Pro-Life Humanists

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May 13, 2013

A Secular Case Against Abortion

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The following piece was originally submitted to The Humanist after their September/October edition of the Humanist featured an article by Marco Rosaire Rossi questioning the existence of pro-life atheists.   The piece, though as extensive as possible in answering standard pro-choice arguments, was ultimately rejected because it didn’t answer a number of other questions (including contraception and early vs late-term abortion) that a 2,500 word limit simply could not allow.    While I hope to work with the editor for a future re-write, here is the original piece for your reading:


A SECULAR CASE AGAINST ABORTION

By: Kristine Kruszelnicki

“Is there really such a thing as a pro-life atheist?” asked Marco Rosaire Rossi in the September/October edition of the The Humanist.  “What’s next, Intelligent Design Agnostics?  How about Secularists for Sharia Law?”

Atheists may not have a pope, but in the eyes of many there is still a proper dogma that all good atheists must adhere to.   To be an atheist is to support abortion.   Fail to do so and you will be denounced as “secretly religious.”   When I joined an agnostic and an atheist from Secular Pro-Life for an information table at the 2012 American Atheist Convention, a popular atheist blogger accused us outright of having “actually lied about being atheist.”  [Edit: She also seriously misheard and misconstrued the point of my green banana analogy!]

There is an obvious reluctance to accept that non-religious pro-lifers exist.   But we do exist.   While we differ somewhat in our approaches and philosophies, our numbers include atheist thinkers like Robert Price, author of “The Case Against the Case for Christ,” civil libertarian writer Nat Hentoff,  philosophers Arif Ahmed and Don Marquis, and liberal anti-war  activist Mary Meehan, to name a few.

The late atheist author Christopher Hitchens, when asked in a January 2008 debate with Jay Wesley Richards whether he was opposed to abortion and was a member of the pro-life movement, replied:
“I’ve had a lot of quarrels with some of my fellow materialists and secularists on this point, [but]  I think that if the concept ‘child’ means anything, the concept ‘unborn child’ can be said to mean something.  All the discoveries of embryology [and viability] – which have been very considerable in the last generation or so – appear to confirm that opinion, which I think should be innate in everybody.  It’s innate in the Hippocratic Oath, it’s instinct in anyone who’s ever watched a sonogram.   So ‘yes’ is my answer to that.”

Secular pro-lifers include seasoned atheists and agnostics, ex-Christians, conservatives, liberals, vegans, gays and lesbians, and even pro-lifers of faith, who understand the strength of secular arguments with secular audiences.   The following secular case against abortion  is one perspective, and does not represent any single organization.


Abortion, The Complex Issue?

Abortion is an emotionally complex issue, stacked with distressing circumstances that elicit our sympathy and compassion, but abortion is not morally complex:    If the preborn are not human beings equally worthy of our compassion and support, no justification for abortion is required.  Women should maintain full autonomy over their bodies and make their own decisions about their pregnancies.    However, if the preborn are human beings, no justification for abortion is morally adequate, if such a reason cannot justify ending the life of a toddler or any born human in similar circumstances.

Would we kill a two year-old whose father suddenly abandons his unemployed mother, in order to ease the mother’s budget or prevent the child from growing up in poverty?    Would we dismember a young preschooler if there were indications she might grow up in an abusive home?    If the preborn are indeed human beings,  we have a social duty to find compassionate ways to support women, that do not require the death of one in order to solve the problems of the other.

Science vs Pseudoscience

While some abortion advocates have accused pro-lifers of using “pseudoscience”,  in fact scientific evidence strongly backs the pro-life claim that the human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species.    Dr. Keith L. Moore’s “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology,” used in medical schools worldwide, is but one scientific resource confirming this knowledge.  It states:
“Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

Unlike other cells containing human DNA – sperm, ovum and skin cells, for instance – the newly fertilized embryo has complete inherent capacity to propel itself through all stages of human development, providing adequate nutrition and protection is maintained.   Conversely, sperm and ovum are differentiated parts of other human organisms, each having their own specified function.   Upon merging, both cease to exist in their current states, and the result is a new and whole entity with unique behavior toward human maturity.   Similarly, skin cells contain genetic information that can be inserted into an enucleated ovum and stimulated to create an embryo, but only the embryo possesses this self-directed inherent capacity for all human development.

Defining Personhood

The question of personhood leaves the realm of science for that of philosophy and moral ethics.   Science defines what the preborn is, it cannot define our obligations toward her.   After all, the preborn is a very different human entity than those we see around us.  Should a smaller, less developed, differently located and dependent being be entitled to rights of personhood and life?

Perhaps the more significant question is: are these differences morally relevant?   If the factor is irrelevant to other humans’ personhood, neither should it have bearing on that of the preborn.    Are small people less important than bigger or taller people?    Is a teenager who can reproduce more worthy of life than a toddler who can’t even walk yet?   Again, if these factors are not relevant in granting or increasing personhood for anyone past the goal post of birth, neither should they matter where the preborn human is concerned.

One might fairly argue that we do grant increasing rights with skill and age.   However, the right to live and to not be killed is unlike the social permissions granted on the basis of acquired skills and maturity, such as the right to drive or the right to vote.   We are denied the right to drive prior to turning 16; we are not killed and prevented from ever gaining that level of maturity.

Similarly, consciousness and self-awareness, often proposed as fair markers for personhood, merely identify stages in human development.   Consciousness doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  It  exists only as part of the greater whole of a living entity.   To say that an entity does not yet have consciousness is to nonetheless speak of that entity within which lies the inherent capacity for consciousness, and without which consciousness could never develop.

As atheist Nat Hentoff points out, “It misses a crucial point to say that the extermination can take place because the brain has not yet functioned or because that thing is not yet a ‘person’.   Whether the life is cut off in the fourth week or the fourteenth, the victim is one of our species, and has been from the start.”

The inherent capacity for all human function lies within the embryo because she is a whole human entity.   Just as one would not throw out green bananas along with rotten bananas though both lack current function as food, one cannot dismiss a fetus who has not yet gained a function, alongside a brain-dead person who has permanently lost that function.   To dismiss and terminate a fetus for having not yet achieved a specified level of development is to ignore that a human being at that stage of human development is functioning just as a human being of that age and stage is biologically programmed to function.

Location and Singular Dependency

Pointing to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in support of his position that “human beings as persons are born,”   Mr. Rossi declared: “The fact of the matter is birth transforms us.  It simultaneously makes us into individuals and members of a group, and thus embeds in us rights-bearing protections.”

This claim is grossly fallacious.   First, what is does not necessarily represent what should be.    The fact that social conventions of personhood disregard the preborn human is no surprise, and in fact the very matter in dispute.   Second, birth possesses no such magical powers of transformation.    At birth a developing human changes location, begins to take in oxygen and nutrients in a new manner, and begins to interact with a greater number of other humans.   But a simple journey through the birth canal does not change the essential nature of the entity in question.

In fact, bio-ethicist Peter Singer agrees with the pro-lifer on this point.   He argues:  “The pro-life groups were right about one thing, the location of the baby inside or outside the womb cannot make much of a moral difference.  We cannot coherently hold it is alright to kill a fetus a week before birth, but as soon as the baby is born everything must be done to keep it alive.”   (Singer then goes on to argue that since there is no significant difference between a late-term fetus and a newborn, infanticide is thereby justified.)     Birth is undoubtedly a significant moment in our lives, but it is not our first moment.

So what of dependency?    Assuredly, a fetus is significantly more dependent on his or her mother than at any other time in his or her life.   But are dependent humans not fully human?   Does a conjoined twin’s dependence on a sibling’s heart or lungs disqualify her from personhood?    May we kill severely dependent adults or an infant who cannot even raise his own head, let alone feed, shelter himself, or walk away?

If the issue is what Rossi calls “absolute dependence [on] our mothers,”  a further question must be asked:  Why does dependence on a single person mean one is not valuable or worthy of life and protection?     If a wayward child were to find his way onto a stranger’s yacht only to be discovered  a day later at sea, he would be temporarily dependent on that sailor’s resources alone.   Would the sailor be justified in tossing the child overboard into shark-infested waters?

Moreover, is it truly the mark of a civilized people that the more vulnerable and dependent a human is, the more we can justify his or her death?    Is “might-makes-right”  the best we can do as a modern and sophisticated people faced with a vulnerable being and a woman in crisis?

Rape and Bodily Autonomy

Nothing adds more emotion to the already emotional debate of abortion than the issue of rape.  It is, however, vital that one does not confuse abhorrence of rape and desire to comfort the victim, with the fundamental question of whether hardship justifies homicide.   If the preborn is a human being, the circumstances of one’s conception have no bearing on his or her right to not be exterminated.

Judith Jarvis Thompson’s “Unplugging the Violinist” (a fictional scenario in which one is kidnapped by  friends of a dying violinist in need of a kidney, and forced to remain plugged into him for nine months in order to save his life) illustrates the dilemma of bodily autonomy, while suggesting grounds for abortion in cases of rape.

However, Thomson fails to recognize that the relationship between a preborn and her mother is unlike an artificial union of one stranger to another.   The fetus is not an intruder.  She is in the rightful home of a human being at her age and stage of development.   Unlike the kidneys, which exist for the woman’s body, the uterus exists and each month prepares to welcome someone else’s body.   A woman has a right to her body, but so too a fetus has a right to the uterus that is her biologically-given home.

Furthermore, recognizing the biological responsibilities with which we have evolved as a species, we understand that while one is not always morally obligated to a stranger, one is obligated to provide basic sustenance and protection to one’s biological offspring.   A breast-feeding mother can’t claim ‘bodily autonomy’ and abandon her infant in the basement while she travels; neither can a pregnant mother abandon her responsibility to a dependent human child.    While the rape victim did not choose and is unfairly put into this position, her basic obligation to her dependent human offspring is no less real than that of the sailor with an unwanted stowaway.

Abortion does not merely “unplug a dying stranger,” abortion actively dismembers and kills an otherwise healthy human being who is in an age-appropriate, naturally dependent union with his or her mother.   Rebecca Kiessling, conceived in rape, says: “I may not look the same as I did when I was four years old or four days old yet unborn in my mother’s womb, but that was still undeniably me and I would have been killed [for my father’s crime].”

Abortion neither unrapes a woman nor helps her heal.  Let’s punish the rapist, not his child.

Personally pro-life – But don’t change the law?

Finally, some will respond to the burden of science and reason by admitting that they are “personally pro-life” but wish abortion to remain legal so that it may remain safe.   Without taking time to delve into the statistics on legal vs illegal abortions, the numbers that were performed illegally in doctor’s clinics or the role antibiotics played in making abortion safer even before Roe vs. Wade, the question is necessarily begged:  safe for whom?

If one is “personally opposed” because he believes abortion ends human lives, it makes no sense to say that the ending of human lives should remain legal in order to save lives.  Whether legal or illegal, all abortions kill.   Sometimes the mother, but always her son or daughter.

Conclusion

Feminist author Frederica Matthews-Green once pointed out that “No woman wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg.”    The challenge for our ever-evolving society  is this:    Are we going to hand the woman a hack-saw and help her amputate her leg?   Or are we wise and capable enough to come up with creative ways of removing the offending trap, without destroying the leg in the process  –  especially when that “leg” is a fellow human being?

Society can continue to pit women against their preborn offspring, or we can begin to talk about real choices, real solutions and real compassion – such as those suggested by groups like Feminists for Life.    The secular pro-life philosophy means including the smaller and weaker members of our species, and not excluding the dependent and vulnerable from rights of personhood and life.     We have evolved as a species into a complex and inter-dependent community that is gradually doing away with prejudices like racism,  sexism, and ableism.    Let us now dispense with the lethal discrimination of ageism.

In the words of the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians:  “None of us is truly free until all of us are free, with all our rights intact and guaranteed, including the basic right to live without threat or harassment.”

We can do better than abortion.

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  1. More like this please! Best thing I’ve seen from you guys so far.

    Curious: where did you get the collection of four (faulty) criteria for determining personhood (smaller, less developed, differently located and dependent)? Is that just standard prolife content, or a more recent formulation? I’ve seen it elsewhere as SLED (size, level of development, environment, dependency).

    Comment by Abolitionist73 — May 14, 2013 @ 9:32 am
  2. You are correct. I am using a reworded form of the SLED test. I was trained by Scott Klusendorf 13 years ago and I generally recommend his material. Scott is a theist but he nevertheless can make a strong secular case against abortion that has served as fuel to my own. I chose not to use the acronym itself in that particular piece in order to work with the flow of the text.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 23, 2013 @ 11:32 am
  3. It is so cool that you had the chance to be trained by Scott Klusendorf. I agree with him on all his arguments against abortion while disagreeing with him in other ways. If I get the chance, I want to meet him.

    Comment by Chandler Klebs — June 3, 2014 @ 1:12 am
  4. As Kristine indicated, Scott Klusendorf made the SLED test popular. But it originally appeared in a book called The Moral Question of Abortion by Stephen Schwartz. It was written in 1990 so it’s probably a little outdated, but there’s still some very valuable information in it. So I think it’s still worth reading. Schwartz even has a chapter on human personhood which I think is valuable, as well.

    Comment by Clinton Wilcox — June 21, 2013 @ 12:41 pm
  5. Excellent article. I, too, have written a response to Marco about pro-life Atheists, and I’ve linked to it if you’d be interested in reading it (my name should link back to it). I do have a concern about your banana analogy, however.

    I understand the point you’re trying to make with it, but a fundamental difference between a banana and a human being (unborn or born) is that bananas are only instrumentally valuable (that is, they are only valuable as a means to an ends, sustenance) whereas human beings are inherently valuable (that is, they are valuable in and of themselves). So it would not be wrong to discard a banana before it is ripe, even if it may be unwise, whereas killing a human being before they are fully developed would be just as wrong as killing a fully developed human.

    I’m not sure if you feel that distinction would work against your analogy or not, I just wanted to bring it to your attention, just in case (and I don’t remember if we’ve ever talked about it or not). Again, excellent article.

    Comment by Clinton Wilcox — May 21, 2013 @ 8:54 pm
  6. Excellent point! I do intend on blogging more fully about the banana analogy at some point in the near future, and your input is valuable. I’m sure the analogy isn’t perfect and I do recognize the utilitarian flaw. I do however think that it serves for the purpose of showing that there’s a difference between dead and “no more” vs immature and “not yet”. As a similar analogy, an infant doesn’t walk yet because it’s too young, but we don’t call him a cripple like we do someone who won’t ever walk again.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 22, 2013 @ 5:30 am
  7. Well thought of and clearly showing a beautiful mind at work.

    Comment by Prayson D — May 22, 2013 @ 12:31 am
  8. Thanks, Prayson. I appreciate the support. The newest entry is now up, so do check it out and pass it on. Especially to your secular and pro-choice/undecided friends.

    Keep checking back. Better subscription and commenting options soon to come as well.

    Kristine

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 22, 2013 @ 5:26 am
  9. Do you want to stop abortion? Then, how about you REALLY address the CAUSES of abortion: poverty, inequality, LACK OF COMPREHENSIVE SEXUAL EDUCATION, lack of access to contraceptives, or the inability to pay for them, ridiculous religious ideals that make sex taboo, teach abstinence only, which further places people in a position of little power and with little information. You do not address ANY of this on this website, and it astounds me that you can claim to be pro-life while ignoring wholesale the real problems that contribute to abortion. It’s not a society that doesn’t value life, it’s a society that values ignorance over reason and that allows rampant inequality and poverty to thrive.

    Comment by Shauna — May 22, 2013 @ 1:17 pm
  10. Those are some excellent ideas, Shauna and I fully agree with you! Abortion is a symptom of a society that has not adequately addressed the real needs that women face during their fertile years. Poverty, inequality, ridiculous ideas about sex and contraception… these all play a role in the occurrence of unplanned pregnancies and the desperation of a lack of real options that leads many to think they have no other choice but abortion.

    Thanks for the suggestion for future blog posts and other facets of this issue to address. Pro-Life Humanists is officially less than a month old (launch day was two weeks ago today to be exact) so the entries are still few. If you visit my allies at Secular Pro-Life with whom I have previously worked, you’ll find that pro-life secularists do take the need for sex education and better options for women quite seriously.

    Stay tuned, much more to come! Thanks for your interest :)

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 23, 2013 @ 11:14 am
  11. What do you want and how will you enforce it?

    If Roe v. Wade were overturned tomorrow the regulation would fall to the states. California would be pro-choice and Arizona would be pro-life.

    If a Arizona woman wanted an abortion she would simply drive 5 hours to the California border and have an abortion, drive another 5 houras and return to Arizona.

    If you were the Governor of Arizona how do you plan to regulate abortion in your state?

    Do you plan to arrest women who have had abortions?

    Would women have to provide proof to the police her miscarriages were completely natural and not induced?

    Do you plan to ban emergency contraceptives?

    Do you plan to monitor pregnant were this is enough probable cause, that they will seek an abortion?

    Comment by Syner — May 23, 2013 @ 10:48 pm
  12. You’re entirely right on Roe v Wade which is precisely why Pro-Life Humanists is not merely interested in seeing abortion illegal. Our goal is making abortion unthinkable. When human beings of all ages and stages have equal right to not be killed, laws on abortion will likely follow, along with an impetus for better solutions for women facing unexpected pregnancy (and better contraception so that these may be avoided). But even if abortion remains legal, my hope is to see it become as rare and as morally unthinkable as sticking one’s infant in a dumpster, or drowning one’s kids in a bath-tub.

    Excellent questions with regards to arresting women who’ve had abortion or are thought to be planning one, and how we’d respond to miscarriages. I will gladly answer these in upcoming posts.

    If emergency contraception is shown to prevent implantation of an embryo, then yes I oppose that. I am not currently confident that this is the case however.

    Thanks for your feedback! :)

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 28, 2013 @ 12:21 am
  13. I appreciated the effort; it had a number of valid points. However, oddly enough, it was more akin to a sermon (a speech on conduct or duty) than a case for any particular public policy. Exactly what law or other public policy are you advocating? How would it be funded? How would it be implemented or enforced? Who would enact it? What are the advantages of the particular public policy and how would it promote the public welfare? Why is, or are, the particular policy or policies that you are advocating superior to alternative methods of solving the same problem or problems? In my experience, practical questions like these are much more important in the abortion issue than moralizing because most people instinctively realize that killing an unborn child is ethically problematic. As evidence, note that the vast majority of U.S. citizens support banning third-trimester abortions. (Canadians a bit less so, see the link below.) If they thought that unborn babies had no moral rights, why would they support such bans? Conversely, atheists seem to be a rather impractical lot, so maybe some of them will find this posting to be persuasive.

    http://files.efc-canada.net/si/Abortion/AbortionPollingPaperFebruary2012.pdf

    Another concern that I had with the posting was that it, like some of your past writings, did not seem to recognize that human life and human development are two separate concepts. Just because a being is developing does not necessarily mean that the being is alive.

    Here are some responses to some of Kristine’s specific comments:

    “If the preborn are not human beings equally worthy of our compassion and support, no justification for abortion is required.”

    I am not sure everyone agrees. We (at least in the United States) have laws against animal mistreatment, so a being does not need to be considered equal to receive protection.

    “…[T]he human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species.”

    This comment strikes me as a straw man argument. Who is arguing otherwise?

    “To dismiss and terminate a fetus for having not yet achieved a specified level of development is to ignore that a human being at that stage of human development is functioning just as a human being of that age and stage is biologically programmed to function.”

    Why is “biological programming” relevant to whether someone is alive or should be accorded rights?

    Comment by NorthStar — May 26, 2013 @ 11:57 pm
  14. 1. “Exactly what law or other public policy are you advocating?” Pro-Life Humanists is not a political organization. We are advancing a moral and ethical position to make abortion unthinkable first and foremost. It is not our intent to merely make abortion illegal or advance a new law.

    2. “In my experience, practical questions like these are much more important in the abortion issue than moralizing because most people instinctively realize that killing an unborn child is ethically problematic.” In future posts I do hope to address some of the possible solutions to the problems that lead women to seek abortions. I believe that public policies will be a collective thing that society will have to determine and I don’t believe that in arguing why abortion ought not be the solution that I must also have a fully implementable plan in place. Must a building inspector have a full list of the best contractors and the specifics of all building materials to be able to point out that there is a crack in the foundation or a hole in the roof? I am merely pointing out that the current putty being used to patch up the problem is crumbling and needs a better solution. I do have some ideas, but it

    3. “Just because a being is developing does not necessarily mean that the being is alive.” Could you provide an example of a being that is developing but is not alive?

    4. “…[T]he human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species.”
    This comment strikes me as a straw man argument. Who is arguing otherwise?
    You’d be surprised:

    5. “Why is “biological programming” relevant to whether someone is alive or should be accorded rights?” What gives us equal value is being equally human in our basic human nature. In that context I refer to biological programing as functioning according to our natural capacities at that particular age and stage. Human function can only exist in human beings. Every age and stage of human development is marked by specific traits and skills.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 27, 2013 @ 10:08 pm
  15. From this answer, my inference is that you are starting a new religion.

    “Could you provide an example of a being that is developing but is not alive?”

    Before I try to do that, are you taking the position that development and life are synonymous?

    Comment by NorthStar — May 27, 2013 @ 11:06 pm
  16. Depends on your definition of life I suppose.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 28, 2013 @ 12:26 am
  17. Then your case collapses. Remember, you said that “[i]f the preborn are indeed human beings, we have a social duty to find compassionate ways to support women, that do not require the death of one in order to solve the problems of the other.” Without a definition of life, you cannot establish whether abortion ends a life.

    Comment by NorthStar — May 29, 2013 @ 12:30 am
  18. I have a definition. I was asking YOU for clarification on YOUR terms, since you asked me whether I believed that anything that is developing is a life.

    Biologically speaking, nothing can develop unless it is alive (I don’t see rocks mutating or changing form of their own inherent capacity). But not everything that is alive develops. It boils down to the kind of cell that they are. Human cells like sperm and ovum and skin cells are a different of cell to that of a blastocyst. Their inherent capacity for growth are not the same.

    The pertinent question for any embryo is not “is it alive?” – anyone with third grade biology could answer that – but rather “what kind of life is it?” Following the principle of biogenesis (every creature reproduces after its own kind), I fail to see how the product of two human beings can be anything other than a human being. That they develop according to the kind of being they are further supports this.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — May 30, 2013 @ 3:22 pm
  19. “I have a definition. I was asking YOU for clarification on YOUR terms…”

    This is your case, not mine, so you have the obligation to define the terms that you use in your case.

    “Biologically speaking, nothing can develop unless it is alive…”

    Prove it. (And define the terms “develop” and “alive” while you are at it, please.)

    “The pertinent question for any embryo is not ‘is it alive?’ – anyone with third grade biology could answer that…”

    I have had college-level biology and I do not believe that an embryo is alive; at least not if you apply the same standard of what constitutes “alive” to an embryo as is applied to a toddler. You are being duplicitous if you are claiming that we need to apply the same standard in deciding whether we can morally kill an embryo as we do in deciding whether we can morally kill a toddler and yet not apply the same standard in deciding whether an embryo is alive as we do in deciding whether a toddler is alive. In determining whether a toddler is alive, we ask whether the toddler’s brain is still functioning, whether his or her circulatory system is still operating, and whether his respiratory system is still working. If you apply those same questions to an embryo, he or she could not be described as “alive.”

    Comment by NorthStar — May 30, 2013 @ 11:19 pm
  20. NorthStar– When ‘it’ becomes alive to consider ‘it’ has ‘its’ a life? Just ask, curiously.

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — May 31, 2013 @ 12:06 am
  21. Could you repeat this comment in English, please?

    Comment by NorthStar — May 31, 2013 @ 11:01 pm
  22. When does embryo/fetus “becomes” alive to be considered as a life? I hope that’s clear.

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — June 1, 2013 @ 4:10 pm
  23. Thank you for the clarification. In my view, the most sensible definition of “human life,” for purposes of homicide laws, is “an existing capacity to experience any kind of consciousness.”

    http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/consciousness
    (Definition 1)

    Under that definition, a fetus or embryo would become alive when he or she attains an existing capacity for any kind of consciousness.

    Some people argue that the zygote should be considered alive because he might be able to develop the capacity for consciousness. But what if she never does develop that capacity? When does death occur in that case?

    Please note that even dead people have rights, so just because an embryo is considered not alive does not mean that we should not grant any rights or protections to the embryo.

    Comment by NorthStar — June 1, 2013 @ 6:06 pm
  24. Okay, thank you for your answer. =)

    From what I understand, you don’t consider he’s alive until he’s fully conscious. Is that correct? If yes, how long days is he? I meant, for his own consciousness.

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — June 3, 2013 @ 9:58 pm
  25. If that is your definition of life NorthStar then you had better help the court system in Florida that is trying a man for murder of an unborn child because he forced his girlfriend to have an abortion without her knowledge. Interestingly enough, he is being tried for murder, but if a woman chose to have an abortion of her own free will, it would be considered legal and encouraged. I suppose then the courts must be confused on when life begins because there seems to be a double standard here.

    Comment by BradSC — June 27, 2013 @ 10:21 pm
  26. “From what I understand, you don’t consider he’s alive until he’s fully conscious. Is that correct?”

    I am not sure what you mean by “fully conscious,” but if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances, then you should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights. As such, the homicide laws should not be written to grant the unborn legal rights that are denied to the born. If someone can describe an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights, I am willing to consider that framework. However, after probing people who believe that life begins at fertilization for such a framework for almost a decade and never receiving one, I doubt that any such framework exists.

    “If yes, how long days is he? I meant, for his own consciousness.”

    If I understand your question, my understanding is that consciousness probably begins sometime in the second trimester. I have actually written to legislators to ask for more research into this question, but nobody else seems interested. Most pro-lifers are terrified of being seen as abandoning the life-begins-at-fertilization dogma. They delude themselves into thinking that it is thoroughly grounded in evidence when, in reality, it is religious pseudo-science backed only by the Catholic Church.

    Comment by NorthStar — June 4, 2013 @ 2:04 am
  27. But, I was not discussed about laws or religions, actually. I just asked you how long he will be considered “alive”. That’s all. Also, thank you for your candor and your answer.

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — June 5, 2013 @ 3:13 pm
  28. Biologically a human organism does begin at fertilization. There’s a continuum of development of a new whole once two parts of other human beings (sperm & ovum) have merged and nothing more will be added to the essential nature of that whole which will merely continue to grow and develop according to its built-in genetic code until it reaches adult maturity.

    Pseudo-science would be when we start to mix biology with philosophical concepts such as “consciousness”. Consciousness is a state of being belonging to a human organism. It doesn’t exist in a vacuum anymore than “self-awareness” or “feelings” can exist apart from the organism. Consciousness occurs at a particular stage of development of the entity but the entity’s development began before that point.

    It’s a philosophical argument that only human beings with consciousness are “alive”. That’s not a biological argument.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — June 14, 2013 @ 7:10 am
  29. “Biologically a human organism does begin at fertilization.”

    We were talking about when life begins, not when an organism begins.

    “Pseudo-science would be when we start to mix biology with philosophical concepts such as ‘consciousness’.”

    Please explain — including the definition that you are using for the word “philosophical.”

    “It’s a philosophical argument that only human beings with consciousness are ‘alive’. That’s not a biological argument.”

    You are missing the point that I was making. The biological definition of life — to the extent that one exists at all — is not used by any of the homicide laws in the United States (and, presumably, Canada). Therefore, it is irrelevant to the abortion debate.

    I did a little research and, apparently, Canada might not use the Uniform Determination of Death Act — except for Manitoba. In fact, Ontario appears to have long waits for organ donations, suggesting that they might have a very restrictive notion of death. More research on this topic might be fruitful.

    http://canadianbioethicscompanion.ca/the-canadian-bioethics-companion/chapter-7-organ-donation/

    Comment by NorthStar156 — June 16, 2013 @ 3:15 am
  30. “. . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances, then you should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights.”

    If you had said —

    1. Pro-life says that location in the uterus should not be used to discriminate against the unborn.

    2. Therefore pro-life should not say that location in the uterus should be used to discriminate FOR the unborn.

    — I would have been able to understand that. However, instead of the above “2,” yours seems to be —

    2. Therefore pro-life should not discriminate in favor of the unborn FOR ANY REASON AT ALL

    — which doesn’t follow.

    So your “As such” doesn’t seem relevant.

    But we could also take this sentence —

    “If someone can describe an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights, I am willing to consider that framework”

    — as standing alone.

    Here’s an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights (of course we’re talking about laws as they should be, not as they are, which is the only way your challenge could have meaning):

    1. Personhood is defined as starting at conception.

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own life or the life of another, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal.

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm.

    Though I think not necessary to meet your conditions, I would add:

    4. A non-aggressor whose life is in danger has an inalienable right to and expectation of the assistance of anyone in society in a position to assist, to the point of that second party’s incurring some modicum of bodily risk or harm if necessary in the course of rendering the assistance. Failure to provide such assistance is illegal.

    Please see also http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org , “Personhood and Citizenship” and “Too Young for Rights?”

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 5, 2013 @ 1:09 pm
  31. “…[Y]ours seems to be –

    2. Therefore pro-life should not discriminate in favor of the unborn FOR ANY REASON AT ALL”

    You must have missed that “except in extreme circumstances” part. There may be legitimate reasons to create special rights for the unborn, but you must think very carefully about why any place-of-residence discrimination is justified. If you discriminate in favor of the unborn, what stops someone from discriminating against the unborn?

    “Homicide is defined to mean killing a person…”

    You have not defined the word “killing.” In addition, your definition of the word “person,” if it can be considered a definition at all, is not robust enough to serve the purpose for which you are proposing that it be applied.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 8, 2013 @ 12:25 am
  32. “You must have missed . . .”

    I didn’t miss that. But since you focus here on “extreme circumstances,” perhaps you read my representation of you —

    “Therefore pro-life should not discriminate in favor of the unborn FOR ANY REASON AT ALL” (A)

    — as representing you thusly —

    “Therefore pro-life should not discriminate AT ALL in favor of the unborn” (B)

    — but it doesn’t. A is about reasons. B is about degree of non-discrimination, where “extreme circumstances” would become relevant.

    To paraphrase my critique of the first sentence of yours that I quoted:

    You come to the conclusion “[pro-life] should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights.” This clearly means “agree that the unborn should not be given special rights based on place of residence, on age, on having an undeveloped nervous system, on being a non-smoker, on having a disproportionately big head — based on ANY REASON AT ALL.” Doesn’t it say that?

