Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

"Choice" versus Reality

The LA Times provides Frances Kissling, the former president of Catholics for a Free Choice, and Kate Michelman, the former president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, with a soapbox on which to provide their assessment of "choice" on the anniversary of Roe v. Wade. Their assessment? Those damn "anti-choicers" are using reality against them:
Science facilitated the swing of the pendulum. Three-dimensional ultrasound images of babies in utero began to grace the family fridge. Fetuses underwent surgery. More premature babies survived and were healthier. They commanded our attention, and the question of what we owe them, if anything, could not be dismissed....

Advocates of choice have had a hard time dealing with the increased visibility of the fetus. The preferred strategy is still to ignore it and try to shift the conversation back to women. At times, this makes us appear insensitive, a bit too pragmatic in a world where the desire to live more communitarian and "life-affirming" lives is palpable. To some people, pro-choice values seem to have been unaffected by the desire to save the whales and the trees, to respect animal life and to end violence at all levels. Pope John Paul II got that, and coined the term "culture of life." President Bush adopted it, and the slogan, as much as it pains us to admit it, moved some hearts and minds. Supporting abortion is tough to fit into this package....

In recent years, the antiabortion movement successfully put the nitty-gritty details of abortion procedures on public display, increasing the belief that abortion is serious business and that some societal involvement is appropriate....
Well shoot. How unfair is it when even reality is against feminists?

46 comments:

Kyle R. Cupp said...

"Twenty years ago, being pro-life was déclassé. Now it is a respectable point of view. How did this happen?"

Um....

"It is time for a serious reassessment of how to think about abortion in a world that is radically changed from 1973."

Yes, let's. And we'll do better at building a culture of life if the leaders in both the pro-life and pro-choice movements talk more with one another about abortion. For too many people, including for Frances Kissling and Kate Michelman
here, discussion over abortion is reduced to a battle to be won by defeating opponents. What are we after? Winning or the truth? The writers here bring up the visibilty of the unborn, but aren't willing to let it move their hearts and minds. For them, reality is just a tactic of us "anti-choicers."

Darwin said...

On the positive side, I think most people address issues in a profoundly un-ideological way. Which is why, for most people, our clearer vision of the realities of unborn children has gradually caused some change in feeling over the last thirty years.

The authors or the article, on the other hand, seem determined to see life only through the lens of ideology, which sometimes means having to refuse to see it at all.

j. christian said...

Wow, that was perhaps the lamest defense of abortion I've ever read. "We need go regain the moral high ground, but...er... we don't suspect that we ever had it in the first place."

I'd sure like to see them try to make the moral argument that those who are more familiar to us are more worthy of life.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Are fertilized eggs counted in the population of a state. If they are a child or baby should they not be counted? If a woman exersizes too much during pregnancy and has a miscarriage should she be charged with manslaughter? My point is that the anti-abortion people refuse to make any distinction between "life" and a "person."

If a thirteen year old is raped by her father should she be forced by law to carry the pregnancy to term?

I am Catholic and generally oppose abortion; but there are exceptions and slipping from the word "Life" to "person" is why no progress can be made on this issue.

I am just as opposed to "it's my body, and I can do what I want nuts." Jack

Darwin said...

Jack,

My issue with saying that an unborn child (or fetus or embryo or whatever term is used) is "life" but not "person" is that it gets one into some rather difficult questions as to what exactly "person" is. One can trace the identity of a person back to the point of conception. Now, one could theorize some sort of "infusion" moment when a soul or mind or whatever one wants to call it is added and say that personhood arrives at that time. But I for one don't see any case for believing that that's the case.

Now on your examples: I think it's important not to feel that everything ought to be measured or accounted for by law.

Who should count in a census? I don't greatly care.

Should a woman who engages in some sort of potentially risky behavior and has a miscarriage be prosecute for manslaughter? I do not tend to think so. There are issues that God is in the best position to judge and punish.

I do, on the other hand, think its appropriate to charge someone with a crime if he assaults a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry -- assault is already in the category of a crime, so pushing it to manslaughter in that situation is something I have no problem with.

