Life Begins at Conception

George Weigel writing for NewsWeek points out what we’ve known as a scientific fact for decades:  that human life begins at conception and any other suggested point for its beginning is arbitrary:  http://www.newsweek.com/id/155564/output/print.  This is not a matter of religious faith, but cold hard science.

In my opinion, anyone running for President who thinks that such a fact is “above his pay grade” ought not be seeking the highest political pay grade in the world.

153 replies
  1. Mathew says:

    I think, well and truly, the issue of human life is never the question nowadays and hasn’t been for sometime. As soon as the egg is fertilised, there is no question as to the humanity and lifefulness of what is now formed.

    The issue that modern day moralists bring to the table is the question of personhood and when an embryo achieves this status, and then only assigning rights when this status is reached.

    Ethicist Peter Singer argues along these lines. To those we attribute personhood, we by law attribute basic rights … or something to that effect.

    Seems to me that such ethicists as Singer simply try to redefine the argument in order to avoid accountabilities that they’d rather not face up to.

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  2. Plumb Bob says:

    The issue that modern day moralists bring to the table is the question of personhood and when an embryo achieves this status, and then only assigning rights when this status is reached.

    The interesting thing about this argument is that the same people making it will argue on other topics that religion unnecessarily introduces philosophical questions where the matter ought to be handled by science. The roles are reversed here: if one assumes along with our culture that taking innocent life inherently is wrong, then the only remaining question is a biological one, not a philosophical one — and the Peter Singers of the world are unnecessarily introducing philosophy where biology gives us a clear and unambiguous answer. By the way, I agree that they do it to avoid accountability.

    Any argument that reduces the humanity of any person on the basis of any criterion other than species troubles me deeply, and pushes us down an alarmingly steep slope from which there’s seldom any return without disaster.

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  3. Charlotte says:

    Taking the life away from something that is living no matter what the stage of growth, is still called murder. It amazes me how these same people that are in agreement to killing an unborn human being are also the same people that will have a spastic over a beached whale in order to save its life! Come on people human life is much more important than a beached whale. I am not saying the whale is not important by no means. We need to realize that killing a baby in the mother’s womb or out of the womb as far as that goes, is pure and simple, MURDER! If you do not want a baby…….keep your clothes on!

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  4. Tim D. says:

    Any argument that reduces the humanity of any person on the basis of any criterion other than species troubles me deeply, and pushes us down an alarmingly steep slope from which there’s seldom any return without disaster.

    Blah, blah, blah, the sky is falling, oh, no….here we go again….

    So you’re telling me that you equate a Zygote with a fully-developed human being? That, if given a choice between saving the life of a grown woman (or man) and that of saving a zygote, you’d actually have to think about it? A Zygote is not conscious; a Zygote has no feelings, no sensations, no opinions. A Zygote is just that — an unformed, immature embryo.

    “Oh, but Tim — a Zygote is human! That means it’s murder to kill a zygote!”

    I’ll agree that to force a woman to abdicate her Zygote is probably wrong, insofar as she wants to keep it and mature it into a fully-developed human baby. But who am I to stop her from deciding against that course of action? It’s her body, and it is her zygote; unless the father is bent on keeping the child and maturing it, I see no issue here.

    Your problem is, you’re confusing the quality of life with the simple fact that it is. Yet another reason I can’t get with the Christian dogma; refusal to acknowledge the quality or intensity of life. To you, life is life and that’s it — you’d kill a grown woman if it meant you could save the immature zygote. And yes, leaving a mother to die from childbirth complications is murder, if we are to believe your logic — to knowingly force a woman to carry a child to term that can or will endanger her health is no less devious than to willfully “kill” a fetus, by your own argument.

    See, where I come in is where the Zygote may technically be “human” in the sense that it may one day mature into a fetus….but if I were given the choice between saving the life of a mother whose pregnancy might cause her irreparable harm or permanent damage (or death) and the extreme risk of forcing her to carry that zygote to term, I’d allow her to terminate the pregnancy.

    I love how all of this is so easy for you to just pick and choose, to just slap a label on and move on. If only life were really that simple!

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  5. Tim D. says:

    P.S. See, another thing you guys don’t seem to grasp is that there are zero women who just wake up one day and think, “You know what? I think I’m gonna go get an abortion!” And then that’s it, and there’s no aftermath. Abortion is never, ever, ever a first choice—nobody without an extreme medical condition is capable of that level of disconnect, simply because of the hormonal processes involved. You villainize the women who would undergo such a procedure….and to me, that’s absolutely villainous.

    What you need to do is stop complaining about the fact that women get abortions, or use the morning after pill. What you need to do is listen to the actual reasons women do these things. There are reasons, you know; it’s not an impulse thing; “Hey, it’s a weekend, let’s all go get abortions, yay!” If you were actually listening to women for whom abortion/termination is an option, you would understand that it’s much, much deeper of an issue than “Oh, that’s Biblically wrong, so don’t do that!” If it were that simple, it wouldn’t be a discussion.

    But here I go again, telling Christians to withhold their judgment just long enough to try and understand where their opponents are coming from. Silly me!

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  6. RC Metcalf says:

    Tim,

    As soon as you begin using the term “quality of life” I’m left to wonder just who it is that decides how much quality a life must have for it to be deemed worthy to live. I have good friends who have a delightful little boy with Down’s syndrome. I suspect, on your criteria (whatever they may be), such a child would be deemed to have a lower “quality of life” than his mother, and hence could have been terminated by her at will, if she had so chosen. After all, at one time, he was her “zygote” (another term that wipes the humanity of the child out of the picture).

    Also, not to shock you or anything, but there actually are women who use abortion as a means of birth control, freely practicing their lacivious desires, knowing that they can easily have a baby terminated after the (f)act.

    Best,
    RC

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  7. Andrew Ryan says:

    “there actually are women who use abortion as a means of birth control”

    Yes, there are always a minority who abuse our freedoms.

    There are people who hit their children for their own pleasure. Does that mean that the state should forbid parents to administer smacks to their children for any reason?

    There are people who buy guns to commit crimes. Does that mean we should ban all guns?

    BTW, I notice you never responded on ‘Atheist Diversionary Tactics’ when I answered your request for references to reply to your Mark Steyn link.

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  8. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I suspect, on your criteria such a child would be deemed to have a lower “quality of life” than his mother”

    RC, you already performed such a calculation yourself when you deemed gays as being ‘worth less’ than straights, given that they don’t have children. Neither do Downs Syndrome children. Do you apply the same criteria to your friends’ delightful little boy?

    If each life is worthwhile on its own terms, why judge them by how many children they can produce?

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  9. Tim D. says:

    As soon as you begin using the term “quality of life” I’m left to wonder just who it is that decides how much quality a life must have for it to be deemed worthy to live. I have good friends who have a delightful little boy with Down’s syndrome. I suspect, on your criteria (whatever they may be), such a child would be deemed to have a lower “quality of life” than his mother, and hence could have been terminated by her at will, if she had so chosen. After all, at one time, he was her “zygote” (another term that wipes the humanity of the child out of the picture).

    (1) Quality of life is not objective. It is subjective. There is no “objective” way to decide whose life is “more valuable” than others. It entirely depends on a number of factors, particularly the will of the mother and the condition and level of development of the child (i.e. is it a zygote, or is it a developed child? and so on and so forth).

    (2) To say that “he was at one time a zygote” does not “wipe out the humanity of the child.” That’s ridiculous 0_0 A zygote is not the same thing as a child simply because it becomes a child (potential =/= what it actually is). Would you bury a zygote if it were miscarried or menstruated? Would you hold a funeral, or print an obituary?

    Look, part of the reason we value life so much is because we have an emotional attachment to it. If you have so strong of an emotional attachment to a zygote that you would perform the aforementioned services, then I’m not one to stop you. But you and I are in no place to judge someone who is not attached to this cell, and decides not to completely break down when something happens to it. Now, if a woman has been nurturing a fetus in her womb for months, and it miscarries, and she freaks out, I can understand the reaction there because she has grown attached to it (as a mother is genetically inclined to do), and has begun to realize her responsibility to care for it.

    Ah, I can already hear you asking: “Well, if life is only as important as our emotional attachments to it, then that means I can go around killing people that I’m not attached to, right?”

    To that, of course, I have to say “wrong.” Never did I try to say that life is only as valuable as the emotional attachment one has to it. Actually, I’m accusing you of using this rationale to enforce why you believe a zygote is somehow equivalent with a human child.