    If it does say that that the unborn should not be given special rights for ANY REASON, how does that follow from “. . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances . . .” — i.e., from the fact that pro-life (in your context) disallows discrimination for ONE REASON (i.e., based on ONE variable)?

    Now to the main topic.

    “you must think very carefully about why any place-of-residence discrimination is justified.”

    My 3 points avoid the need to think about this, because they contain zero discrimination. They don’t mention place, or “pre-natal” or “post-natal.” They apply indiscriminately to everyone from conception on.

    “If you discriminate in favor of the unborn, what stops someone from discriminating against the unborn?”

    This is the point that your challenge is based on, as I understood and still understand.

    “You have not defined the word ‘killing.’”

    Forgive me if your thinking is really too sophisticated for me, but right now I’m only able to suspect that you’re just being argumentative.

    Or let me put it this way: Considering my points 1-3, IF there is anything inadequate about the word “killing,” don’t you think I would easily be able to correct that inadequacy (“destroying,” or something) so as to satisfy the conditions of your challenge? IF there is anything inadequate about the word “killing,” isn’t it inadequate only on a nit-picking level?

    “your definition of the word ‘person,’ if it can be considered a definition at all, is not robust enough”

    I never purported to give a complete definition. I gave the part of the definition that is pivotal in the abortion / unborn child-protection debate; I think that anyone could fill in the rest. (I did similarly with “aggression.”) Whether it’s just me or just you, your adjective “not robust” does nothing to show me a flaw in my doing what I needed to do to meet your conditions.

    A new blog post at http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org specifically addresses “Personhood.”

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 8, 2013 @ 3:32 pm
  33. Funny how atheist prolife is such a contrary place to be; enemies lurking everywhere. I am glad to find I am not unique in these views. IMO the moral zone of most curiosity is whether an embryo’s rights begin before implantation, given the action of post coital medication. Also does it not /seem/ proportionate to accord equality to humans in their earliest stages of growth, a bit like the theology of pin-dancing angels? Almost always, murder, to have visceral revulsion, needs gore. Maybe in the future there would be the possibility of ending a very early pregnancy, with absolutely no involvement by any other person not even the drug sellers. If that were to happen, it could then be argued that morality of early abortion was a totally private matter, and there the most acrimonious aspects of public debate could and would end. We need to think of overpopulation without bloodying our hands.

    Comment by John Moriarty — May 31, 2013 @ 6:46 am
  34. Hey John, Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

    I would disagree with you that murder must be gory to warrant our revulsion. After all, when someone is found guilty of poisoning someone or suffocating them in their sleep, the judge doesn’t hand down a lesser sentence simply because the act of causing death was not gory or violent or because the victim didn’t suffer.

    Certainly violence and gore affects us more on an emotional level and even I am will admit to being more emotionally bothered by the sight of a dismembered fetal body than by a known embryonic death, but that nonetheless doesn’t speak to the morality of the act itself.

    Two resources that I would recommend when questioning the morality of causing or allowing embryonic death are:

    – Christopher Tollefsen’s “Embryo” (http://amzn.to/11k1hQM or Kindle edition: http://amzn.to/11dxQ6x and there’s also an audio book version)

    and
    – Don Marqui’s “A Future Like Ours” http://faculty.polytechnic.org/gfeldmeth/45.marquis.pdf

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — June 14, 2013 @ 7:03 am
  35. Hi Kristine, I accept unchecked the value of your references, because I think we are already at a sufficient level of agreement. I did not mean to convey that gore was a prerequisite for revulsion; ref qualifiers ‘almost’, ‘visceral’. I think we agree that horror and drama accentuate revulsion, and my point was to note a certain absence of such things in an early abortion, thereby making it harder to make a convincing case against same. I seem to detect a readiness among a section of pro-abortion atheists to accept that ripping a discernibly human fetus apart is barbaric, as is surely is, and is therefore unthinkable to even those supporters of abortion rights. From a political pov this may, I hope, be a worthwhile observation.

    Comment by John Moriarty — June 16, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
  36. Fair enough. It sounds like we’re agreed that it’s not the degree of violence in the act of abortion that makes it wrong. And if it takes an emotional connection to physical appearance to make at least some abortions unthinkable, everything is a step in the right direction.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — June 27, 2013 @ 3:28 am
  37. Your argument includes some facts, but not enough facts, and that makes a difference (your argument collapses). Facts you exclude include:

    (A) The concept of “person” is completely independent from the concept of “human”. We recognize/accept this whenever Science Fiction talks about non-human persons (e.g., Yoda, Jabba the Hutt, etc). Because the concepts are independent, it does not automatically follow that just because an organism is human, it qualifies as a person. Instead, you need to ask, “What characteristics GENERICALLY distinguish Persons from Mere Animals?” What do Chewbacca and Han Solo have in common that qualify them as persons? Because whatever those things are, unborn humans DON’T have those characteristics! (And neither does a brain-dead human on full-life-support….)

    (B) The word “being” has some definitions that are significantly different from each other. One of them simply refers to the existence of something: A rock has exactly as much “being” as a tree –or a human. Another definition means “person”; that’s why we can talk, in casual conversation, about “extraterrestrial nonhuman alien intelligent beings”, but we never say, “oyster beings”. Oysters are not persons! So, to CALL an unborn human a “human being”, when it meets no Generic Scientific Qualifications whatsoever for Personhood, is to LIE, purely and simply. (Likewise, for a brain-dead human on full life support, the Person is dead; only the living Animal body remains; it no longer qualifies as a person-class “human BEING”.)

    (C) When a human blastocyst implants into a womb, it divides into two major parts, one of which becomes the placenta, and the other becomes the embryo. TOGETHER, THEY ARE ONE WHOLE ORGANISM. A primary fault with ALL depictions of unborn humans, by pro-lifers, is the failure to include the placenta as part of the overall developing organism. As a result, pro-lifers reach the faulty conclusion that just the embryo part of that organism is equivalent to a “baby” or “child”, when in actual fact nothing could be farther from the Truth. A GENUINE baby or child does not need an umbilical cord and attached placenta, in order to survive!

    (D) The word “guilty” is often associated with “intent”, however, this is not always the case. See, for example, “involuntary manslaughter” –one can be entirely Guilty of an ACT, without having any intention whatsoever to perform that Act. With that in mind, every unborn human is GUILTY of ACTING like a parasite; it steals nutrients from, and dumps toxic bio-waste into, another living organism. That’s why the Placenta is part of the overall unborn human organism! If an adult did any such thing, using tools equivalent to a placenta, he would be arrested! So, whenever a pro-lifer asks, “What is the difference that Birth makes, between a one-minute-old baby, and a one-minute-to-go being-born baby?”, the Answer is: Prior to Birth, its Modus Operandi for Survival is Entirely and Actively Parasitic, and After Birth, when the umbilical cord is cut, its Modus Operandi for Survival is utterly different; it is Entirely Dependent on Receiving Gifts –including the gift of being carried to a teat, since it is physically incapable of accomplishing that task by itself.

    (E) In Biology, there are two major Reproductive Strategies, “K-Strategy” and “R-Strategy”. There are organisms at each extreme, and there are many organisms in the middle between the extremes. Humans are mostly K-Strategists; we have few offspring and give them much care, to help ensure their survival. Oysters are pure R-Strategists; they can have a million offspring at a time, and give them no care whatsoever. As a result of our K-Strategy biology, Evolution has given humanity an urge that might be able to explain a great deal about the pro-life position on abortion. But humans also claim to have Free Will –to the extent that it is true, we are NOT obliged to enslave ourselves to our biology! And that might be the origin of much of the pro-choice position on abortion. Regardless of the actual origin of either position, here is a Thought-Experiment that every pro-lifer should consider…. Imagine a non-human intelligent species that uses the R-Strategy for reproduction. This is not a far-fetched idea; right here on Earth the octopus is an R-Strategist and is one of the smartest animals in the sea. But it has a short lifespan and is not a social animal, and so the octopus has major strikes against it, should one seek to qualify for Person status. Anyway, we need one more thing for our Thought Experiment: A Perfect Argument For Why A Zygote Of An Intelligent Species Should Qualify For Person Status. We shall assume such an Argument exists, without worrying about its details. LOGICALLY, THEREFORE: If there actually existed, somewhere in the wide wide Universe, a species of person-class R-Strategists, that produce ten thousand offspring every time any two of them breed, Each One of those offspring would qualify as a Person. It Will Be Physically Impossible To Give Them K-Strategy Care! –Yet such is what the pro-life position insists is required, that each undeveloped member of an intelligent species be granted as much right-to-life and assistance as any fully-developed intelligent being. But Nature disagrees with the pro-life position! Most offspring of R-Strategists are FOOD for other organisms! ANY OTHER OUTCOME WILL BE AN OVERPOPULATION DISASTER. Just imagine what things would be like here on Earth if every human pregnancy resulted in 10 babies! –and THEY, the R-Strategists in this Thought-Experiment, have 10,000 at a time! We can now conclude that it is Impossible for there to be a Perfect Argument Granting Personhood to Unborn Humans. The Scientific Facts are plain: Unborn humans are mere animals, and person-class characteristics GROW into existence. This will be true of those intelligent R-Strategists, too –they will KNOW they must let most of their offspring die! Because we humans have relatively few offspring, we don’t have to let many of them die. But we also don’t have to require every single one of them to live, either. Even WITH legal abortion, we are working our way toward an Overpopulation Disaster; it simply takes longer for us, than for R-Strategists.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — June 28, 2013 @ 3:06 am
  38. I wish to respond to much of Anon Y Mous’s post. Thank you for lettering your arguments.

    I have no comments regarding A or B. I see no point in debating the dictionary.

    C appears to be another argument by asserted definition. We can assign any meaning we want to the phrase “genuine baby,” but it would not affect the inherent qualities of the unborn or the strength of the arguments in favor of granting them legal protections.

    Regarding D:

    “…Every unborn human is GUILTY of ACTING like a parasite…”

    There is no crime of “acting like a parasite” in either Canadian law or Minnesota law. Moreover, the manslaughter laws of both jurisdictions require that the perpetrator either commit a separate crime or commit an act — or a failure to act — that showed wanton or reckless disregard for the lives of others. These requirements are not met in the case of an unborn baby.

    http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/02/24/f-murder-manslaughter-definitions.html

    https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.20&year=2012

    https://www.revisor.mn.gov/statutes/?id=609.205&year=2012

    Regarding E:

    “…[W]e are NOT obliged to enslave ourselves to our biology!”

    That fact very much favors the right-to-life side. Statistics show us that virtually all abortions in the United States would never have been sought had the mother and father of the child overcome their instinctive urge to reproduce — including its physical manifestation of wanting to engage in sexual intercourse. Arguments against pro-life policies rarely acknowledge that the parents almost always knew, before they created the pregnancy, about the factors that caused it to be unwanted.

    “It Will Be Physically Impossible To Give Them K-Strategy Care! –Yet such is what the pro-life position insists is required…”

    No, the pro-life position would only demand that the murder laws of such a society not arbitrarily deny a subset of the population the same right to life that is granted to the rest of the population. It would not require that parents provide an inordinate amount of care to children. The right-to-life movements of Canada and the United States do not have positions on the level of care that children should receive from their parents.

    “Just imagine what things would be like here on Earth if every human pregnancy resulted in 10 babies!…”

    Kristine being delighted comes to mind.

    “We can now conclude that it is Impossible for there to be a Perfect Argument Granting Personhood to Unborn Humans.”

    So your logical implication is as follows: If people had ten thousand babies in their lifetimes, they would not be able to provide high levels of care to each one as judged by our society’s standards. Therefore, the unborn should not have the same right to life enjoyed by others in society. The implication seems like a non sequitur to me. Please provide more evidence.

    “…person-class characteristics GROW into existence…”

    Please define “person-class characteristics” and provide evidence that they grow into existence.

    “But we also don’t have to require every single one of them to live, either.”

    The pro-life movement is not seeking to ensure that everyone lives. Granted, Catholics and others adhere to a sanctity-life-life dogma that calls for worship of human life, but the right-to-life movement is not limited to that dogma. Remember that this is a humanist site.

    “Even WITH legal abortion, we are working our way toward an Overpopulation Disaster…”

    Who are “we”? Some countries with legalized abortion, like Russia, are declining in population. Even to the extent that overpopulation is a concern, there are much better ways of overcoming that problem. For example, we could reduce financial incentives for child-bearing, impose financial disincentives for child-bearing, increase the use of the death penalty, reduce immigration levels, facilitate the use of effective methods of sterilization and contraception (like Nexplanon), reduce criminal sexual acts like rape, incest, prostitution, adultery, and fornication, ban marriage and child-bearing by unhealthy or criminal parents, and impose higher standards on the quality of parenting. (Kristine would not necessarily agree with all of these approaches, but she should.)

    Comment by NorthStar — July 5, 2013 @ 9:48 pm
  39. Regarding A and B, you should note that dictionaries tend to change their definitions as the population changes the language. The role of Science Fiction is new, with respect to affecting the classic definitions of “person” and “being”. In the long run the classic human-centric definitions will be seen as “stupidly Prejudiced”.

    Which in turn reveals that the beating heart of the pro-life position is exactly that, and nothing else, “stupid Prejudice”. Pro-lifers ignore the fact that 90% of the cells in the average walking-around human body are NOT human; they are bacterial, and they are symbiotic such that the human cells cannot survive without most of those bacterial cells.

    Then there is Ecology, such that humans can’t survive as a species without other species also surviving. And there is the fact that the total “biomass” on Planet Earth is Finite in quantity. The more that gets converted into human bodies and food supplies, the less biomass there can be for trees, whales, flowers, birds, butterflies, and so on. Yet so-called “pro-lifers” encourage the human overpopulation explosion to continue, globally about 80 million more mouths-to-feed every year (several New York Cities worth), heedless of Another Fact, that human mental health benefits from interactions with Nature –otherwise no city or nation would have public parks. An Overpopulation Disaster is inevitable unless stupid Prejudice is eliminated, regarding “human life” over other life. It is simply Mathematically Impossible for continuous growth to be compatible with Finite Resources, such as biomass.

    Regarding C and the phrase “genuine baby”, the point made was the fact that a born human organism does not need a placenta, while an unborn human organism, for most of a pregnancy, includes a placenta. That constitutes a Significant Biological Difference between types of “human organisms”.

    Meanwhile, every single white-blood cell in the average human body is also a “human organism” such that it, like a zygote, has the Potential (as per modern research regarding manipulating ordinary cells to become “totipotent stem cells”) to grow into a complete human body. The main difference is simply that the zygote IS a totipotent stem cell, and the white blood cell needs to be “activated” to become one.

    But the word “potential” doesn’t specify one iota of value regarding that difference. So, whenever someone cuts self while shaving (whether chin or underarms or legs), pro-lifers should decry the lost potential as scores of white blood cells bleed out and die… OR they should admit they are suffering from stupid Prejudice. There Is No Requirement In Nature That A Potential Must Be Fulfilled. (Maybe pro-lifers could recognize their affliction, stupid Prejudice, at the top of a staircase, contemplating their potential to fall down those stairs and break their necks?)

    Anyway, an unborn human organism only has Potential to become a born human that doesn’t need a placenta. To call the unborn human a “baby” is to LIE; it is, In Actual Measurable Fact, only a “baby under construction”. And the construction process is very complex and Murphy’s Law is therefore a factor; that’s why about 1/7 to 1/6 of all confirmed pregnancies Naturally miscarry (and why about 50% of conceptions Naturally fail to become confirmed pregnancies). When the construction process is finished, and birth occurs, THAT is when the human organism begins to qualify as a “baby”, different from a “baby under construction”.

    Regarding D, stupid Prejudice again is involved. There May Be Nothing Illegal About Acting Like A Parasite, but we STILL routinely kill a wide variety of organisms that act like parasites. Why should it make a difference, just because a particular acting-like-a-parasite organism is human? Stupid Prejudice!

    Regarding E and “person class characteristics”, and evidence that they grow into existence, the relevant facts come from two things. First is data regarding “feral children” –rare humans who were found and raised from infancy by animals. Research shows that a great deal of mental stimulation in the earliest years is Required for “proper” Brain Development –and the most-feral children never receive that much mental stimulation. (Differing amounts of feral-ness can be strongly linked to the age of the human, before it began getting raised by animals; the older, the less feral, because of having received Some of the necessary mental stimulation before the animals took over the child-raising process.)

    Note that at the dawn of hominids and humanity, ALL were “feral”, because none had received sufficient mental stimulation during their earliest years. I’ll get back to that in a bit.

    The second piece of data is Koko the Gorilla, who has toddler-class communication skills. She was deliberately given a great deal of mental stimulation from infancy, but because she is a gorilla, her total brain capacity is about the same as that of a human toddler. So she cannot do better than a human toddler. Nevertheless, the fact remains, she exhibits more capabilities than an ordinary gorilla –which is just a “clever animal”, because the ordinary gorilla does NOT receive a great deal of mental stimulation in its earliest years.

    Koko the Gorilla qualifies as a “person” exactly as much as does a human toddler, and MORE than does a “feral child”. Her person-class capabilities Grew into existence, while those of the feral child did not.

    Now back to the dawn of humanity. Being clever animals, humans were able to invent things and pass knowledge of those inventions on to their offspring. Thus there was a gradual accumulation, over the millennia, of mental stimulation being provided to human infants. About 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, a kind of Critical Data Mass was reached, and an explosion of human creativity begins to appear in the fossil record. THAT is when the average human began Growing person-class capabilities, in response to all that early mental stimulation, becoming superior to mere “clever animal” status, and non-feral.

    So, the Default Natural State for a human organism is to be just a clever animal, not hugely different from a gorilla. And not a Person, either. Pro-lifers wrongly think otherwise, of course. But then, they are suffering from stupid Prejudice, see?

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — September 27, 2013 @ 1:43 pm
  40. Two minor corrections:

    “Koko the Gorilla qualifies as a “person” exactly as much as does the average human toddler”

    “an explosion of human creativity begins to appear in the paleontological/archaeological record”

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — September 27, 2013 @ 3:19 pm
  41. I left out a couple things.

    Regarding being slaves to biology, and the drive to have sex, it should be noted that for humans, unlike most other species, the Primary Purpose of Sex is NOT reproduction. The actual Primary Purpose is “pair bonding” and pair-bonding, all by itself, is often considered to be a Good Thing. Married couples tend to live longer than single folks, right? In that regard, therefore, accepting Biology is not the same as accepting slavery.

    Another aspect of Sex, not so good, relates to the fact that Nature doesn’t care about what humans think about Biology; Nature only cares about what WORKS. So, long long ago, various mutations began associating pleasure with sex. This led to increased sex, and thus increased reproduction. Species thrived as a result, moreso than other species that didn’t have a connection between sex and pleasure.

    But Nature didn’t stop there; it is known that Sex can actually be an addictive thing. Logically, any organism addicted to sex will even-more seek opportunities that might lead to reproduction…. The bad thing here is that, simply by HAVING a Biological pathway permitting addiction to exist, that pathway can be activated by things other than sex (drugs, as is well known). In this regard, therefore, accepting Biology can be equivalent to accepting slavery.

    (On the other hand, pair-bonding counts as a solution to that problem. Logically, one should never become addicted to something without lining-up a steady supply!)

    So now it is time to talk about Reproduction. Here is where many pro-lifers fail to take ALL the Facts into account, the most important of which is, “Sex Does Not Directly Cause Pregnancy”. Technically, pregnancy begins ONLY when a “blastocyst” implants into a womb. Sex does not FORCE a blastocyst to do that; it is its own organism –and, in fact, many blastocysts fail to implant, while others fail to stay implanted.

    Then there is the fact that the blastocyst itself does not begin to exist before a zygote goes through several stages of cell-division –and Sex does not FORCE a zygote to do that. It is its own organism –and if its DNA contains various defects, as many zygotes do, it will fail to divide, and die.

    Yet another fact is that the zygote does not begin to exist until sperm and egg interact/merge. Sex does not FORCE them to do that! Each sperm or egg is its own organism –and as all in-vitro fertilization clinics know well, just because sperm meets egg, that does not mean they will interact/merge.

    So, in essence, Reproduction Is Just A Side-Effect Of Sex –often wanted, but also often unwanted. The process has so many Natural failure modes that it is simply stupid to assign Great Meaning to human interference, when Reproduction is unwanted. After all, humans are part of Nature, too! Which makes human interference in the reproductive process just as Natural as, say, the failure of a blastocyst to stay implanted in a womb.

    Finally, regarding “legal protections” –I’m fully aware that some of what I’ve written can be interpreted as an excuse to allow infanticide. Nevertheless, existing Law grants personhood status to all newborn humans, regardless of the fact that their brains have not yet grown person-class capabilities (and won’t if they don’t receive appropriate mental stimulation).

    Here’s the first part of the point I wish to make about that: Very Few Persons Seek To Make The Law Match The Scientific Facts. They are satisfied with the Law the way it is; they, largely, have no desire to allow infanticide of newborns. Some of them may even fully embrace The Difference Birth Makes, between the parasitic behavior of the unborn, and the cessation of it when born –that is, existing Law DOES match a Particular Scientific Fact, even if it is not really about personhood.

    Meanwhile, Pro-Lifers Seek To Change The Law To Become Even More Dissociated With The Scientific Facts About Personhood. If it is widely considered to be “stupid” to ignore verifiable facts, then, basically “’nuff said” about the pro-life position.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — September 27, 2013 @ 2:50 pm
  42. Regarding a request so far unanswered, for more evidence associated with the “R-strategist” argument, the primary relevant fact is that that argument was aimed at a particular fundamental flaw in pro-life arguments. It is CLAIMED that human life has “inherent value” (or “intrinsic value”) –but no supporting evidence has ever been offered. Indeed, all the available evidence indicates that There Is No Such Thing As Inherent/Intrinsic Value –all valuations are entirely Relative.

    The Law of Supply and Demand rules, and it rules pitilessly. Whenever some Boss denies a worker a raise by saying, “There’s plenty more where YOU came from!”, that Boss is proving that any value of “human life” is totally irrelevant; the only thing that the Boss wants to pay for is human labor (and pay as little as possible for it, too).

    It can now be noted that a significantly greater percentage of pro-lifers than pro-choicers happen to be Bosses, all of whom thoroughly understand the Law of Supply and Demand. (Go ahead, study the population-breakdown of “political conservatives”, and how many are either Bosses, or closely related to Bosses. Then do the same for “political liberals”.) Well, logically, if Bosses can encourage more babies to be forced to be born, by banning abortion, then those babies will mostly eventually grow up to compete for jobs –and greater competition for jobs tends to drive wages down (ignoring inflation), leading to greater profits for the Bosses.

    Also, an increased population directly leads to greater demand for goods, which tends to drive prices up (regardless of inflation), which also leads to greater profits for the Bosses. Therefore, equally logically, it follows that many Bosses (and their adult family members) support the pro-life movement because they personally can benefit from it. Their CLAIM that human life is valuable is, for them, just a self-serving LIE. They apparently care not-at-all how many workers die of starvation, due to overpriced food and underpriced labor, not as long as they can force hordes of babies to be born, to grow to become an endless queue of replacements for those lost workers.

    The argument that an increased population tends to lead to increases in production of goods and jobs is not really as effective as anyone making that argument wants you to believe. Per the Law of Supply and Demand, It Is Normal For Businesses To Try To Restrict Supply, In Order To Drive Up Prices. See all the examples of businesses buying out similar/competing businesses, after which all the lowest-price deals disappear, while some fraction of the work force is “let go” in a “restructuring”. Or see the “diamond cartel”. It is simply being pointed out here that by opposing abortion, Bosses can BOTH increase prices AND eventually reduce wages (ignoring inflation).

    IDEALLY, the production of Resources should match population growth. Back in the 1950s or so, one man’s earnings at one job was quite often enough to support a family. Today, after decades of population increase, parents may take two or even three jobs to support a family. Any mismatch between Resources and Population only has one of two possible outcomes. If Population grows faster than Resources, then the rich get richer and everyone else gets poorer. If Resources grow faster than Population (as happened in the early days of Europeans exploring the Americas), almost everyone gets richer; but the not-rich tend to get richer faster than the actually-rich. The Law of Supply and Demand explains those things perfectly. Another incident was the Black Death in Europe; when it was over about 1/3 the population was dead –but that meant 3/3 of the wealth of the continent (“Resources”) was now in the hands of 2/3 the population. The Renaissance was born as a result.

    For humans, our K-strategy reproduction system quite Naturally leads us to assign significant value to our offspring. R-strategists, however, and equally Naturally, won’t do any such thing. So long as two or three offspring survive to adulthood, for each breeding pair (assuming these aliens HAVE “breeding pairs”), their species would not be in danger of extinction, and so it doesn’t matter in the least how many hundreds or thousands (or hundreds OF thousands) of others died. It is possible that R-strategists will never once consider the flawed notion of “inherent/intrinsic value”.

    Another aspect of the Law of Supply and Demand relates to how easily something can be replaced. Let us consider the growth of a human organism in terms of Biological Resources. A single cell represents a trivial quantity of Biological Resources, while a newborn baby represents a non-trivial quantity. If the baby dies shortly after birth (perhaps it was “anencephalic”), 9 months are required, at least (depends on when started), to assemble another and equal quantity of Biological Resources.

    Now consider a blastocyst that fails to implant into a womb. The attempt-to-implant generally occurs about 4 days after conception (at the start of which the zygote began several rounds of cell-division). The amount of Biological Resources and time involved are still quite small; the blastocyst is much MUCH more easily replaced than the newborn baby. It Naturally follows that the blastocyst can be assigned less value, per the Law of Supply and Demand, than the newborn. Indeed, hardly any woman ever knows when a blastocyst fails to implant –it is difficult to assign a value to something one doesn’t even know is there!

    With respect to miscarriages and abortions, all of which can occur at different times during the courses of different pregnancies, it logically follows that the more time has passed before the developing human organism dies, the more Biological Resources were involved, the less easily it can be replaced, and the more it can be valued, per the Law of Supply and Demand. So, note that the vast majority of abortions are done quite early in a pregnancy… –and some women have had multiple abortions because, for them, it happened to be TOO easy to replace those pregnancies!

    Meanwhile for R-strategists, they typically release their offspring into “the wild” after only a modest period of growth/development inside adult bodies (most often also inside eggs). Each individual offspring represents a quite-small amount of Biological Resources. The TOTAL can be significant, and so on Earth it is observed that R-strategist parents may employ some means to protect the mass of eggs. Spiders will construct a sort of cocoon, for example. However once the eggs hatch the offspring are “on their own”, and most R-strategist parents have nothing more to do with them.

    And now it is time to mention a different but still-related issue, known as “The Social Contract”. This is simply a TOOL that humans have devised to make it easier for them to get-along with each other (instead of literally-stabbing each other in the back). “I will grant you have a ‘right to life’ if you do the same for me.” –that may be the simplest way of specifying the most important part of The Social Contract, although there is somewhat more to it than just that. (In Nature, of course, There Is No Such Thing As A Right To Life. But as stated, this is an Invention, a useful Tool created for a specific purpose.)

    However it has a Problem, in that it makes the Assumption that that Contract is UNDERSTOOD/ACCEPTED by every individual to which the Contract is applied. In Theory, it should not matter if the involved persons are Genuine Artificial Intelligences, or humans, or extraterrestrials from the Andromeda Galaxy. BUT, consider the movie “Independence Day”. The aliens in that movie may have had a Social Contract among themselves, but they did NOT extend it to humans. But many humans, at least at the start of the movie, were willing to extend their Social Contract to the aliens. The movie could now be described as “an exploration of the logical consequences of those unequal Contracts”….

    Existing Law enters newborn humans into The Social Contract, despite the obvious fact that they have no understanding of it whatsoever –and probably won’t understand it for a couple years, at least. Any educator can point out examples of how children can be extremely selfish (“What I want is more important than what they want!”), and must be Taught that others should be treated as equals in certain ways. And even then some children grow up to become spoiled brats, juvenile delinquents, and criminals, basically rejecting much or even all of The Social Contract.

    Nevertheless, we have been willing to give newborns the chance to learn and eventually accept The Social Contract, rather than denying it from them until they learn about it, and shooting them when they fail to cooperate. So what logical basis might there be to deny The Social Contract to the unborn? This: Newborn humans usually exist in an environment in which they can interact with others, experiencing first-hand how The Social Contract is applied in everyday human interactions. Even if they don’t consciously understand what is going on, they are still subconsciously gathering relevant data. But unborn humans do not exist in such an environment; it is impossible for them to learn about The Social Contract while in the womb. So, since they can’t apply it, can’t understand it, AND can’t even learn about it, why should they be included in The Social Contract? Is Stupid Prejudice involved, again?

    The life cycle of intelligent R-strategists will require that youngsters that survive the wild to eventually seek out adults, probably originally for protection, but fortuitously also to receive lots of mental stimulation in a social environment. (Nature is really good at finding multiple benefits for a given genetic drive.) There will almost certainly be an equivalent of The Social Contract for them to learn. Will those R-strategists think that they need to search out offspring that have yet begun to seek the company of adults, so that those extra youngsters can get an earlier start on their education?

    At the most we might expect the adults to experiment with the notion, and then reject it. For one reason, they would find themselves extending assistence to offspring that haven’t fully proved themselves fit to survive. For another, with many millions or even billions of offspring (from the entire adult population) still out there in the wild, bringing them “home” would vastly increase the specter of an Overpopulation Disaster happening –that species may even experience a couple of those Disasters before the adults learn they MUST reject the notion of seeking out youngsters who aren’t seeking them out.

    So we can see an equivalence between the human situation and the R-strategist situation. Newborn humans are basically Ready to experience aspects of The Social Contract first-hand –and offspring of R-strategists that act to join the company of adults are also Ready. Prior to that, no individual of either species is Ready for The Social Contract, and so, logically, there is no reason to extend it to those individuals.

    Finally, a relevant phrase, “Old habits die hard”, is now worth examining. Throughout most of human history, about 50% of all infants tended to die by age 2 or 3. In order for any human population to simply replace itself, it was necessary for every fertile couple to have at least 4 offspring (and more because about 1/7 of all couples are Naturally infertile). If you wanted the population to grow (as many Boss-type people, greedy for more political power, did), you needed to encourage an even higher reproduction rate.