As for the thirteen year old pregnant by incest: It's only "forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term" if one assumes that someone in that situation _ought_ to be able to get an abortion. The child in that situation, it seems to me, is innocent -- a victim just like its mother. I don't think we should kill it. Killing the incestuous father I would have no problem with.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Darwin, I truly arrpreciate your answers and I am not trying to be a wise-a..

The last paragraph: what is the antededent to "it"?

As to your answer about the census. what does I don't care mean. If it is a person or child it would have to be counted if we are logical.

I'm still not clear on the woman who over exercises and has a miscarriage. Is she not guilty of killing a person?

You say not every thing should be measured by law. But is not killing a person a crime? So why should it not be considered under the law?

Should impregnated eggs be named? Why do we wait until they are born?.

Does any one you know consider having a funeral if, like my daughter, the woman had a miscarriage at one month?

My CATHOLIC brother -in- law- told my daughter when she had a miscarriage at 5 weeks that a human being had been killed. I'd like to slap his silly face. Okay drop last point; I juust thinks he's an ass.

I have ask these questions before on the net and no one will answer them much less the twisted argument that the doctor should be prosecuted and not the woman when and abortion is done. Should not both be prosecuted or are the anti-abortion folk afraid it would make them look foolish?

I do not favor abortion except under strict restrictions, but going too far either way is crazy. Jack

Darwin said...

Jack,

Well, the census is a way of determining the number of resident are in a state in for government purposes. As such, I figure it's a semi-arbitrary thing to start with, it's not a way of measuring the inherent worth of a person. It doesn't bother me whether unborn children are counted or not -- or whether only people over three or over eighteen or over 21 are counted. Counting people only after they're born is convenient, because mortality during pregnancy (especially early pregnancy) is high. (In some ancient censuses, only children over a certain age were counted, because infant mortality was so high.)

I would say that killing a person is indeed a crime, but in the example of exercise perhaps being the cause of a miscarriage, we're not talking about something which is normally _expected_ to cause a death. Frankly, a lot of the time it's simply unknown why a miscarriage occurs, perhaps even unknowable. (Though an article I saw in the WSJ today said that 60%+ of miscarriage are the result of genetic defect.)

Should children be named before they're born? Why not. Certainly, we've always known and used (privately within the family) the name of the baby as soon as we know if it's a boy or girl.

I'm very sorry to hear about your daughter's loss. While hesitant to touch an emotional issue, I'm not sure why suggesting that a baby did in fact die in a miscarriage seems naturally offensive to you. (I would hope that your brother-in-law meant "died" not "killed", since the latter suggests someone was at fault.) I can only speak from our own experience, and say that when we suffered a miscarriage several years back, we definitely believed that we had lost a child. Indeed, I would have been pretty offended if someone at the office had said, "Well, that's too bad, but at least that wasn't a person that died!"

On your last point, I think the reason it's often suggested to (if abortion is banned) prosecute doctors but not mothers is on the same principle that it's often chosen to prosecute drug dealers but not addicts, or pimps but not prostitutes: you nail the person responsible for the most volume, and you also go after the person who is coldly profiting from a situation rather than trapped in it.

Darwin said...

>The last paragraph: what is the antededent to "it"?

The unborn child -- we already know the gender of the mother.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Hi, you are a real nice guy, but I have to say you are avoiding my questions. In cases of abortion the mother knows full well what she is doing.

As far as the naming why are not fetus required to be named if they are a person. Person's usually have names.

A miscarriage is unfortunate but I have never heard of anyone saying what you say they might. A straw man, I'm afraid.

Then do you concede that a fertilizez egg is not a person, therefore not counted in census.

I do not follow you at all on the miscarriage due to excessive exercise. Did not the woman kill a child by her carelessness. Motive is not needed in manslaughter.

Are you suggesting an unborn fetus is an "it". I thought we called children he or she not "it."

How are you using "coldly profiting from a situation" and "trapped in it." Are you suggesting a woman cannot be prosecuted for prostitution; that any prostitue who does not use a pimp cannot be prosecuted? Certainly you are not suggesting that a drunk driver should not be prosecuted but only the seller who "coldly profited" from selling the liquor?