    Reply
  10. Tim D. says:

    Also, not to shock you or anything, but there actually are women who use abortion as a means of birth control, freely practicing their lacivious desires, knowing that they can easily have a baby terminated after the (f)act.

    Not to shock you or anything, but there are Christians who kill people because they believe God told them to, or because the church they decide to shoot up is “too liberal.”

    But seriously, getting back on topic: you would deprive service to women who are in serious need of said services, because of someone else’s lack of responsibility?

    Interestingly, I’ve never met a woman who has abortions as freely as most women use birth control. Do you know why? Because I don’t ask. It’s none of my business, unless it’s my girlfriend getting the abortion (for obvious reasons). As far as I’m concerned, the only people who have a say in such matters are the mother and the father.

    Reply
  11. Bob Perry says:

    As far as I’m concerned, the only people who have a say in such matters are the mother and the father.

    Tim, would you have applied this same argument toward slavery? I.e. — the only people who have a say in such matters are the slaveholder and the person from whom he purchased his “property.”

    Reply
  12. Plumb Bob says:

    So you’re telling me that you equate a Zygote with a fully-developed human being?

    …Your problem is, you’re confusing the quality of life with the simple fact that it is.

    This is indeed my “problem,” as you put it. Only, it’s not a “problem,” it’s an “argument.”

    “Zygote” is equated with “fully-developed human being” on one criterion, and one only, but it’s the only relevant criterion for this discussion: is it human?

    “Human” denotes species. Terms like “zygote,” “fetus,” “infant,” “adolescent,” and “adult” denote stage of development. To say something as silly as “It’s not human, it’s a zygote” is to confuse categories, which produces nonsense like “do you walk to school, or carry your lunch?” It’s a human zygote.

    The obvious problem with making life-or-death decisions using a criterion like “stage of development” is that the question of which stage deserves to live is completely arbitrary. It’s only jokingly argued (albeit with good reason) that adolescents are not human, but it’s been seriously argued that infants and toddlers are not human, and might be killed by their parents for good reasons like “caring for this infant is too difficult for me” (usually with special needs infants). And it’s only a matter of time before serious arguments are raised about whether the excessively elderly are truly human as well. Allow life-or-death decisions on this criterion or any one like it, and holocausts inevitably follow — in actual practice. It’s happened before. It can happen here.

    It’s her body, and it is her zygote; unless the father is bent on keeping the child and maturing it, I see no issue here.

    While I find it remarkable and gratifying that at long last, an abortion advocate has conceded at least that the father’s opinion counts in the matter, you’ve also lapsed into the realm of pre-1840s chattel slavery with “it’s her zygote.” It’s been at least that long since it’s been permissible to talk of one human being owning another to the point of it being legal to take that other human’s life.

    Reply
  13. Plumb Bob says:

    there are Christians who kill people because they believe God told them to, or because the church they decide to shoot up is “too liberal.”

    Yes — and they appropriately get sent to maximum-security hospitals for the criminally insane. Since you’re clearly attempting to draw a parallel between these and women who use abortion as birth control, are you saying women who use abortion as birth control should likewise be incarcerated in institutions for the criminally insane?

    If not, what was your point?

    Interestingly, I’ve never met a woman who has abortions as freely as most women use birth control. Do you know why? Because I don’t ask.

    What a truly enlightened response to a moral question!

    I should warn you, though, this approach did not work out so well for the German citizens who lived a mile or two from the crematorium at Bergen-Belsen.

    I’m not trying to call you a Nazi, but simply pointing out that if there is a valid moral issue at stake, “I didn’t ask” is a cowardly evasion, not a valid argument. I’m hoping you’ll agree that we both should do better than that.

    Reply
  14. Andrew Ryan says:

    I have to admit that I agree with the Bobs on that being a poor argument – if you believe it’s immoral, then being told “it’s the parents’ choice” won’t be convincing. I always think it’s a lame argument when parents defend circumcising baby boys as being ‘the parents’ choice’. If something is immoral, then another’s choice is irrelevant.

    ““Human” denotes species.”
    ‘Human’ is not the same as ‘human being’. My sperm are ‘human’ – they certainly aren’t any other species. But like a 4-day-old zygote, they have no heartbeat, brain activity, nervous system etc.

    Reply
  15. Bob Perry says:

    I have to admit that I agree with the Bobs on that being a poor argument

    Well, at least you’re being intellectually honest. That’s commendable. So now the question is this: How do you differentiate between a “4 day-old zygote” and a 4 month-old fetus?

    My argument is that an embryo is not a thing, it is a stage in the development of a thing — namely a human person. If that is true, there is no morally justification for killing it. Conversely, if it’s not, it requires no more justification than pulling a tooth.

    My argument is that the embryo has value intrinsic to what it is, not to what it can do.

    It is interesting that folks either avoid such a question by claiming it is “above his pay grade” (Obama) OR proclaim their (like the Clintons) desire to lessen the number of abortions (the old mantra “safe, legal and rare”). The question then becomes, “Why reduce the number of abortions?” If the “thing” in question is not a human person, there is no moral necessity to reduce the number of abortions.

    It seems to me that those who make such an argument are tacitly admitting the humanity of the embryo — and I return to my claim. If it is human, there is no way to justify killing it. If it’s not human there is no need to worry about how many times one of these “things” is eliminated.

    How would you respond?

    Reply
  16. Andrew Ryan says:

    “My argument is that the embryo has value intrinsic to what it is, not to what it can do.”

    RC and others make exactly the opposite argument when damning feminists and gays for not having any or enough children. My daughter is a person unto herself – she doesn’t need to have kids in a couple of decades time to justify her existence. Can you be intellectually honest enough to admit that?

    “(like the Clintons) desire to lessen the number of abortions (the old mantra “safe, legal and rare”). The question then becomes, “Why reduce the number of abortions?””

    The Clintons don’t deny that it’s better that there are fewer abortions. Parts of Ireland banned abortion. All that happened is girls went to backstreet abortionists, or came to England. You may not like a pragmatic solution, but what would you prefer -
    1) GOP government that talked up pro-life, but actually saw a rise in abortions under its tenure
    2) A Dem gov that allowed ‘safe, legal’ abortions, while reducing the social factors that lead to abortions, so that the number of abortions is reduced.

    This is your actual choice by the way – it’s not hyperthetical.

    “How do you differentiate between a “4 day-old zygote” and a 4 month-old fetus?”

    The presence of brain activity, heart beat, nervous system, and many other similar factors. Perhaps this is what Obama was alluding to – he doesn’t have the medical knowledge to answer fully.

    Your next question may be ‘where do you draw the line?’. Why at X weeks, not X weeks + 1 day. But you could ask the same about any age-related law – marriage, voting, gun ownership etc. We know someone doesn’t become a different person on the day of any birthday, but the law has to work on something. Why not go the Monty Python route and declare ‘Every sperm is sacred’?

    More intellectual honesty from you now:
    1. Do you oppose circumcision of baby boys for reasons of non-medical emergency? If not, why not?
    2. Do you support banning parents from smacking their children? If not, would you agree that all things being equal, it would be better if situations where parents had to smack their child were avoided? In other words to you think that smacking should be allowed in dire circumstances, while admitting that it’s best kept to a minimum?

    I’m not saying any of your answers to the above are right or wrong – I’m just interested in if you apply consistency to your arguments.

    Reply
  17. Andrew Ryan says:

    “If it’s not human there is no need to worry about how many times one of these “things” is eliminated.”

    The trauma it causes the mother is another factor for wishing to reduce numbers of abortions. It’s best to keep down numbers of ANY medical procedure.

    Also, saying that a mother has more worth than a zygote is not to say that the zygote has no worth at all.

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  18. Bob Perry says:

    RC and others make exactly the opposite argument when damning feminists and gays for not having any or enough children. My daughter is a person unto herself – she doesn’t need to have kids in a couple of decades time to justify her existence. Can you be intellectually honest enough to admit that?

    I don’t know what this has to do with abortion (the topic of this thread) and I doubt that this is an argument that RC or “others” make when discussing this issue. If it is you need to take it up with them but as you stated it here, I don’t see any relevance to the discussion.

    The presence of brain activity, heart beat, nervous system, and many other similar factors. Perhaps this is what Obama was alluding to – he doesn’t have the medical knowledge to answer fully.

