder.

>>doesn't that mean that Pro-Lifers are either disingenuous or mistaken when they claim that, since science shows us that fetuses are human beings, the issue of whether or not abortion should be legal isn't a religious one?

Not exactly. It's not a religious argument if you start with the common ground of human rights. Most people in this country believe that all human beings are worthy of rights regardless of race or other characteristics, even if they don't have a way to ground those rights. The idea that human beings are worthy of rights is generally accepted. This is the common idea we're appealing to. Then it's just a secular matter of saying if toddlers have certain rights (the common ground we're appealing to), then there is no relevant difference between toddlers and the unborn that should affect the rights of the unborn. That is, generally we do not believe the size, location, looks, abilities, etc. of various people affects the recognition of their rights, so the unborn should not be excluded for any of these reasons, either. Since the unborn is a human being, just smaller and younger, they should have the rights that we, as a country, think that everyone should have. There is no religion in those arguments.

The idea of real, unalienable rights of any kind existing at all can only be grounded in God, but that's not the starting point we need to begin with when we're trying to persuade people who already believe in rights, though they don't believe in God.

The problem is, though, as people give up grounding rights in God, it won't be long before the rights follow. We should expect to see an erosion of rights for certain people because of their characteristics as we start determining who is really valuable based on what they can do for us and not on who they are.

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