What does "most volume" mean in your analysis?

My daughter had pre-cancerous cells once and had her uterous scraped. Was that killing, murder, or neither.

What method do you suggest for killing the incestuous father. Why do anti-abortion people not push killing all who inpregnate minors against the minors will?

I'm not the least bit angry at you. You have more courage than almost any blogger I've run across. Jack

Darwin said...

Jack,

I may have a lot of courage, but eventually one runs out of time -- especially when each reply involves more questions than the previous. I'll answer a few more of the specific questions, but then I must ask you to simply accept the broader point: That I really do consider an unborn child a person. My reasons, as I said, have to do with the question of identity. Every person you will meet was once a embryo. There's no "magic point" that I know of where some event happens that makes a "not-person" embryo into a "person". And so, since I consider it best to be on the safe side rather than kill what may well be a person.

What method do you suggest for killing the incestuous father.
Though I'm very old fashioned, I'm not actually old fashioned enough to think that hanging is too good for rapists, so I'll settle for that.

Why do anti-abortion people not push killing all who inpregnate minors against the minors will?
Most anti-abortion people are also anti-capital punishment. I happen to be a bit of a Neanderthal in that regard, I guess. However, I'm not Neanderthal enough to support capital punishment for every person who commits a given crime. Punishments must be chosen according to the circumstances. However, I don't have a problem with capital punishment for the most heinous cases of rape, and I could consider a father raping a daughter to be pretty heinous.

As far as the naming why are not fetus required to be named if they are a person. Person's usually have names.
Practical reasons, I would think. Right now we know what our baby will be named if its a boy or if its a girl, but we won't know which it is until we get the ultrasound at twenty weeks. So it's currently un-named.

A miscarriage is unfortunate but I have never heard of anyone saying what you say they might. A straw man, I'm afraid.
Well, you have now. When we had a miscarriage, we certainly believed that we had lost a baby. Let's leave that one where it is lest anyone get angry, eh?

Then do you concede that a fertilizez egg is not a person, therefore not counted in census.
No, because I don't consider the use of a census to determine personhood. (Homeless people are not generally well accounted for in the census, but I consider them people as well.)

I do not follow you at all on the miscarriage due to excessive exercise. Did not the woman kill a child by her carelessness. Motive is not needed in manslaughter.
It is very, very rare for exercise to result in a miscarriage, so I would not blame a woman who exercised if she happened to have a miscarriage.

If she took forty asperin and then threw herself downstairs, I might blame her.

Are you suggesting an unborn fetus is an "it". I thought we called children he or she not "it."
No, I'm suggesting one often doesn't know the gender of an unborn child. "It" is sometimes handy in such a situation.

My daughter had pre-cancerous cells once and had her uterous scraped. Was that killing, murder, or neither.
I wouldn't pretend to know nearly enough about such a situation to make a judgment on it.

If you have a lot of reading time and are curious about this kind of topic google some phrases like "catholic double intent pregnancy" and I'm sure you'll find all sorts of treatises.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Well, thanks. Will both just have to live thinking the other not totally logical. I will not trouble you again. Jack

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

My sister lost her first baby at about three months in to the pregnancy.

If some pathetic scum were so disgusting as to imply that she had not lost a child, she would probably either attempt to kill them or break down crying.

For that matter, I'd be torn between physical violence or elaborate verbal disgust.

Most women who miscarry *also* realize the children were human-- perhaps you should talk to your daughter before you get offended about your brother-in-law knowing and stating basic scientific fact.

j. christian said...

but then I must ask you to simply accept the broader point: That I really do consider an unborn child a person. My reasons, as I said, have to do with the question of identity.

This is the crux of the matter, the issue that requires the deepest, prayerful reflection. A Catholic having problems with the Church's teachings on life issues should begin here. What makes someone a person? Is it a single attribute or some constellation of attributes? Is "personhood" merely a biological or physical state, or is it something more? Does the sanctity of human life or the dignity of the human person require religious belief, the belief in the soul, or merely an acceptance of the fact that we think differently about humans than we do about other species? If our identities as persons do not begin at conception, then when is there a non-arbitrary, discrete point at which it begins?