    First, your criteria are arbitrary. The SCIENTIFIC fact is that the embryo is a complete, integrated, functional human person from the moment of conception. Nothing changes between the human person that is formed then and the human person that you, for instance, are now except: its size, its level of development, its environment, and its degree of dependency — and none of these four are valid criteria for declaring it a non-person.

    Second, even if I allow that we aren’t sure of this (as in Obama’s cowardly stance), prudence dictates that we don’t kill it. If you were about to demolish a building and, just as you were about to push the plunger someone said they thought they saw someone in one of the windows — do you push the plunger anyway? I hope not. You err on the side of caution to protect life because life has intrinsic value that is worth protecting.

    Why at X weeks, not X weeks + 1 day. But you could ask the same about any age-related law – marriage, voting, gun ownership etc. We know someone doesn’t become a different person on the day of any birthday

    Irrelevant. These are examples of age-related criteria that define when persons are deemed legally responsible for their own actions. They are not criteria by which others are declared eligible to decide whether or not we should be justified inflicting mortal harm upon them without their consent.

    The trauma it causes the mother is another factor for wishing to reduce numbers of abortions. It’s best to keep down numbers of ANY medical procedure.

    What do you mean by “trauma”? If you mean that the mother’s life is at risk (VERY rare by the way), then yes, a decision has to be made about which human person to save. But this is in favor of my view that human persons are valuable and should be protected, not killed. It does not support the view you seem to hold.

    If by “trauma” you mean mental anguish or some such definition then what you are saying is that one person’s psychological difficulties warrant taking another person’s life. Is that really a position you want to defend?

    Reply
  19. Bob Perry says:

    I said:

    But this is in favor of my view that human persons are valuable and should be protected, not killed. It does not support the view you seem to hold.

    I apologize if in advance it that sounded nasty. What I meant to say is that my position in a rare case such as this is perfectly consistent with my view that ALL human life is worth protecting in virtue of its intrinsic value. I should not be characterizing your view. I’ll leave that to you.

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  20. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I don’t know what this has to do with abortion”

    It’s completely relevant. It’s judging people on the criteria of how many kids they will produce, rather than seeing them as intrinsically valuable in their own right. Is that clearer?

    “none of these four are valid criteria for declaring it a non-person.”
    I would say your dismissal of these criteria are arbitrary.

    “The SCIENTIFIC fact is that the embryo is a complete, integrated, functional human person ”
    Cite this SCIENTIFIC fact please. How are you defining ‘complete’, and ‘functional’?

    “If by “trauma” you mean mental anguish or some such definition then what you are saying is that one person’s psychological difficulties warrant taking another person’s life. ”
    It specifically addressed your question:
    “Why reduce the number of abortions?” If the “thing” in question is not a human person, there is no moral necessity to reduce the number of abortions.”
    Answer: to reduce mother’s trauma.

    Reply
  21. Andrew Ryan says:

    “and I doubt that this is an argument that RC or “others” make when discussing this issue.”

    It is exactly the argument that RC recently made in his blog here, ‘Atheist Diversionary Tactics’. I’ve heard many other Christians make it too. Feminism and homosexuality is dammned for leading to a lower birth rate. (it’s nonsense on a scientific level too by the way, but that’s a separate argument).

    My point is that this is inconsistent with their ‘all human life valuable on its own terms’ argument. If you wish to distance yourself from their argument, then I am delighted.

    Reply
  22. Plumb Bob says:

    RC and others make exactly the opposite argument when damning feminists and gays for not having any or enough children. My daughter is a person unto herself – she doesn’t need to have kids in a couple of decades time to justify her existence. Can you be intellectually honest enough to admit that?

    1) It’s not a position I’ve ever heard anybody defend before. Please show me an example of somebody saying gays or young women have no right to exist if they don’t reproduce.

    2) Positing existence as a sufficient basis for worth, does not imply that there exist no positive obligations of personhood. We have intrinsic value as God’s sentient creation — but we’re expected to obey moral laws. God loves us because we exist, but wants us to do good. There’s no contradiction there.

    3) There you go with insulting your opponents again: “Can you be intellectually honest enough…” You should read your comments to yourself as though somebody were saying them to you, to pick out any embedded insults, as “insult” seems to be your default setting.

    Reply
  23. Andrew Ryan says:

    Plumb Bob, I wasn’t talking to you. I believe you are here only to be rude. “Can you be intellectually honest enough…” is in context of other Bob saying to me “Well, at least you’re being intellectually honest.”. I was saying ‘can you apply the same standard in return’. It’s up to him to complain.

    “Please show me an example of somebody saying gays or young women have no right to exist if they don’t reproduce.”
    Strawman – that’s not what I said.

    Reply
  24. Bob Perry says:

    “Can you be intellectually honest enough…” is in context of other Bob saying to me “Well, at least you’re being intellectually honest.”. I was saying ‘can you apply the same standard in return’. It’s up to him to complain.

    Andrew: I’m not sure if I insulted you by saying you were being intellectually honest. If I did, that was not my intent. I meant it as a compliment. I would hope that I, too, would be intellectually honest enough to admit when someone else has made a good point — as you did above. If we can’t do that, there is no point in discussing these things.

    No time to address your latest right now … but I will.

    Cheers …

    Reply
  25. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Andrew: I’m not sure if I insulted you by saying you were being intellectually honest. ”

    Bob Perry, I didn’t take it as an insult. And even if I’d read the possibility of one, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. Similarly I was not insulting you in return. In fact I was enjoying having a civilised discussion with you. Perhaps Plumb Bob just dislikes such discussions and tries to stir things up.

    Part of me is tempted to explain to Plumb Bob the difference between what I said about RC’s argument, and what he accuses me of saying. But I think it would be a waste of time.

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  26. Tim D. says:

    Tim, would you have applied this same argument toward slavery? I.e. — the only people who have a say in such matters are the slaveholder and the person from whom he purchased his “property.”

    Wrong again. Slave =/= zygote. Again, you resort to dehumanizing human beings by comparing them to single cells and calling them equal.

    “Zygote” is equated with “fully-developed human being” on one criterion, and one only, but it’s the only relevant criterion for this discussion: is it human?

    Is it human? It’s part of a human. By that logic, my skin is human. So if I get a sunburn and my skin peels, that makes me an abortionist? Hardly.

    You can shout “zygotes are people, too” from the rooftops until the cows come home, it doesn’t make the issue any simpler.

    While I find it remarkable and gratifying that at long last, an abortion advocate has conceded at least that the father’s opinion counts in the matter, you’ve also lapsed into the realm of pre-1840s chattel slavery with “it’s her zygote.” It’s been at least that long since it’s been permissible to talk of one human being owning another to the point of it being legal to take that other human’s life.

    Again, semantics. See, you’re not arguing with the things I’ve said here; in the cases where you are, I do my best to respond promptly. What you’re doing here is the tried-and-failed method (popular among Evangelicals, I hate to note) of bending my statements to your own personal “morality” and then re-applying them to me. I did not say that a zygote is a human; you assert that it is and then apply that definition to what I said, as if it reflected what I actually believe.

    You make a leap and act as though I’m classifying zygotes as humans, and you seem to be insisting that I’m advocating the murder of a “human being” in the right of a mother to terminate her pregnancy. That’s fine if you feel that way, but parroting hard beliefs isn’t going to get either of us anywhere if we want to actually discuss this. But whatever; to each his/her own.

    Yes — and they appropriately get sent to maximum-security hospitals for the criminally insane. Since you’re clearly attempting to draw a parallel between these and women who use abortion as birth control, are you saying women who use abortion as birth control should likewise be incarcerated in institutions for the criminally insane?

    You obviously missed the point (although perhaps I’m partially to blame for that, given a particularly extreme example). The idea is that there are people on both sides of the equation, and that one person who does something carelessly (or “evil” or “wrong,” from your perspective) does not automatically negate the viewpoints of all people who share philosophy with that person. The example was like this:

    (1) You say there are women who use abortion like birth control, and therefore on that basis no women should be afforded the means to terminate their pregnancy.

    (2) By that same logic, you could also say that there are people who shoot up churches for being “too liberal,” and yet they are Christian; therefore on that basis all Christians should be deprived of their right to worship. I mean, see what being Christian makes you do?

    Correlation=/=causation. Your “argument” here is nothing more than a cheap shot and a sound byte, and it does nothing to the end of resolving the matter.