    Human cultures the world over thus had what for them was good reason to do things like ban abortion. BUT TIMES CHANGE, even if old habits still exist. The world’s human population is not in danger of going extinct due to causes that were relevant in the past. (Indeed, we could experience three complete and consecutive Malthusian Catastrophes, each associated with a 99% global death rate, and STILL not be in serious danger of extinction –7 billion would first become 70 million, which would second become 700 thousand, which would third become 7 thousand, about the same population that survived the eruption of the Toba supervolcano about 70 thousand years ago.)

    Basically, in today’s world the human species can easily afford vast numbers of abortions. Remember what was written previously about the relationship between Population and Resources? Any nation experiencing a declining population is also almost certainly getting richer on a per-capita basis. If a side-effect is that it becomes a target for greedy overpopulated neighboring nations, well, that just proves that The Social Contract needs better enforcement among adults, before we worry about extending it to the unborn!

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — September 29, 2013 @ 2:57 am
  43. Wrong about the 1950’s listening too mucn to Pat Buchanan. Actually, many Americans were still renters in the 1950’s more so than today. I was born in 1957, and the mobile home I was born into did not have indoor plumbing The stay at home mom met people were poorer in the 1950’s. In fact there was still severe poverty in the poor white states like Kentucky and West Virginia and southern states and the Rio Grande area of Texas. Michael Harrington book the other America points this out. Lyndon Johnson created the food stamp’s program in the late 1960’s because in his rural areas Americans were actually almost starving in the Mississippi river valley. The low level of poverty was in the 1970’s and women started working more. In fact women labor participation when married has dropped from the 1990’s.

    Comment by cynthia curran — December 1, 2013 @ 12:27 am
  44. Why does a fetus have a moral right to life and not a cow? It can’t just be because the fetus belongs to our species because that is no more morally relevant than belonging to another group such as race or sex. A being has a moral right to life because they are aware of themselves and wish to continue to live. When do humans acquire self-awareness such that they have a moral right to life? In my opinion this would be when they can pass a test such as recognizing themselves in a mirror or are verbal. Some humans because of severe mental defect never become persons. And some because of dementia become non-persons. In both cases these human beings lose their moral right to life.

    My mom has Alzheimer’s and can no longer recognize people or talk. While her body is still alive she is no longer a person.

    After-birth abortion: why should the baby live?
    http://jme.bmj.com/content/early/2012/03/01/medethics-2011-100411.full

    Comment by Jeff Kraus — July 14, 2013 @ 6:54 pm
  45. Why should I accept your standard of human personhood? Any time in history when we have defined personhood as “human + ____” it has led to extreme arbitrary discrimination and destruction. Which is precisely why we are gradually coming to more egalitarian standards of Humanist equality so that we don’t allow discrimination according to race or gender. My position is internally consistent and universal: human rights belong to human beings.

    You’ve taken ONE trait of humanity and placed more emphasis on it. Instead of gender or skin colour/race you’ve framed personhood in another equally arbitrary definition, this time restricting it to a particular developmental level, and a particular physical/mental capacity.

    I’m familiar with after-birth abortion and the concepts that are leading many toward euthanasia of human beings like your Mom. I think the concept is atrocious and grossly flawed. Human functions, like the ability to walk, the ability to talk, the ability to reproduce and the ability to form complex thoughts, do not exist in a vacuum. They exist as functions of an organism (even when not currently activated functions, like reproductive capacity in children) – and that organism can only be biologically (see principle of biogenesis) defined as a human being. Suggesting that only human beings who have achieved this level of function or have that particular skill can qualify for personhood, does nothing to establish WHY that particular human function is more important than any other – or indeed why one must be human + anything in the first place. Again, it’s purely arbitrary.

    I’m all for considering granting rights to sentient beings like cows to keep them from suffering and pain, and I think animal rights is a worthwhile debate (I’m vegetarian myself). But I’d rather be guilty of possibly being too generous in personhood, than to include all sentient beings and leave out other members of my own species who happen to be younger and therefore not yet in possession of skills or functions that I deem extra special, be it current capacity for self-awareness or current capacity to reproduce.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — July 15, 2013 @ 2:22 pm
  46. My standard of person is not based on “human +” but is based on the self-awareness of the individual. Why should the definition of person be based on species? We all have a common ancestor and are cousins.

    How would your standard of a person handle cases of human-pig chimeras and human-mice transgenics? There are mice with human glial-cells in their brain and mice with the human gene FOXP2 for speech, http://whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com/2009/05/30/a-gene-for-human-speech/

    How many human genes or cells must there be in an animal before it is granted the moral rights of humans?

    Comment by Jeff Kraus — July 15, 2013 @ 4:59 pm
  47. To be granted human rights you need so be a human organism for the time being. you have mice with complete human immunesystems but they are not human. It is not the presence of genes we share with other animals either and it seems most people find it unethical to kill our own species as well as those that appear most similar to us and even those we do kill we tend to treat with respect and dignity (at least some of us) in accordance with the laws.

    If Hitler was any use for anything it was the universal declaration if human rights. The hole point was to grant the security of person to all human beings to avoid the debate about personhood or value of any humans existence. We have indeed denied human beings security of person for a variety of reasons in the past, a fact considered a disgrace to humanity that gave rise to the human rights convention to begin with:

    “Whereas disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people”

    The human rights convention demands every human being the treated as a person

    Article 3.

    Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.

    Article 6.

    Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law.

    What is required it to be identified as a human being and therefore you should be granted personhood and the consequent rights. If a human being must be granted personhood to be protected as a person or as Christine puts it so nicely , be human+ we are still at the same place as before the human rights convention.

    The problem of dementia is that the person may not be the person you remember but still a person who should be granted all the dignity a person deserves. If you think that your mom is no longer a person you might find that she does not remember your name or recognise your face or has lost the ability to articulate her thoughts but that there are probably still memories predating your time that are helping her to engage. Anyhow I wish you the strength to treat your mom as a person for all her life, and the strength you will need

    Comment by 4tytwo — July 18, 2013 @ 12:13 pm
  48. The vexing issue of abortion can be successfully navigated using Natural Law Ethics. Natural Law Ethics asks the question what is a Natural Good? A Natural Good is something no human being can live (or live a good life) without. Water is a natural good because no human being can live without water. Food is a natural good because on one can live without food. Natural Goods include education, wisdom, justice, freedom, and love. Heroine is not a natural good. You can’t live on heroine.

    So the question becomes is the mother a Natural Good for the fetus? Yes*. The baby cannot survive without the mother. Is the fetus a Natural Good for the mother? Not always. Pregnancy can be extremely dangerous for the mother. Indeed countless women through history have died as a result of pregnancy/during child birth.

    [* Natural Law Ethics also says the mother must not take drugs/smoke/drink during pregnancy.]

    So the question becomes one of prenatal care and the current state medicine.

    Comment by Olaf Brescia — July 30, 2013 @ 10:50 pm
  49. Hi Kristine Kruszelnicki,

    I loved it, many thanks.

    As you say, “The question of personhood leaves the realm of science for that of philosophy and moral ethics.” Since we have to leave the realm of objective science, I like to make a subjective appeal that relates to science:

    “One can define personhood, or define anything, in any way one likes. But to view any object of the universe, not to mention an unborn child, with disregard of its potential, would be a very reductive and disconnected way of seeing reality. Full human potential exists at the zygote stage.

    “I think the more anyone grows, the less will be the appeal to them of reductive and disconnected ways of seeing reality.”

    Personhood opponents argue that if personhood advocates allow abortion under any circumstances except to save the life of the mother, it proves they don’t really believe in personhood, because they would not allow the killing of an innocent postnatal person. One time I wrote:

    “An unborn baby is ‘a citizen who complicates the life of another citizen.’ [gave example of a baby who complicates the life of a male, like your sailor example] A person who physically resides in a room within another person represents an extra degree of complication for the second person, opening up the possibility of exceptional measures by the second person under some circumstances. But that is because of the first person’s exceptional location and demands on the second person, not its stage of development. It is not any less a person.”

    Also valuable to point out is that adults will benefit almost as much as the unborn from coming to see the unborn as fully human:

    “It humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step will humanize us more than any other, because of the subtlety of thought involved.”

    Finally, thanks so much for the beautiful and, to me, surprising Christopher Hitchens quote. I had always admired his mind but had never so perfectly agreed with him.

    The About Pro-Life Humanists page says:

    “Pro-Life Humanists is a haven for irreligious, nontheist, and secular-minded pro-lifers, and we pleased to partner with any individual or group who is willing to join us in articulating a secular case against abortion.”

    I wrote to them using the form on that page, but have not gotten any confirmation that that reply has or will be read.

    Comment by Acyutananda — August 29, 2013 @ 1:37 pm
  50. Thanks so much for your comments. I like the part about humanizing humanity, and I think you’re right. As our western society becomes more inclusive and tolerant of others, demographic studies and crime analysis shows we’ve also become much less violent, with a significant decrease in crime even within the last few decades. While I’m always careful to not immediately find causation in correlation, I think it’s certainly no accident that as we learn to accept others with differences, we’ve become more tolerant of others whose differences might once have led us to anger and violence.

    Please pardon the delay in responding and the glitch in not seeing the information request. We’re fairly new as a group and the website is not without its kinks (know any awesome pro-lifers with a knack for wordpress.org sites?) I’m always open to more volunteers to help keep the engines running at a faster and smoother pace. :)

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — September 16, 2013 @ 3:23 pm
  51. By assigning personhood at the moment of conception one also by definition endow the fetus with all the rights that include ‘no right to harm others’ – so just like any other person.

    Rights go both ways…so a baby (even if just a few cells) doesn’t not have the right to harm the mother.

    Comment by Olaf Brescia — September 18, 2013 @ 12:17 am
  52. As a pro-life Christian whose religious convictions have nothing to do with her beliefs about abortion, I feel giddy when I stumble upon pieces like this. The tragedy of the pro-life movement is that it often enables religion-based attacks (“don’t force your beliefs on me!”) which distract from the real issue of human rights. I support the efforts of religious groups in disseminating information and providing support for mothers, but I cringe every time I see a Bible verse appended to a great pro-life piece. As long as we allow religion to control the debate, we weaken our position–which IS supportable on secular grounds! You’re an important voice in this debate. I’ll be praying for you and your work even if you don’t think it does anything :) (Can’t hurt, right?)

    Comment by Allie — November 9, 2013 @ 2:44 pm
  53. Hi Allie. Glad you found us. Have we connect on Facebook and Twitter yet?

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — November 13, 2013 @ 2:57 am
  54. “Doesn’t it say that?”

    No. You are interpolating words into my statements that I did not write and clearly did not mean. I think I have been abundantly clear by now.

    “My 3 points avoid the need to think about this, because they contain zero discrimination.”

    Your three points are just definitions that do nothing to resolve the inherent discrimination in outlawing “killing” (which you have yet to define) of the unborn when born people with the exact same characteristics cannot be killed. If a born person lacks a beating heart, respiration, or a functioning brain, the current law does not contain a statute to ban “killing” of that person. No right-to-lifer of whom I am aware favors creating a statute that bans the “killing” of such a person. But life-begins-at-conception right-to-lifers do want to create a statute that bans the “killing” of unborn babies who also lack a beating heart, respiration, or a functioning brain. Such a law, that does not change the legal definition of killing for born people, is inherently discriminatory–it creates a statute that applies to the unborn but does not apply to the born. Moreover, you have yet to provide any rational–much less compelling–justification for such discrimination.

    “IF there is anything inadequate about the word “killing,” isn’t it inadequate only on a nit-picking level?”

    Absolutely not. The definition of “killing” is the matter at issue. Besides, a person who pulls all kind of irrelevant meaning out of the words “extreme circumstances” has no business complaining about nit picking.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 10, 2013 @ 12:15 am
  55. Hmm. Your saying “a person who pulls all kind of irrelevant meaning out of the words ‘extreme circumstances’” — when I had not intentionally and specifically addressed that phrase at all — may have provided a clue as to where our communications problem lies.

    You had written:

    “. . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances, then you should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights.”

    I had understood the basic idea to be:

    “. . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination [against the unborn] should not be allowed, then you should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights”

    — in which the “if” clause would logically lead only to —

    “then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed”

    — which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right — quite different from saying “should not be given special rights [at all].”

    This is what I was trying to point out.

    But maybe your basic idea was:

    “. . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances, then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances”

    — and in the back of your mind you were thinking of this —

    “If a born person lacks a beating heart, respiration, or a functioning brain, the current law does not contain a statute to ban ‘killing’ of that person. No right-to-lifer of whom I am aware favors creating a statute that bans the ‘killing’ of such a person. But life-begins-at-conception right-to-lifers do want to create a statute that bans the ‘killing’ of unborn babies who also lack a beating heart, respiration, or a functioning brain”

    — as discrimination without extreme circumstances to justify it.

    Before I proceed, in case it matters, let me say that I am taking your “or” literally, so that your first sentence could be rewritten, confining itself to just one example, in this way:

    “If a born person has a beating heart and respiration, but lacks a functioning brain, the current law does not contain a statute to ban ‘killing’ of that person.”

    If this is what you mean, and if you were thinking of your 3 sentences as discrimination without extreme circumstances to justify it, then didn’t Kristine anticipate your thinking and answer it very well in her original post —

    “Just as one would not throw out green bananas along with rotten bananas though both lack current function as food, one cannot dismiss a fetus who has not yet gained a function, alongside a brain-dead person who has permanently lost that function”

    — ?

    If she did, then I just need to add a 4th point to my three:

    1. Personhood is defined as starting at conception.

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own life or the life of another, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal.

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm.

    4. No barely-functioning person who is likely to be functioning within a year should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    You have said:

    “Such a law, that does not change the legal definition of killing for born people, is inherently discriminatory–it creates a statute that applies to the unborn but does not apply to the born.”

    Now, if the present law really does not define the finishing off of a barely-functioning person as killing, my 4th point DOES change that legal def. with reference to a 1-yr. period, so my 4 points are not inherently discriminatory.

    So with my 4th point, apart from having perhaps used lay terminology instead of legal, have I now met your conditions?

    Now that I have understood that the law apparently does not consider the finishing off a barely-functioning person as killing, I can also understand that you were not nit-picking. “Nit-picking” was the only way I could understand you, but I did take the precaution of asking about it (nit-picking) as a question.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 10, 2013 @ 2:23 pm
  56. “which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right”

    This is where I lose you. To what “one particular special right” are you referring? My statement was meant to apply generically to all rights that someone might have based on whether that person is inside or outside the womb. (By the way, “place-of-residence discrimination,” as used in pro-life ideology, is usually shorthand for “discrimination based on whether someone is inside or outside of the womb.” At least I think so. Anyway, that was what I meant.)

    “…let me say that I am taking your ‘or’ literally…”

    Thank you for point that out. I meant (not (A or B or C)), which is equivalent (if I remember my logic correctly) to ((not A) and (not B) and (not C)). I did NOT mean ((not A) or (not B) or (not C)) which would be equivalent to (not(A and B and C)). Thus, here is another way to write that sentence: “If a born person lacks a beating heart and lacks respiration and lacks a functioning brain, the current law does not contain a statute to ban ‘killing’ of that person.”

    The rest of your post seems to be based on a different understanding, so I think I will stop until you have a chance to rethink that part.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 10, 2013 @ 6:08 pm
  57. By the way, where do you live? Here in the United States, we use the Uniform Determination of Death Act. As I mention above, I think I read that the UDDA has not been as widely adopted as in the United States.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 10, 2013 @ 6:14 pm
  58. Replying to both your 6:08 pm post and your 6:14 pm post.

    Thank you for pointing me to a sloppy choice of words by me, and for your A-B-C clarification.

    The sloppy choice was:

    “which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right.”

    Here I confused two things that I had been more clear about when I had said “A is about reasons. B is about degree of non-discrimination . . .” (in my post that began “‘You must have missed . . .’ I didn’t miss . . .”).

    Thus, instead of saying this —

    ======================================================
    “then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed”

    — which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right — quite different from saying “should not be given special rights [at all].”
    ===============================================

    — I should have said this —

    =======================================
    “then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed”

    — which would say that the unborn should not be given special rights for ONE PARTICULAR REASON — quite different from saying “should not be given special rights [at all].” [As I at first put it, the latter would “not follow.”]
    ======================================================

    “The rest of your post seems to be based on a different understanding, so I think I will stop until you have a chance to rethink that part.”

    Here I’m only 99% sure that you’re referring to your A-B-C paragraph and not your “This is where I lose you,” but will assume it’s your A-B-C para.

    I did have a different understanding — I understood (not (A and B and C)) — and I liked using that understanding because Kristine’s answer best fit that understanding. But I don’t think the rest of my post would have been different if I had understood ((not A) and (not B) and (not C)).

    In other words, I do not aim to protect only no-brain-function persons who have beating hearts and/or respiration; I aim to protect all persons, who, regardless of their present functioning, can be expected to have brain function within a year; and I think —

    “4. No barely-functioning person who is likely to be functioning within a year should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights]”

    — covers that. But just to be safe, I’ll change it a little. Here are all 4 points of my latest proposal:

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own life or the life of another, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    4. No person, regardless of current functioning, who is likely to have >0 brain function within a year, should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing a person and thus homicide. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    And just in case:

    5. A non-aggressor whose life is in danger has an inalienable right to and expectation of the assistance of anyone in society in a position to assist, to the point of that second party’s incurring some modicum of bodily risk or harm if necessary in the course of rendering the assistance. Failure to provide such assistance is illegal. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    I said and will still say, “I never [referring to 1] purported to give a complete definition. I gave the part of the definition that is pivotal in the abortion / unborn child-protection debate; I think that anyone could fill in the rest. (I did similarly with ‘aggression.’)”

    I was born in the United States but live in India. I had not heard of the UDDA before reading your June 16, 2013 at 3:15 am post, and would not have understood that it might have any relevance to the discussion between you and me, before your November 10, 2013 at 12:15 am post which first made clear to me your concern (in the discussion between you and me) about functioning.

    (I had thought at the outset that you were using, without stating it, what I call the “uniqueness argument” — “Carrying and delivering a child is a unique burden for women which men do not face, therefore demanding that they accept that burden violates equality” — basically answered by Kristine with her sailor example.)

    Since we are looking for “an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws,” clearly we are looking for a framework that does not presently exist, so if necessary you may bring up parts of the UDDA or any existing law as ideas for our consideration, but not of course as sacrosanct. Since I am unfamiliar with that law, perhaps you could use quotes or paraphrases and not just section references.

    My view that the unborn should be protected is an ethical view, and your challenge to me (or someone) is to translate that ethical view into proposed law in a way that does not grant special rights to the unborn. In the process, I will have to propose appropriate definitions.

    Ethically, in fact, I do not discriminate against the born, so I see the only challenge for me as one of marshalling and deploying adequate legal language, including doing so in my definitions. My ethical position, if really non-discriminatory, is not an issue for our immediate discussion.

    However, partly to urge that you think carefully about definitions, and partly as a new topic that we could discuss, I would like to point out a few things (if you can’t consider expanding the present discussion or starting a new topic, stop here):

    Kristine had said —

    “…[T]he human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species”

    — and you replied on May 26 —

    “This comment strikes me as a straw man argument. Who is arguing otherwise?”

    In other words, “I, NorthStar, agree that the human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species.”

    Now, biology is defined as “the scientific study of living organisms,” and moreover the concept of species is a concept only of “the scientific study of living organisms” — it is not used in other fields except where they overlap with biology.

    So here you say that embryos are living organisms. But on May 30 you said —

    “I have had college-level biology and I do not believe that an embryo is alive”

    — and on June 1 —

    “In my view, the most sensible definition of ‘human life,’ for purposes of homicide laws, is ‘an existing capacity to experience any kind of consciousness'”

    — and on June 16 —

    “We were talking about when life begins, not when an organism begins.”

    In your June 4 post to which I originally replied (farther down in the post), you said:

    “Most pro-lifers are terrified of being seen as abandoning the life-begins-at-fertilization dogma. They delude themselves into thinking that it is thoroughly grounded in evidence when, in reality, it is religious pseudo-science backed only by the Catholic Church.”

    Here you go up a meta-level from a simple debate about some particular def. being right or wrong. You start addressing the question, where do our definitions come from?

    The problem of simple consistency that I pointed out above could be addressed without taking the discussion to a meta-level, but I think that doing so would facilitate the most meaningful talk about defs., and even perhaps help us to be consistent in talking about them, so for that reason and for its own sake I would like to reply you to on that meta-level:

    First of all, the life-begins-at-fertilization theory is not backed only by the Catholic Church. Christopher Hitchens, one of the most famous atheists in the world, was quoted by Kristine as saying:

    “. . . if the concept ‘child’ means anything, the concept ‘unborn child’ can be said to mean something. All the discoveries of embryology . . . appear to confirm that opinion, which I think should be innate in everybody.”

    Okay, so it’s not clear that he would start at fertilization, but literally, “all the discoveries of embryology” include discoveries about zygotes. And what about Kristine, and me, and the secular women quoted here —

    http://www.prolifehumanists.org/category/pro-life-atheists-meet-our-family/

    and here —

    http://www.prolifehumanists.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/plh-prolifeatheist-tape3.jpg (Sarah Terzo)

    — and for that matter, what about all the Baptists?

    Moreover, even in the Catholic Church, where did that idea come from? I don’t really know the answer to that, but maybe it came from human intuition, and that’s why not only Catholics hold it — maybe that idea is, to borrow Hitchens’s phrase and maybe not even stretch it beyond his usage, “innate in everybody.”

    Intuition and the meta-level of definitions — the question “Where do our definitions come from?” — are examined in the Nov. 8 post “Personhood” at http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 7:30 am
  59. NorthStar, I just sent a reply (to both your 6:08 pm post and your 6:14 pm post), but that reply is “awaiting moderation.”

    I remember now that that happens when I include a few links, which I did.

    I could send it again without the links, but then the first send would eventually go through and clutter up this page, so let’s wait and see if the moderator will soon approve that first send.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 7:40 am
  60. No, please go ahead and clutter it up. There is no telling when Kristine will get around to it, and I have a day off today.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 10:27 am
  61. Quick apology on that count. For the time being, this site and organization is being entirely run by part-time volunteers, and more often than not volunteer (singular). When the craziness of my life and chronic illness get in the way, it’s easy to get a back-log. I’m open to adding moderators if either of you would like the job. It’s pretty much a matter of making sure the comments are legit and not spammy. The moderation for links is a precautionary thing that does seem to keep spam off the site.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — November 13, 2013 @ 2:54 am
  62. Replying to both your 6:08 pm post and your 6:14 pm post.

    Thank you for pointing me to a sloppy choice of words by me, and for your A-B-C clarification.

    The sloppy choice was:

    “which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right.”

    Here I confused two things that I had been more clear about when I had said “A is about reasons. B is about degree of non-discrimination . . .” (in my post that began “‘You must have missed . . .’ I didn’t miss . . .”).

    Thus, instead of saying this —

    ======================================================
    “then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed”

    — which would say that the unborn should not be given ONE PARTICULAR special right — quite different from saying “should not be given special rights [at all].”
    ===============================================

    — I should have said this —

    =======================================
    “then place-of-residence discrimination favoring the unborn should not be allowed”

    — which would say that the unborn should not be given special rights for ONE PARTICULAR REASON — quite different from saying “should not be given special rights [at all].” [As I at first put it, the latter would “not follow.”]
    ======================================================

    “The rest of your post seems to be based on a different understanding, so I think I will stop until you have a chance to rethink that part.”

    Here I’m only 99% sure that you’re referring to your A-B-C paragraph and not your “This is where I lose you,” but will assume it’s your A-B-C para.

    I did have a different understanding — I understood (not (A and B and C)) — and I liked using that understanding because Kristine’s answer best fit that understanding. But I don’t think the rest of my post would have been different if I had understood ((not A) and (not B) and (not C)).

    In other words, I do not aim to protect only no-brain-function persons who have beating hearts and/or respiration; I aim to protect all persons, who, regardless of their present functioning, can be expected to have brain function within a year; and I think —

    “4. No barely-functioning person who is likely to be functioning within a year should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights]”

    — covers that. But just to be safe, I’ll change it a little. Here are all 4 points of my latest proposal:

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own life or the life of another, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    4. No person, regardless of current functioning, who is likely to have >0 brain function within a year, should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing a person and thus homicide. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    And just in case:

    5. A non-aggressor whose life is in danger has an inalienable right to and expectation of the assistance of anyone in society in a position to assist, to the point of that second party’s incurring some modicum of bodily risk or harm if necessary in the course of rendering the assistance. Failure to provide such assistance is illegal. [Applies to born as well as unborn, so does not give the unborn special rights.]

    I said and will still say, “I never [referring to 1] purported to give a complete definition. I gave the part of the definition that is pivotal in the abortion / unborn child-protection debate; I think that anyone could fill in the rest. (I did similarly with ‘aggression.’)”

    I was born in the United States but live in India. I had not heard of the UDDA before reading your June 16, 2013 at 3:15 am post, and would not have understood that it might have any relevance to the discussion between you and me, before your November 10, 2013 at 12:15 am post which first made clear to me your concern (in the discussion between you and me) about functioning.

    (I had thought at the outset that you were using, without stating it, what I call the “uniqueness argument” — “Carrying and delivering a child is a unique burden for women which men do not face, therefore demanding that they accept that burden violates equality” — basically answered by Kristine with her sailor example.)

    Since we are looking for “an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws,” clearly we are looking for a framework that does not presently exist, so if necessary you may bring up parts of the UDDA or any existing law as ideas for our consideration, but not of course as sacrosanct. Since I am unfamiliar with that law, perhaps you could use quotes or paraphrases and not just section references.

    My view that the unborn should be protected is an ethical view, and your challenge to me (or someone) is to translate that ethical view into proposed law in a way that does not grant special rights to the unborn. In the process, I will have to propose appropriate definitions.

    Ethically, in fact, I do not discriminate against the born, so I see the only challenge for me as one of marshalling and deploying adequate legal language, including doing so in my definitions. My ethical position, if really non-discriminatory, is not an issue for our immediate discussion.

    However, partly to urge that you think carefully about definitions, and partly as a new topic that we could discuss, I would like to point out a few things (if you can’t consider expanding the present discussion or starting a new topic, stop here):

    Kristine had said —

    “…[T]he human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species”

    — and you replied on May 26 —

    “This comment strikes me as a straw man argument. Who is arguing otherwise?”

    In other words, “I, NorthStar, agree that the human embryo and fetus are biological members of the human species.”

    Now, biology is defined as “the scientific study of living organisms,” and moreover the concept of species is a concept only of “the scientific study of living organisms” — it is not used in other fields except where they overlap with biology.

    So here you say that embryos are living organisms. But on May 30 you said —

    “I have had college-level biology and I do not believe that an embryo is alive”

    — and on June 1 —

    “In my view, the most sensible definition of ‘human life,’ for purposes of homicide laws, is ‘an existing capacity to experience any kind of consciousness'”

    — and on June 16 —

    “We were talking about when life begins, not when an organism begins.”

    In your June 4 post to which I originally replied (farther down in the post), you said:

    “Most pro-lifers are terrified of being seen as abandoning the life-begins-at-fertilization dogma. They delude themselves into thinking that it is thoroughly grounded in evidence when, in reality, it is religious pseudo-science backed only by the Catholic Church.”

    Here you go up a meta-level from a simple debate about some particular def. being right or wrong. You start addressing the question, where do our definitions come from?

    The problem of simple consistency that I pointed out above could be addressed without taking the discussion to a meta-level, but I think that doing so would facilitate the most meaningful talk about defs., and even perhaps help us to be consistent in talking about them, so for that reason and for its own sake I would like to reply you to on that meta-level:

    First of all, the life-begins-at-fertilization theory is not backed only by the Catholic Church. Christopher Hitchens, one of the most famous atheists in the world, was quoted by Kristine as saying:

    “. . . if the concept ‘child’ means anything, the concept ‘unborn child’ can be said to mean something. All the discoveries of embryology . . . appear to confirm that opinion, which I think should be innate in everybody.”

    Okay, so it’s not clear that he would start at fertilization, but literally, “all the discoveries of embryology” include discoveries about zygotes. And what about Kristine, and me, and the secular women quoted here —

    [home page of Pro-Life Humanists]/category/pro-life-atheists-meet-our-family/

    and here —

    [home page of Pro-Life Humanists]/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/plh-prolifeatheist-tape3.jpg (Sarah Terzo)

    — and for that matter, what about all the Baptists?

    Moreover, even in the Catholic Church, where did that idea come from? I don’t really know the answer to that, but maybe it came from human intuition, and maybe that’s why not only Catholics hold it. Maybe that idea is, to borrow Hitchens’s phrase (and maybe not even stretch it beyond his usage), “innate in everybody.”

    Intuition and the meta-level of definitions — the question “Where do our definitions come from?” — are examined in the Nov. 8 post “Personhood” at http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org My hope is to cut through the semantic arguments that go nowhere.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 10:43 am
  63. There is a lot there, but I would like to address one point before proceeding. I find your phrase “one particular reason” to be inscrutable. What other basis for discrimination against the unborn could exist? The one characteristic that distinguishes all unborn babies from all born people is location in the womb, so I cannot see how any other basis for discrimination could apply.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 11:44 am
  64. I would like to respond to the rest of your post here other than the part below “stop here.”

    If my understanding is correct, whereas I favor defining life as “a present capacity for brain function and (either heart function or lung function)”, you favor defining life using a definition something like the following: “(Distinct human DNA)+(a brain that is likely to be functioning within one year.) Is that a fair interpretation of your comments thus far?

    I added the “distinct human DNA part” because life-at-fertilization pro-lifers usually seek to distinguish between the egg and sperm from the embryo and fetus. Please let me know if I was out of order in doing that.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 12:18 pm
  65. “So here you say that embryos are living organisms.”

    You do raise a valid point, some of which I had not fully considered. However, a couple of points are in order. First, one of the definitions of “biological” given by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is “connected by direct genetic relationship rather than by adoption or marriage.” Thus, the word does not absolutely imply life. Second, the field of biology tends to define life quite differently from how the law defines life. Using the way that the law treats life, embryos are not alive because they lack brain function, beating hearts, and working lungs.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 2:59 pm
  66. With regard to why some atheists and evangelicals believe that life begins at conception, I think the best theory is that they were influenced by Catholic dogma. I think the best way to approach that matter is to further analyze your thinking on the issue and what, ultimately, you base your ideas.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
  67. NorthStar has replied to my November 11, 2013 at 10:43 am. His reply:

    ======================================
    NorthStar says:
    November 11, 2013 at 11:44 am

    There is a lot there, but I would like to address one point before proceeding. I find your phrase “one particular reason” to be inscrutable. What other basis for discrimination against the unborn could exist? The one characteristic that distinguishes all unborn babies from all born people is location in the womb, so I cannot see how any other basis for discrimination could apply.
    ============================================

    There is no Reply button under that post of his, so I’m replying here.