I've never been able to find satisfying answers to these fundamental questions from the pro-abortion side. Instead I read a lot of nonsense about saving embryos in a fire, counting them in a census, or giving them the right to vote, ad nauseum. Obviously I know that an embryo is not "like me" in most senses. But it is for that very reason that I'm cautious about denying them personhood, because history sadly shows that whenever we wish to murder or otherwise dehumanize a whole class of people, we do it with the conviction that they are "not like us."

jackjoe FRANK said...

I said I would not be back and you desired to leave the discussion. I do not deny their sincerity or hysteria but would they please try to answer the questions I've ask instead of pouring out invective? Would you please try to answer the question about prostitutes which I notice Darwin did not touch. And I still can't see why you don't count a fetus in the census since you call abortion murder? What was murdered? Your statement that having an early term abortion is as painful as losing a three year old is, of course, not accepted by any one I've ever met. Jack

Steve said...

Miscarriage might be less painful for some because they've never met the child. It makes a difference. By the way, it's worth pointing out that whether one is a human person is not determined by our emotion. When we resort to situation ethics to rationalize breaking God's natural law, we forget that that God creating us in His image and instead start creating Him in ours.

jackjoe FRANK said...

So, a fertilized egg is a child. What nonsense. I know hundreds of catholics and no one I know accepts this. You need to be reasonable and not be taken in by a celebate clergy who know NOTHING about child bearing. A little study will show that early term abortions are just part of the church's historic antipthy to sex. If you do "it" you can only do so if it produces a fertilized egg. Jack

Histor the Wise said...

Jackjoe Frank,

What's with this census fetish? You're practically claiming that if someone can be murdered, they must be counted in a census. (That's what your question, "And I still can't see why you don't count a fetus in the census since you call abortion murder?" implies.)

The census only counts born children because it exists to count citizens, and citizenship starts at birth. A citizen, according to law, is someone who is born into, or naturalized to, the United States. Citizenship has nothing to do with personhood.

"Your statement that having an early term abortion is as painful as losing a three year old is, of course, not accepted by any one I've ever met."

Odd...because nobody on this comment thread even said that. All they said was that miscarriages (nothing said about abortions) hurt them as much as if they'd lost an already-born child.

About your question concerning prostitutes: that's a side issue you raised to distract from another side issue you raised to distract from the question about the morality of abortion. It's not really necessary to answer it.

Histor

Rick Lugari said...

My guess is that Darwin didn't answer the prostitution questions directly because of the sheer volume of questions he had to reply to and because it was irrelevant to the point he was making.

Prostitutes can and are prosecuted all the time (where it's not legal i.e parts of Nevada). However, certain authorities may choose to target johns for prosecution rather than prostitutes. The idea being trying to dry up the "market" so to speak. Darwin was using that example of anti-prostitution measures as an analogy.

As far as a census goes, ask yourself what is a census. It's an arbitrary tool, intended to gather information - not make any moral or legal determinations. One could do a census on just citizens, or on everyone regardless of status, or of men over 40. They could do one (and do) on businesses, wildlife, etc. That any particular government or agency doesn't choose to ask a woman whether she has a child in her womb is totally irrelevant.

St. Joseph had to respond to a census. The Blessed Virgin Mary went along with him, but didn't have to respond herself. Christ was in her womb, surely you don't think that He was not a (P)person because the Romans didn't count him.

Jack, you're a very scientific minded guy (at least based on previous conversation it seems so). Consider DNA. As the building block for life we can determine a number of things about a lifeform by analyzing DNA. Looking at DNA we can tell whether something is plant or animal, fish or human, etc. We can even tell whether it is from the same individual or another..and even the proximate relation of two samples.