    I should warn you, though, this approach did not work out so well for the German citizens who lived a mile or two from the crematorium at Bergen-Belsen.

    Ah, I should’ve remembered Godwin’s law before I came in here….

    Always Hitler with you guys. I mean, I know he’s a famous Christian, but come on — do you think you can go one conversation without coming back to him?

    But seriously….there is a massive difference between executing people systematically based on race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or mental efficiency and a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy. If you can’t see that, then….well, I kind of feel bad for you. And I imagine there are a lot of offended Jews out there somewhere; that you should minimize their trials to such an extent.

    Look, I understand abortion is a touchy subject, and that anti-abortionists are creeped out by the abortion clinic atmosphere….but that’s no grounds on which to start bringing out the Hitler comparisons.

    And “I didn’t ask” was not a cowardly evasion, it was an assertion that it is not my business. Why do you think I feel the way I do about this? I feel abortion is legal and should be because (a) I feel it is a matter of personal responsibility and decision and judgment, and (b) as such I feel the government has no business interfering with/legislating this degree of responsibility and decision and judgment. I don’t ask because I am neither the mother or father of the zygote, and therefore I do not have a stake in the matter.

    Go ahead and make your emotional appeals about how “I bet the child thinks otherwise.” The zygote is not a child in the sense that it has the physical capacity neither to think or to feel.

    I have to admit that I agree with the Bobs on that being a poor argument – if you believe it’s immoral, then being told “it’s the parents’ choice” won’t be convincing.

    Yeah, and if I believe it’s none of my business what a couple decides to do about their pregnancy, then being told “God thinks I should do X” isn’t going to be convicing to me, either. I wasn’t trying to convince him of anything, I was merely explaining my perspective.

    It seems to me that those who make such an argument are tacitly admitting the humanity of the embryo — and I return to my claim. If it is human, there is no way to justify killing it. If it’s not human there is no need to worry about how many times one of these “things” is eliminated.

    They’re not “tactfully admitting” anything. It’s not about whether the embryo is “human” in this case, it’s a simple matter of the fact that abortion can be a painful emotional procedure. Nobody wants to go through an abortion, nobody desires it any more than they would desire to have an appendage amputated. Whether you agree with abortion being legal or not, it’s not a far stretch to say “I wouldn’t want to do that.” And it’s not much farther of a stretch to say “it would be cool if we could help out other people who don’t want to do that, but might not have many options. Give ‘em incentives to not do that, for example.”

    A lot of times, pregnancies are terminated early on because of worries about being able to care for the child. There are people who make places where mothers who are unable to care for their child are able to leave them for someone else to care for — someone who has opened themselves to this responsibility on their behalf. That is the kind of solution we need to have; if you really, really care about pregnancies being terminated (and not just about religious dogma), then you realize that it is not just a legal issue, it is a social issue — outlawing it does little to stop it from happening. If you want to stop it from happening, you must provide means of dissuading people from doing it, not just forcing a decision on them. You have to put the power in the people’s hands, and then give them a reason (besides “God said so”) not to do it. Why I admire Obama is because he understands this.

    It is different from murder, also, in that it is not nearly as widespread or as spur-of-the-moment. It’s very difficult to have an abortion performed “in the moment;” it’s the kind of thing that requires careful forethought. Although there are some women who are so overcome by despair or fear that they do do so, to compare it to murder in the sense that “we illegalize murder in an attempt to dissuade people from doing it” would be, as you say, “intellectually dishonest.”

    Cite this SCIENTIFIC fact please. How are you defining ‘complete’, and ‘functional’?

    I’m curious of this, as well. Because a zygote is not “complete” or “functioning” as a human being, in any real sense. Can a zygote eat? Can it supply itself with nutrients? It’s not even as independent as an infant.

    1) It’s not a position I’ve ever heard anybody defend before. Please show me an example of somebody saying gays or young women have no right to exist if they don’t reproduce.

    Nobody said that, exactly. However, what you all seem to champion is the idea that feminism and homosexuality are inherently “bad” or “invalid” because (you believe) they lead to lower birth rates. So it was never explicitly stated that they “have no right to exist” because of those factors, although it was stated that they are bad and shouldn’t be supported or accepted because of them.

    Reply
  27. Andrew Ryan says:

    “So it was never explicitly stated that they “have no right to exist” because of those factors, although it was stated that they are bad and shouldn’t be supported or accepted because of them.”

    Thanks Tim, you get it!

    Reply
  28. Andrew Ryan says:

    “However, what you all seem to champion ”

    I’d add Tim, that I’m not assuming anyone here agrees with that championing, but at least one of the bloggers on this site does, which tends to mean Frank and the others agree. As I said before, any Christians posting are welcome to disassociate themselves from the view that feminists and gays should be judged on how many children they produce, rather than their inherent worth as human beings.

    Bob Perry: “I hope not. You err on the side of caution to protect life because life has intrinsic value that is worth protecting.”

    Bob, do you apply this argument to oppose the death penalty, given that absolute guilt can never be proven? Do you also use the ‘err on the side of caution’ argument to promote efforts to oppose man-made global warming? Or is caution thrown out the window in these cases and we just hope that a significant number of scientists are wrong, and that every murder conviction is sound?

    I ask because opposers of global warming evidence tend to be Christians and also tend to use the argument that not all the evidence is in yet, and we should wait and see, or that we can’t be sure yet. When I’d say the threat is great enough that even if we’re only 30% certain then that’s reason enough to act. Also, pro-death penalty people tend more to be from the Christian Right. One of the reasons I oppose the death penalty is that very ‘err on the side of caution’ argument. Proving someone’s innocence is not much use after they’ve been executed.

    If these stereotypes (albeit statistically valid) don’t apply to you then I apologise in advance. You may say these are irrelevant, but once again, I’m trying to see if you apply the same logic consistently.

    You may think this is a pointless thing to do, but it’s about all either side CAN do, given that we’re not going to change our minds on the essentials.

    Reply
  29. Bob Perry says:

    Is it human? It’s part of a human. By that logic, my skin is human. So if I get a sunburn and my skin peels, that makes me an abortionist? Hardly.

    Incorrect. Your skin cells are not the same as the totipotent cells that are created at fertilization in the entity called a zygote — cells with the ability to become any, or all, parts of a complete human being. This occurs before syngamy — the point at which paternal and maternal chromosomes cross over to form a diploid set.

    So your analogy is false. However, that brings us to the question both Andrew and Tim posed and I promised to defend:

    Cite this SCIENTIFIC fact please. How are you defining ‘complete’, and ‘functional’?

    It is not my opinion that life begins at conception…

    Dr. Hymie Gordon, professor of medical genetics and physician at the Mayo Clinic:

    “… we can now also say that the question of the beginning of life – when life begins – is no longer a question for theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established scientific fact.Theologians and philosophers may go on to debate the meaning of life or purpose of life, but it is an established fact that all life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception … as far as I know, this has never been argued against.”

    Dr. M. Krieger, The Human Reproductive System:

    All organisms, however large and complex they may be when fullgrown, begin life as but a single cell … this is true of the human being, for instance, who begins life as a fertilized ovum.

    Dr. B. Patten, Human Embryology

    The formation, maturation and meeting of a male and female sex cell are all preliminary to their actual union in a combined cell, a zygote, which definitely marks the beginning of a new individual.

    Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, a principal research associate in the Department of Medicine, Harvard Medical School:

    So, it is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote, and this developing human always is a member of our species in all stages of its life thereafter.

    Dr. Ronan O’Rahilly and Dr, Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd edition:

    It needs to be emphasized that life is continuous, as is also human life, so that the question “When does life begin?” is meaningless in terms of ontogeny. Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.

    Must I go on?

    When you try to argue that you don’t know when life begins, you are not arguing with me — you are arguing with those that write the embryology textbooks the abortionists learned from in medical school.

    Reply
  30. Bob Perry says:

    To follow on from that — what I mean when I define the embryo as “complete” and “functional” is this: The complete DNA formed at fertilization comprises a new and distinct human individual. It is not a part of either its mother or its father and is a whole organism with its own intrinsically directed nature and basic capacities that make certain human properties and powers possible for it to exercise.

    I owe this definition to Francis J. Beckwith from his book, Defending Life

    Reply
  31. Bob Perry says:

    Bob, do you apply this argument to oppose the death penalty, given that absolute guilt can never be proven? Do you also use the ‘err on the side of caution’ argument to promote efforts to oppose man-made global warming?

