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« The Self-Evident Nature of Objective Moral Truths | Main | Does Disagreement Prove There Are No Objective Moral Truths? »

July 25, 2013


Good post.

Recently, an MSNBC host, Melissa Harris-Perry, said that the question of when life begins depends, “an awful lot on the feeling of the parents”.

Ms. Perry, what about when the little tikes toss their milk cups across the room a tantrum? Do parent’s feelings still matter then?

We shouldn’t forget that’s the side of science and reason. Those against such notions are knuckle-dragging theocrats that want to “take us back to the stone ages.”

Yeah. Sure.

The main argument pro-abortion people make is not that the unborn isn't a person, but rather that you can't force a woman to stay pregnant or gestate against her will.

Scientism: At a loss when challenged on evidence for (real) X, the X apologist accuses the challenger of scientism.

Bulverism: The fallacy of reason which deals with secondary questions (like the nature of skeptics of a claim) rather than the claim, thus avoiding the claim or evading the issues raised by trains of reasoning.

Paul Reed,

It't not one or the other. It's both. If, by 'person', you mean the primary concern of ethics, then a 5DE (five day embryo) is not a person. And, guess what! A woman is!


Ron, if one requires empirical evidence for something before it is considered to be "real," that is scientism. Asking for empirical evidence for rights and value is a category error. And the demand is not made consistently for every non-material thing, which makes the demand look like a convenient way to dismiss things they don't want, according to their own convenience. Rights granted according to instrumental value are as non-material and not empirically measurable as intrinsic value, yet they're not rejected.

Paul, there are two categories of arguments for abortion. The objections are either bodily rights arguments or arguments that assume the non-humanity of the unborn. See here and here for more on that. For a response to bodily rights arguments, you can see a recent post here.

No Amy. If one requires empirical evidence for everything before it is considered to be "real," that is scientism. Maybe.

Or maybe

Scientism is the view that we should believe only what can be proven scientifically.

But is there really anybody that holds this view? Even after they have been shown the view is self-defeating?

Scientism tells us that we should not believe any proposition that cannot be scientifically proven. But what about that very proposition itself?

You'd like to get your beliefs accepted on the basis if labeling me scientistic. Maybe you will even have some success with that.

But I'm not scientistic and nobody scientistic just because they ask you for evidence of souls or rights or whatever it is today.

Furthermore, suppose you did find a scientistic person somewhere. How is that evidence for your claims?

I'm convinced you have a mind not because it has been proven to me scientifically but because the existence of your mind is by far and away the most probable explanation for certain evidence I have before me. The existence of your mind is required to explain all that evidence.

If you can show that there is something requiring for it's explanation the introduction of a completely separate realm inhabited by immaterial souls and real rights and god(s) and so on, then you have evidence for that realm and it's inhabitants and you won't have so much trouble convincing people to believe like you do.


No Amy. If one requires empirical evidence for everything before it is considered to be "real," that is scientism. Maybe.

You mean if you employ the principles of scientism to philosophy but not to some other area, you're not employing the principles of scientism to philosophy?


Let's just say I think WLC's definition is better. I'd go with that.

Please ignore the start of my comment. Pretend it starts from the first quotation of WLC.


"It always amazes me that pro-choicers who take the more mystical approach, saying that life is infused into a human organism at some date after the beginning of its existence, accuse pro-lifers of making an inappropriately religious determination on the beginning of life"

Who makes that argument? The standard is the viability of the fetus. Always has been.


The standard is the viability of the fetus. Always has been.

Really? I’m unaware of this particular standard. I'm curious how you would distinguish viability from any other arbitrary measure that could be used to determine when an unborn baby shouldn’t be killed.

I’d also add that it’s legal in a lot of places to kill viable unborn babies, so they didn’t get the memo regarding this standard you mention.


"The Court later rejected Roe's trimester framework, while affirming Roe's central holding that a person has a right to abortion until viability. The Roe decision defined "viable" as being "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid", adding that viability "is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks."


You misunderstand the OP. It’s talking about when “life begins” not when abortion is legal. I was responding to the apparent matter-of-fact way you wrote that the standard was viability as it relates to when "life begins". I understand state abortion restrictions, Casey, etc., but there is no standard way people view the question of, “when life begins” except for embryologists. People are all over the map on this one. I’ve heard at the first breath, believe it or not.

Also, you wrote:

Who makes that argument?

I’d say many do. It gets even worse. Some, as I mentioned in the first post, think the question of when life begins is influenced somehow by the feelings of the parents. Whims. Today it’s life, tomorrow if I’m having a bad day; maybe it’s not a life. We’ll see.

Who makes that argument?

Melissa Harris-Perry. MSNBC Host.


I think your are making a semantic point between
"when life begins" and "when abortion is illegal".
ROE v Wade is based on the idea that they are the same thing.
But to your other point, you are right, "standard" is the wrong term. "Overwhelmingly Majority Opinion" would have been more accurate.

On second thought, I'll stick with "standard".
Yes, agreed there is some deviation away from that point (toward birth). But, in this case, viability is the "standard" to measure that deviation. Again, overwhelmingly majority m. But, I do concede that "standard" as I originally used it to assume that there was no deviation is inaccurate.


I think your are making a semantic point between "when life begins" and "when abortion is illegal".

This isn’t semantics. When life begins and when abortion is legal are two very different things. Let’s take the definition of life for starters, what is it? As I mentioned, what do the embryologists say? Look it up. The sources are a mile long. Did they consult people in black robes to make their determinations? Did they need the Chief Justice to weigh in?

What does Dr. Noel Tulipan say on the matter? Those that perform fetal surgery at 14-18 weeks? Do surgeons typically operate on non-living things?

The question of “when life begins” is a question of medical science. The abortion laws in this country only pay lip service to that question if at all. It’s all smoke and mirrors.

It’s a life, but many think it’s okay to kill it. Except when that life gets too big. Then things get messy.

Whims and more whims.

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