    Whatever the dict. may give for “born,” I would accept the def. you seem to be using, such that “the one characteristic that distinguishes all unborn babies from all born people is location in the womb” would be true by def.

    It’s after midnight here now, so I will just present my first thought, and see if there’s anything more I should say on this topic later — no sooner than 8 hrs. from now (similarly, I would not be able to make any clarifications on any other topic for several hours).

    My first thought is about in vitro fertilization. Here we have an unborn baby minus the characteristic of location in the womb, so it is not quite correct that “The one characteristic that distinguishes all unborn babies from all born people is location in the womb.”

    Such an embryo is not in the womb, yet it is sometimes discriminated against. I do not know what the legal basis of the discrimination may be, but in the popular mind, I think people would discriminate against it just as they discriminate* against the in utero unborn — on the basis, for instance, of characteristics Kristine has addressed: “smaller, less developed, differently located [maybe her wording “differently” was intended to cover both wombs and test tubes?] and dependent.”

    * That is, their minds discriminate, leading to support for pro-choice laws — not that the language of the laws themselves so discriminates.

    Just the other day a pro-choicer wrote to me “Why does a cluster of cells 100 microns across have the same rights as a fully developed human being?” She was thinking of in utero, but her basis of discrimination would also apply to in vitro (not located in the womb).

    Maybe one or more of those popular discriminations gets translated into the language of the laws that discriminate against in vitro embryos? I’m not sure.

    If you perceive any flaws in all this, my request would nevertheless be that you address the “legal framework” matter first.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 2:11 pm
  68. NorthStar has just replied to me. His reply:

    ======================================
    NorthStar says:
    November 11, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    I would like to respond to the rest of your post here other than the part below “stop here.”

    If my understanding is correct, whereas I favor defining life as “a present capacity for brain function and (either heart function or lung function)”, you favor defining life using a definition something like the following: “(Distinct human DNA)+(a brain that is likely to be functioning within one year.) Is that a fair interpretation of your comments thus far?

    I added the “distinct human DNA part” because life-at-fertilization pro-lifers usually seek to distinguish between the egg and sperm from the embryo and fetus. Please let me know if I was out of order in doing that.
    ============================================

    There is no Reply button under that post of his, so I’m replying here.

    Since you didn’t follow up on your threat (smile) about “before proceeding,” and have proceeded a little already, I can stay up a minute longer.

    Though my mind is tired, since I have some protection from “something like,” I feel safe in committing to this:

    I favor illegalizing the destruction of* anything defined something like the following: “(Distinct human DNA) + (likely to have a functioning brain within one year.)”

    * For legal purposes, is that the same as “defining life”?

    I haven’t thought much about a need to define “life” differently in law and elsewhere (maybe there is such a need), but, for example, for most purposes I consider plants to be alive.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 2:32 pm
  69. In my opinion, the word “destruction” is not suitable for our purposes. The definition of “life” is at issue. Why introduce the word “destruction” to complicate the issue?

    How did you derive your definition of life? Why is “distinct human DNA” included? Why did you choose “one year”? Why did you choose the word “likely”? Because so much of your definition seems completely arbitrary (like including the time needed for the earth to revolve around the sun), it smacks of being cobbled together to justify your belief that life begins at fertilization rather than a product of evidence and reason. Your belief that life begins at fertilization, then, seems to be driven by forces other than evidence and reason–like the Roman Catholic Church.

    Your definition also, in my opinion, has grave practical problems. For example, my understanding is that zygotes are not likely to have a functioning brain within one year because they are most often miscarried. In fact, if the mother chooses to abort, the embryo can be said to not be likely to have a functioning brain in a year. If so, use of your definition would destroy the anti-abortion movement. Also, how would the state judge whether someone is likely to have a functioning brain within one year? Who would make that determination? An abortionist? Furthermore, why would we write off anyone who does not meet the “likely” standard or whose brain is likely to function after one year?

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 4:52 pm
  70. To expand on the second paragraph of my November 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm post, my suspicion that, while your criteria are not necessarily discriminatory, they might have been derived in a discriminatory way. The word “framework” is defined as “a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something.” You have not, as I can see, provided any support for your definitions. Nor, from what I am seeing on your web site, have you actually promoted the idea of changing the homicide laws for born people. Your definitions seem to be less of a framework than just a set of definitions that you whipped together in an attempt to prove that the belief that life begins at fertilization is non-discriminatory.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 11, 2013 @ 6:14 pm
  71. First, please consider my “Whatever the dict. may give for ‘born'” para cancelled for now.

    I will not have a chance for a few hours to reply fully to your November 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm post and this November 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm post, but I am writing now to ask for a clarication in case you haven’t already retired for the night:

    “Furthermore, why would we write off anyone who does not meet the ‘likely’ standard or whose brain is likely to function after one year?”

    This would include everyone, even people I had explicitly said we should not write off, wouldn’t it?

    Now I’ll go on to reply for now to just 4 of your points:

    “The definition of ‘life’ is at issue.”

    Do you mean implicitly at issue? Starting with your —

    . . . if you accept that the pro-life movement is predicated on the notion that place-of-residence discrimination should not be allowed except in extreme circumstances, then you should agree that the unborn should not be given special rights. As such, the homicide laws should not be written to grant the unborn legal rights that are denied to the born. If someone can describe an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights, I am willing to consider that framework. However, after probing people who believe that life begins at fertilization for such a framework for almost a decade and never receiving one, I doubt that any such framework exists

    — your first explicit mention of defs. of “life” came in your Nov. 11 12:18 pm post. I’ll have to think about whether an explicit def. of the word (as opposed to just talking about brain function, etc.) is really necessary in order to meet your original challenge.

    “if the mother chooses to abort, the embryo can be said to not be likely to have a functioning brain in a year.

    I had written:

    “4. No person, regardless of current functioning, who is likely to have >0 brain function within a year, should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing a person and thus homicide.”

    Are you only saying that “who is otherwise likely” is necessary here? Isn’t “otherwise” understood? If you say that legal conventions demand it, I’ll be happy to add it.

    “The word ‘framework’ is defined as ‘a set of ideas or facts that provide support for something.’ You have not, as I can see, provided any support for your definitions.”

    You had originally said:

    “If someone can describe an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights, I am willing to consider that framework.”

    My defs. (my 4/5 points) are a framework that supports the application of homicide laws to embryos but does not grant them special rights (as per your challenge). Are you now saying that I don’t have a framework unless I have a framework that supports my framework?

    “Nor, from what I am seeing on your web site, have you actually promoted the idea of changing the homicide laws for born people.”

    I didn’t do so there, but neither did I exclude the possibility. Doesn’t my point 4 do so here on the website where I am responding to your challenge?

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 11, 2013 @ 10:37 pm
  72. (continuation of my November 11, 2013 at 10:37 pm)

    This still won’t necessarily be a full reply to your November 11, 2013 at 4:52 pm and November 11, 2013 at 6:14 pm posts.

    First, thank you for giving part of your day off to a discussion of this. Until focusing on your June 4 post (which I had seen before without focusing so much), I hadn’t been aware there might be any difficulty in translating non-discriminatory pro-life ethical views into law, but if there is, I would like to try to help. If the results are successful, I’m not sure what to do with them — I have the impression that presently the most effective pro-life organizations are Christian ones, so I suppose I would try to bring the results to their notice.

    Your original statement of the exercise was —

    “If someone can describe an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights, I am willing to consider that framework”

    — and you have responded or started responding to my then-latest draft of a framework (here I will present a new draft). I would like to try to divide that feedback of yours into two categories:

    1. possible defects in my meeting your actual conditions (“an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights”), and

    2. your “consideration of the framework” — critiques you might have apart from whether or not I had met your original conditions.

    And I would like to postpone discussion of category 2 till your original conditions have been met. (I might agree that 1 alone could be a fairly arid exercise and that 2 is important, but I’m just saying let’s take the hurdles in some defined order, and start with the hurdle that you first got me thinking about.)

    “In my opinion, the word ‘destruction’ is not suitable for our purposes. The definition of ‘life’ is at issue. Why introduce the word ‘destruction’ to complicate the issue?”

    This refers to an exercise you brought up recently of defining “life.” It’s an exercise that I would be happy to participate in at some point, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary to define that particular word in order to meet your original conditions. It may be a key thing in existing law, but perhaps existing law has only chosen one possible angle of approach. I will also adopt that angle if I’m ultimately shown that it’s necessary.

    “How did you derive your definition of life? Why is ‘distinct human DNA’ included? Why did you choose ‘one year’? Why did you choose the word ‘likely’? Because so much of your definition seems completely arbitrary (like including the time needed for the earth to revolve around the sun), it smacks of being cobbled together to justify your belief that life begins at fertilization rather than a product of evidence and reason. Your belief that life begins at fertilization, then, seems to be driven by forces other than evidence and reason–like the Roman Catholic Church.”

    This is all category 2, not category 1.

    Remember that one of your original conditions was not a “wise” or even an “intelligent” framework; let’s get to that, but later.

    “Your definition also, in my opinion, has grave practical problems. For example, my understanding is that zygotes are not likely to have a functioning brain within one year because they are most often miscarried.”

    Good point, if correct, for my purposes in saving lives. For my first step toward that goal — meeting your conditions — my “likely” is non-discriminatory enough, so your response is really a category 2 response. Nevertheless, I’ll tweak my point 4.

    “In fact, if the mother chooses to abort, the embryo can be said to not be likely to have a functioning brain in a year.”

    My point 4 is clearly aimed half at abortion, so I don’t think anyone would misunderstand it, but as mentioned, I can add the word “otherwise” if necessary.

    “Also, how would the state judge whether someone is likely to have a functioning brain within one year? Who would make that determination?”

    Thes are good category 1 points; I will tweak my 4.

    Oops, it looks like I’ll be busy now for a few hours.

    Let me just add now that if there is to be any extensive discussion of points exclusive to my website, it might be best to discuss there.

    (to be continued)

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 12, 2013 @ 5:33 am
  73. (continuation of my November 12, 2013 at 5:33 am)

    So here is my latest draft:

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception. [Unchanged. Specifying brain function obviates the need to refer specifically to “life.”]

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own life or the life of another born person, OR TO SAVE AN UNBORN PERSON FROM LOSS OF THE POTENTIAL TO BECOME a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal. [Changed — see CAPS. Of my points 1-4, only this one mentions “life.” I’ve avoided using the word in relation to the unborn. Regarding the born, I think “to save one’s own life or the life of another” would be an understood concept in existing law; no need for a special def. — ?]

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm. [Unchanged.]

    4. No person, regardless of current functioning, who is JUDGED* TO HAVE >30% PROBABILITY, UNDER OPTIMUM CONDITIONS** (INCLUDING ABSENCE OF ABORTION ATTEMPTS) OF havING >0 brain function within a year, should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing a person and thus homicide.

    * BY A DOCTOR WHOSE COMPETENCE & OBJECTIVITY IS CERTIFIED BY [SPECIFIED UMBRELLA OF PRO-LIFE ORGANIZATIONS] AND [SPECIFIED UMBRELLA OF PRO-CHOICE ORGANIZATIONS].

    ** AS DEFINED BY A DOCTOR WHOSE COMPETENCE & OBJECTIVITY IS CERTIFIED BY [SPECIFIED UMBRELLA OF PRO-LIFE ORGANIZATIONS] AND [SPECIFIED UMBRELLA OF PRO-CHOICE ORGANIZATIONS].

    [Changed — see CAPS.]

    And just in case:

    5. A non-aggressor whose life OR POTENTIAL TO BECOME a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function is in danger has an inalienable right to and expectation of the assistance of anyone in society in a position to assist, to the point of that second party’s incurring some modicum of bodily risk or harm if necessary in the course of rendering the assistance. Failure to provide such assistance is illegal. [Changed — see CAPS.]

    Again, your original conditions don’t include wisdom or intelligence or absence of arbitrariness; or even freedom from suspect motivations or freedom from Catholic influence. If you have the patience, we can work on all that standing on the shoulders of a draft that merely meets your conditions.

    In addition to the “legal framework” discussion, I brought up and you responded to a few other points. For those points there are no “categories” whose discussion I would request to postpone.

    “First, one of the definitions of ‘biological’ given by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary is ‘connected by direct genetic relationship rather than by adoption or marriage.'”

    But Kristine did not use the word that way; you probably understood how she used it, and you said you agreed with her.

    “Second, the field of biology tends to define life quite differently from how the law defines life. Using the way that the law treats life, embryos are not alive because they lack brain function, beating hearts, and working lungs.”

    But at one point after having agreed with Kristine, you said embryos were not alive based on your college biology, not on your law background.

    “With regard to why some atheists and evangelicals believe that life begins at conception, I think the best theory is that they were influenced by Catholic dogma. I think the best way to approach that matter is to further analyze your thinking on the issue and what, ultimately, you base your ideas.”

    I wrote several lines about the origin of my ideas in my “Personhood” article. (Again, any discussion of that material would best take place there.)

    I have been analyzing and will continue to analyze my thinking, looking for traces of Catholic influence. So far I can’t relate to that explanation. Before thinking about Christopher Hitchens, evangelicals, etc., first let me mention that I don’t really know what Catholic doctrine itself is based on — is it necessarily based on belief in some phenomenon lacking scientific evidence, or is it based, or partly based, on the “innate sense” that Hitchens speaks of? If based partly on that innate sense, I don’t think it would discredit pro-life atheists if they had that much in common with Catholics.

    “I added the “distinct human DNA part” because life-at-fertilization pro-lifers usually seek to distinguish between the egg and sperm from the embryo and fetus. Please let me know if I was out of order in doing that.”

    I don’t presently see a need to provide legal protection for eggs and sperms.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 12, 2013 @ 9:14 am
  74. “This would include everyone, even people I had explicitly said we should not write off, wouldn’t it?”

    No, if I am understanding you correctly. Under your definition, those who meet the within-one-year likely standard are considered alive. Those who do not are considered dead. So your definition clearly writes off some but not others.

    “your first explicit mention of defs. of ‘life’ came in your Nov. 11 12:18 pm post.”

    What about my May 29, 2013 at 12:30 am? That post seems to contain an explicit mention of the definition of “life.” I think pretty much all of my posts on this page are about that subject.

    “Are you only saying that ‘who is otherwise likely’ is necessary here?”

    Maybe you could graft such a stipulation on to the definition. Whether that would cause even more problems is not clear to me at this point.

    “Are you now saying that I don’t have a framework unless I have a framework that supports my framework?”

    I do not wish to get into a semantic argument, but I will say that, when I made that statement, I did not have in mind someone contriving an arbitrary set of definitions as a one-time exercise to show that he could write superficially non-discriminatory laws that are designed to discriminate in practice. What I had in mind was someone who genuinely believed in a definition of human life that applied equally to all human beings would present that definition along with the facts, evidence, and reasoning to support the use of that definition.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 13, 2013 @ 1:04 am
  75. P.S.:

    “designed to discriminate in practice”

    This is a new objection. I have no idea who would be discriminated against or how.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 13, 2013 @ 3:42 am
  76. Science does not understand life. If we understood it and defined it accordingly, it might be something which today’s science would consider a religious supposition. So I would prefer to confine my framework to scientifically-measurable things such as brain function.

    However, I have now understood what I think was a point you wished to make — that absent a def. of “life,” “killing” becomes problematic.

    So here is my latest draft (changes in CAPS):

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.

    2. Homicide is defined to mean killing* a person, except if unavoidable to save one’s own BRAIN FUNCTION or the BRAIN FUNCTION of another born person, or to save an unborn person from loss of the potential to become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, or unavoidable in a case of aggression to save oneself or another from bodily harm, and is illegal.

    * DEFINED AS ENDING ALL BRAIN FUNCTION OR POTENTIAL FOR BRAIN FUNCTION.

    3. Aggression is defined so as to exclude acts not consciously intended to harm another, even if they cause some modicum of bodily harm.

    4. No person, regardless of current functioning, who is judged* to have >30% probability, under optimum conditions** (including absence of abortion attempts) of having >0 brain function within a year, should be finished off; doing so would be considered killing a person and thus homicide.

    * By a doctor whose competence & objectivity is certified by [specified umbrella of pro-life organizations] and [specified umbrella of pro-choice organizations].

    ** As defined by a doctor whose competence & objectivity is certified by [specified umbrella of pro-life organizations] and [specified umbrella of pro-choice organizations].

    And just in case:

    5. A non-aggressor whose BRAIN FUNCTION OR POTENTIAL TO BECOME a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function is in danger has an inalienable right to and expectation of the assistance of anyone in society in a position to assist, to the point of that second party’s incurring some modicum of bodily risk or harm if necessary in the course of rendering the assistance. Failure to provide such assistance is illegal.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 13, 2013 @ 11:29 pm
  77. ====================================================
    “This would include everyone, even people I had explicitly said we should not write off, wouldn’t it?”

    No, if I am understanding you correctly. Under your definition, those who meet the within-one-year likely standard are considered alive. Those who do not are considered dead. So your definition clearly writes off some but not others.
    =====================================================

    It does. And in my above question, I refer to that fact (“people I had explicitly said we should not write off”).

    Hmm. Maybe you mean “Furthermore, why would we write off anyone who does not meet the ‘likely’ standard or whose brain is likely to BEGIN TO function after one year?”

    If this is what you mean, it’s a good question, but it’s what in my November 12, 2013 at 5:33 am I called “category 2” points. If you’re still in this conversation, as I hope, let me repeat a preference that I expressed in that post and on November 12, 2013 at 9:14 am: For me it would be more systematic in terms of the “framework” exercise to focus first on meeting the non-discriminatory requirement, then begin to adapt that non-discriminatory framework in the direction of being non-arbitrary and whatever else we would like.

    It’s not clear if you read my November 12, 2013 at 5:33 am and November 12, 2013 at 9:14 am. In those posts I said —

    “I might agree that 1 alone could be a fairly arid exercise and that 2 is important, but I’m just saying let’s take the hurdles in some defined order, and start with the hurdle that you first got me thinking about. . . . let’s get to that, but later. . . . If you have the patience, we can work on all that standing on the shoulders of a draft that merely meets your conditions.”

    “What about my May 29, 2013 at 12:30 am?”

    Your May-June posts cover a range of topics including the def. of “life”, but I think that prior to your Nov. 11 12:18 pm, you hadn’t explicitly connected the def. of “life” with the “framework” challenge.

    Do you feel sure there’s no way to approach a “framework” without a new def. of life? There are hints in your earlier “your criteria are not necessarily discriminatory” and in your “contriving” para that I’m getting close to being what you call “superficially non-discriminatory;” if that has been achieved without a new def. of “life,” can’t the imperfections be corrected without a new def. of “life”?

    “to show that he could write”

    Hmm. A pronouncement by one cyber-citizen about another cyber-citizen’s inner motivations.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 13, 2013 @ 3:29 am
  78. Kristine has replied to NorthStar’s November 11, 2013 at 10:27 am. Her reply:

    ======================================
    Kristine Kruszelnicki says:
    November 13, 2013 at 2:54 am

    Quick apology on that count [delay sometimes in moderating a message “awaiting moderation”]. For the time being, this site and organization is being entirely run by part-time volunteers, and more often than not volunteer (singular). When the craziness of my life and chronic illness get in the way, it’s easy to get a back-log. I’m open to adding moderators if either of you would like the job. It’s pretty much a matter of making sure the comments are legit and not spammy. The moderation for links is a precautionary thing that does seem to keep spam off the site.
    ============================================

    There is no Reply button under that post of hers, so I’m replying here.

    I support your efforts, particularly your own gift of expression on the abortion issue. I quote you a lot, and feel that I should help in this way also. But I’m already failing to meet many commitments at the moment.

    On another note, I’d like to recommend this article to everybody —

    Science and the Politics of Personhood
    by Maureen L. Condic
    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7300/

    — as expanding, into the best presentation I’ve seen yet, Kristine’s argument about the developmental importance of the zygote in relation to personhood. Condic writes:

    “Structures capable of new functions are formed throughout embryogenesis. For example, grasping becomes possible once hands have formed. But the fundamental process of development proceeds continuously, both prior to and after hand formation, and the onset of this function reflects an ongoing developmental process. Given the continuous nature of development, to argue that embryos and fetuses become humans once some anatomical or functional landmark such as ‘consciousness’ has been achieved is to assert some kind of magical transformation; i.e., that at some ill-defined point, a non-human entity spontaneously transmogrifies into a human being, without any change whatsoever in its behavior, its molecular composition, or any other observable feature.

    “I reject this argument. For something actually to transform into a different kind of thing, a change must take place in its composition or in its pattern of biological activity. For example, sperm and egg are two specific human cell types that fuse to produce a distinct cell (the zygote) with unique molecular composition and with a pattern of organismal behavior that is distinct from the behavior of either sperm or egg. A clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation from one kind of entity (two human cells) to another kind of entity (a distinct human organism) has occurred.”

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 13, 2013 @ 10:36 pm
  79. “This refers to an exercise you brought up recently of defining ‘life.’ It’s an exercise that I would be happy to participate in at some point, but I’m not sure if it’s necessary to define that particular word in order to meet your original conditions. … I will also adopt that angle if I’m ultimately shown that it’s necessary.”

    If you review the dialog that you originally responded to, you will see that the exclusive topic was the foundational definition of life that is either explicit or implicit in law and the intellectual and evidentiary framework on which it is based. To me, this entire discussion is about the definition of human life for purposes of the law. We must be misconstruing one another.

    My point is that right-to-lifers invariably use one definition of life when discussing the beginning of life in the womb while using another definition of life when discussing death. To demonstrate that discrepancy, I ask the following hypothetical set of questions: Suppose an unborn baby is conceived and eventually born (or, at least, removed from the womb) but that baby’s brain never starts to function, his circulatory system never starts to operate, and his respiratory system never commences function. Is the baby dead at birth? If so, when did he die? What constituted death? If the baby is not dead, what would constitute death? The typical pro-lifer is confounded by this set of questions because she wants to insist that the baby is alive at conception and yet the normal definitions of death cannot ever apply.

    Now, I do give you great credit for being the first person that I have found in the past decade who has actually listed a definition of human life that attempts to be faithful to the belief that life begins at fertilization while also retaining a reasonable belief about death. So, let me attempt to apply your definition to my hypothetical questions. Under your definition, the embryo would die at the moment that it was not likely to gain brain function within a year. So, if genetics doomed it to never obtaining brain function, he or she would be dead from the start. That is certainly as close as anyone has come to finding “an intellectual and legal framework that extends the homicide laws to apply to embryos but does not grant them special rights,” but it still seems bothersome. One reason is that I have never actually heard anyone say that only embryos with potential for brain function are alive and that aborting other embryos should be legal. Is the what you actually believe? This system also seems very impractical.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 14, 2013 @ 12:30 am
  80. “This is all category 2, not category 1.”

    I am not so sure. I called for an intellectual and legal framework, not just a legal one. I was looking for a belief system that was based on reasoning and evidence and, ideally, had been consistently implemented in practice. It was not meant to be a one-time intellectual exercise but, rather, a description of an existing framework that had actually been developed and implemented by someone.

    (That should conclude my response to your November 12, 2013 at 5:33 am message; at least for now.)

    Comment by NorthStar — November 14, 2013 @ 12:40 am
  81. Thanks very much for this and your preceding post (10 min. earlier). They give me hope that we are getting somewhere or may be able to get somewhere. As you suggest, I will review the May-June dialogue. I didn’t discover this site myself till August, and I did look through all the comments at that time, but didn’t always read closely. At the time of my first post to you I did a little reviewing, but thought that I was correctly reading what I call your “challenge” as something that could stand alone.

    It’s not clear whether you have yet seen my November 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm. It preceded these 2 posts of yours, but due to the formatting of the page or for whatever reason, you might not have seen it. Before I go further, I would like confirmation from you that you have seen it, and like to know whether in its light you would or wouldn’t change anything in these 2 posts of yours.

    Also, “an existing framework that had actually been developed and implemented by someone” — you don’t mean actually enacted into law in some jurisdiction of the world, do you?

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 14, 2013 @ 2:37 am
  82. I apologize for the pause in the discussion.

    I will attempt to comment on your latest (November 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm) draft.

    “AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL”

    What do you mean by this phrase?

    I am uneasy with your definition of “person.” By narrowing the definition of person beyond just the possession of distinct human DNA, I tend to think that you are no longer arguing that life begins at fertilization. Rather, you are arguing that life begins at (fertilization+(the attainment of certain characteristics)). Thus, you are no longer arguing that all human embryos are people/persons–setting aside whether they are alive–which was largely the point of the original challenge. We are now just arguing about which characteristics should be judged necessary to be considered living.

    I am also uneasy with your definition of “person” because you have apparently departed from the standard pro-life position that life and personhood begins at fertilization, which means that you are no longer defending that position. From your own web site: “Given the continuous nature of development, to argue that embryos and fetuses become humans once some anatomical or functional landmark…has been achieved is to assert some kind of magical transformation; i.e., that at some ill-defined point, a non-human entity spontaneously transmogrifies into a human being, without any change whatsoever in its behavior, its molecular composition, or any other observable feature.”

    Your definition of “killing” seems ambiguous. How do we decide whether to use “brain function” or “potential for brain function”?

    Your #2 and #4 seem contradictory. #2 seems to suggest that any ending of potential for brain function is homicide, but #4 seems to suggest that the definition is narrowed so that the ending of the potential for brain function of an embryo with only a twenty-nine percent chance of having brain function would not be homicide.

    Please be more clear than “>0.”

    Of course, your #4 has some rather impractical components.

    So, are you going to start advocating your new definition of homicide?

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 10:02 pm
  83. “But Kristine did not use the word that way; you probably understood how she used it, and you said you agreed with her.”

    How do you know her intent with that word? I agreed that embryos are “living” in the biological sense of the word, but not the legal sense.

    “But at one point after having agreed with Kristine, you said embryos were not alive based on your college biology, not on your law background.”

    No, I merely was retorting to her assertion that “…anyone with third grade biology…” knows that embryos are alive. I was not saying that embryos are not alive based on my college biology. In fact, if you read my original paragraph you will see that I pointed out that if we apply the same standards for determining whether a human is alive to embryos as we do to toddlers, we cannot conclude that embryos are alive. I was applying the legal definition, not the biological one.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 10:21 pm
  84. “This is a new objection. I have no idea who would be discriminated against or how.”

    What I am getting at here is that actions are often taken on a stated basis when the real basis is discrimination. For example, in the American South, there was a history of imposing superficially non-discriminatory voting laws that were clearly designed to discriminate against people of African descent. For instance, one tactic was to require that voters give street addresses when black neighborhoods lacked street numbers and names.

    Right-to-lifers have often been the victims of such veiled discrimination–I have experienced it myself. For example, two pro-lifers holding anti-abortion signs were arrested on the basis that they were creating a public nuisance. In reality, of course, they were arrested for expressing pro-life views. The state Supreme Court, to its credit, struck down their convictions.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 10:49 pm
  85. To be specific about who would be discriminated against–I am saying that your definition potentially constitutes veiled discrimination against the born. Your “thirty percent” and “one year” standards seem designed for no other purpose than to justify treating the born and the unborn differently in practice.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 10:51 pm
  86. “Hmm. Maybe you mean ‘Furthermore, why would we write off anyone who does not meet the ‘likely’ standard or whose brain is likely to BEGIN TO function after one year?'”

    That was, indeed, what I meant. Sorry for the vagueness.

    “Your May-June posts cover a range of topics including the def. of ‘life’, but I think that prior to your Nov. 11 12:18 pm, you hadn’t explicitly connected the def. of ‘life’ with the ‘framework’ challenge.”

    But if you go just two posts up in that dialog to my June 1, 2013 at 6:06 pm post, you will see that I was talking about the definition of “life” there.

    “Do you feel sure there’s no way to approach a ‘framework’ without a new def. of life?”

    The definition does not need to be new, but I think the framework does need a consistent definition of life. My argument is that life-begins-at-conception pro-lifers apply one lenient definition to the unborn while applying a much more restrictive one to the born.

    “A pronouncement by one cyber-citizen about another cyber-citizen’s inner motivations.”

    I try to stay away from focusing on motivations, but I do think–because of veiled purpose considerations listed above–that laws that create disparate treatment should be viewed with suspicion. If you cannot show a legitimate purpose for the “one year” and “thirty percent” stipulations, I would tend to view the framework as not meeting the non-discriminatory test.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 11:26 pm
  87. “…[Y]ou don’t mean actually enacted into law in some jurisdiction of the world, do you?”

    No, I mean that it had been formed and been proposed for enactment into law.

    Comment by NorthStar — November 17, 2013 @ 11:33 pm
  88. NorthStar, I hope to send another draft of the legal framework soon.

    You sent your November 14, 2013 at 12:30 am and November 14, 2013 at 12:40 am posts after my November 13, 2013 at 11:29 pm, but it wasn’t clear whether you had already seen that one of mine. So I’m not clear whether in the light of mine, you would or wouldn’t change anything in your two. As I proceed, it might help to know this.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 24, 2013 @ 2:01 am
  89. Thank you for these replies. This is to confirm that I’ve seen six replies, of different lengths, since my November 14, 2013 at 2:37 am. I particularly welcome your questions about contradictions between #2 and #4, and your question about my “thirty percent” and “one year” standards.

    But I won’t get to those questions tonight (my time), nor to some of your other points.

    Right now I will just try to reply to points of yours that I feel may have occurred to you because I didn’t, apparently, make myself sufficiently clear — as opposed to points of yours based on actual weaknesses or perceived weaknesses in my presentation.

    =============================================
    Acy:

    AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL

    NS:

    What do you mean by this phrase?

    I am uneasy with your definition of “person.” By narrowing the definition of person beyond just the possession of distinct human DNA, I tend to think that you are no longer arguing that life begins at fertilization. Rather, you are arguing that life begins at (fertilization+(the attainment of certain characteristics)).
    ====================================

    I can clarify the thinking of mine that was behind everything that concerns you here, in this way: I do want to say that life begins at fertilization. But I do not want to propose legal protection for embryos that happen to have died naturally (without what I would consider foul play — abortion of some kind) or that have no chance of surviving long because of being stuck in the fallopian tube or whatever.