    How about we stick to the subject. And I am not being sarcastic in saying that. We could both go off on rabbit trails of all kinds but the topic here is abortion.

    To be fair, I admit these are good questions. I struggle with the death penalty in particular for the reasons you cite and my desire to be consistent in my arguments. However, the difference lies in that the death penalty is not the taking of innocent human life. As for global warming — I have conclusive evidence that human life begins at conception (as shown above). I have questionable evidence for global warming. What I do not have is conclusive evidence that human action is the cause of global warming.

    I think those are fair responses but they are my last on those subjects (at least on this thread). Please stick to the abortion issue.

    Reply
  32. Tim D. says:

    It is not my opinion that life begins at conception…

    Dr. Hymie Gordon, professor of medical genetics and physician at the Mayo Clinic:

    I’m going to have to sigh. So pardon me.

    *sigh*

    I never said a Zygote wasn’t “alive.” Sure, there is a living cell that is formed at conception. But that doesn’t make it a “human.” It makes it a cell that could become a human. It is a part of a human; it isn’t even sure which part it will be yet 0_0

    By the same logic….stem cells can be found in the umbilical cord. When you sever the umbilical cord, you’re stopping millions of stem cells from becoming parts of a human body. Each one of those cells could grow to be one of many different kinds of cells. So do you think it’s murder to sever umbilical cords, thus killing off all the cells therein?

    When you try to argue that you don’t know when life begins, you are not arguing with me — you are arguing with those that write the embryology textbooks the abortionists learned from in medical school.

    *sigh*

    Once again, I’m not arguing with “when life begins.” That’s a different discussion altogether. I’m arguing (a) what kind of life we’re talking about (the “life” of a single cell versus the life of a complete human body), and (b) on what grounds we qualify that “life” to receive legal benefits.

    To follow on from that — what I mean when I define the embryo as “complete” and “functional” is this: The complete DNA formed at fertilization comprises a new and distinct human individual. It is not a part of either its mother or its father and is a whole organism with its own intrinsically directed nature and basic capacities that make certain human properties and powers possible for it to exercise.

    So it’s different. That doesn’t make it a whole person; that makes it a cell with unique characteristics that differentiate it from either parent. You still haven’t explained how this cell is similar to an infant, or a grown person, in that it can think or feel or believe or love or hate or understand — you know, all those things we commonly associate with humans, no matter how undeveloped.

    How about we stick to the subject. And I am not being sarcastic in saying that. We could both go off on rabbit trails of all kinds but the topic here is abortion.

    Okay, you’re hanging in a topic where a guy brought up Hitler, and this is when you choose to “stay on the topic?”

    Reply
  33. Bob Perry says:

    Tim,
    If you can’t at least acknowledge that a zygote is a distinct human person, there really isn’t much else to talk about. But when you say stuff like this:

    Okay, you’re hanging in a topic where a guy brought up Hitler, and this is when you choose to “stay on the topic?”

    you show that you actually have no interest in discussing these issues — you just want to argue.

    I asked that you stay on topic. I have stayed on topic. Yet you want to make snide comments toward me about what othersdo or say.

    Not a very productive way to continue …

    Cheers

    Reply
  34. Bob Perry says:

    So it’s different. That doesn’t make it a whole person; that makes it a cell with unique characteristics that differentiate it from either parent. You still haven’t explained how this cell is similar to an infant, or a grown person, in that it can think or feel or believe or love or hate or understand

    I didn’t say it was different. I said it was a unique, integrated individual person. If you seriously don’t see the distinction between a totipotent zygote and a “stem cell found in an umbilical cord” then you just aren’t trying OR you are seriously misinformed.

    Either way we end up in a ridiculous endless loop from which neither of us can escape. You need to go argue with the Drs. and scientists who write the embryology textbooks to which I referred. Tell them the same thing and see what kind of response you get.

    Reply
  35. RC Metcalf says:

    OK, guys… I’ve missed quite a bit of this, but I think everyone needs to quote one another accurately. Andrew, I never said or implied that gays are either “damned” or “worth less” (your words) than straights. I simply pointed out the obvious, that gays cannot physiologically reproduce and personally add to the population, which affects the demographics of a population over time.

    Best, RC

    Reply
  36. Andrew Ryan says:

    Bob Perry, I understand you not wanting to go down a rabbit trail. But for me there is such inconsistency in the Christian approach between as abortion, death penalty, global warming etc, that I find it hard to accept pronouncement from them on any of these subjects.

    Yes the death penalty is not MEANT for innocent life. But the whole point is that your man in the condemned building analogy surely applies here almost literally. Certain guilt can never be established, and we’ve seen instances of innocence established after executions.

    As for Global Warming, again you say you don’t have CONCLUSIVE proof. But even if you allow a 30% chance that man is causing global warming, that should certainly qualify for your ‘err on the side of caution’ argument.

    Back to Zygotes. I just asked a doctor, who happens to be a twin. He pointed out that a zygote can split into twins after two days. If it’s an individual from day one, with a soul, how can it then become two? Does each have half a soul.

    I accept that a zygote differs fundamentally from sperm in that it’s the combination of two people’s DNA. However, it’s theoretically possible to create a new person from a sperm. Would you say that this clone wouldn’t be a human being? Does it therefore follow that we should go the Monty Python route of ‘every sperm is sacred’?

    Reply
  37. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I simply pointed out the obvious, that gays cannot physiologically reproduce and personally add to the population, which affects the demographics of a population over time.”

    Apologies if I have misrepresented you. But neither can people with Down’s Syndrome. Or nuns or monks. Don’t priests take vows of chastity? So what IS your point about these diverse groups of people?

    At any rate, nature [or God] seems to be smarter than that. Gays statistically are much more likely to be born in large families. For example, your fourth son is much more likely to be gay than your third. Furthermore, SISTERS of gay men tend to have more kids than average, ditto brothers of lesbians. So for whatever reason, gays don’t really affect the demographics. (Looked at overall that is, which is the only viewpoint that makes sense given that on an individual level some gays have kids, and some straights don’t.)

    You may think this is offtopic, but it comes down to seeing people as intrinsically valuable, irrespective of factors such as their reproductive value.

    Reply
  38. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    I was reading through the posts and thought I would jump in if you don’t mind.

    You stated,
    “Back to Zygotes. I just asked a doctor, who happens to be a twin. He pointed out that a zygote can split into twins after two days. If it’s an individual from day one, with a soul, how can it then become two? Does each have half a soul.”

    First, what is it about twinning that convinces you that the conceptus, prior to twinning, is not a full human being. It seems that it is a human being with it’s own unique genetic identity and the only thing it lacks in becoming a fully functional human being is nutrition and time. I’m not sure how it follows that since a conceptus can split and form identical twins it was not fully human prior to the split. Perhaps your notion of a soul is at the root of your objection. However, rather than speculate on your view, it may be better to ask. What do you think a soul is?

    You also said,
    “I accept that a zygote differs fundamentally from sperm in that it’s the combination of two people’s DNA. However, it’s theoretically possible to create a new person from a sperm. Would you say that this clone wouldn’t be a human being? Does it therefore follow that we should go the Monty Python route of ‘every sperm is sacred’?”

    First, I’m not what you mean in that it’s theorically possible to create new person from a sperm. Since a sperm is haploid and has only 23 chromosomes, how could you clone it and make a new person? So, sperm are not sacred because sperm are not humans any more than hydrogen is water. Perhaps I’m misunderstanding you. Second, I would say that if you did clone a human being, the clone would indeed be fully human with equal humanity, dignity and rights.

    Thanks for letting me join the discussion.
    Jeff

    Reply
  39. Plumb Bob says:

    Plumb Bob, I wasn’t talking to you. I believe you are here only to be rude. “Can you be intellectually honest enough…” is in context of other Bob saying to me “Well, at least you’re being intellectually honest.”. I was saying ‘can you apply the same standard in return’. It’s up to him to complain.

    For the first time, Andrew Ryan is correct in accusing me of rudeness. I did not see the context-setting post, and misinterpreted his reference to intellectual honesty. I apologize for the error.

    Reply
  40. Plumb Bob says:

    …one person who does something carelessly (or “evil” or “wrong,” from your perspective) does not automatically negate the viewpoints of all people who share philosophy with that person.