A baby in the womb has it's very own DNA. Unique from his mother and his father. He is by scientific definition his own entity - and that entity is beyond a doubt human - a unique human being, even at the very initial stage of development. That the child is dependent on the mother to sustain his existence speaks nothing of his personhood. Even a 6 month old is dependent on his mother or some other care giver, but that makes him no less human or "person" than his mother.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Hi Rick. I'm speaking of the census required every ten years by our constitution. Should that not count all humans.

As for DNA, do not all bodily fluids have DNA? So is sperm a person using your definition?

Darwin seems like a nice guy as you do but his answers on prostitution were absent. Maybe you could answer them for me. I do not see the question as irrelevant but as going to the heart of the matter.

Of course, every person is entitled to their religious beliefs, but religious beliefs are not necessarily logical. But we should note that the overwhelming majority of mankind has never considered a miscarriage at 4 weeks the same as the death of a 3 year old. Jack

jackjoe FRANK said...

Hestor, you can't answer it.

If an unborn child is a child why is it not in census? At what moment does it become a citizen?

I thought you believed an abortion was murder because a child was killed? Is the fetus a child or not? You can't have it both ways. If it is murder why is it not carried in crime statistics on the murder rate? Why do you anti-abortion people not insist it be listed in the murder rate.

Now I can respect your religious beliefs, and I do, but laws in our country are supposed not to be passed because of the religious beliefs of a particular group. Are you afraid to say the fetus has a soul; out and out say that and I'll see your point.

Incidentally where in our laws is "personhood" defined?

Darwin said...

Jack,

Well, I said I was done, but since it seems to be bothering you, I'll answer the prostitution question: There's nothing wrong with prosecution prostitutes themselves, and I have no moral problem with doing it. I was just pointing out that in many situations where something is defined as a crime, enforcement authorities decide as a practical matter to throw the book at certain key people in the crime system. So they might target drug dealers only, or only people running whole prostitution rings.

Incidentally where in our laws is "personhood" defined?

In a sense, this is a very key question in this whole set of issues: It's not defined anywhere in our laws what a person is. And indeed, if you think about it, that consensus has changed over time. When out constitution was written, many people did not consider blacks to be fully human. Many people did not consider women to have the same rights and dignity as men.

Does that mean they didn't?

Laws can't cover everything. Thus, laws only work when certain moral norms are held in common. Imagine that it came to be that the majority of people in the US believed that Jews were not fully human. Imagine they passed laws saying that it wasn't a crime to kill a Jew.

You and I might point to one law or another and say, "No, that's wrong. Killing another person is always wrong."

But they could quite truthfully respond: "It doesn't say anywhere in our laws that Jews are persons. Having decided they're not persons, they obviously aren't protected by any of our laws."

What makes our laws work is a moral consensus in society as to what person means. We all assume that Jews and Blacks and women and Hispanics and red-heads and Koreans and children and old people and people wearing blue are persons, and deserve protection under the laws. But that assumption isn't actually written out in the law, and can't be done so in a truly airtight way. Which is why some societies in parts of the world have unravelled so very quickly when they start defining down what a human is.


As for why I believe unborn children are people: It's not strictly a religious belief. It's a scientific one: An egg has the mother's DNA. A sperm has the father's DNA. An embryo has a unique set of DNA which is possessed by not other person in the world.

And since you like legal example: Keep in mind it is just as illegal to smash the eggs of an endangered bird as it is to shoot one of the birds. The law recognizes that an unborn California Condor is already a California Condor. Why not recognize that an unborn human is a human?

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

As for DNA, do not all bodily fluids have DNA? So is sperm a person using your definition?

Sperm are special cells of the man's body, a gamete, and contain only a partial coding of his DNA.
Also, there is very little DNA in blood-- white blood cells have it, but the red ones do not.

As for your earlier comments about "a fertilized egg"-- the term "fertilized egg" is hugely wrong. The moment fertilization happens, it stops being an egg and becomes a zygote.

Please read up on the process here:
http://www.biology-online.org/7/1_fertilisation.htm

At the point where a zygote shows up, no matter what human laws say, there is a new member of the species; in this case, there is a new member of Homo sapiens.

You can go ahead and keep arguing that not all humans are people, but that's a rather nasty route to walk down.

If an unborn child is a child why is it not in census? At what moment does it become a citizen?