    Meanwhile, I’m trying to avoid the word “life.”

    So I came up with the last version of #1 that you’ve seen:

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.

    I would certainly be open to changing the wording in any way that would achieve the aims mentioned above. But maybe at least you now understand what I was trying to achieve.

    “I am also uneasy with your definition of ‘person’ because you have apparently departed from the standard pro-life position that life and personhood begins at fertilization, which means that you are no longer defending that position. From your own web site: ‘Given the continuous nature of development, to argue that embryos and fetuses become humans once some anatomical or functional landmark…has been achieved is to assert some kind of magical transformation; i.e., that at some ill-defined point, a non-human entity spontaneously transmogrifies into a human being, without any change whatsoever in its behavior, its molecular composition, or any other observable feature.’”

    That was a quote from Maureen Condic, which I tried to put into a certain perspective. I will get to the perspective in a minute, but first let me see whether you’ve understood a distinction that Condic herself is making: She is arguing AGAINST defining personhood by “some anatomical or functional landmark” (such as “the development of consciousness”), and arguing FOR “a change . . . in its composition or in its pattern of biological activity” as the landmark to be used: “For example, sperm and egg are two specific human cell types that fuse to produce a distinct cell (the zygote) with unique molecular composition . . .” She is strongly in the personhood-begins-at-fertilization camp, and also believes it is scientifically provable.

    I completely agree that personhood begins at fertilization, but my perspective on the scientific case is:

    “Though the moment of conception has the best scientific grounding among all the moments that are candidates for the beginning of personhood. . . . A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. . . . [so] it all boils down to intuition.”

    (The thesis of my “Personhood” post is that it all boils down to intuition, and that some people’s intuitions are better than those of others. But I’m unwavering as far as personhood-begins-at-fertilization.)

    So the above was to try to clarify things I’d written earlier. (And if at this point you could confirm that you’ve understood, and that you no longer feel that I’m “no longer arguing” or “have departed,” that would help.) Now let me try for an overview about what you see as discrimination by me (and then in my next post I’ll try to go point by point):

    I don’t feel that ultimately it’s even possible for me to discriminate between the unborn and the born. It’s not possible in this sense: because all the born were unborn once, and at that time would have received whatever special perks I would now grant to the unborn, if I do grant any. The born had their turn, now they should let the present-day unborn have theirs.

    And if a body of law needed to please only me, I wouldn’t hesitate to write all kinds of pro-unborn discrimination into the law, on those grounds; and while doing so, I would not feel that I was being discriminatory in terms of a long-range, big-picture and truly meaningful view.

    But maybe you would consider this to be a discriminatory bias, as you’ve been suspecting.

    For my own part, as mentioned, I wouldn’t hesitate to be “discriminatory” in that way (which in a big-picture view would not be discriminatory). But from you I got the sense that the body politic would not be able to “get” such a big-picture view, and therefore that any discrimination between the present-day unborn and the present-day born would, pragmatically, be an impediment to the passage of any body of law.

    So now I’m engaged in horse-trading — compromising with my preferred approach if you will (in which there is no discrimination in the big picture, but there may be discrimination between present-day unborn and present-day born) — to try to protect the unborn within a framework of no discrimination between present-day unborn and present-day born.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 18, 2013 @ 3:52 pm
  90. What your clarifications have revealed is that your position is (A) irrational and (B) prejudiced. More specifically:

    “I can clarify the thinking of mine that was behind everything that concerns you here, in this way: I do want to say that life begins at fertilization. But I do not want to propose legal protection for embryos that happen to have died naturally (without what I would consider foul play — abortion of some kind) or that have no chance of surviving long because of being stuck in the fallopian tube or whatever.”

    That fails to take into account two important things. First is the fact that Science Marches On, and in the future it will be possible to do all sorts of things we can’t do today. We will be able to detect if a zygote, the immediate result of a conception/egg-fertilization event, has defective DNA, and we will be able to fix it. We will be able to also fix whatever problems there might be with the “zona pallucida” (the equivalent of an egg-shell; older women have thicker ones that may cause the organism to die because it can’t escape –that can be fixed, too). If there are incompatibilities between a woman’s biology and the blastocyst that attempts to implant in the womb, those can also be fixed.

    The second important thing that your argument fails to take into account is the fact that the Law tends to follow the physical capabilities of Society. There were few pollution-control laws in the 1800s, because few pollution-control technologies existed. But after they were developed and proved workable, they became mandatory in many situations.

    So, if you want to declare something like this:

    “1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.”

    Then you are saying that the Law must eventually mandate that technological resources be devoted to ensuring that every single fertilized human ovum survives, as soon as the technologies exist for accomplishing it.

    But there is more, and this part is why your position is irrational. Because Science Marches On, we now know a tremendous amount about the details of cell-division and cell-differentiation that occurs during the growth process, from a single cell to a complex organism. One of the key players is called a “stem cell” –it can yield a variety of other cell types. And at the foundation of the overall process is the “totipotent stem cell”, the cell than can yield all the ordinary stem cells which in turn yield all the specific cell types. The zygote is a totipotent stem cell.

    In the process of learning those things, it was discovered how to take an ordinary differentiated cell, such as a muscle cell, and activate it to become a stem cell –or even a totipotent stem cell. And your definition is only about “potential”, not about actuality. Well, since every cell in the human body that has human DNA (about 100 trillion of them) is POTENTIALLY a totipotent stem cell, each of which could yield a complete human body, that means, as soon as the technology to do it is perfected, someone like yourself must be chopped up into individual human DNA-possessing cells, each of which must be then implanted into perhaps-artificial wombs, and allowed to grow into 100 trillion more human bodies. –Except that each one of THEM ALSO has to be chopped up, because of their POTENTIAL, to become 100-trillion-squared organisms growing in wombs….

    Like I said, your position is irrational. Not only are you requiring Potential to be fulfilled, the Logical Legal Requirements associated with that position make it impossible to be fulfilled! (Not to mention, in Nature there is no such thing as a Potential that MUST be fulfilled. If you believe otherwise, then simply stand at the top of a long staircase and contemplate your potential to break your neck falling down it –contemplate that until you change what you believe about “potential”.)

    And your position is also prejudiced, based on its focus on “human”.

    Science Marches On, and one of the major fields of research is Artificial Intelligence. Most of the discoveries and advancements in that field, in recent years, can be directly traced to studies about how the human brain works. Most researchers have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that all of the functionality of a human brain can be replicated in non-biological hardware, and probably within two decades from now. That means True Artificial Intelligences will begin to exist that talk like a human, joke like a human, have opinions like a human, exercise Free Will like a human, and so on.

    But they will be machines, not humans. Your position is prejudiced because you would declare fully-intelligent machines to be non-persons, suitable for enslaving. Is it any wonder that we might fear a future full of Terminators? You will reap what your prejudiced definition of “person” sows!

    Next, I would like to draw your attention to one other place where Science is Marching On. The relevant medical technology is known as “regeneration research” –already we can make a mouse re-grow lost limbs. So, let us imagine a future scenario in which someone experiences a horrible decapitation accident, but rescuers arrive in 2 minutes (fabulous future tech!). What they would bring along is a “regeneration vat”. You can save the headless body by putting it into the vat, and eventually a new head would grow. Or you can save the bodiless head by putting that into the vat, and eventually a new body would grow. WHICH PART DO YOU PUT IN THE VAT TO SAVE THE DECAPITATED PERSON?

    If you say “head”, then your definition of “person” is fundamentally flawed–a person is actually a MIND, the occupant of the head, and the mindless human body is just a non-person. (Note that a True Artificial Intelligence –or even a non-human extraterrestrial being undulating down the ramp of its flying saucer– will have an equivalent Mind.) Which Logically means that an unborn human, consisting almost entirely of just a body, is also not a person. If it has a mind, that mind is purely animal-level, not person-class.

    For supporting evidence, see all sorts of measurements made regarding the mental abilities of human infants –none are in any sense different from the capabilities of ordinary animals –so unborn humans, with less-developed brains, will also have less-developed minds than human infants. Also, please see the information presented earlier on this page about “feral children” and “clever animals” and the origin of modern human minds. Science Marches On, and the more we learn, the more we can understand that the anti-abortion position is irrational and prejudiced. Worthless, that is.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 21, 2013 @ 1:28 pm
  91. Thanks for your reply.

    First of all, the thesis of the post “Personhood” at http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org addresses or partially addresses most of your points. (If you wish to say anything about that post that would not be relevant on prolifehumanists.org, then of course it would be better to say it there.)

    Now I’d like to take up two of your specific points. One is:

    ======================================
    So, if you want to declare something like this:

    “1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.”

    Then you are saying that the Law must eventually mandate that technological resources be devoted to ensuring that every single fertilized human ovum survives, as soon as the technologies exist for accomplishing it.
    =====================================

    What you have quoted is just a definition. It doesn’t say anything about how the law must or must not eventually use that definition.

    Next:

    ==========================================
    And your position is also prejudiced, based on its focus on “human”.

    Science Marches On, and one of the major fields of research is Artificial Intelligence. Most of the discoveries and advancements in that field, in recent years, can be directly traced to studies about how the human brain works. Most researchers have ABSOLUTELY NO DOUBT that all of the functionality of a human brain can be replicated in non-biological hardware, and probably within two decades from now. That means True Artificial Intelligences will begin to exist that talk like a human, joke like a human, have opinions like a human, exercise Free Will like a human, and so on.

    But they will be machines, not humans. Your position is prejudiced because you would declare fully-intelligent machines to be non-persons, suitable for enslaving.
    =======================================

    “talk like a human, joke like a human, have opinions like a human, exercise Free Will like a human, and so on.”

    You didn’t mention “experience like a human”. I doubt that AI researchers are unanimous that a machine that talks, jokes, etc., like a human will necessarily experience anything at all. If any researchers do include experience in their list, how did they come up with their “two decades” for such machines, considering that no researcher in any field presently understands how humans experience (the “hard problem of consciousness”) or has proved that it is the brain that does it? Whatever the functionality of a machine, if it has no more experience than we suppose an electric toothbrush to have, should we hesitate to declare it a non-person? (The ethics behind my proposed legal framework include placing a high value on experience, or the potential to experience.)

    It’s late where I am, maybe more later.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 21, 2013 @ 3:10 pm
  92. No, the post you mentioned at that “NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation” site does not adequately address the points I raised, because all it does is spout the same old nonsense that Abortion Opponents have generically been spouting for decades. It is basically FALSE to equate “person” with “human body” –and the simplest proof of its false-ness is found in the “decapitation accident scenario” I described in my prior post. Even the most vitriolic Abortion Opponent must recognize that it would be a LIE to say that the “body” and not the “head” must be placed in a regeneration vat to save a decapitated PERSON.

    Therefore, since “person” does NOT equal “human body”, all the blather that CALLS mindless zygotes and morulas and blastocysts and embryos and fetuses “persons” is exactly that and nothing else: Pure Blather. No matter who makes the claim that “person” equals “human body”, it is still Pure Blather, not Fact.

    Next, there is the common mis-use of the word “being”. I now quote something I posted here on June 28:
    “(B) The word “being” has some definitions that are significantly different from each other. One of them simply refers to the existence of something: A rock has exactly as much “being” as a tree –or a human. Another definition means “person”; that’s why we can talk, in casual conversation, about “extraterrestrial nonhuman alien intelligent beings”, but we never say, “oyster beings”. Oysters are not persons! So, to CALL an unborn human a “human being”, when it meets no Generic Scientific Qualifications whatsoever for Personhood, is to LIE, purely and simply. (Likewise, for a brain-dead human on full life support, the Person is dead; only the living Animal body remains; it no longer qualifies as a person-class “human BEING”.)”

    Basically, Abortion Opponents tend to claim that because a human organism, at any specific stage of development, HAS “being” (exists), it automatically also qualifies as A “being” (a person) –even though exactly the same Logic should be applicable to an ant or an oyster or a worm or a bacterium or even a rock.

    Since the Logic does NOT work for an oyster or a rock, it should not be allowed to work for a human, either. Something OTHER than mere “existence” is necessary for an organism to qualify as a “being” or “person”.

    And that “something” CANNOT be “human DNA” because Science fully accepts the possibility that Elsewhere in the Universe there could exist totally non-human intelligent beings/persons. And that is why I specified the phrase “Generic Scientific Qualifications … for Personhood” in the text I quoted.

    Persons of ALL possible forms of existence will have something in common, which distinguishes them from mere animals like oysters and ants and worms. Once Science has a decent sample of differently-existing persons, Science can attempt to identify the “thing(s)” that separates persons from mere animals. Until then, even though the only sample available is “human”, we should be wise enough to recognize and accept that “human DNA” is NOT the Generic distinguishing characteristic!

    And so all the blather about human DNA and personhood is just that, Pure Blather.

    ============
    Now I can get to your more-specific replies to what I last posted.
    “What you have quoted is just a definition. It doesn’t say anything about how the law must or must not eventually use that definition.”

    NICE WIGGLING, but you can’t escape Facts and Logic that easily. It remains a Fact that Laws tend to follow physical capabilities. So, IF your definition of “person” gets accepted by the Law, THEN we can fully expect the Law to Require that all relevant technologies must be employed to “save a person’s life” –such as in the examples I previously presented.

    Which leads directly to the irrationality that I also pointed out. Your definition would lead to the requirement that the potential of a single cell possessing a full set of human DNA, to become a complete fully-grown human body, must be fulfilled. Yet that exact same body consists of about 100 trillion human-DNA-possessing cells, each of which has the potential to become a fully-grown human body. An irrational endless loop of body-chopping followed by letting cells multiply, growing whole new bodies, is the Completely Logical Result. I therefore invite you, as the originator of that irrational definition, to voluntarily submit your own body to be the first one to be chopped up into 100 trillion cells, so that their Potential might be fulfilled….

    Or, of course, you could simply agree that your proposed Definition is irrational, and abandon it.

    As it happens, There Is A Much Simpler Way To Show That Any Anti-Abortion Argument Based On “Potential” Is Fundamentally Flawed. Here is the Logic:
    Part One:
    (A) This organism has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics that can distinguish a Person from an ordinary animal (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that organism like a person (and save it from any attempt to abort it).
    Part Two:
    (A) This Abortion Opponent has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under).

    If the Logic is somehow flawed for Part Two, then that exact same Logic must also be flawed for Part One. Very Simple!

    =========
    Next:
    “You didn’t mention “experience like a human”. I doubt that AI researchers are unanimous that a machine that talks, jokes, etc., like a human will necessarily experience anything at all.”

    I didn’t mention “experience like a human” because I specified “and so on”. I will get back to this in a little bit, after I answer a question you asked that I didn’t quote above.

    There is this thing called “Moore’s Law”, which, while not actually a Law of Science, has been a remarkably accurate predictor of developmental trends in Electronic Engineering. Have you ever heard of the “Cray 1 Supercomputer”? Look it up if you haven’t –and then take note of the fact that the average smartphone today has more RAM and a faster data-processing unit than that computer, all because of Moore’s Law.

    So, it is Moore’s Law that gives us the prediction that all of the processing power of a human brain will become duplicate-able in electronic hardware in about 20 years.

    One of the funnest –and funniest– things about Moore’s Law is that everyone knows it is going to stop being true someday. But nobody yet knows when that day will arrive. So far, every time some engineer points out a Problem preventing further advancement using a particular electronic technology, some other engineer has come along with either a solution, or a new electronic technology –and then several years go by before the next Problem gets pointed out.

    So, IF Moore’s Law continues to hold for another 20 years, THEN we can be quite certain that electronic brainpower will equal and quickly exceed human brainpower at about that time.

    Now back to the “experience” thing, and consider the IBM computer known as “Watson”, which won a contest against two champions of the TV game show “Jeopardy!”. That computer specializes in “natural language processing”, and a number of its algorithms are based on a programmed ability to LEARN. It would not be wrong to say that “Watson experiences language”.

    Now I invite you to go into a garden in late summer and catch a specific insect, the “praying mantis”. Then look into its eyes –that bug does not have “faceted” eyes like a fly or a bee; you will be able to see that bug looking back at you. IT IS AWARE.

    The latest Mars Rover “Curiosity” has slightly more than bug-level intelligence, plus awareness of its surroundings; it is programmed to be able to do at least some of its navigation across the landscape without any assistance from Earth-side controllers.

    Meanwhile, elsewhere on Earth have begun to exist “telepresence robots” for humans to control from a distance. You might be in New York with a joystick controlling a wheeled robot in Los Angeles. The robot has a camera and a microphone so that you can see whatever the robot is pointed at, and listen to conversations. You have a camera and microphone, and the robot has a display screen and a speaker, so that others in Los Angeles can see you as you participate in those conversations.

    Telepresence technology is in its infancy, but you can bet it won’t be long before they combine it with Virtual Reality, and robots improve and become more humanoid, walking on legs, and you will so “immersed” that you will be able to imagine your body is the robot body in Los Angeles, even though your real body is in New York.

    More, prosthetics technology is preparing add a sense of “feel” to artificial limbs. The depth of immersion, for humans controlling telepresence robots, is only going to increase with time.

    Now imagine a computer controlling a 20-years-from-now advanced telepresence robot, instead of a human controlling it. That computer will certainly be experiencing many things that a human can experience –and because we know full well that a human brain is Naturally able to process the sorts of data that a human body generates during its experiences, and I’ve postulated a human-equal electronic brain, we can therefore expect the computer to be able to process the data that the telepresence robot generates during its experiences.

    I now note that you specifically mentioned that we do not currently understand how the brain turns data into conciousness. It is possible that it doesn’t matter (to be determined!). This is because the human brain is a SELF-PROGRAMMING computer –every time you create a “habit” you are basically creating a computer program for your brain to automatically run. The brain has Evolved to generate lots of programs for its operation, as it grows/develops. And that might be all we need to do for a human-equivalent computer. I now invite you to search for and read an article with the title, “Creatures From Primordial Silicon”.

    A self-programming computer that can evolve better software for itself doesn’t necessarily need to be “fully understood” in advance of turning it on and letting it run. If consciousness Naturally arises during the self-programming of a human brain, why couldn’t it arise from the self-programming of a human-equivalent electronic brain?

    The simplest way to find out is to wait about 20 years, and build one. We may even be able to help the process along, as we learn new stuff between now and then, and incorporate stuff we already know. Look up an Artificial Intelligence project known as “Cyc”, for example (its goal is to teach common sense to a computer). And there is another AI project I read about many years ago (haven’t been able to find a reference to it on the Internet), about a computer programmed to do logical thinking. It could generate mathematical theorems AND develop formal proofs for them.

    So, imagine that human-brain-equivalent-computer being partially programmed with stuff like Cyc and Watson and logical thinking and Curiosity’s awareness, and so on, even before it is turned loose to start writing/evolving its own software for itself.

    So far as we know, THERE IS NOTHING TO PREVENT that computer from eventually achieving full conscious-Person status, able to tell jokes like a human, have opinions like a human, and so on.

    In closing I’ll mention something about Free Will. Science has proved it is able to exist, that the notion of “determinism” does not apply. The proof comes from Quantum Mechanics, and the studies of its “foundations”.

    It has been Experimentally Proved that utter and pure Randomness is an inherent feature of the Universe. It also happens that many organisms have biological structures “fine” enough to be directly influenced by Randomness associated with Quantum Mechanics. Neurons, for example, can occasionally “fire” because of Quantum Randomness, and brains have Evolved in the presence of such Random signals for many many millions of years.

    Those random firings are mostly ignored, of course. But on occasion it could be useful, a survival advantage, to pay attention. Consider a rabbit being chased by a fox, for example. If the rabbit’s brain computes any sort of PATTERN of jumps, the fox’s brain can potentially analyze the pattern and use it to catch the rabbit. But if the rabbit can access Quantum Randomness and jump totally at random, the fox won’t be able to discern a pattern, and the rabbit might escape.

    Meanwhile, the fox is not a Top Predator, so it might itself need to access Quantum Randomness in order to avoid being caught….

    Free Will is basically the ability to choose to do something totally at random. So, all we need do is ensure that our human-brain-equivalent computer has an equivalent ability to tap into Quantum Randomness, and it, too, will have the potential to exhibit Free Will.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 22, 2013 @ 4:20 am
  93. First, I find two more things in your previous message to which I should reply:

    “in Nature there is no such thing as a Potential that MUST be fulfilled”

    Did I say there was? (And would we even use the word “potential” for something like that?)

    “If you say ‘head’, then your definition of ‘person’ is fundamentally flawed–a person is actually a MIND, the occupant of the head, and the mindless human body is just a non-person.”

    Do you mean that I defined “person” as a mindless human body? I don’t think I did that.

    Now your present message:

    “No, the post you mentioned at that “NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation” site does not adequately address the points I raised”

    The main thesis of that post was that judgments about whether the unborn deserve life are ultimately intuitively-based, and that some people’s intuition is better than others.

    I think that various conclusions you claimed to derive from my “legal framework,” such as “someone like yourself must be chopped up into individual human DNA-possessing cells,” would not pass the test of appealing to the intuition of a qualified person. So I said, “the thesis of the post . . . addresses or partially addresses most of your points.”

    “the same old nonsense that Abortion Opponents have . . . been spouting. . . . It is basically FALSE to equate ‘person’ with ‘human body’ –and the simplest proof of its false-ness is found in the ‘decapitation accident scenario’”

    I’ve never met an abortion opponent who equates “person” with a decapitated human body.

    ==================================================
    Next, there is the common mis-use of the word “being”. I now quote something I posted here on June 28:
    “(B) The word “being” has some definitions that are significantly different from each other. One of them simply refers to the existence of something: A rock has exactly as much “being” as a tree –or a human. Another definition means “person”; that’s why we can talk, in casual conversation, about “extraterrestrial nonhuman alien intelligent beings”, but we never say, “oyster beings”. Oysters are not persons! So, to CALL an unborn human a “human being”, when it meets no Generic Scientific Qualifications whatsoever for Personhood, is to LIE, purely and simply. (Likewise, for a brain-dead human on full life support, the Person is dead; only the living Animal body remains; it no longer qualifies as a person-class “human BEING”.)”
    ========================================================

    Your sequence of logic is:

    1. “an unborn human meets no . . . Scientific Qualifications . . . for Personhood”

    2. therefore if we are to use “being” in the sense of “person,” we cannot call an unborn human a “human being.”

    But if we use scientific qualifications other than yours, or if there simply ARE no scientific qualifications for personhood, your argument doesn’t hold up. As I said in the post:

    “Though the moment of conception has the best scientific grounding among all the moments that are candidates for the beginning of personhood. . . . the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven . . .”

    “It remains a Fact that Laws tend to follow physical capabilities. So, IF your definition of ‘person’ gets accepted by the Law, THEN we can fully expect the Law to Require that all relevant technologies must be employed to ‘save a person’s life’ –such as in the examples I previously presented.”

    Even if we can expect “the law” to do that, the context of this whole discussion is not a context where I provide only the definition and “the law” does the rest. The context of this whole discussion (as you know since you have quoted part of my “framework”) is a context where I provide the definition, and I also provide the laws that will employ the def. Even if, after I provide the def., the laws slip out of my control, and even if “Laws tend to follow physical capabilities,” I don’t think they always follow physical capabilities to their logical conclusion. Society balances different priorities. It would be possible to save some lives by stationing a manned ambulance on every block of every city, but we don’t do that.

    ============================================
    As it happens, There Is A Much Simpler Way To Show That Any Anti-Abortion Argument Based On “Potential” Is Fundamentally Flawed. Here is the Logic:
    Part One:
    (A) This organism has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics that can distinguish a Person from an ordinary animal (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that organism like a person (and save it from any attempt to abort it).
    Part Two:
    (A) This Abortion Opponent has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under).

    If the Logic is somehow flawed for Part Two, then that exact same Logic must also be flawed for Part One. Very Simple!
    ==========================================================

    No; the flaw in Two is that you try to derive “should” from a potential for something negative; that fails because “should” in ethics refers to the attainment of something good.

    The same flaw is not present in One; there “should” refers to the attainment of something good.

    In using “should” both times, you make an unstated premise that all potentials are potentials for good; yet at the same time you know that the logic “is somehow flawed for Part Two,” which shows that you know better.

    For a fuller treatment of potential, please see http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org , “Too Young for Rights?”

    Thanks for explaining Moore’s Law. It’s interesting, but —

    “it is Moore’s Law that gives us the prediction that all of the processing power of a human brain will become duplicate-able in electronic hardware in about 20 years”

    — my question was not about processing power, it was about experience. I wrote:

    “how did they come up with their ‘two decades’ for such machines, considering that no researcher in any field presently understands how humans experience (the ‘hard problem of consciousness’) or has proved that it is the brain that does it?”

    When you, as a human being, calculate 348 x 26 in your head, first of all the processing is accompanied by and/or makes use of various visualizations or other mental phenomena; and secondly, you are AWARE of those mental phenomena. When a computer calculates 348 x 26, it does it much faster (more INTELLIGENTLY) than you, and includes a lot of bells and whistles, and prints out the result in red Arial and a log of its operation in blue Courier. But there is no evidence for believing that there are any accompanying visualizations or that, if there are, the computer is AWARE of them. The computer is designed such that it can do the job perfectly well in a mechanical way without phenomena or awareness . . .

    “all of the processing power of a human brain. . . . you specifically mentioned that we do not currently understand how the brain turns data into conciousness. . . . If consciousness Naturally arises during the self-programming of a human brain, why couldn’t it arise from the self-programming of a human-equivalent electronic brain?”

    . . . and to repeat, science hasn’t even proved that experience/awareness/consciousness even in HUMANS is reducible to the brain. You go on to talk about quantum mechanics. Max Planck, the founder of quantum mechanics, said:

    “I regard consciousness as primary. I regard matter as a derivative of consciousness. We cannot get behind consciousness.”

    According to this theory, consciousness/awareness somehow metamorphoses into data and the brain (and all forms of matter), not vice versa.

    Thanks for the fascinating information about coming technology, but —

    “and a number of its algorithms are based on a programmed ability to LEARN. It would not be wrong to say that ‘Watson experiences language’.

    “The latest Mars Rover . . . has slightly more than bug-level intelligence, plus awareness of its surroundings. . . .

    “Now imagine a computer controlling a 20-years-from-now advanced telepresence robot, instead of a human controlling it. That computer will certainly be experiencing many things that a human can experience”

    — this is all about intelligence, not experience.

    “The latest Mars Rover . . . has slightly more than bug-level intelligence, plus awareness of its surroundings”

    In that sense, an old rooster weathervane is “aware” of a puff of wind. This has nothing to do, so far as we know, with experience.

    “Now I invite you to go into a garden in late summer and catch a specific insect, the ‘praying mantis’. Then look into its eyes . . . you will be able to see that bug looking back at you. IT IS AWARE.”

    I tend to agree. It is seeing me and it KNOWS that it is seeing me, it has the experience of seeing me. A Mars rover’s sensors are activated by me and it processes the information, but it doesn’t know/experience what it is doing. Or at least there is no evidence that it does, and no necessity for it to do so, and such experience, being unnecessary, wasn’t written into it program.

    “So far as we know, THERE IS NOTHING TO PREVENT that computer from eventually achieving full conscious-Person status, able to tell jokes like a human, have opinions like a human, and so on.

    Again, it could tell jokes & have opinions without experiencing the telling or the opinions. There may be “nothing to prevent,” OR it may be that consciousness/experience is possible only for carbon-based life. We don’t so far know of its presence elsewhere.

    Learning, jokes, opinions — these are all some of the “easy problems of consciousness.” Personally I wouldn’t use “consciousness/awareness/experience” in relation to them at all. I would confine “consciousness/awareness/experience” to the hard problem of consciousness.

    To help make the distinction, let me get back to my saying, “you are AWARE of those mental phenomena,” and qualify that. Actually, neither I nor present science can really prove that you are aware. I know that I’m aware, and I observe that you walk and talk sorta like me, so I assume you are aware, but no one can prove it. Presently the ONLY way to know that consciousness even exists is to have it.

    “In closing I’ll mention something about Free Will. Science has proved it is able to exist, that the notion of “determinism” does not apply. The proof comes from Quantum Mechanics, and the studies of its “foundations”.

    “It has been Experimentally Proved that utter and pure Randomness is an inherent feature of the Universe. It also happens that many organisms have biological structures ‘fine’ enough to be directly influenced by Randomness associated with Quantum Mechanics. Neurons, for example, can occasionally ‘fire’ because of Quantum Randomness, and brains have Evolved in the presence of such Random signals for many many millions of years.

    “Those random firings are mostly ignored, of course. But on occasion it could be useful, a survival advantage, to pay attention. Consider a rabbit being chased by a fox, for example. If the rabbit’s brain computes any sort of PATTERN of jumps, the fox’s brain can potentially analyze the pattern and use it to catch the rabbit. But if the rabbit can access Quantum Randomness and jump totally at random, the fox won’t be able to discern a pattern, and the rabbit might escape.”

    What you said to be experimentally proved was that (Quantum) Randomness can influence neurons, such as those of a rabbit. That sounds like the rabbit is passive. That doesn’t sound like the same thing as “the rabbit can access Quantum Randomness.”

    More importantly in relation to free will, “can access” would mean “can use its free will to access,” wouldn’t it? So it would need a pre-existing free will before it could use the free will you’ve described.

    I don’t believe it has that pre-existing free will, but enough for now.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 22, 2013 @ 11:44 am
  94. (Looks like I can’t reply to your last post in the same way as the others. Here’s hoping this way works out well enough.)

    You wrote (somewhat paraphrased):
    “Did I say there was [such a thing as a potential that must be fulfilled]? (And would we even use the word “potential” for something like that?)”

    You, along with all other abortion opponents, have implied it. The very insistence that an unborn human must not be aborted is exactly equivalent to an insistence that it must be allowed an opportunity to fulfill its potential (even if that turns out to be a miscarriage instead of an abortion).

    Next:
    “Do you mean that I defined “person” as a mindless human body? I don’t think I did that.”

    You defined person as an organism possessing a certain potential. And I specifically stated that a regeneration vat would allow a headless body the opportunity to grow a new head –which therefore means that the mindless body still has potential, and, therefore, under your definition, it qualifies as much as a person as does a zygote.