    (1) You say there are women who use abortion like birth control, and therefore on that basis no women should be afforded the means to terminate their pregnancy.

    (2) By that same logic, you could also say that there are people who shoot up churches for being “too liberal,” and yet they are Christian; therefore on that basis all Christians should be deprived of their right to worship. I mean, see what being Christian makes you do?

    I did not miss the point at all. Your analogy is simply wrong, because we’re not talking about viewpoints, but rather behavior.

    The first claim in your comparison, above, is correct; the fact that a lot of women (most, actually) use abortion as a form of birth control is an excellent reason to severely restrict abortions.

    The other leg of the comparison is where you make the error. There are some (very few) individuals who shoot up liberal churches, for which reason it is completely reasonable to outlaw shooting up liberal churches. And we do outlaw such behavior. Their religion is irrelevant.

    If you were actually trying to tie something to the alleged religion of the shooter, you’d also have to introduce the religion (or some philosophy they have in common) of the women using abortion as birth control, and then argue for restricting that religion, in order for the analogy to match correctly.

    “Zygote” is equated with “fully-developed human being” on one criterion, and one only, but it’s the only relevant criterion for this discussion: is it human?

    Is it human? It’s part of a human.

    No, it’s not part of a human. It IS human. It’s fully alive by common biological definitions of life, and it’s fully human in that it is a zygote of the human species.

    The cells in your body are part of a human — they are human cells — but do not fit the common biological definitions of life. This is also the proper distinction between a zygote and the sperm and egg cells that joined to form it. The sperm and egg are cells. The zygote is a separate organism.

    This is a Biology 101 distinction, and if you doubt it, you need to go back to that class and take it again. Trying to dispute this is like disputing that 2 + 2 = 4. You’re arguing against simple biological facts, the kind that you’d flunk high school biology for getting wrong on the final.

    But seriously….there is a massive difference between executing people systematically based on race or gender or religion or sexual orientation or mental efficiency and a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy.

    I explained very, very carefully, in the paragraph IMMEDIATELY FOLLOWING the one you quoted, that I was NOT calling you a Nazi. If you’d read that paragraph you’d not have missed the point of the argument, which was NOT IN THE SLIGHTEST WAY OR IN ANY WAY RELATED to comparing abortion with the holocaust.

    The point — which I spelled out perfectly clearly once already, and will now do so again — is that refusing to ask about an immoral situation is not a valid defense for not doing anything about it. It was a specific response to your claim, “I don’t ask.”

    Next time, please read what was written, not what you expected to see. Ok? Criminy.

    what you all seem to champion is the idea that feminism and homosexuality are inherently “bad” or “invalid” because (you believe) they lead to lower birth rates.

    We’re inclined to regard the extermination of the species as a bad thing, yes. So, yes, birth rates declining below replacement level is something for a nation to be concerned about.

    This point of the discussion, though, rests on a point about which you guys seem confused. There is a huge difference between declaring that someone has no intrinsic worth (or, no right to exist), and declaring that they’re behaving in a morally objectionable manner. Even Homer Simpson has a right to exist, even though he’s not very useful (if he were a real person rather than a cartoon character, that is). And Jeffrey Dahmer had a right to exist, even though he squandered his existence on horrible acts.

    So, there’s a vital difference between taking the life of a gestating human offspring for whatever reason, and objecting to the behavior of adult human beings. Even if we decide on the death penalty for one of them (as might have been appropriate for Dahmer,) that’s very different from abortion — unless you want to try to argue that abortion is justified because of the immoral acts of the fetus.

    Reply
  41. Tim D. says:

    you show that you actually have no interest in discussing these issues — you just want to argue.

    Aw, you got me. I just, you know, I love arguing so much that I came to this forum full of people with whom I strongly disagree (knowing full well I’ll never change their minds on this or any other real issue) on my day off of work, just to bother you guys!

    Damn, now if only you weren’t so brilliant. Now I have to come up with a new way to spend my off days….what ever will I do? -_-

    Damn! And a fine zinger at that! How can I possibly follow that?

    Congrats for that. No, I insist — you deserve it!

    I didn’t say it was different. I said it was a unique, integrated individual person. If you seriously don’t see the distinction between a totipotent zygote and a “stem cell found in an umbilical cord” then you just aren’t trying OR you are seriously misinformed.

    Look, I know there is a fine line between a stem cell and a zygote. I was opposing your apparent argument that “the fact that an embryo has the potential to develop into many different human parts makes it equivalent to a human being” by pointing out that stem cells can also turn into different body parts — potentially any, or nice and close — and so, by your argument, they must also be “humans.”

    And while we’re at it….what are we to do about all those eggs that get fertilized by sperm, but aren’t brought to full term because they’re menstruated out or whatever? By your logic, each time this happens a “human” is dying.

    The first claim in your comparison, above, is correct; the fact that a lot of women (most, actually) use abortion as a form of birth control is an excellent reason to severely restrict abortions.

    Nice claim. Care to support it? How do you know that “most” do it?

    This is what irks me about you Jeezer folk. You’re so bent on justifying the act of judging other people that you’re willing to look past the very real circumstances that bring women to have abortions (in many cases, when they might not want to but feel they have no other choice). Is a woman “evil” for doing what she feels is the best out of a number of bad options? Is she “wrong” for simply not knowing how better to handle the situation, or for not having the means? The fact of the matter is that no matter what statistics say, any claim you make about women who have had (or will have) abortions as individual people is just plain speculation. I happen to know two women (and am very close to one) who have had abortions, and neither of them did it for “birth control.” But I suppose you would know them better than I would, because you have “statistics.”

    So yeah, I take a bit of personal offense in you saying that. It’s bigoted and ignorant.

    But I noticed you said, “severely restrict” abortions. I thought you were against them altogether?

    No, it’s not part of a human. It IS human. It’s fully alive by common biological definitions of life, and it’s fully human in that it is a zygote of the human species.

    It’s an embryo. It’s alive in the sense that a blade of grass is alive; it can’t feel, it can’t think, and if it is conscious (which I doubt), then it cannot feel or sense and it cannot express feeling. Insofar as we assume it is conscious at all (again, doubtful), it is not even aware of its own existence.

    These things don’t exactly describe things humans are known for.

    his is a Biology 101 distinction, and if you doubt it, you need to go back to that class and take it again. Trying to dispute this is like disputing that 2 + 2 = 4. You’re arguing against simple biological facts, the kind that you’d flunk high school biology for getting wrong on the final.

    No, I’m dissenting with your interpretation of biological fact. Nice try, though.

    Next time, please read what was written, not what you expected to see. Ok? Criminy.

    What can I say? You guys quote Hitler scare tactics every time any issue of morality comes up, as though all of us would get together and start expunging entire races if we didn’t have God to watch our backs. It’s pathetic.

    We’re inclined to regard the extermination of the species as a bad thing, yes. So, yes, birth rates declining below replacement level is something for a nation to be concerned about.

    That’s funny. Your dictionary must be different than mine, because it says:

    exterminate – 1. (v) to drive beyond the boundaries, hence drive out; destroy
    2. to destroy or get rid of entirely, as by killing; wipe out; annihilate

    Stopping something from coming into existence is not even close to the same thing as killing it once it already does exist. By your logic, I’m committing genocide right now because I’m not out having sex with mah wummin and makin’ babies.

    So, there’s a vital difference between taking the life of a gestating human offspring for whatever reason, and objecting to the behavior of adult human beings. Even if we decide on the death penalty for one of them (as might have been appropriate for Dahmer,) that’s very different from abortion — unless you want to try to argue that abortion is justified because of the immoral acts of the fetus.

    So wait;

    -sperm are okay, you can kill all of ‘em you want because they don’t have souls or lives or whatever, even though each one (when paired with an egg) could potentially be a human being

    -eggs are okay, same deal

    -gestating embryos are a no-go, don’t kill ‘em ’cause that’s genocide(?)

    -gays/feminists = “exterminating” our species by not having kids?

    Explain this to me, please. I want to believe, so badly, that you are not an idiot. So please, help me out here: by your logic, I’m committing genocide each time I ejaculate because millions of sperm (that could “potentially” be humans) are not being put to use, and are dying instead. Or if she doesn’t get pregnant at all, that’s also genocide according to your rules here.