He already answered that. Scroll up.

Are you afraid to say the fetus has a soul; out and out say that and I'll see your point.

Why on earth would we be afraid to say that a very small person has a soul? It's not provable, and it won't convince anyone who doesn't already agree, so we argue with science and logic.

Incidentally where in our laws is "personhood" defined?

Where it says I'm not allowed to slaughter you. Where you are able to enter into legal agreements, if not otherwise prevented.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Darwin, thank you. But what you say about prostitution is NOT what you said earlier. What bothers me is your inconsistency.

But ,bless your heart, your last sentence is a tautology!!Of course a young green tree is a tree. Your last "human" {predicate) is contained in the subject(unborn human.) As you know tautologies tell us nothing e,g. my aunt is a female. Jack

Darwin said...

But ,bless your heart, your last sentence is a tautology!!Of course a young green tree is a tree. Your last "human" {predicate) is contained in the subject(unborn human.) As you know tautologies tell us nothing e,g. my aunt is a female.

Are you sure your aunt isn't just a fertilized egg that got uppidy and starting walking around?

Perhaps it's time to ask if you want to do a little clarifying:

Given that a "fertilized egg" has a different set of DNA from either the mother or the father, what is it?

Is it part of the mother?

Is it a "potential human" -- and if so, what the heck is a "potential", and why should we pick birth as the time a "potential" becomes a "real"?

Is it human or not human?

Is it a human but not person? If so, is there any particular reason people should not pick some other categories of human and classify them as "not persons"?

It's all very well to have gut reactions such as "people don't grieve for an unborn child as much as for a three-year-old" or "something that small can't possibly be a person", but unless we reduce morality to a set of emotions, there has to be some consistent way of answering these questions.

If you see an inconsistency between my two answers on prostitution, it's probably because the first time I was being rather terse, thus leaving lots of room for attention. Either way, who one prosecutes how much is a prudential matter of how best to enforce something, not a moral absolute.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Darwin, enjoying the discussion.

A "fertilized egg" is just that.

It is attached to the mother, and my arm is attached to me. Is my arm a person?

"Potential" this or that is a totally out of date way to define something. A brick is not defined as something to build a building with. That went out hundreds of years ago. A brick is defined by its chemicak/material elements not by what it can be used for.

You do not define something by what it is not. A bear is not a tiger. So?

I have not and would not say "something that small can't possibly be a person." I don't even know what you are saying?

First sentence was funny but says what?

Last sentence: what does it mean?

Could you answer my tautology question?

Literacy-chic said...

I must say that Darwin gives the best set of answers to the usual questions that I've ever seen--very reasonable & articulate. Nice job! This has been good reading.

Literacy-chic said...

Ummm... For the record, the tautology thing wasn't a question, but an accusation. And a fancy big word! ;)

Darwin said...

The first sentence was an attempt to humorously summarize the rather odd philosophical point that we're arguing: is an pre-natal human of a given age a "person" or just a "fertilized egg".

Tautology: noun
1. (logic) a statement that is necessarily true; "the statement 'he is brave or he is not brave' is a tautology"

So my question was "Why not recognize that an unborn human is a human?"

This is only a tautology if one assumes that an unborn member of the human species is a human person, which is normally what we mean by a "human" in everyday conversation. This assumption is not accepted by roughly half our society. So it's not a tautology, though it could rightly be accused of phrasing itself in a way such that it assumes a given answer.

Okay, next step in the Platonic questioning here: You say, A "fertilized egg" is just that. It is attached to the mother, and my arm is attached to me. Is my arm a person?

Let's assume for the moment that this is correct (though from a scientifically factual point of view it is not.) At what point would you say that it becomes appropriate to refer to that fertilized egg as a "person" and what is it that causes that transformation?

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

A "fertilized egg" is just that.
It is attached to the mother, and my arm is attached to me. Is my arm a person?