    My Question, however, was about saving the person who became decapitated. And THAT person is most certainly not the mindless/headless body. Not to mention that the scenario once more points out the irrationality of your definition, since before the decapitation accident only one person was describe-able, but afterward, two are describe-able (the bodiless head and the headless body), per your definition.

    Next:
    “The main thesis of that post was that judgments about whether the unborn deserve life are ultimately intuitively-based, and that some people’s intuition is better than others.”

    The main thesis is WRONG, because there is no way to prove that the more-intuitive person, who claims an unborn human deserves life, is actually using intuition to make the claim. It is my observation that abortion opponents don’t care in the slightest how intuitive someone is, so long as that person agrees with the abortion opponents.

    “I think that various conclusions you claimed to derive from my “legal framework,” such as “someone like yourself must be chopped up into individual human DNA-possessing cells,” would not pass the test of appealing to the intuition of a qualified person. So I said, “the thesis of the post . . . addresses or partially addresses most of your points.” ”

    And it doesn’t matter in the least, since there is no way to prove that the intuitive person is actually using intuition to make various claims. Therefore the logic still holds. You have defined “person” such that every single human-DNA-possessing cell qualifies. And you are keeping them from fulfilling their potential if you insist they must remain part of your body, as if you were a slave-owner. Here’s a famous quote from “Star Trek”: “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the one.” And we are talking about the needs of about 100 trillion potential persons here, versus just yourself!

    “I’ve never met an abortion opponent who equates “person” with a decapitated human body.”

    Please do not ignore the CONTEXT, by leaving out “potential”. As stated above, the scenario specifically indicates that the headless human body still has the potential to grow a head. That makes it equivalent in some respects to a zygote (which is lacking rather more than just a head). So, if you NOW want to claim that the headless human body cannot qualify a person, how can you possibly claim that the zygote does qualify as a person?

    And so, once again, it is revealed that it is irrational to invoke the concept of “potential” when defining “person”.

    Next:
    “But if we use scientific qualifications other than yours, or if there simply ARE no scientific qualifications for personhood, your argument doesn’t hold up.”

    IF. The problem is that your “if” is false, because there do indeed exist scientific qualifications for personhood. They were semi-accidently discovered, and are not widely known to be that thing, scientific qualifications for personhood, but they do exist. For some of the details, search my Sept 27 post for the phrase “evidence that they grow into existence”, and read all about it –especially the concluding part, about the Default Natural State for humans, which IS scientifically proven!

    Next:
    “I don’t think they [laws] always follow physical capabilities to their logical conclusion. Society balances different priorities.”

    While you mentioned an example involving ambulances and I didn’t quote it, there is a significant difference between that example and unborn humans, because we know exactly where the unborn humans are, and we CAN know which are at risk of dying before birth, thanks to things like DNA testing. (Such tests won’t reveal anything about whether or not a flowerpot falls from a building window onto someone’s head, necessitating the presence of an ambulance.)

    So, because we CAN know about specific endangered unborn humans, the Law can mandate that efforts be made to save them –provided they are considered to be persons, of course. It is EXACTLY because abortion endangers specific unborn humans that abortion opponents want the Law to mandate saving those unborn humans. I’m simply pointing out that abortion isn’t the only danger they face, and there is no essential difference between saving a person from Danger A or from Danger B, when both are known in advance.

    Next:
    ” “should” in ethics refers to the attainment of something good.”

    OH? Who decides “good” vs “bad”? If Person A claims that a Malthusian Catastrophe is good, then logically it must also be good to force as many births as possible to occur, until the Catastrophe happens. If Person B claims that a Malthusian Catastrophe is bad, then logically it MAY be good to have mandatory abortions, not just voluntary abortions, until the total population drops enough to forever prevent such a Catastrophe.

    More to the point, however, is that you focused on trivia, and not on the actual argument. I could have used the word “must” instead of “should”, for example. After all, abortion opponents do in-essence claim that we must treat the unborn as persons –and they want the Law changed to enforce it.

    Next:

    “you know that the logic “is somehow flawed for Part Two,””
    ONLY because of the word “potential”, not because of the word “should”. Good-vs-Bad is not relevant, since, as just indicated above, a Malthusian Catastrophe can be called “bad”, yet be caused by calling something else (births) “good”.

    Here is a Rule of Ethics that deserves wider attention: Too Much Of ANY Good Thing Is ALWAYS A Bad Thing.

    (I’ve been thinking about that for decades, and have yet to find even one exception to that Rule. Even too much Love can be a bad thing, by stifling individual development of independence.)

    Next:
    “But there is no evidence for believing that there are any accompanying visualizations or that, if there are, the computer is AWARE of them.”

    This is true of TODAY’S computers. It does not automatically follow that it will be true of a computer designed to emulate the human brain, which is known to be able to exhibit awareness such as you have described.

    Next:
    “science hasn’t even proved that experience/awareness/consciousness even in HUMANS is reducible to the brain”

    There is no need for science to prove that, since it has already been proved over and over and over again, across many thousands of years, every time someone “knocks out” (renders unconcscious) someone else by causing shock waves to pass through the brain. Haven’t you been paying attention to the recent furor over the dangers of multiple concussions (and long-term consequences) in the football league? Have you completely ignored all the other relevant data that came from the sport of boxing?

    To the best of my knowledge, the quote from Max Planck comes from the “Copenhagen Interpretation” of Quantum Mechanics, in which an “observer” is required to cause certain changes to occur. But there are competing Interpretations that do not require an observer. Planck’s opinion is not Gospel in Science –it is just an opinion.

    Next:
    ” this is all about intelligence, not experience.”

    Not quite, and for more than one reason. First is that you are still presuming that all aspects of today’s computer technology, including various known limitations, will be included in any effort to duplicate the human brain electronically. And second….

    One of the things I left out of those descriptions (didn’t think of it at the time) is known as a “neural net”. This can either be a hardware thing, or a software thing that emulates the hardware thing. The fundamental design of all neural nets came directly from studying neural connections in various living things. And one of the basic facts about neural nets is that, even though they contain relatively few “neuron equivalents”, they are quite powerful in their ability to “inter-mediate” between an electronic device and the outer environment, especially when used in conjunction with “genetic algorithms” –something I DID previously mention, although I used different words at the time, such as “Evolution of software”.

    Look up the work of Randall Beer and John Gallagher, who made bug-like devices with neural nets and genetic algorithms, and see how, for each device, the influence of the neural net quickly changed initial random legs-movements into coordinated movement of the overall gadget.

    Basically, “awareness” of the environment is the province of neural nets in most animal organisms. While not the same thing as consciousness, awareness is the avenue through which experiences flow. You can be extremely sure that when an attempt is made to duplicate the human brain in electronics, it will be chock-full of neural nets.

    Third, and another thing I didn’t previously happen to think of, is “fuzzy logic”. This is a way of enhancing the normal “yes or no” options of a computer to include “maybe” –and even various degrees of “maybe”. You can be quite sure that fuzzy logic will be thoroughly involved in that future electronic brain, also.

    Next:
    “A Mars rover’s sensors are activated by me and it processes the information, but it doesn’t know/experience what it is doing. Or at least there is no evidence that it does, and no necessity for it to do so, and such experience, being unnecessary, wasn’t written into it program.”

    Just because the latest Mars rover doesn’t experience “awareness” precisely how YOU define it, that doesn’t mean the rover has no awareness of its surroundings. It IS able to do some entirely autonomous driving, and it can only do it if its software knows how to distinguish one rocky path from another and less rocky path. To help its onboard computer make various decisions, the rover has 2 cameras, allowing it to gather data which can be Also, you still seem to think that everything that a program can do must be specifically written into a program from the outside. WRONG. Plenty of programs currently exist that can edit themselves and still keep running (I myself did some work along those lines 25 years ago, just to prove it could be done) –and the reason programs do self-editing today often involves learning. Computer viruses today are especially able to modify themselves from the inside, without human supervision.

    Therefore, depending on how such a program interacts with other things –depending on what it learns/experiences– the self-edits it makes can easily become literally inscruitable to a human trying to analyze the code. You REALLY need to read that “Creatures from Primodial Silicon” article, because, despite the fact that no self-editing was involved there, RANDOM edits were involved, and Evolutionary Rules were applied to weed out the useless random code (the basis of “genetic algorithms” mentioned a short while ago). The result, after less than 5000 generations/testings/weedings, was code that no human understands, but it still works perfectly and extremely efficiently.

    When the two things are combined, self-edits of code with Evolutionary Rules deciding “usefulness” …, well, it means that the field of “computer awareness” is going to advance rapidly. Have you heard about Google’s self-driving cars? Each one DOES make an internal 3D map of its surroundings, constantly updating the map while driving, and it pays close attention to everything in that map, such as nearby vehicles and their speeds/directions, along with its own location, in order to keep driving safely. It is at least as “aware” as any insect.

    I see you spouted some worthless blather:
    “Again, it could tell jokes & have opinions without experiencing the telling or the opinions. There may be “nothing to prevent,” OR it may be that consciousness/experience is possible only for carbon-based life. We don’t so far know of its presence elsewhere.”

    Doubts do not affect facts one whit. Not so long ago it was News that dolphins had been discovered to have names for themselves, and the evidence is growing that they have language, too. The cetacean brain is rather different from the primate brain, but both are capable of consciousness and conscious experience.

    Then there is the case of “Alex the parrot”, who exhibited communication skills similar to that of a human toddler –and bird brains (direct descendants of “therapod” dinosaur brains) are again rather different in construction from both primate and cetacean brains.

    One of the smartest animals in the ocean is the octopus. If you put a tasty morsel in a glass jar that has a screw-on lid, the octopus can figure out how to open the jar to get at the morsel. A member of the mollusc family (which includes clams and snails), the octopus brain is VERY different from land-animal brains.

    There is a famous anecdote or story about a monkey that was put in a room that supposedly had exactly 7 ways to escape –except that the monkey found an 8th way (though I might be mis-remembering the numbers). The known fact that consciousness and conscious experience can appear in at least 4 different types of brain-construction Logically implies (even in the absence of certain other known facts), there are other ways to do it.

    Because these are the “other known facts”: The brain is a computer. A “Turing Machine” is the “fundamental computer” –it completely describes how ALL computers work. There are NO restrictions on how hardware must be implemented, in order for a computer to begin to exist. And it has been Proved that ANY computer can “emulate” the workings of ANY OTHER computer….

    Therefore, start with any computer design you like, and apply Evolution (genetic algorithms) to it long enough, in an environment where consciousness and conscious experience give a survival advantage, and those things WILL result.

    Next:
    “To help make the distinction, let me get back to my saying, “you are AWARE of those mental phenomena,” and qualify that. Actually, neither I nor present science can really prove that you are aware. I know that I’m aware, and I observe that you walk and talk sorta like me, so I assume you are aware, but no one can prove it. Presently the ONLY way to know that consciousness even exists is to have it.”

    You might be describing certain aspects of something known as “The Turing Test”. Look it up. But you also are not being very precise, since you appear to be synonymizing “awareness” and “consciousness”. We know they are two different things, thanks to people in comas –even with no observable consciousness they possess a degree of awareness, because some that woke up told us about it!

    Next:
    “What you said to be experimentally proved was that (Quantum) Randomness can influence neurons, such as those of a rabbit. That sounds like the rabbit is passive. That doesn’t sound like the same thing as “the rabbit can access Quantum Randomness.””

    No, it means that you didn’t include in your reasoning the part where I wrote:
    “Those random firings are mostly ignored, of course. But on occasion it could be useful, a survival advantage, to pay attention.”

    Given that random neuron-firings are always happening somewhere in any complex-enough neural system, and given that Evolution found ways for the overall system to function in spite of that “noise”, the key point is that Random Data Is Always Available to that neural system.

    Digression, regarding other noise. Did you know that in an “anechoic chamber”, a specially quiet place, the healthy human ear is capable of hearing air molecules bouncing off the eardrums? It is basically impossible for hearing to become any better than it is, when it is able to detect the fundamental noise-level of the sound-conducting medium. This digression exists to point out that neurons may be similarly sensitive, involving a different “medium”, and now ends.

    So, whenever the “noise” of randomly-firing neurons is NOT ignored, I am equating “paying attention” with “accessing Quantum Randomness”, even though I fully expect it is some low-level software subroutine in the animal’s computer/brain that is doing the “paying attention”. What matters is the idea that that subroutine has enough Priority in its own signalling to influence the outer behavior of the rabbit, as in “which way to jump next?”

    Finally:
    “More importantly in relation to free will, “can access” would mean “can use its free will to access,” wouldn’t it? So it would need a pre-existing free will before it could use the free will you’ve described.”

    Not so, simply because of the always-available nature of those random neuron firings. Then there is the fact that in no known case does someone claiming to have free will know how to consciously access random nerve-firings –it is all done at a low level in the brain’s software.

    Let us consider a somewhat classic scenario in which Person A starts the process of challenging Person B to a duel, by slapping the face of B with a glove. Depending on various things, B might immediately react (like a mere stimulus-response machine, not exhibiting free will), or B might pause and consider. What if B knows their relative duelling capabilities, and that A is basically about to commit suicide?

    The most interesting thing is, the longer that B considers, before doing anything, the more possible ways of responding that B might happen to think of. Especially if B knows that “free will” means being able to choose any action whatsoever! So, a Question for you: “Where are those thoughts of possible responses coming from?” It should be obvious that B can ONLY choose an action that is actually thought-about –if B never happens to think of multiplying 26 and 42 out loud, then B will not be able to choose to do that thing.

    THAT is where random nerve-firings become relevant –they can lead to random thoughts –and the longer that B delays responding to that original slap in the face, the more random thoughts B can consider, before choosing one.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 23, 2013 @ 2:46 am
  95. It appears that I made an “editing error” in my last post. Here is the correction (a sentence is completed, and one paragraph becomes two).

    Just because the latest Mars rover doesn’t experience “awareness” precisely how YOU define it, that doesn’t mean the rover has no awareness of its surroundings. It IS able to do some entirely autonomous driving, and it can only do it if its software knows how to distinguish one rocky path from another and less rocky path. To help its onboard computer make various decisions, the rover has 2 cameras, allowing it to gather data which can be used for “stero vision” –seeing things in 3D, that is (which makes distance-judgements fairly easy).

    Also, you still seem to think that everything that a program can do must be specifically written into a program from the outside. WRONG. Plenty of programs currently exist that can edit themselves and still keep running (I myself did some work along those lines 25 years ago, just to prove it could be done) –and the reason programs do self-editing today often involves learning. Computer viruses today are especially able to modify themselves from the inside, without human supervision.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 23, 2013 @ 10:02 am
  96. I have posted an initial reply to the comment you made on “Too Young for Rights?” (http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org ). That reply is also a reply to these lines —

    “Well, since every cell in the human body that has human DNA (about 100 trillion of them) is POTENTIALLY a totipotent stem cell, each of which could yield a complete human body, that means, as soon as the technology to do it is perfected, someone like yourself must be chopped up into individual human DNA-possessing cells, each of which must be then implanted into perhaps-artificial wombs, and allowed to grow into 100 trillion more human bodies. –Except that each one of THEM ALSO has to be chopped up, because of their POTENTIAL, to become 100-trillion-squared organisms growing in wombs….”

    — in your above November 21, 2013 at 1:28 pm post on this page.

    Comment by Acyutananda — December 3, 2013 @ 3:03 pm
  97. In partial reply to Anon Y Mous November 23, 2013 at 2:46 am and November 23, 2013 at 10:02 am:

    ====================================
    Acy:

    1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.

    AYM:

    “in Nature there is no such thing as a Potential that MUST be fulfilled.”

    Acy:

    “Did I say there was [such a thing as a potential that must be fulfilled]? (And would we even use the word “potential” for something like that?)”

    AYM:

    You, along with all other abortion opponents, have implied it. The very insistence that an unborn human must not be aborted is exactly equivalent to an insistence that it must be allowed an opportunity to fulfill its potential (even if that turns out to be a miscarriage instead of an abortion).
    =================================================

    Oh, I see. You are using MUST in the human-ethical sense that my 1 is preparing to get at. When you had said “in Nature,” I had taken it as “in a state of Nature” (before human influence), so I had taken your MUST as referring to natural laws.

    Now you’ve made it clear that your MUST is a human-ethical MUST. But that being clear, you seem to be saying, “Within natural laws there is no human-ethical MUST.” Well, of course not, but that does not mean that there are no human-ethical MUST’s at all. Or am I missing something in what you’re trying to say?

    ==================================================
    “Do you mean that I defined “person” as a mindless human body? I don’t think I did that.”

    You defined person as an organism possessing a certain potential. And I specifically stated that a regeneration vat would allow a headless body the opportunity to grow a new head –which therefore means that the mindless body still has potential, and, therefore, under your definition, it qualifies as much as a person as does a zygote.

    My Question, however, was about saving the person who became decapitated. And THAT person is most certainly not the mindless/headless body. Not to mention that the scenario once more points out the irrationality of your definition, since before the decapitation accident only one person was describe-able, but afterward, two are describe-able (the bodiless head and the headless body), per your definition.

    . . .

    “I’ve never met an abortion opponent who equates “person” with a decapitated human body.”

    Please do not ignore the CONTEXT, by leaving out “potential”. As stated above, the scenario specifically indicates that the headless human body still has the potential to grow a head. That makes it equivalent in some respects to a zygote (which is lacking rather more than just a head). So, if you NOW want to claim that the headless human body cannot qualify a person, how can you possibly claim that the zygote does qualify as a person?

    And so, once again, it is revealed that it is irrational to invoke the concept of “potential” when defining “person”.
    ===================================================

    Actually, I had thought that somewhere in your “. . . mindless human body is just a non-person” and your “basically FALSE to equate ‘person’ with ‘human body’” sentences you had probably made a mistake, and I figured, why try to understand this thought experiment now, let me first inquire about those sentences and confirm the thought experiment.

    Now you have made your meaning more accessible. Is it this — “If Acyutananda replies ‘head,’ that will prove to him that he defines personhood mostly in terms of mind, which will prove to him that a zygote is not a person” — ?

    If so, the thought experiment does not achieve its aim, because if we have one zygote, then we do not have 2 organisms to choose between. So if we value mind, our only hope is to keep that zygote alive till it develops a mind.

    “So, if you NOW want to claim that the headless human body cannot qualify a person, how can you possibly claim that the zygote does qualify as a person?”

    Now that you have replied to my questions and I have taken the time to digest the experiment, I have more respect for the headless human body than I did before. I wouldn’t be extremely averse to calling it a person. But purely for the purpose of my staying consistent with my 1 and the rest of my legal framework, it’s not necessary for me to call it a person. Because my legal framework does not demand the use of elaborate technology to preserve the unborn.

    “And so, once again, it is revealed that it is irrational to invoke the concept of “potential” when defining “person”.”

    Your “And so” means “Since a decapitated body is not a person in spite of its potential” — right? But as is clear now, I don’t necessarily maintain that the decapitated body of your experiment is not a person, or if I do, I show how the analogy with a zygote is not perfect. So now I’m free to go on invoking “potential,” right?

    My “till it develops a mind” argument depends on “potential.” Later you will make some other objections about “potential,” which I will reply to later. Meanwhile, for a fuller treatment of that subject than I’ve offered you before, see http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org, “Too Young for Rights?”

    Incidentally, purely in terms of your thought experiment, you didn’t exclude the possibility that a new head would be identical to the old head, in which case there would be no difference between your two options. In terms of your experiment, either or both would do.

    “Carbon-based life” includes dolphins, parrots, octopuses, monkeys (who all deserve some degree of protection against violence, by the way, and whose embryos deserve the same degree of protection) and plants. It means life as we know it, as distinguished from the kind of life that any imaginable robot might be claimed to represent.

    “But you also are not being very precise, since you appear to be synonymizing ‘awareness’ and ‘consciousness’. We know they are two different things, thanks to people in comas –even with no observable consciousness they possess a degree of awareness, because some that woke up told us about it!”

    I do synonymize them. Here —

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WN5Fs6_O2mY

    — neuroscientist Susan Greenfield says at 8:24 “. . . we have to start by being honest . . . consciousness cannot be formally defined . . . [she explains in some detail why it can’t]”

    The Wikipedia says:

    “Consciousness is the quality or state of being aware of an external object or something within oneself. It has been defined as: sentience, awareness, subjectivity, the ability to experience or to feel, wakefulness, having a sense of selfhood, and the executive control system of the mind.”

    So I’m free to define those words as suits my purposes, though I should make my def. clear (as I’ve been trying to do). Now please make your mind, as regards how Acyutananda defines “consciousness/awareness/ability to experience,” a blank slate, and I’ll copy here a few approaches that I once used with someone:

    “. . . getting back to straightforward attempts to define ‘consciousness,’ a word that might help is ‘witness.’ The witness of a crime only sees without being involved.

    “In a previous message I said ‘consciousness is power-to-perceive strictly distinguished from the perceived.’

    “Try remembering an experience of love or sorrow or anger. The emotion you remember was a mental phenomenon, and MOREOVER, at the time you were having that emotion, you KNEW it was going on inside you. The ability to know an emotion (& know other phenomena) is your consciousness.

    “Here is maybe the nearest to a foolproof definition of consciousness: Consciousness is the ‘I know’ of the statement ‘I know that I exist.’ Of course that first ‘I’ can know stuff besides ‘I exist’ alone, but if you can locate the ‘I’ in you that knows that you exist, then you’re not likely to be confused about how I’m using ‘consciousness.’ (And subjectivity is the position of that ‘I’ as opposed to its power to know. And in this example the thought ‘I exist’ is the mental phenomenon.)”

    I won’t be able to get back to this for a few days, especially if I search for and read all your references.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 24, 2013 @ 1:34 am
  98. I posted my reply at the “Too young for rights” article/page, and at this time have no great reason to copy it to here.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 8:45 pm
  99. I have sent a reply to Anon Y Mous November 23, 2013 at 2:46 am and November 23, 2013 at 10:02 am. That reply is awaiting moderation, though it contained only two links.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 24, 2013 @ 1:38 am
  100. As mentioned, a reply of mine to Anon Y Mous is awaiting moderation. Meanwhile, I have posted it, temporarily, as a comment to the post “Too Young for Rights?” at http://www.NoTerminationWithoutRepresentation.org (In my reply I refer to that post.)

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 24, 2013 @ 6:23 am
  101. Anon Y Mous, here —

    Sam Harris on “Free Will”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pCofmZlC72g

    — is a lecture that articulates very well the same reasoning about free will that I have (and in addition explains some neuroscience that I wouldn’t be able to weigh in on).

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 24, 2013 @ 10:12 am
  102. I saw enough of the Sam Harris video to conclude he is missing some relevant data, which if he incorporated it into his reasoning would lead to him reaching a different conclusion.

    Here is the relevant data, starting with some background. The Law of Cause and Effect (“Causality”) basically states that every event is the result of some prior event, and you can in theory trace any present event, such as a Decision that you THINK involves free will, backward to the Big Bang.

    However, as previously stated, experiments in Quantum Mechanics have proved that Pure and Utter Randomness is to be found underlying the “regular” workings of the Universe. Well, in order for any event to be truly Random, it CANNOT be caused by some prior event.

    The experiments have been performed multiple times and in multiple ways. Basically, if Quantum Randomness did not actually exist, then all the observed APPARENT randomness in Quantum Mechanics would be the result of the existence of something that had been called (by Einstein) “hidden variables”. However, a physicist named John Stewart Bell showed that if ACTUAL Quantum Randomness existed, a detectable difference could be found, between the predictions of a hidden-variable theory and a pure-randomness theory.

    In EVERY test ever performed, the data conclusively supports the existence of pure randomness in Quantum Mechanics. Therefore, to whatever extent a human Decision can be associated with Quantum Randomness, there is a BREAK in the chain of Causality and Classic Determinism.

    THAT is where those fine neural structures that I previously mentioned come into play, which can be directly influenced by Quantum Randomness. I pointed out how Evolution could give a survival advantage to organisms that made use of Quantum Randomness. Since it is well known that Evolution tends to build-upon already-existing stuff, when the next descendant species comes along, it logically follows that human brains should be able to access Quantum Randomness also –and be able to use it for MORE than merely escaping a predator….

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 6:22 pm
  103. “There May Be Nothing Illegal About Acting Like A Parasite, but we STILL routinely kill a wide variety of organisms that act like parasites. Why should it make a difference, just because a particular acting-like-a-parasite organism is human?”

    That issue is separate from the question of whether homicide laws should discriminate based on whether someone is born or not. If acting like a parasite should be illegal for the unborn, it should also be against the law for the born.

    “Koko the Gorilla qualifies as a ‘person’ exactly as much as does a human toddler, and MORE than does a ‘feral child’.”

    Again, I see no point in debating terminology.

    “…[F]or humans,…the Primary Purpose of Sex is…’pair bonding'”

    What are your definitions of “Primary Purpose,” “Sex,” and “pair bonding”? Moreover, what is your evidence for this statement?

    “…[P]air-bonding…is often considered to be a Good Thing. Married couples tend to live longer than single folks, right?”

    So we should allow people to kill their children so that they can live longer? How far should that go? For example, should we allow people to kill their their born children for that purpose?

    Aside from the factual and definitional questions, by that logic, why not legalize rape? If sex automatically leads to “pair bonding,” and pair bonding is a “Good Thing” that overrides considerations about human rights, why would we not allow men to force women to engage in sexual intercourse to promote “pair bonding”?

    “‘Sex Does Not Directly Cause Pregnancy’. Technically, pregnancy begins ONLY when a “blastocyst” implants into a womb.”

    You are confusing when “pregnancy” (you are using a foolishly contrived definition, but that is another discussion) starts and what causes it to start. Sexual intercourse is the action that causes it to start.

    “Sex does not FORCE a blastocyst to do that; it is its own organism…”

    Nonsense; blastocysts cannot make decisions about implanting on their own. Its status as an organism is immaterial.

    “…[M]any blastocysts fail to implant, while others fail to stay implanted.”

    That does not mean that sexual intercourse does not cause pregnancy. You are thinking wishfully.

    “…[H]umans are part of Nature, too! Which makes human interference in the reproductive process just as Natural as, say, the failure of a blastocyst to stay implanted in a womb.”

    So, should we legalize rape on the basis that it is interference in the reproductive process, and such interference is natural?

    “I’m fully aware that some of what I’ve written can be interpreted as an excuse to allow infanticide.”

    Worth repeating.

    “It is CLAIMED that human life has ‘inherent value’ (or ‘intrinsic value’) –but no supporting evidence has ever been offered. Indeed, all the available evidence indicates that There Is No Such Thing As Inherent/Intrinsic Value –all valuations are entirely Relative.”

    By that logic, all murder should be legalized–including for the born. If someone decides that another person’s life is not valuable to (the first) person, he or she should be able to kill that second person.

    “…[I]n today’s world[,] the human species can easily afford vast numbers of abortions.”

    It can also afford vast deaths of born people, as well. So, should we legalize the killing of born people?

    Comment by NorthStar — November 24, 2013 @ 10:17 pm
  104. “There May Be Nothing Illegal About Acting Like A Parasite, but we STILL routinely kill a wide variety of organisms that act like parasites. Why should it make a difference, just because a particular acting-like-a-parasite organism is human?”

    That issue is separate from the question of whether homicide laws should discriminate based on whether someone is born or not. If acting like a parasite should be illegal for the unborn, it should also be against the law for the born.

    YOU DID NOT ANSWER THE QUESTION. Try again, please. Besides, it IS illegal for born humans to act like parasites in many situations –lots of criminals have been labeled “parasites upon Society”. The worst of them (serial killers) tend to be executed.

    “Koko the Gorilla qualifies as a ‘person’ exactly as much as does a human toddler, and MORE than does a ‘feral child’.”

    Again, I see no point in debating terminology.

    Of course not. Because you have no valid argument, just like all other abortion opponents.

    “…[F]or humans,…the Primary Purpose of Sex is…’pair bonding’”

    What are your definitions of “Primary Purpose,” “Sex,” and “pair bonding”? Moreover, what is your evidence for this statement?

    I will assume you understand the meaning of the phrase “sex drive”. It exists because Nature has seen fit to associate it with SUCCESSFUL reproduction, which is more than ONLY “having offspring”. Because if the offspring fail to survive the long term, they don’t qualify as a “success”. They have to survive long enough for themselves to reach breeding age, for their parents to have successfully reproduced. Obviously, any species that fails to have sufficient successful reproduction eventually becomes extinct. As for the rest of your questions, search for [humans “hidden ovulation” “pair bonding”] –treat the brackets as the search box, and copy exactly everything inside the brackets. The pair bond is very important for the successful reproduction of humans.

    “…[P]air-bonding…is often considered to be a Good Thing. Married couples tend to live longer than single folks, right?”

    So we should allow people to kill their children so that they can live longer? How far should that go? For example, should we allow people to kill their their born children for that purpose?

    ????? The fact that pair-bonds exist beneficially has NOTHING to do with “killing children”. Quite the opposite, in fact, since human infants require a LOT of care, and that can more-successfully be accomplished if 2 parents provide that care, instead of just 1. The pair-bond tends to keep the male parent around, to help. It is really Very Simple!

    Aside from the factual and definitional questions, by that logic, why not legalize rape? If sex automatically leads to “pair bonding,” and pair bonding is a “Good Thing” that overrides considerations about human rights, why would we not allow men to force women to engage in sexual intercourse to promote “pair bonding”?

    WHAT LOGIC??? Sex does not automatically lead to pair-bonding; it merely promotes it. And where do you get the ridiculous notion that pair-bonding overrides considerations about human rights?

    “‘Sex Does Not Directly Cause Pregnancy’. Technically, pregnancy begins ONLY when a “blastocyst” implants into a womb.”

    You are confusing when “pregnancy” (you are using a foolishly contrived definition, but that is another discussion) starts and what causes it to start. Sexual intercourse is the action that causes it to start.

    FALSE. Sexual intercourse is neither Necessary nor Sufficient for pregnancy to happen. If it was Necessary, then Artificial Insemination would NEVER work. If it was Sufficient, then there would be NO infertile couples seeking modern technical assistance.

    “Sex does not FORCE a blastocyst to do that; it is its own organism…”

    Nonsense; blastocysts cannot make decisions about implanting on their own. Its status as an organism is immaterial.

    FALSE. Blastocyst organisms are basically stimulus/response machines, biological robots controlled by DNA programmed to cause certain actions, such as “make an attempt to implant where these conditions exist”. The attempt might succeed in a bad place (“ectopic pregnancy” likely caused by flawed DNA “conditions”-specification), or it might fail in a bad place (simply can’t implant in scar tissue caused by a prior pregnancy), or it might fail in a good place (flawed DNA leads to no placenta-construction getting started), or it might succeed in a good place (and so a typical pregnancy begins).