    I know, I know, you think having sex and the wummin not getting pregnant is just A-OK….and yet, you think gays are exterminating people by having sex without the potential to reproduce? Seems a bit mixed-up to me; you say it’s immoral to have gay sex, simply because the potential for reproduction doesn’t exist? Well, if that’s the only determining factor you use to single out gays, then that means we could use the other side of that coin — we could say that a man raping a woman is okay, because the potential for reproduction exists. And that’s all that matters, right?

    I’d like to believe not.*

    *=See what I did there? I put a space between my main paragraph(s) and this last remark, to make it look all solitary and heavy. Now it’s like a finishing move; it’s all sharp and witty!

    Reply
  42. Andrew Ryan says:

    PlumbBob: “We’re inclined to regard the extermination of the species as a bad thing, yes.”

    So would you use the rhethoric of ‘extermination of the species’ with regards to priests, nuns, monks, people with Down’s Syndrome etc who don’t have kids?

    Apology noted and accepted by the way.

    TimD: “By your logic, each time this happens a “human” is dying.”
    That’s different TIm, that’s GOD killing the human, and he’s allowed to.

    Reply
  43. Andrew Ryan says:

    “There is a huge difference between declaring that someone has no intrinsic worth (or, no right to exist), and declaring that they’re behaving in a morally objectionable manner.”

    I accused RC of judging gays/feminists on the number of children they have. I said they are judged as being ‘worth less’, not ‘worthless’. My point was that humans should be judged on their own terms, not in terms of how many other humans they produce. I’d like my daughter to eventually find happiness with someone she loves, and if they want to produce my grandchildren then that’s great. But I didn’t have a child in order to give me grandchildren. That would be devaluing my daughter. And while I accept you weren’t calling Tim a a Nazi, this idea has unpleasant echoes of the Nazi focus on the female obligation to boost the Third Reich population, and their hatred of gays for not doing their bit.

    If it turns out my daughter is a lesbian then I’d be sad that she’ll never know my joy of having a child with someone you love. But the answer to that is not for her to marry someone of a gender she’s not attracted to. And if gay men are supposed to marry women and reproduce for the good of the human race, please don’t volunteer MY daughter to be the breeding component for such a loveless union.

    At any rate, as I pointed out above, it’s incorrect to say that gays affect the population, given that statistically gays tend to arrive in larger families, and that their siblings tend to have more children than the average. In other words, parents of gay children on average have as many GRANDCHILDREN as anyone else.

    “Even if we decide on the death penalty… that’s very different from abortion — unless you want to try to argue that abortion is justified because of the immoral acts of the fetus.”
    I’ll leave aside the view of some religions that even a fetus has ‘original sin’. I brought up the death penalty not to draw an equivalence between a murderer and a fetus. I was in fact specifically addressing other Bob’s post here:

    Bob Perry: “If you were about to demolish a building and, just as you were about to push the plunger someone said they thought they saw someone in one of the windows — do you push the plunger anyway? I hope not. You err on the side of caution to protect life because life has intrinsic value that is worth protecting.”

    My point was that if you’re going to take that attitude then surely you must oppose the death penalty given that you cannot be completely sure you’re not executing an innocent man.

    Reply
  44. Bob Perry says:

    Bob Perry: “If you were about to demolish a building and, just as you were about to push the plunger someone said they thought they saw someone in one of the windows — do you push the plunger anyway? I hope not. You err on the side of caution to protect life because life has intrinsic value that is worth protecting.”

    My point was that if you’re going to take that attitude then surely you must oppose the death penalty given that you cannot be completely sure you’re not executing an innocent man.

    OK, so I oppose the death penalty. How does that help your argument?

    Reply
  45. Andrew Ryan says:

    Bob, I was just interested in whether you apply the same logic consistently. As I said before, it’s about all either of us can do on this issue – try to show that the natural consequence of each other’s starting point – life does or does not start at conception – is illogical in as far as how it sits in the rest of the person’s beliefs.

    eg saying ‘Isn’t Clinton saying abortion should be ‘rare’ an admition that a Zygote is in fact a human being’. You’re trying to show that even if you can’t change Clinton’s mind, you can at least show that the argument is inconsistent. In reply we can explain that there are other reasons one can want to keep abortion rare, so that the argument is at least consistent, even if it’s one you still don’t agree with.

    eg again, from Charlotte at the top of the thread: “It amazes me how these same people that are in agreement to killing an unborn human being are also the same people that will have a spastic over a beached whale in order to save its life!”

    Reply
  46. Andrew Ryan says:

    That said Bob, death penalty or not, I’m still interested as to why you don’t apply the ‘err on the side of caution’ argument to Global Warming, given that the effects on child mortality of a 2C rise in global temperatures would dwarf those caused by abortion.

    Even if you’re 70% certain it’s all hogwash, isn’t a 30% chance of global catastrophe one that concerns you? Reduce that to 5% and it’s still a sobering problem.

    Reply
  47. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    As you suggested, we’ll pick up our discussion in this thread:

    I agree with you that rape is a horrible act and I have the upmost compassion for any woman who has been a victim of such a crime. With that said, I have two things to say here. First, it seems that abortion in this case is punishing the wrong person. The rapist is the criminal that should be punished, not the innocent unborn child. Do you think that rape is justification for abortion? If so, then would it be okay to kill a newborn who was discovered to be the product of rape. If rape is sufficient justification, then age should not matter. This is the logic of that position. I know you would not advocate killing a newborn that was found to be the product of rape. So, the rape justification fails and we are returned once again to the central question, what is the nature of the unborn? I assume we are still not debating the question of when human life begins. It seems to me that this question is settled. We may continue to debate whether and at what point that human life is worthy of protection as a member of the human community.

    Second, regarding the 18 week cut-off. I don’t see how pointing out another instance of arbitrary age limits in law justifies this one. I’m asking for a rational justification for the arbitrary age restriction in the case of abortion, not another example of one. If a human life is at stake, then it rises above the other arbitrary age limits you are referring to in law. You are correct that drawing the line is the ethical dilemma. If you are comfortable drawing the line at 18 weeks, and someone else is comfortable at 24 weeks, then who is correct? Or, is it just a matter of personal preference? Given your moral sensitivites, I don’t think you would be comfortable with that, would you? Can you see the logic of the prolife position here? It draws the line at the point where a new genetically unique human life begins–conception. At this point a human life begins, and given the proper environment (time and nutrition) that life while become an adult like us.

    Andrew, I am not just trying to argue with you. I actually think the pro-life position is logical and true. I think I understand your perspective having worked through this myself. Many think of an unborn child in early stages of development and notice that this entity is very small, does not look like us, does not act like us, is dependent on the mother for it’s survival, etc. However, with just a little reflection, one quickly realizes that size, appearance, environment, and dependency are not the relevant criteria in determining one’s nature.

    Jeff

    Reply
  48. Andrew Ryan says:

    “First, it seems that abortion in this case is punishing the wrong person.”

    It’s not about punishment. It’s about not forcing a woman to carry to term a baby she didn’t want, when the father is someone who raped her. Would you put your daughter through that? Your mother? I’m talking about 9 months of that – not in the unlikely even she discovers it after birth.

    “I don’t see how pointing out another instance of arbitrary age limits in law justifies this one.”
    I’m saying that sometimes a line has to be drawn.

    “Can you see the logic of the prolife position here?”
    Yes, but to me it is illogical to call a day-old zygote a human being in the same sense as a living, breathing, sentient being.

    I’m not arguing either – we’re both rationally and politely presenting our viewpoint!

    “size, appearance, environment, and dependency are not the relevant criteria in determining one’s nature.”
    I agree – to be human is to be thinking, sentient. A living brain in a jar wouldn’t look like us – but it would still be human.

    Reply
  49. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I don’t see how pointing out another instance of arbitrary age limits in law justifies this one.”
    I’m saying that sometimes a line has to be drawn. And the fact that there is debate over WHERE exactly the line should be drawn, doesn’t mean one should give up trying to draw on.

    We agree that children shouldn’t have sex, and we agree that we can’t prevent adults from having sex. Arguing about where the line should be drawn doesn’t mean that we ban sex for everyone or allow all age groups to have sex. Countries/states agree on different ages – 14, 16, 18 – but that doesn’t mean it’s completely arbitrary. What we all agree on is that an age-limit is necessary.

    Reply
  50. Sean G. says:

    Andrew, I think it was a good idea to bring the discussion into this thread:

    “When’s the US cut-off for abortions? In the UK I think it’s 22-24 weeks. I’d support reducing it to 18 weeks.”