No, it's not-- the "attachment" happens when the zygote travels (usually) into the womb and implants into the uterine lining. That is when it becomes an embryo. (in the usual course of things)

Your arm is not a separate organism; the zygote quite obviously is, as evidenced by the fact that it can be created elsewhere, and even at our stage of technology we are able to provide enough support to allow limited development, and transport it to a suitable environment in an entirely different mother.

Seriously, go read the tutorial I posted above-- you're just making yourself seem trollish or ignorant.

Literacy-chic said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Literacy-chic said...

That would be a false analogy:

your arm:you::zygote:mother

I was being tongue-in-cheek with the "big fancy word" thing above; I periodically teach false analogy as something to avoid in argumentative writing!

To elucidate, unless your arm should one day become independent of you, it can not be considered analogous to the zygote. Hence, you are comparing grossly dissimilar things for the purpose of arguing that they are the same--hence, creating a false analogy.

Darwin said...

Ah, I see Foxfier has hinted at where I'm going a bit, so I'll go ahead and drop the next breadcrumb in the Platonic questioning:

Consider the following situation. Twenty years in the future, a doctor takes two healthy eggs from a woman and successfully fertilizes them with sperm. One egg is then implanted in the woman where it matures and is later born. The other egg is placed in an artificial womb where it matures and is removed eight month post conception, and goes on to live a happy and healthy life.

At which point did each of these siblings become a human person?

If the one implanted in the womb was "part of the mother", was the one implanted in the artificial womb part of the machine?

Literacy-chic said...

Gee, I guess I should be writing that chapter on Huxley... Thanks for the reminder! ;)

In a certain construct, it would be part of the political machinery, subject to counting in a census and only imbued with humanity by virtue of being decanted... er... "born" to whomever holds the authority over that life.

I hope my dystopian digression does not distract from your point, which does make the fallacy apparent.

jackjoe FRANK said...

An unborn human is a human is clearly a tautology. A beautiful red rose is a rose. Don't you see?

The effort to use technical terms instead of common terms is pitiful.Using "zygote" and "embryo" does not strengthen your case. Darwin apparently prefers common terms as do all other participants in this discussion. Approximately 1/10 of 1 percent of the population uses and knows the meaning of zygote.Your statement "at the point where zygote shows up" ("shows up" is that scientific language? Shows up from where)is just your opinion not a scientific statement.Again, pitiful.

Literary-chic. I think your mixing up tautology with analogy. They are different.

Question: When does life end? Is not brain dead[okay foxfier I should use technical term for brain dead)the generally accepted definition. When does a fetus have brain activity? If it does not have brain waves is it dead? Jack

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

The effort to use technical terms instead of common terms is pitiful.

Using the correct terms for things is not pathetic. Mis-using a term-- ie, implying that an organism is an "egg"-- is quite pathetic.

In plain English:
A fertilized human egg is not an egg.
The egg does not exist once it becomes a zygote, because the cell called an "egg"-- not to be confused with a chicken egg-- fuses with another cell, the sperm, and creates an entirely different cell.

Please do not assume that everyone slept through biology class--or is too young to have taken a class. Not sure which you fit into.

Go read the tutorial. It is not my "opinion"-- it is simple biological fact. Please give evidence if you believe otherwise.

Literary-chic. I think your mixing up tautology with analogy.

LC did not mix them up, you are confused. You made an ANALOGY about your arm. Analogy is in the form X is to Y as Q is to P.
A tautology is in the form of "XY is X."

Kevin Jones said...

"Is not brain dead[okay foxfier I should use technical term for brain dead)the generally accepted definition."

Can brain death be the generally accepted definition? To my knowledge, most people on the verge of death don't get the extensive neurological examination used to determine so-called "brain death."

I think death is most verifiable when the body as a whole starts to decay, as life is most verifiable when the organism is working as an integrated whole.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

"Brain death" is the technically correct term.

Unfortunately, there *isn't* a generally agreed on point when life ends.

It's easy to tell when someone is very dead, but hard to pin exactly when they die.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Please use "ovum" rather than "egg." We must always use scientific terms if not we are ignorant? Poor Darwin and ALL his commenters, including you. Could you change your "name" to "Mr. Pedantry." Please try to say something of substance not just play withwords.