    “…[M]any blastocysts fail to implant, while others fail to stay implanted.”

    That does not mean that sexual intercourse does not cause pregnancy. You are thinking wishfully.

    You are not paying attention to what I wrote. The point is the word INDIRECT. Sex does not DIRECTLY cause pregnancy, since intermediate and independently-acting organisms are involved. THOSE ORGANISMS can be given enough blame that you cannot assign all the blame to the sex-participants. DO REMEMBER that when people WANT a pregnancy to occur, and it doesn’t happen, one or more of those intermediate organisms is/are often associated with the reason why pregnancy doesn’t happen. It is irrational to blame those organisms for unwanted failure, yet assign zero blame to them when unwanted success happens. Do Abortion Opponents LIKE being irrational so often?

    “…[H]umans are part of Nature, too! Which makes human interference in the reproductive process just as Natural as, say, the failure of a blastocyst to stay implanted in a womb.”

    So, should we legalize rape on the basis that it is interference in the reproductive process, and such interference is natural?

    ???? You are not making sense. How does rape qualify as “interference in the reproductive process”???

    “I’m fully aware that some of what I’ve written can be interpreted as an excuse to allow infanticide.”

    Worth repeating.

    The Truth usually is. I see, however, that you didn’t repeat some OTHER Truths, about how few people want to change the Law to allow infanticide, even though that would make the Law more consistent with Scientific Facts about “persons”, while lots of people want to irrationally make the Law more INconsistent with Scientific Facts about “persons”.

    “It is CLAIMED that human life has ‘inherent value’ (or ‘intrinsic value’) –but no supporting evidence has ever been offered. Indeed, all the available evidence indicates that There Is No Such Thing As Inherent/Intrinsic Value –all valuations are entirely Relative.”

    By that logic, all murder should be legalized–including for the born. If someone decides that another person’s life is not valuable to (the first) person, he or she should be able to kill that second person.

    BAD LOGIC, because it ignores something known as “the Social Contract”, which basically is about people agreeing to value each other equal to how they value themselves (No Inherent Value Needed), most famously stated by Jesus as “love thy neighbor as thyself”. But note that for the Social Contract to work, ALL involved parties must accept it. Since it is impossible for unborn humans to do that, there is no need to include them in the Social Contract. (Yes, it is also impossible for human infants to do that, but see again the Existing Law, and the lack of significant desire to change it to include infanticide.)

    “…[I]n today’s world[,] the human species can easily afford vast numbers of abortions.”

    It can also afford vast deaths of born people, as well. So, should we legalize the killing of born people?

    Depends on who you ask. For example, consider the Apparent Fact That Abortion Opponents Desperately Want Most Of Humanity To Die In A Malthusian Catastrophe, Caused By Overpopulation Caused By Abortion Opponents. That makes them “genocidal maniacs”, instead of “pro-life”. Should any legalized executions of born people begin by targeting all genocidal maniacs?

    (Above, I called it an “Apparent Fact” because pro-lifers, to the best of my knowledge, don’t put anywhere near as much effort into increasing the food supply, as they put effort into increasing the number of mouths-to-feed. Such a mis-match can only have one result in the long term, a Malthusian Catastrophe.)

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 1:08 am
  105. “‘[S]hould’ in ethics refers to the attainment of something good.”

    I have a question about this line of reasoning. Some supporters of legalized abortion argue that, in many cases, the decision to abort creates the potential for good–including the potential to have more children overall. So, for example, if a woman forgoes childbearing at age eighteen (the reasoning goes), the possibility of attaining a college education and being able to support two or more children at a higher standard of living becomes possible later on. Assuming these factual assertions are true, do these considerations not potentially negative your “potentiality” arguments regarding embryos?

    Comment by NorthStar — November 24, 2013 @ 11:11 pm
  106. First, unrelated to your main point, did you opine (if you thought about it) that my sentence about ethics was not sufficient to undermine Anon Y Mous’s argument, which depended on making the word “should” equally applicable to a just-conceived human’s attainment of post-natal life, and a post-natal human’s attainment of a corpse-like state?

    Now to reply to you: In context (the context of Anon Y Mous’s argument), my sentence related to the good of the survival of an unborn baby who had already been conceived, whereas the good in your scenario involves an assumption of “the more conceptions-culminating-in-deliveries the merrier,” which is a different assumption.

    The idea of “the more the merrier” is an idea I haven’t thought about much, but I suppose the idea of “the more the merrier up to a point of diminishing returns where overpopulation is making all concerned miserable” has some intuitive appeal.

    But to me not as much appeal as this intuition: “Killing a human already conceived (except in compelling circumstances) is abhorrent.”

    I always fall back on intuition. Though a moral intuition discovered within us is not at all neat and objectively-demonstrable like the double helix, it is more realistic as the basis of a moral code than scientific arguments alone.

    I think that there are moral absolutes, or let’s say moral “absolutes.” They are absolute in the sense that they are grounded in the deepest nature of our species, as a compass for the happiness and mental expansion of the species, and will not go away soon. They are perceptible through intuition, and some people’s intuitions are better than others. In “Personhood” I said a little about how intuition develops, and in Appendix 3 of that article I distinguished between “moral sensitivity” and “ontological sensitivity.”

    Anon Y Mous objected to my “‘[S]hould’ in ethics refers to the attainment of something good” in this way:

    “OH? Who decides ‘good’ vs ‘bad’?”

    In some other context, this would be a good philosophical question. But in the context of defending his Part One – Part Two argument, it’s not enough just to point out that there’s an open question. His Part One – Part Two argument depends on “the good of a post-natal human’s attainment of a corpse-like state is equal to the good of a just-conceived human’s attainment of post-natal life” being not only an open question, but being INTUITIVELY OBVIOUS. To continue saying that his argument works, he would have to show that the good of a post-natal human’s attainment of a corpse-like state is as intuitively obvious as the good of a just-conceived human’s attainment of post-natal life.

    Anon Y Mous went on to say:

    “More to the point, however, is that you focused on trivia, and not on the actual argument.”

    The actual argument was: “we should right now start treating that organism like a person. . . . we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse. . . . If the Logic is somehow flawed for Part Two, then that exact same Logic must also be flawed for Part One.”

    So the argument depends on the idea that the logic for Part Two is identical with the logic for Part One. But in Part One, “should” can be defended as appropriate by the intuition that life is good; in Part Two “should” cannot be defended as appropriate, without sophistry. Weak logic is not identical to strong logic. The problem I have pointed out with “should” is not trivia, because due to that problem the two logics cease to be identical.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 25, 2013 @ 7:26 am
  107. I see you ignored the fact that I stated my Part One – Part Two argument could just as easily have employed the word “must” instead of “should”, thereby rendering worthless your attempt to change the subject away from the real flaw, which is your original effort to equate “potential” with “actual”.

    Besides, it is intuitively obvious that if all Abortion Opponents are buried six feet under, because they are potentially a pile of corpses, the Abortion Argument ends. Is it not a good thing that the rest of the population would then be able to fully devote their mental efforts to more constructive things, than trying to convince deluded people that they are utterly deluded?

    “Potential” and “actual” are two DIFFERENT things. I can think of lots of examples showing it is irrational to equate them, more than just that Part One – Part Two argument. For example, consider a plot of land upon which a multi-million-dollar building might be constructed. The Property Tax Assessor, equating “potential” with “actual”, is obviously free to assign a quite-high property tax, as if the building had already been constructed.

    If each person has the potential to acquire a million dollars in a year, say by winning a lottery, then the IRS, equating “potential” with “actual”, is free to tax the income of everyone as if each had already received that million dollars.

    If each student has the potential to become a valedictorian college graduate, then, by equating “potential” with “actual”, all students should be perfectly employable on the first day of college at a nice high salary as if already-graduated, right?

    So, a “potential person” is NOT an “actual person”, exactly like a “potential corpse” is NOT an “actual corpse” –and there is no more reason to confuse the pairs, than there is reason to confuse the concepts of “potential” and “actual” in other situations.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 10:14 am
  108. Your “must” cannot mean “must” in the sense of natural law, because then your Two (B) would go contrary to natural law. So it can only be a moral “must.” You are proposing to change —

    “Two (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under)”

    — meaning —

    “it is morally desirable to start treating . . .”

    — to a “must” sentence meaning —

    “it is morally imperative to start treating . . .”

    — which is still more counter-intuitive than you started with.

    No, all the fun pyrotechnics in your posts don’t rattle my mind so much that these things are not clear.

    Did I equate “potential” with “actual”?

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 25, 2013 @ 2:18 pm
  109. I’ve run into various people blathering about “natural law” before, and have generally concluded that they don’t know what they are talking about. Natural Law consists of such things as the Law of Gravitation, Quantum Mechanics, General Relativity, and so on. It has nothing to do with Ethics, and Nature doesn’t care in the least if a giant asteroid collides with Earth and makes humanity extinct.

    Thus it is a LIE to claim that “right to life” is some sort of “natural law” –there is actually No Such Thing in Nature. (There is, however, a “right to try”, NOT accompanied by any “right to succeed”.)

    With that out of the way, I refer back to my original post of the Part One – Part Two argument, modified:

    ———–
    Part One:
    (A) This organism has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics that can distinguish a Person from an ordinary animal (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we must right now start treating that organism like a person (and save it from any attempt to abort it).
    Part Two:
    (A) This Abortion Opponent has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we must right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under).
    ———

    I have replaced “should” with “must”, because, as stated previously, ABORTION OPPONENTS WANT THE LAW TO ENFORCE “MUST” FOR PART ONE, by granting the rights of Persons to unborn humans. Therefore, to maintain consistent wording, “must” had to replace “should” in Part Two as well.

    Morals and ethics are completely irrelevant to Facts and Logic. (That is, Logic does not care what sort of data it processes. Facts also don’t care what humans think of them; see the overpopulation problem in the Original Star Trek show, “The Trouble With Tribbles”, caused because of two “facts”: Humans find tribbles cute; tribbles are modest R-strategists.)

    To the extent that you desire that potential human persons be granted the same rights as actual human persons, you are indeed equating “potential” with “actual”. And my purpose in presenting the Part One – Part Two argument was/still-is to show how such an equating simply does not make sense. There is no reason to involve morals or ethics at all, when the irrationality of it is supposed to be obvious!

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 5:41 pm
  110. A quick preliminary reply to Anon Y Mous November 25, 2013 at 5:41 pm:

    I was using “natural law” exactly as you define it. My sentence was intended to eliminate the possibility that you might have meant “must” in the sense of natural law. I concluded, “So it can only be a moral ‘must.’” (Or what I had called in another context “a human-ethical must.”)

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 25, 2013 @ 10:27 pm
  111. As far as I can tell, you were not clarifying my Part One – Part Two argument at all; you were muddying it by interjecting notions such as “moral” or “ethical”. The word “must” doesn’t have to have anything at all to do with morals or ethics. It can be a Legal Requirement –and I’m sure you know of an example or two where the phrase “the Law is an ass” is a truism –the Law may itself be immoral or unethical!

    Well, a Legal Requirement is EXACTLY what Abortion Opponents want to put into place, with respect to Part One of the argument, and so I am completely free to use the word “must” to indicate that thing.

    The “must” in Part Two exists MOSTLY because of the Logical Necessity that the WORDING of Part Two be as identical as possible to the wording of Part One. But it is also there TO MAKE THE LOGICAL CONCLUSION SO BLATANTLY IRRATIONAL that one can only conclude that the conclusion of Part One has to be irrational, too, simply because the wording of the Logic in the two Parts is so similar.

    In other words, the “must” in Part Two ALSO has nothing whatsoever to do with “morals” or “ethics”. The goal is to get the reader to think about a violation of “common sense”.

    That’s all.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 25, 2013 @ 11:58 pm
  112. If I now understand correctly, you intended your “should/must” as neither a natural-law “should/must” nor an ethical “should/must,” but as a legal “should/must,” which would make “we should/must right now start treating . . .” the equivalent of “it is hereby decreed that we will start treating . . .” — right?

    If that is what you intended, one reason it was so hard for me to understand that is that legal definitions and decrees don’t normally include all the supporting logic that may be behind them — at least mine didn’t:

    “1. A person is defined as any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function, AND THAT BIOLOGICALLY OTHERWISE ALSO HAS SUCH POTENTIAL. The possession of full genetic information is understood to start at conception.”

    (No supporting logic, no pivotal “because” as in your One and Two. Similarly with the rest of my legal framework which you didn’t quote.)

    I said, “legal definitions and decrees don’t normally include all the supporting logic that may be behind them.” In the US Bill of Rights, we find one rare exception:

    “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

    Now in the case of that law, where the logic is written into the law, you might have an argument that this would necessitate any additional law that might be “necessary to the security of a free State.” But normally the supporting logic is not written into the law: the supporting law is in the realm of ethics.

    So when you wrote —

    =======================================
    As it happens, There Is A Much Simpler Way To Show That Any Anti-Abortion Argument Based On “Potential” Is Fundamentally Flawed. Here is the Logic:

    Part One:
    (A) This organism has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics that can distinguish a Person from an ordinary animal (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that organism like a person (and save it from any attempt to abort it).
    Part Two:
    (A) This Abortion Opponent has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) Because of that Potential, we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under).

    If the Logic is somehow flawed for Part Two, then that exact same Logic must also be flawed for Part One. Very Simple!
    =========================================

    — I was unable to recognize Part One as a paraphrase of my legal framework (which is what I now understand your intention to have been — right?). The key word or concept “because” was nowhere in my framework.

    Rather, it seemed clear to me that your Part One was intended as a paraphrase of THE LOGIC BEHIND my legal framework (quite different from the framework itself). And the logic behind any legal framework is . . . ethics. Your Part One – Part Two argument was only intelligible as an ethical argument (whether or not a good one).

    If in fact you want to say, “If there is a law —

    ‘we should right now start treating that organism like a person’

    — then there also has to be a law —

    ‘we should right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse'”

    — then you have to talk about the underlying ethics.

    And in fact, after my first reply to your One-Two, in which I cited ethics, you in turn replied:

    “More to the point, however, is that you focused on trivia, and not on the actual argument. I could have used the word ‘must’ instead of ‘should’, for example. After all, abortion opponents do in-essence claim that we must treat the unborn as persons –and they want the Law changed to enforce it.”

    Here your last “must” is clearly in the ethical context. Your last sentence shows how law PROCEEDS from something which is NOT law — what can that be if not ethics? So your “must” was an ethical “must.”

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 26, 2013 @ 9:15 am
  113. Either you STILL don’t understand what I am getting at, or you are deliberately trying to confuse the issue.

    Abortion Opponents WANT potential persons to be treated like actual persons. Therefore I can write the Part One as I did, using either “should” or “must” –but “must” is more forceful, and incorporates the fact that Abortion Opponents want the Law to be written to ensure they get the other thing they want, treating potential persons like actual persons.

    All I did in Part Two was show how the Logic of treating the “potential” like the “actual” works AGAINST Abortion Opponents. It is THEIR Logic that equates the “potential” with the “actual”. They therefore deserve to experience the full consequences of their Logic –OR they should consider abandoning that Logic. It really is Very Simple.

    Perhaps THAT is why you are blathering on about irrelevant “ethics” and “morals” stuff? You desperately don’t want to see your Logic punctured so thoroughly, because you have written so extensively about how “potential persons” should be equated with ‘actual persons”. It is always difficult to abandon a major emotional investment.

    Nevertheless, the Logical thing to do is to abandon the prior Logic, because it has been proved to be irrational. Would you really prefer to be laughed at for irrationality, than to admit you overlooked how the notion of equating the “potential” with the “actual” fits into the Big Picture?

    Well?

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 26, 2013 @ 10:46 am
  114. I’m a sensitive person, maybe over-sensitive. So whenever anyone opposes my position forcefully, I always at first sincerely think “Maybe I’m wrong, maybe I’m dumb.” Again, with you, I just had that experience. But in the end, if I really can’t see how I’m wrong or dumb, I have to ask the person to help me understand how I am.

    I’m not deliberately trying to confuse the issue, so either I STILL don’t understand what you are getting at, or it’s you who are not clear about something.

    If we are actually to resolve this, it seems the only way is to go very carefully step by step. Let’s get back to this dialogue:

    AYM: the real flaw, which is your original effort to equate “potential” with “actual”.

    Acy: Did I equate “potential” with “actual”?

    AYM: To the extent that you desire that potential human persons be granted the same rights as actual human persons, you are indeed equating “potential” with “actual”. And my purpose in presenting the Part One – Part Two argument was/still-is to show how such an equating simply does not make sense.

    “To the extent that you desire that potential human persons be granted the same rights as actual human persons, you are indeed equating ‘potential’ with ‘actual’.” Maybe this deduction on your part is where the problem lies. What if my legal framework does not imply a premise (call it “X”) that I’m equating “potential” with “actual”? I think I could state my premises (call them “Y”) this way:

    “The functions of developed humans hold a high value. An undeveloped human has the potential for those functions. Those functions will not become an actuality if the undeveloped human is killed. Therefore an undeveloped human should/must* not be killed. One vehicle for preventing its killing is to give it the same right to life as a developed human. This vehicle is advantageous in being non-discriminatory (satisfying NorthStar). Therefore an undeveloped human should/must* have the same right to life as a developed human.”

    * These are ethical “should/must’s”. Premises Y are ethical premises, and my legal framework is based on them.

    I think my legal framework does not imply premise X any more reasonably than it implies ethical premises Y. Would you agree? I’ll stop here.

    Related to what my real premise is: I don’t think I have ever said “potential (human) persons” except in referring to language used by someone else, and I don’t think I have ever said “actual (human) persons” at all — much less equated the two, except in terms of right to life, which doesn’t logically demand that they need to be equated otherwise.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 27, 2013 @ 1:56 am
  115. It is possible that I mistook the context in which you have used phrases such as “potential persons” (that it was you using it and not you referencing it). Nevertheless, with respect to your latest effort to present your legal framework, you still have a problem.

    The problem is in VALUATIONS. You are assuming that a human that has potential should/must/(whatever) be valued equally with humans that are exhibiting definitely-valued traits. I have elsewhere pointed out that THAT, the arbitrary positive valuation of potential, is a faulty thing, because you can’t know in advance if the result, the eventual actualization of potential, would be an Einstein or if would be a Hitler. An analogy to the goal of “abortion opponents overruling existing Law” might be the objections that were overruled (per arbitrary positive valuation of potential) when the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant was built –it appears to be another Fukushima waiting to happen.

    The logical result of the preceding is that one should NOT arbitrarily assign a positive value to a potential, unless the evidence is overwhelming that various negative possibilities are exceedingly unlikely. And since the Facts are that you cannot provide any such evidence with respect to the potential of unborn humans, you exhibit irrationality by arbitrarily equating their value with that of fully-developed humans. It is especially irrational when one remembers that All Valuations Are Relative, and that zygotes are extremely easy to replace, while fully-developed humans can be much more difficult to replace (but it depends on the culture; China has been heavily populated for thousands of years, and in that culture, it was normal for a peasant, when encountering a noble, to refer to self as “this worthless person” –because peasants were indeed easily replaced). With respect to Relative Valuations, the Law of Supply and Demand rules, period, and “ethics” or “morals” are entirely irrelevant to that FACT.

    So, in the end, it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you directly equate unborn humans with fully-developed humans, or if you instead value the potential of unborn humans equally with the actual abilities of fully-developed humans. You are still exhibiting the irrationality of, in essence, equating “potential” and “actual”. And so my Part One – Part Two argument is still entirely a valid refutation of that “equating”, by making its irrationality absurdly obvious.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 27, 2013 @ 3:58 pm
  116. Anon Y Mous: “it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you directly equate unborn humans with fully-developed humans, or if you instead value the potential of unborn humans equally with the actual abilities of fully-developed humans. . . . . And so my Part One – Part Two argument is still entirely a valid refutation of that ‘equating’, by making its irrationality absurdly obvious.”

    If you mean that this would work —

    ================================
    Part One:
    (A) This organism has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics that can distinguish a Person from an ordinary animal (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) SINCE THIS ORGANISM HAS THAT POTENTIAL, IT HAS ALL THE CHARACTERISTICS NOW.
    (c) Because IT HAS ALL THE CHARACTERISTICS NOW, we must right now start treating that organism like a person (and save it from any attempt to abort it).
    Part Two:
    (A) This Abortion Opponent has the Potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse (and it doesn’t matter when those characteristics begin being exhibited).
    (B) SINCE THIS A-O HAS THAT POTENTIAL, IT HAS ALL THE CHARACTERISTICS NOW.
    (C) Because IT HAS ALL THE CHARACTERISTICS NOW, we must right now start treating that Abortion Opponent like a corpse (and bury it six feet under).

    If the Logic is somehow flawed for Part Two, then that exact same Logic must also be flawed for Part One. Very Simple!
    ===============================

    — yes, I agree that would work. I would agree that if the logic of Part Two is flawed (which it is), the logic of Part One would also be flawed. And even without recognizing the identity of the two logics, I would agree they are both flawed.

    “The problem is in VALUATIONS. You are assuming that a human that has potential should/must/(whatever) be valued equally with humans that are exhibiting definitely-valued traits. I have elsewhere pointed out that THAT, the arbitrary positive valuation of potential, is a faulty thing, because you can’t know in advance if the result, the eventual actualization of potential, would be an Einstein or if would be a Hitler. . . . The logical result of the preceding is that one should NOT arbitrarily assign a positive value to a potential, unless the evidence is overwhelming that various negative possibilities are exceedingly unlikely.”

    Let’s say that only at the age of 15 is it possible to exclude the possibility that a child might become a Hitler. Would you say that, assuming there are reasons as good as what you consider acceptable reasons for abortion (any reason is sufficient?), it would be okay to kill that child any time before age 15?

    “. . . All Valuations Are Relative, and that zygotes are extremely easy to replace, while fully-developed humans can be much more difficult to replace. . . . With respect to Relative Valuations, the Law of Supply and Demand rules, period, and ‘ethics’ or ‘morals’ are entirely irrelevant to that FACT.”

    Here you seem to be saying that a person’s value is reducible to his utility value — skills, etc. Just day before yesterday I talked with a woman who has deeply studied the interactions between mothers and infants. She said that the smile of the infant often gives so much joy to the mother that she becomes “addicted” to it. A fully-developed human could not replace that.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 28, 2013 @ 6:57 am
  117. Let’s say that only at the age of 15 is it possible to exclude the possibility that a child might become a Hitler. Would you say that, assuming there are reasons as good as what you consider acceptable reasons for abortion (any reason is sufficient?), it would be okay to kill that child any time before age 15?
    ———————————–
    While I am quite aware that some of my arguments, employing various Scientific Facts about persons, can be used to promote such things as infanticide, there remains two additional Existing Facts, that the Law arbitrarily grants person status at birth, AND that rather few people are interested in changing the Law to more-closely-match the Scientific Facts (which would then allow infanticide). I am not one of those few.

    Even if I was, I could not support the notion you suggested about those younger than 15, because no matter how good or evil they might be, almost all of them older than 2 or 3 DO qualify as persons in accordance with the Scientific Facts. If one of the Generic Characteristics that distinguish persons from ordinary animals is the ability to mentally manipulate abstract symbols, then here is an article you probably should read: .csub.edu/~mault/symbols.htm (I’ve removed the initial http and www to bypass the link-moderation thing). Abortion is about killing NON-persons, remember? So why are you injecting talk about killing persons?

    Meanwhile, Abortion Opponents irrationally want to change the Law to INCREASE THE MIS-MATCH between the Law and the Scientific Facts about persons. Since I strive to be rational, I strongly oppose the irrationality of Abortion Opponents.

    ===================================
    “. . . All Valuations Are Relative, and that zygotes are extremely easy to replace, while fully-developed humans can be much more difficult to replace. . . . With respect to Relative Valuations, the Law of Supply and Demand rules, period, and ‘ethics’ or ‘morals’ are entirely irrelevant to that FACT.”

    Here you seem to be saying that a person’s value is reducible to his utility value — skills, etc. Just day before yesterday I talked with a woman who has deeply studied the interactions between mothers and infants. She said that the smile of the infant often gives so much joy to the mother that she becomes “addicted” to it. A fully-developed human could not replace that.
    ———————————-

    It is the Law of Supply and Demand that does the reducing of a person’s value in most everyday situations. I doubt that anyone likes that FACT, but it remains a fact regardless. After all, consider the Logic that would be associated with the notion that humans had “intrinsic” value. Such a valuation is by-definition Objective, not Subjective, and therefore should be inherently obvious to anything encountering a human. Thus tornadoes (and other things) would never kill humans, because tornadoes (and other things) would somehow recognize and defer to Intrinsic Value…. Such “Logic” actually shows that There Is No Such Thing As Intrinsic Value; it is a purely egotistical thing on the part of humans to claim otherwise.

    I would not deny the possibility that a baby’s smile could be considered a valuable thing by its mother. I DO deny the implication that just because such a value might be encountered in the future by a pregnant woman, the woman must be forced to carry the pregnancy to term. Can that smile always be converted into hard cash to pay for food, clothing, shelter, education, and so on, for 18 years? Hah!

    Which brings me to a Fundamental Hypocrisy exhibited by a lot of (but not all) Abortion Opponents. These are the “political conservatives” who also oppose Welfare, generally on the grounds that if Person A wants something, then Person A should pay for it. Person B should not be required to pay for it.

    Well, those political conservatives who also happen to be Abortion Opponents want all pregnancies to be carried to term, but I don’t see them all volunteering to pay all the costs (food, clothing, …) associated with what THEY want. No, they want OTHER people to pay for what they want!

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 28, 2013 @ 12:59 pm
  118. “While I am quite aware that some of my arguments, employing various Scientific Facts about persons, can be used to promote such things as infanticide, there remains two additional Existing Facts, that the Law arbitrarily grants person status at birth, AND that rather few people are interested in changing the Law to more-closely-match the Scientific Facts (which would then allow infanticide). I am not one of those few.”

    That makes your position, and the reasons for it, clear, thanks.

    “almost all of them older than 2 or 3 DO qualify as persons in accordance with the Scientific Facts. If one of the Generic Characteristics that distinguish persons from ordinary animals is the ability to mentally manipulate abstract symbols, then here is an article you probably should read: . . . Abortion is about killing NON-persons, remember? So why are you injecting talk about killing persons?”

    Earlier you had once written: “because there do indeed exist scientific qualifications for personhood. . . . For some of the details, search my Sept 27 post”

    I haven’t yet carefully read that post, so if it answers my following questions, no need to answer them again; I’ll try to read that post soon. But if it doesn’t answer them, I invite you to answer here:

    1. “the Generic Characteristics that distinguish persons from ordinary animals”: Does any scientist who uses those characteristics to distinguish adult persons from adult ordinary animals make it clear that according to him, human organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not persons (or that animal organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not animals)?

    2. Is there anything incorrect about this statement in my blog post “Personhood” —

    “. . . the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it. . . . it all boils down to intuition.”

    — ?

    Or as NorthStar said recently, “Again, I see no point in debating terminology.”

    Kristine: “The question of personhood leaves the realm of science for that of philosophy and moral ethics.”

    “consider the Logic that would be associated with the notion that humans had ‘intrinsic’ value. Such a valuation is by-definition Objective, not Subjective, and therefore should be inherently obvious to anything encountering a human. Thus tornadoes (and other things) would never kill humans . . .”

    I never ran across that def. of “intrinsic value;” out of curiosity, whose is that?

    Regarding what I consider a value other than utility value (or your supply and demand), I have not used the expression “intrinsic value,” but in reply to a commenter on “Personhood,” I said:

    “For a baby (a born baby), most people have a stronger protective instinct than for any other human being. And I think that those whose intuitions are developed will have exactly the same instinct for zygotes. (Possibly nature didn’t make that instinct as accessible as the infant-protection instinct because when the human race was still evolving, abortion hadn’t been invented.)”

    I think it’s a scientific fact that we all have such an instinct/intuition deep inside us, and that that is why the best def. of “person” refers to the zygote as the starting point. Science can’t presently prove that that intuition exists, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility that it may be a scientific fact.

    “Supply and Demand”: Sounds scientific. It’s possible to scientifically identify that which we demand. But WHY do we demand it? Intuition.

    Comment by Acyutananda — November 29, 2013 @ 2:21 am
  119. here is an article you probably should read: . . .

    Earlier you had once written: “because there do indeed exist scientific qualifications for personhood. . . . For some of the details, search my Sept 27 post”

    I haven’t yet carefully read that post, so if it answers my following questions, no need to answer them again; I’ll try to read that post soon.
    ————————————
    You should not need to read that entire Sept 27 post; your browser can search this whole page (Control-F) for the keyword I specified, to find the portion I was referencing. On the other hand, I can also state that the descriptions there are more “generic” than “specific”, while the “symbols” article I mentioned yesterday is rather more specific. Basically, though, the mental traits that humans possess, which distinguishes persons from ordinary animals, GROW into existence, and NONE of those traits begin to exist before birth –they are not even measurable for at least a few months AFTER birth, and some take longer than others (I mentioned “a year” when I brought up the “mirror test” in another post). The “symbols” article describes one of the last pieces of the personhood puzzle; the Sept 27 post is more of an overview.
    =====================

    Does any scientist who uses those characteristics to distinguish adult persons from adult ordinary animals make it clear that according to him, human organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not persons (or that animal organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not animals)?
    —————————————
    I don’t have data to exactly answer that question, because I don’t know which mind-researchers are also involved in the Abortion Debate. But, you have to keep in mind that different humans develop at different rates. There is NO specific point that applies to every human where you can say, “this important person-trait now exists”. (For the simplest proof, see the SEVERELY mentally handicapped, who never develop any person-traits.) But at least at birth it is possible to say, “no human has any of the person-traits at this point” –which means it is also possible to know that no unborn human can qualify as a person.
    =====================

    the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it. . . . it all boils down to intuition.”

    Or as NorthStar said recently, “Again, I see no point in debating terminology.”

    Kristine: “The question of personhood leaves the realm of science for that of philosophy and moral ethics.”
    —————————————

    You are certainly partly right, but keep in mind that Science Marches On. Pieces of the puzzle, regarding a Scientific Definition for personhood, DO exist (again, see that “symbols” article, and remember the mirror test). Also note that I wrote this, when describing the stuff in that Sept 27 post: “scientific qualifications for personhood … were semi-accidentally discovered, and are not widely known to be that thing, scientific qualifications for personhood”

    NorthStar is trying to completely ignore the fact that relevant facts do exist, and that arbitrary definitions can change as a result, just as they can change due to other factors. I can offer a specific example of Science causing a definition to change. “Arsenic” is a famous poison. The actual poison, however, is the chemical compound “arsenic trioxide”. This was not known at the time it became famous as a poison, however. Nowadays “arsenic” is the name of a particular chemical element (#33 in the Periodic Table). The old definition is still in the dictionary under “arsenic”, but it is no longer the primary definition.

    Kristine appears to be exhibiting “wishful thinking”, because, only by HOPING that Science would not March On through this field of study, could what-has-been-fully-true-in-the-past remain true in the future.

    So far as I know, the scientists have not formally gathered together to construct a whole definition. On another hand, however, remember that there ARE scientists who are focused on “SETI” the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence. If you were to ask those specific scientists about a definition of “person”, I could probably win a bet to the effect that WHATEVER definition they use would NOT be applicable to unborn humans!
    =====================

    “consider the Logic that would be associated with the notion that humans had ‘intrinsic’ value. Such a valuation is by-definition Objective, not Subjective, and therefore should be inherently obvious to anything encountering a human. Thus tornadoes (and other things) would never kill humans . . .”

    I never ran across that def. of “intrinsic value;” out of curiosity, whose is that?
    —————————————
    I was not presenting a definition so much as a Logical Consequence. I admit that “tigers” would have been a better choice to use than “tornadoes’, however. At least tigers have minds capable of making a DEGREE of value-judgments –a tiger can value a human as “meat”, food, while it won’t value tree-bark as food.

    The point remains that “intrinsic value” can’t exist.
    =====================

    “For a baby (a born baby), most people have a stronger protective instinct than for any other human being. And I think that those whose intuitions are developed will have exactly the same instinct for zygotes. (Possibly nature didn’t make that instinct as accessible as the infant-protection instinct because when the human race was still evolving, abortion hadn’t been invented.)”

    I think it’s a scientific fact that we all have such an instinct/intuition deep inside us, and that that is why the best def. of “person” refers to the zygote as the starting point. Science can’t presently prove that that intuition exists, but that doesn’t exclude the possibility that it may be a scientific fact.
    ————————————-
    This is ENTIRELY a result of the fact that we use “K-strategy” in our reproductive biology. But that doesn’t mean we have to enslave ourselves to that aspect of biology. Nor does it mean we must use it as an excuse to enslave those who resist enslavement to that aspect of biology.
    ===================

    “Supply and Demand”: Sounds scientific. It’s possible to scientifically identify that which we demand. But WHY do we demand it? Intuition.
    ———————————–
    No intuition needed. Only “selfishness” is needed. “I want.” One of the foundations of the economic theory called “capitalism” is that people have unlimited wants. And capitalism describes the consequences well enough (hallmark of a good theory) that “selfishness” is entirely adequate for explaining the existence of “Demand”.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 29, 2013 @ 12:27 pm
  120. “(Possibly nature didnt make that instinct as accessible as the infant-protection instinct because when the human race was still evolving, abortion hadn’t been invented.)”
    ————
    I should have made a specific reply to that. Look up the now-extinct plant “silphium”. The occasional desire to NOT carry a pregnancy to term has existed in humans for a long long time.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — November 29, 2013 @ 12:42 pm
  121. I have now read your Sept. 27 post and skimmed the “Symbols” article, as well as read your above two posts. I always appreciate the scientific information that you have at your disposal. You have shown in very interesting ways that small children have not realized and MAY never realize their full potential. But we will now have to see how relevant that is to a def. of “person.”

    “Science Marches On”

    Science is fantastic, but science cannot march around itself or over itself. That would be a logical impossibility and a scientific impossibility. Science is “the systematic study of the . . . physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Good scientists submit to science as so defined, they don’t try to change it. If science approaches the word “person,” which I hope it will, its observations will lead to a conclusion something like this: “‘Person’ was used such-&-such in the 16th century, such-&-such in the 18th century . . . in 1858, the Virginia Supreme Court opined that “the slave is not a person” . . . pro-choicers define it as X, pro-lifers define it as Y.” That would be scientific.

    You found this partly right:

    “A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it.”

    You and maybe others seem to be undertaking the effort to create a conventional definition for your own use (which might be useful for some purposes, but would not be the same as saying that a def. is correct). Regarding “others,” you had written that relatively-developed children “DO qualify as persons in accordance with the Scientific Facts.”

    And what are the scientific facts? You went on —

    “If one of the Generic Characteristics that distinguish persons from ordinary animals is the ability . . .”

    — suggesting strongly that it is a scientific fact that to be a person, one must (already) have those generic characteristics. But when I asked you —

    “Does any scientist who uses those characteristics to distinguish adult persons from adult ordinary animals make it clear that according to him, human organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not persons (or that animal organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not animals)?”

    — you replied —

    “I don’t have data to exactly answer that question, because I don’t know which mind-researchers are also involved in the Abortion Debate”

    — saying two things —

    1. As far as you know, you’re the only one using your def.

    2. No scientist would use that def. unless they were involved in the abortion debate

    — which strongly suggests that no one would come up with that def. unless they wanted to prove the pro-life position on personhood or the pro-choice position on personhood — and it’s clear which position that def. tries to prove.

    The logic behind the def. you (and others?) have devised seems to be:

    1. A person is a human being.

    2. A human being is defined by its species.

    3. Species are distinguished from one another by the unique characteristics of each.

    4. Therefore a person is defined by characteristics unique to its species, never mind the fact that the person had to start, inevitably, as an organism in whom those characteristics were still developing.

    Recently a commenter on my “Personhood” article quoted the classic article “A Defense of Abortion” —

    “A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree”

    — and I replied —

    “Language and the conceptualizations that interact with language get generated organically from among the masses of humanity. The word ‘acorn’ is a creation of the masses, and moreover a creation of the primitive masses. From a modern scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to call an acorn ‘the acorn stage of an oak tree,’ and would it not give us a fuller, less fragmented, and therefore more accurate view of an acorn to do so? And there is absolutely no reason not to call a zygote ‘the zygote stage of a person.'”

    In other words, why not look at the big picture?

    Here —

    http://liveactionnews.org/abortion-backer-melissa-harris-perry-life-begins-whenever-you-feel-like-it-does/

    — a TV personality named Melissa Harris-Perry is quoted as saying: “When does life begin? I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents.”

    A commenter responded:

    “If you think about it, the ‘I don’t want it to be human so it’s not’ argument is the only real way that abortion can exist. It is also the argument that has been used in the past to justify slavery, genocide, and many other ills. The logic behind this kind of reasoning is backwards, flowing from a conclusion, i.e. ‘I want abortion to be legal,’ operating on a true premise, ‘It is wrong to kill human beings,’ and creating a false premise, ‘The unborn aren’t human,’ to support the preconceived conclusion.”

    Please see also what my “Personhood” article says about socio-linguistic engineering, and see the remark by the president of Feminists for Life quoted therein.

    I have replied to the comment you made on my “Personhood and Citizenship” post.

    Comment by Acyutananda — December 1, 2013 @ 1:58 am
  122. I have now read your Sept. 27 post and skimmed the “Symbols” article, as well as read your above two posts. I always appreciate the scientific information that you have at your disposal. You have shown in very interesting ways that small children have not realized and MAY never realize their full potential. But we will now have to see how relevant that is to a def. of “person.”
    —————-
    Perhaps I should summarize the Meaning of the data presented in that Sept 27 post, regarding “feral children” and Koko the gorilla.

    Point One: The Potential for personhood exists as a matter of Biology (“Nature” over “Nurture”).
    Point Two: The Actuality of personhood exists as a result of significant mental stimulation during the first years after birth (“Nurture over “Nature”).

    Basically, “personhood” IS NOT AND NEVER HAS BEEN an INHERENT part of “human life”. It is an ACQUIRED characteristic of most humans (not all, though, such as the SEVERELY mentally handicapped). Since feral children do occasionally exist, it Logically Follows that there is no Universal Requirement that personhood be acquired. It is merely a Human Subjective Valuation that personhood should be acquired, useful for many human purposes. But NEVER is it Objectively Essential –as proved by the fact that humans existed as a species for over 100,000 years, before any of them began exhibiting personhood, per the paleontological/archaeological record. Humanity has spent more millennia existing as non-persons than it has spent existing as persons!

    So, those are the Real Most Relevant Scientific Facts about the personhood of humans, without even getting into the details of exactly what distinguishes persons from mere animals. Note I carefully phrased Point One and Point to to apply to Koko as well as the average human. We COULD, if we wanted, take EVERY newborn gorilla and raise them like Koko was raised. If you think the potential for personhood automatically deserves to be fulfilled, just because the potential exists, then, Logically, I would expect you to promote the human-style nurturing of gorillas, just as much as you promote the opposition of abortion. (I might also invite you to think very carefully about the generic concept that “some sort of potential deserves to be fulfilled JUST because it exists”, while standing at the top of a long staircase, down which you have the potential to fall and break your neck. Subjective human valuations are NOT Objective Truth.)
    ==============

    “Science Marches On”

    Science is fantastic, but science cannot march around itself or over itself. That would be a logical impossibility and a scientific impossibility. Science is “the systematic study of the . . . physical and natural world through observation and experiment.” Good scientists submit to science as so defined, they don’t try to change it.
    —————–
    I was simply using a phrase that means the same as “There Is On-Going Progress In Science”. New things keep getting discovered. That’s all. Some of those new things have turned out to be detrimental to arguments made by abortion opponents. That’s a Fact. In a different Universe with different Rules, Science might have discovered new things that were detrimental to arguments made by pro-choicers. But that is not what happened in THIS universe.
    =============

    If science approaches the word “person,” which I hope it will, its observations will lead to a conclusion something like this: “‘Person’ was used such-&-such in the 16th century, such-&-such in the 18th century . . . in 1858, the Virginia Supreme Court opined that “the slave is not a person” . . . pro-choicers define it as X, pro-lifers define it as Y.” That would be scientific.
    —————
    Actually, it would be Historical, a recitation of things that happened in the past. Science is about REPRODUCE-ABILITY. Any claim made in Science must be reproduce-able. Well, we KNOW that feral children can exist, and we KNOW precisely how they can exist, because the phenomenon has happened multiple times (been reproduced) over the centuries. It is of course considered unethical to today raise a child without providing the appropriate mental stimulation that would allow that child to acquire personhood. It MIGHT be equally unethical to fail to do that with gorillas. I say “might” because the example of Koko tells us that the result would be a bunch of toddler-class persons; gorillas don’t have the brainpower to become more than toddler-class. Would we therefore be doing them a favor, to convert them from “clever animals” into “toddler-class persons”? Maybe not….
    ==============

    You found this partly right:

    “A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it.”
    —————-
    In working on my reply to your “Personhood” article, I note that you included that in the article, and I have written a more-extensive reply. At THIS writing my overall reply to the article is not yet finished, though. It is very very long. I’m taking time out from it to reply to this much-shorter post of yours.
    =================

    You and maybe others seem to be undertaking the effort to create a conventional definition for your own use (which might be useful for some purposes, but would not be the same as saying that a def. is correct). Regarding “others,” you had written that relatively-developed children “DO qualify as persons in accordance with the Scientific Facts.”

    And what are the scientific facts? You went on –

    “If one of the Generic Characteristics that distinguish persons from ordinary animals is the ability . . .”

    – suggesting strongly that it is a scientific fact that to be a person, one must (already) have those generic characteristics.
    ——————-
    IT IS LOGICAL. Otherwise you are stupidly equating the Potential with the Actual.
    ===================

    But when I asked you –

    “Does any scientist who uses those characteristics to distinguish adult persons from adult ordinary animals make it clear that according to him, human organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not persons (or that animal organisms who have not yet developed those characteristics are not animals)?”

    – you replied –

    “I don’t have data to exactly answer that question, because I don’t know which mind-researchers are also involved in the Abortion Debate”

    – saying two things –

    1. As far as you know, you’re the only one using your def.
    —————
    POSSIBLY TRUE. Because I might be one of the most-informed-about-Science persons involved in the Overall Abortion Debate. But whether or not I am devising a new definition, the FACTS that I am using, in the process, cannot be changed by any of the blatherings of abortion opponents.
    ==============

    2. No scientist would use that def. unless they were involved in the abortion debate
    ————
    POSSIBLY TRUE AT THE PRESENT TIME. But consider the Future, if a definition such as what I have been working toward becomes widely acknowledged as being Factual and Logical. Lots of scientists could be expected to embrace it, just as they embrace other Facts and Logic.
    ===========

    – which strongly suggests that no one would come up with that def. unless they wanted to prove the pro-life position on personhood or the pro-choice position on personhood — and it’s clear which position that def. tries to prove.
    ————
    CONCLUSIONS ARE THE NATURAL RESULT of Facts and Logic. If you can provide different VALID Facts, and better Logic, you are welcome to reach different conclusions. So far as I’ve ever seen, though, NO abortion opponent has EVER been able to do that thing. Facts and Logic don’t care one whit about Opinions, remember.
    ===========

    The logic behind the def. you (and others?) have devised seems to be:

    1. A person is a human being.
    —————
    INACCURATE. A “person” is a “being”, and more specifically an “intelligent being”. “human” is irrelevant; it is a different concept than “person”. The result is that SOME humans qualify as persons, while others don’t.
    ==============

    2. A human being is defined by its species.
    ———
    FALSE. A human ORGANISM is defined by its species. This has nothing to do with personhood, except for the fact that IT SO HAPPENS that many human organisms have the potential to become persons. And gorillas have that potential, too. There is some evidence (disputed) that most dolphins may have entirely independently fulfilled a potential to become persons. Here is a link (you need to prepend the “http”, but NOT a “www”):
    europeanlifenetwork.blogspot.com/2012/02/dolphins-are-persons-with-right-to-life.html
    ============

    3. Species are distinguished from one another by the unique characteristics of each.
    ———–
    TRUE.
    ===========

    4. Therefore a person is defined by characteristics unique to its species, never mind the fact that the person had to start, inevitably, as an organism in whom those characteristics were still developing.
    —————–
    INACCURATE, if for no other reason than it excludes the possibility of existence of persons of the Artificial Intelligence persuasion. But it is also inaccurate because the ONLY thing that a species develops, relative to personhood, is Potential. The available Scientific Evidence is that appropriate Nurture is required for that potential to be fulfilled. (Since dolphins are quite-nurturing organisms, it Logically Follows that they could indeed fulfill a potential to achieve personhood.)
    =============

    Recently a commenter on my “Personhood” article quoted the classic article “A Defense of Abortion” –

    “A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree”

    – and I replied –

    “Language and the conceptualizations that interact with language get generated organically from among the masses of humanity. The word ‘acorn’ is a creation of the masses, and moreover a creation of the primitive masses. From a modern scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to call an acorn ‘the acorn stage of an oak tree,’ and would it not give us a fuller, less fragmented, and therefore more accurate view of an acorn to do so? And there is absolutely no reason not to call a zygote ‘the zygote stage of a person.’”
    ——————-
    FALSE, because you are assuming that the potential for personhood always gets fulfilled, that personhood automatically happens as a result of Growth — when the Available Scientific Facts are: It Does NOT Always Get Fulfilled (duh, see “miscarriage”), and it NEVER automatically happens all by itself (per the first part of this post).
    ==============

    In other words, why not look at the big picture?
    ———-
    I DO THAT. Which is why I have such a large collection of Facts at my disposal, while most abortion opponents only have blather at their disposal.
    ================

    Here –

    http://liveactionnews.org/abortion-backer-melissa-harris-perry-life-begins-whenever-you-feel-like-it-does/

    – a TV personality named Melissa Harris-Perry is quoted as saying: “When does life begin? I submit the answer depends an awful lot on the feeling of the parents.”
    ———————
    It actually depends on the definition of “life” (prepend the “http” only):
    abortion.procon.org/view.resource.php?resourceID=003914
    ==================

    A commenter responded:

    “If you think about it, the ‘I don’t want it to be human so it’s not’ argument is the only real way that abortion can exist. It is also the argument that has been used in the past to justify slavery, genocide, and many other ills. The logic behind this kind of reasoning is backwards, flowing from a conclusion, i.e. ‘I want abortion to be legal,’ operating on a true premise, ‘It is wrong to kill human beings,’ and creating a false premise, ‘The unborn aren’t human,’ to support the preconceived conclusion.”
    —————–
    MIS-USE OF “being”, as well as confusion of “person” and “human”. Tsk, tsk!
    ================

    Please see also what my “Personhood” article says about socio-linguistic engineering, and see the remark by the president of Feminists for Life quoted therein.

    I have replied to the comment you made on my “Personhood and Citizenship” post.
    ——————-
    And I have already responded to that reply. Meanwhile, I need to get back to my response to the “Personhood” article.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — December 1, 2013 @ 4:11 pm
  123. I should have posted this minor correction earlier.

    “Humanity has spent more millennia existing as non-persons (clever animals, like chimps and gorillas) than it has spent existing as persons!”

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — December 3, 2013 @ 5:50 am
  124. […] http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion/ […]

    Pingback by William Lane Craig and Arif Ahmed on the Moral Argument | michaelstheology — December 4, 2013 @ 4:19 pm
  125. […] to this website — http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion — Hitchens went on to reply “Yes” to the question whether he was a member of the pro-life […]

    Pingback by Personhood | No Termination without Representation — December 5, 2013 @ 1:00 am
  126. The above December 5, 2013 at 1:00 am comment is a line from my blog post “Personhood” that cites this page, but I have no idea what computer mistake by someone (possibly me?), caused it to get posted on this page. I would suggest that the moderator delete that comment, then this one.

    Comment by Acyutananda — December 5, 2013 @ 3:15 pm
  127. This is regarding Anon Y Mous’s December 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm & December 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm posts.

    My reply will be delayed another couple of days. Thereafter I will reply to your pair of comments on the “Personhood” article.

    Comment by Acyutananda — December 8, 2013 @ 2:49 pm
  128. No problem, except that I ask you don’t make the same mistakes as in that “Personhood” and other articles. Basically, the fundamental problem is that you (and just about all other Abortion Opponents) use language that implies a human is always a person, DURING the effort to prove that a human is always a person. That makes the argument “circular” and fallacious.

    As a case in point, when “being” can equal “person”, then to arbitrarily call a zygote a “human being” is to EQUALLY-arbitrarily call it a “human person”, see? While to simply call it “human” or “a human” is to accept its human-ness without automatically also calling it a person.

    I reiterate that everyone fond of such science-fiction shows as “Star Trek” and/or “Star Wars” is fully aware that the concept of “person” is separate and distinct from the concept of “human”. Even folks who like “fantasy/legendary” entities should be aware that the concepts are separate and distinct: To what extent do Arabian djinns, Chinese dragons, Middle-Earth orcs, and European brownies fail to exhibit traits that distinguish persons from ordinary animals?

    You are supposed to use OTHER means (than name-calling) to prove a human zygote is a person; would you attempt to prove that a horse is a person simply by CALLING it a “horse being”? What about the fictional TV character “Mister Ed”? If HE qualifies as a person, would all other horses automatically also qualify? Or, if Mister Ed is an exceptional case, then wouldn’t there exist some rationale why he qualifies and other horses don’t? But if some valid rationale can distinguish horses into person & non-person categories, then why could not an equivalent rationale exist for humans?

    Anyway, AFTER such proof is supplied/validated, that human zygotes qualify as persons, THEN it would be OK to call a human zygote a “human being”. But not before!

    p.s. I’m quite aware that the major effort you have made, to offer that proof, is based on equating “potential” and “actual”. Since I’ve done a thorough job of INvalidating that effort, showing it to be ridiculous/irrational, I hope you will try something else.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — December 9, 2013 @ 2:23 pm
  129. Thanks. I’ve read this latest. Considering our conversations on this website and another website, as a whole, there have by now been quite a few points of yours I would have liked to reply to or would still like to reply to, but I have a number of conversations going on, and it has not been possible to reply to all your points so far. I will probably have to select among those points. But I have read everything so far. Under some scenarios I might not even be able to read everything, and then would not be able to select. There are quite a few things you say that I consider to be of value, but I have time limitations.

    Comment by Acyutananda — December 10, 2013 @ 7:14 am
  130. Quite some time ago I wrote: “This is regarding Anon Y Mous’s December 1, 2013 at 4:11 pm & December 3, 2013 at 5:50 pm posts. My reply will be delayed another couple of days. Thereafter I will reply to your pair of comments on the ‘Personhood’ article.”

    Under the “Personhood” article, I ended up first replying to two other commenters. After a reply by Anon Y Mous to one of those two, I replied to Anon Y Mous. That reply can serve also as a partial reply to Anon Y Mous’s above-mentioned two posts on this page. See http://www.noterminationwithoutrepresentation.org/personhood/#comment-109

    Comment by Acyutananda — January 1, 2014 @ 3:25 pm
  131. Sorry, comment 112 on that page, not 109, is the one that is most relevant to this page also. See http://www.noterminationwithoutrepresentation.org/personhood/#comment-112

    Comment by Acyutananda — January 1, 2014 @ 5:49 pm
  132. I kinda lost the track on massive comments here, but I caught someone’s comment said a fetus is “guilty” of acting ‘like a parasite,’ or something. I thought it’s really strange.

    Well, if a fetus is truly parasite, then pregnancy is a disease. Medical scientists would have to figure how to remove the “parasitic” pregnancy off from the gender, that means all humans will not need children. But, all humans would require immortality for longer years, or they would need human clones in order to keep our human species going.

    If the pregnancy is really a disease, then a pre-born offspring should not have “its” health benefits to assist the mother’s body in the first place.

    Fetus = parasite = no health benefits.

    I seriously doubt anybody will say “congrats” to those pregnant persons if pregnancy is really ‘mostly’ unsafe, unhealthy, and tragic.

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — January 3, 2014 @ 5:22 pm
  133. You need to pay closer attention to what you read. “Acting like” is NOT the same thing as “is”. Besides, the unborn actually act WORSE than a typical true parasite. It is exactly as guilty of doing certain bad things as the average post-natal human is guilty of breathing.

    The next things you are not thinking about are the facts that (A) bad actions can be FORGIVEN, and (B) forgiveness is OPTIONAL. The result is that any woman who desires to carry a pregnancy to term is free to do so, and any woman who doesn’t should be equally free to do not.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — January 4, 2014 @ 1:46 am
  134. I said, “if”.

    Also, you said, “Besides, the unborn actually act WORSE than a typical true parasite.”

    How so?

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — January 4, 2014 @ 6:42 pm
  135. It does something bad, that ordinary parasites don’t. It infuses its host with addictive substances. Post-partum depression is what happens when the infusions stop, regardless of whether they end because of birth, or miscarriage, or abortion. Here’s a link (prepend the http but not the www)
    li123-4.members.linode.com/files/Addiction%20to%20Oestrogen%20and%20Progesterone.pdf

    Another link (prepend only the http): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_chorionic_gonadotropin

    And another link (prepend both http and www):
    .womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/depression-pregnancy.cfm

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — January 5, 2014 @ 12:30 pm
  136. Before I can reply, I notice that the third link is not working as it seems.

    Here’s probably correct link? Just want to make sure.
    http : // www. womenshealth .gov/ publications/ our-publications/fact-sheet/depression.pdf

    Comment by DarkCougar555 — January 5, 2014 @ 4:26 pm
  137. It appears that the final “.cfm” of that third link can be changed to “.html” and then it will probably work.

    Comment by Anon Y Mous — January 6, 2014 @ 12:21 am
  138. Glad I stumbled on this. As a lifelong atheist I’ve never understood the obligatory left/atheist view that denied any rights to a developing fetus. I can’t shut off my empathy for another being because they are hidden from view inside a host body.

    Comment by allan — January 15, 2014 @ 6:50 pm
  139. Hi Allan! I’m glad you stumbled upon our site too! Welcome to Pro-Life Humanists! I’d love to hear your story of how you became a pro-life atheist and how your views developed; I’ll send you an email later. I share your concern for the developing prenatal human and reject the elitist idea that women’s autonomy automatically trumps their offspring’s lives, just because they are older and bigger than they. ~ Kristine

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — January 15, 2014 @ 9:10 pm
  140. […] A SECULAR CASE AGAINST ABORTION By: Kristine Kruszelnicki The author does a great job systematizing the abortion debate […]

    Pingback by Pro-Life: A Secular Case | — February 5, 2014 @ 11:15 pm
  141. The “Personally pro-life – But don’t change the law” people are who really confuse me. To me it sounds like: “I personally don’t kill babies, but I want others to have the choice to do it.”. If this was applied to another injustice such as stealing or rape, few people would suggest wanting it to be legal.

    I don’t have any personal desire to actively change laws since I want to first work at making abortion unthinkable. Laws don’t have as much power as people like to think they do. Still, abortion will be illegal once people actually agree that it is immoral.

    Comment by Chandler Klebs — June 3, 2014 @ 1:27 am
  142. Obviously abortion will never become illegal until some people agree that it is immoral. But I think that some other people will never agree that it is immoral, or unthinkable, until it is illegal.

    On the YouTube “How Should Women Be Punished if Abortion Becomes Illegal?” (a Life Report podcast), Rebecca Haschke says (at 23:29), “I’ve talked to students on campus, though, when we talk about abortion . . . their reasoning for why abortion is okay is because the law says it’s okay. And I ask them should the law be what determines what is right and wrong, and they’ll be like ‘Well, yeah, it does.’ And then I cringe and I say, ‘Well, have we ever had laws that have been unjust?’ . . . the law does sometimes make people think — it influences people’s thoughts.”

    See also my Maureen Condic and LA Times quotes, in my November 28, 2013 at 1:39 pm comment under this blog’s “Full-Time Pro-Life Atheists” post.

    Comment by Acyutananda — June 6, 2014 @ 9:24 am
  143. […] […]

    Pingback by Now considers Sharia law - US Message Board - Political Discussion Forum — July 7, 2014 @ 12:28 pm
  144. […] atheists’ either. There are atheists who don’t bother with religious discussion or who don’t support abortion or gay […]

    Pingback by Why atheists CAN’T BE Republicans: I Disagree | Godless Cranium — July 10, 2014 @ 9:38 am
  145. […] […]

    Pingback by Pro-life Atheist? - Defending The Truth Political Forum — September 12, 2014 @ 8:45 pm
  146. Horton of Whoville thought that a person is a person, no matter how small. He was proven correct.

    Comment by Michael Van Nuland — January 25, 2015 @ 5:01 pm
  147. Right indeed!

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — March 4, 2015 @ 6:45 pm
  148. http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion/

    Comment by Rene Ronquillo — February 24, 2015 @ 3:03 am
  149. These were great points I hadn’t heard from a non religious person yet. The part you did leave out that makes pro choice the best option is neuro-development. A person in the early stages of development doesn’t have a brain with thoughts, motivations, and reactions to external stimuli that make us a person. They slowly develop body parts and the brain doesn’t even possess all functional parts til much later. Sure two cells come together and do Meiosis I and II then become a new cell that has the potential for life, but it’s just that; potential. Masurbating into a sock or a woman having a period is also preventing pregnancy just at an earlier stage. Terri shivo was a vegetable with no thoughts, motivations, or reactions to natural simuli. However, she lived outside the whom and the family felt really bad about pulling the plug, but they did anyway because she wasn’t the person they knew and cherished. So the question remains do you think there is some spiritual awakening when sperm meets egg and that specific cell needs to be un messed with until the mother micarries or gives birth? Or do you think when a person can live outside the whom, and is able to develop thoughts and experiences they become a person? I don’t think you can take a completely non spirtual view on pro life because the same problem comes up whether you believe sperm meeting egg means you are a person, or that after 20 weeks when you’re nuerodevelopment is far enough along, you are a person. The first is spiritually based and the second is science based. What do you choose?

    Comment by Zane — October 28, 2015 @ 7:23 pm
  150. Zane, thanks for sharing your thoughts! Indeed a lot of people feel that way when it comes to consciousness and brain development.

    Here’s my thoughts on the matter: the evidence of biology demonstrates that human development is a gradual thing, and our brain capacity likewise isn’t like a light switch that turns on one day – it’s more like a dimmer switch that develops as our brains create more and more neurons. In fact, full brain maturity isn’t achieved until we’re approximately 25 years old. We know from studying young infants that their degree of self-awareness is vastly different to those of older children and that it’s not until roughly 18 months that children possess a concept of “I” as a continuing self apart from their mother. Furthermore, our degree of consciousness and awareness even as born humans can vary drastically over the course of our lives, including times when we’re under general anesthesia, in temporary coma, or on certain awareness enhancing or diminishing drugs…

    It’s precisely because I don’t believe in souls or spirits that i can’t accept this dualistic idea of my body vs the “real me”. I don’t have a body, I am a body. My brain may be the source through which I can currently understand my existence and that of the world around me, but I am nonetheless a whole organism which is organized by the brain. Brain is one part of a human body, and consciousness is simply one function of that brain. In other words, consciousnes is something that the brain does, and the brain is a vital part of a larger human organism, but consciousness cannot exist without brain, nor brain without body. Human consciousness is a function of a human body.

    Consequently, doesn’t it make more sense to value the functioner over the function? It is the human body who will eventually develop the human functions that we admire and value. That the brain in a young fetus is not yet developed enough to experience conscious awareness is not a matter of WHAT s/he is, but of HOW OLD s/he is. We don’t write off infants because they can’t currently reproduce or do calculus, and neither ought we be writing off those who aren’t old enough yet to exhibit or experience conscious awareness as fully as the rest of us do.

    While we can debate the merits of Terry Schiavo’s death by starvation (her brother and parents fought against her husband on it because they believed she was conscious and reacting, just not in ways that others found significant) there is as much of a difference between “brain-dead” and “brain-not-yet developed” as there is between “cripple” and “can’t-yet-walk” or as there is between “infertile” and “hasn’t reached puberty”. Younger human bodies don’t need to be exhibiting the complete fullness of all human function to nevertheless be what they are from the moment of sperm-ovum fusion: human bodies.

    Let’s not discriminate against the young because they can’t do what older humans can do. At very least, let’s not justify killing them for their current lack of functions, thereby ending their opportunity to achieve all future development.

    Comment by Kristine Kruszelnicki — December 9, 2015 @ 3:28 am

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