Literacy-chic said...

I periodically teach false analogy

Actually, what I meant to say here was "logical fallacy" rather than "false analogy." "Tautology" and "false analogy" are both examples of logical fallacy. The former, you accuse Darwin of doing. The latter, you do yourself.

Foxfier, formerly Sailorette said...

Please use "ovum" rather than "egg." We must always use scientific terms if not we are ignorant?

ovum
1. The female reproductive cell which, after fertilization, develops into a new member of the same species (von baer, 1827), an egg.

http://www.biology-online.org/dictionary/Ovum

Literacy-chic said...

--I learned "zygote" in HS biology, but don't really care what term we use. It's only relevant insofar as we agree that a fertilized egg is something else, no longer merely the two parts that combine to produce it.

--It may be my ignorance, but isn't something dead for certain when it is no longer growing? I think I got that from Sesame Street. Anyway, a viable embryo is not dead, and I don't know who would claim that it is.

--And really, is repeating the same questions without acknowledging valid points really saying anything substantive? Foxfire is defining terms to try to achieve clarity rather than to obscure meaning. Using the term "fertilized egg" misrepresents the stage of development of the zygote/embryo/fetus/human/baby/unique human organism.

j. christian said...

And really, is repeating the same questions without acknowledging valid points really saying anything substantive?

Amen to that, sister.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Dear foxfier. The proper scientific term is ovum. Do you know how to use a dictionary. The word you looked up was ovum, not egg. See your own citation.

J. Christian, I don't know what you are saying but 'Amen, sister.'

Darwin said...

Jack,

While the question about brain death is definitely a good attempt to back into the question, I think that it presents some problems. Leaving that aside for the moment, though, I believe that the answer to your question is that there is a measurable brain and activity in it by eight weeks after conception.

I'd be curious about your answer to the two embryo dilemma that I proposed, though. I think that addresses the question of whether one can define the embryo as "something attached to the mother" pretty well. (Aside, obviously, from the scientific fact that no other part of a woman's body has a set of DNA completely different from her own.)

In regards to tautology: I'll concede the formulation of the words to be tautological in form, but I remain confused as to your reaction to it. If one holds "an unborn human is a human" is necessarily true, than one either agrees that a unique person exists from conception, or one holds either:
1) Some humans (at least some unborn ones) should not be called persons
2) An embryo is not a human

The first seems rather distasteful from a moral point of view, the latter is nonsense from a scientific point of view.

jackjoe FRANK said...

Darwin, I admire you very much; you remain civil during the bombast. I'm not sure your duration for the development of brain activity is accurate, but let's bypass this for a moment. If the fetus has no brain activity at say 28 days how is it a person? It is Potentially a person but that is not our question. Potentiality(to sink back to Aristotle] is not actuality.
On your example the two fetus' are persons when they have brain activity. A dead person, to avoid confusion, is not a person as we use the word when he has compltely no brain activity. I think we all know what dead means. so I'll stipulate a person blown into 1000 different equal size peices. Thanks for your comity. Jack. Incidentally I will argue later on my blog that the church, including abortion is sex mad(less). Btw the way to repeat, I only defend abortion before fetal brain activity except in rare cases.

Darwin said...

Well, if we want to be purely scientific, I'd say another one of the standard signs of death is when the heart stops beating. The heart starts beating by 25 days after conception.

However, I'm not at the most basic level a scientific animal, though I consider science a very important and powerful field of knowledge. I am, at root, a philosophical animal. And the philosophical question of identity causes me to think that if an embryo is a human after its first brain activity, or after its heart begins to beat, it must be a human the moment before that. And the moment before that. And each moment before that back until there is a break in identity, which so far as I can tell is the point of conception.

However, my basic demand is that everyone agree that innocent human life not be ended. So if, in good faith, you strongly believe that human life begins with the first brain activity (I'm seeing quotes on 6-8 weeks) then I'm willing to bow to you as an honest man. We may not agree, but at least you're being fair.



And now, I'm going to exert blog owner's privilege and close the comments.

Because honestly, this has probably taken up enough of everyone's time at this point.