    With your views on the brain, it seems like we should move it to week 9 at the latest. By week 17 the fetus is already executing deliberate movements. To terminate it a week after that seems contradictory to your convictions. Help me understand if I’m wrong.

    Reply
  51. Tim D. says:

    First, it seems that abortion in this case is punishing the wrong person. The rapist is the criminal that should be punished, not the innocent unborn child. Do you think that rape is justification for abortion?

    (1) First off, if I were a woman who had just been raped and become pregnant, I can guarantee you that “punishment” would be the last thing on my mind. No, I think I’d be more caught up in such thoughts as “What am I going to do?” “How am I going to be able to support myself and this child, given that I can barely support myself alone on this low-income job? And what about once I can’t work anymore due to the pregnancy? What then?”

    There are many, many problems that arise in these situations. If we just allow rapists to impregnate women, then punish the rapist and force the woman to bear the child, in many cases we’ll just be contributing to the drain on the welfare system and hurting the economy as a whole. Second, the mother’s life will be destroyed in more ways than one. What would you say to a young woman (18-21, say) who can’t rely on anyone close for financial support, and is raped and impregnated? How is she supposed to support herself for the 9 months of the pregnancy, much less for the 18 years to follow during which she has to care ceaselessly for the child? That destroys any chance she might have had of going to college and earning an education (to help support herself and her child, even), or of ever really gainfully contributing to society. All because of a technicality that Christians want to impose by refusing to allow a woman to terminate such a pregnancy.

    So, in that case, the woman has but two main choices: Get on welfare to support herself and her child (or work many jobs, but during the late stages of pregnancy this becomes difficult if not impossible for a single pregnant mother), or find someone who is willing to contribute to her situation (i.e. “get married”).

    It disturbs me how well this whole “pro-life” thing wraps back around to support this idea of a Christian utopia where every woman is married to (or at the mercy of) someone else while producing children they may not necessarily want. I also love how so many men are inclined to claim that they have a say in the relationship, with regard to terminating pregnancies (but only if they want to keep the baby, of course; if they want to terminate it, Evangelicals would argue they don’t have a say at all), and yet they would argue that the woman has no such say under the same circumstances.

    So it seems that, in a perfect Evangelical world, everybody has a say in what happens during the woman’s pregnancy, so long as the opinionated party agrees that the mother should keep the baby. So it’s not really a choice at all; it’s the classic Evangelical tactic of creating the illusion of a choice, when in reality all options except for the obvious “Good Christian” approach are maligned and frowned upon.

    Not much of a “choice,” is it?

    Reply
  52. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    You stated, “I’m saying that sometimes a line has to be drawn. And the fact that there is debate over WHERE exactly the line should be drawn, doesn’t mean one should give up trying to draw on.”

    I agree. We should keep trying. I’m trying to make a logical case for why the line should be draw at conception. If you would prefer 18 weeks, then I’m asking for an argument for that position. If I make the point that there is no relevant difference (in the nature of the unborn)between a 18 weeks, or 8 weeks, or 8 days, then it seems you would want to provide a justification for your judgment other than simply stating that we have to draw the line somewhere. You are correct that we have to draw a line somewhere. I think we both want to draw it in the right place. I have given an argument for why it should be drawn at conception? What is your argument for 18 weeks (if that’s where you draw it?)

    Also, I really don’t see how the comparision to age limits on legal sex is helpful in this discussion. The age limits are meant to be a judgment on when a person is an adult, which is much more subjective and cultural than the issue of when life begins. It’s like trying to draw a line between a infant and a toddler. It’s not like we can observe some defining moment or change in the development process. Can you see that the issue of when human life begins is not like this? There is a defining moment / change when a new human life begins. An analogy is not an argument, and even as a point of refelection, it seems to me that the analogy is not very helpful. Do you agree?

    Jeff

    Reply
  53. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    You brought up a lot of issues. I’ll try to address most of them. First, I agree that in the case of a woman getting pregnant from a rape is a tragic and complicated. Nevertheless, almost all of the problems you raised could be solved through adoption, right? Most of your objections center on financial hardship and how a woman will not be able to support herself and her life will be ruined, etc. Pregnancy is not a disease and most woman continue to work throughout pregnancy. If she does not want to keep the baby, then there are hundreds of people waiting in line. Additionally, there are hundreds of crisis pregnancy centers who would offer assistance to her. One objection you raised was due to the drain on the welfare system. If this is a sufficient reason to take a human life, then we have a lot of killing to do.

    None of your objections address the central question of the nature of the unborn child. Are any of the objections sufficient reason to kill the unborn baby? The real issue is that you don’t think that the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, right? Let me illustrate, my wife’s grandmother recently past away. At the end of her life she was a tremendous burden to her daughter (emotionally and financially). Would you argue that her daughter would be justified in killing her based any of the objections you raised? If you say no, it reveals that you don’t think that grandma and an unborn baby are equally human persons. If that is the case, then let’s forget all these superfluous objections and get back to the real issue. What is the nature of the unborn?

    Lastly, I should make the point that even if I were to conceed that abortion should be legalized in the case of rape, are you aware that over 99% of abortions would be eliminated. Less than 1% of women who have abortions do so for the reasons of rape or incest.

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  54. Andrew Ryan says:

    OK, you brought up the very end of someone’s life and our attitude to that.

    I watched my grandmother spent ten years tending to my great grandmother, who slowly lost her mind to Alzheimers. As soon as she died, at 99, my granny got alzheimers herself and spent ten years disappearing himself. My granny gradually become less and less herself, until it wasn’t HER any more. She had no memory, no awareness of who we were, or who she was. She lived in fear and darkness. Then even that was gone – and you couldn’t really say that she was living at all. The body was technically alive, but the brain was essentially dead. Then finally she died.

    Her sister, my great aunt, didn’t get Alzeimers. She remained alert (if physically disabled) into her 80s. Then last year she had a stroke and spent the rest of her life completely unaware of what was happening. Her worst horror in life was to end up this way, in her words ‘a burden’. She died in March, my father read the eulogy. Immediately he was diagnosed with cancer, and painfully but relatively quickly slipped away himself. An athlete and orator throughout his life, with an IQ of 150, his last days were spent connected to a catheter, unable to move or speak. He died in May.

    My mother says she wouldn’t want to lose dignity before she dies – ‘just chuck me off a cliff’ she half jokes. So that’s my perspective. I place a high value on quality of life. I think the person’s own wishes are paramount. I don’t agree with the idea that someone should be kept alive artificially no matter what, even if it’s against their own wishes.

    Reply
  55. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Less than 1% of women who have abortions do so for the reasons of rape or incest.”
    And what are the stats for these fabled women who use abortion purely as birth control?

    “One objection you raised was due to the drain on the welfare system. If this is a sufficient reason to take a human life, then we have a lot of killing to do.”
    A drain on the welfare state leads directly to a loss of human life, just not through abortion. You may say that you cannot put a value on human life, but that is exactly what is done. Put more money in the welfare state and you’ll save lives. Take it out, more will die. It’s the Christian Right who say the UK’s NHS is evil socialist, despite it leading directly to a lower infant mortality rate than the US.

    Saying all lives are equal is lovely, but every time you pass a homeless man on the street you’re saying he’s worth less to you than a relative who you’d help in the same situation.

    I should probably back out now. I know I may be failing to answer one or two recent questions – but we’re just opening up new topics, and it seems like I’ve posted 3 times as much as everyone else. Tthough I maintain that’s partly because I’ve had to explain some things several times over! Also there are so many points that I’ve made that have been ignored that it’s getting frustrating. Not just here but on other threads.

    eg, I’m still waiting for RC to explain on ‘Atheist Diversionary Tactics’ why, if the crux of his argument is that atheists should be targetting Islam rather than Christianity, why are all the blogs on this site target atheism?

    eg2, on Evolution Cannot Explain Morality, Frank never answered this: “If God is holy and moral, can you think of a single hyperthetical act that he could perform that would mean he WASN’T holy and moral? If not then it’s meaningless to call him holy and moral.” This followed him claiming that any act by God was BY DEFINITION moral, regardless of what it was.

    I’ll check to see if these ever get answered. In the relevant threads that is, don’t answer here. But for now I’ll leave you with this:

    Pick three women in your family of child-bearing age who haven’t had kids yet. Imagine a maniac manages to rape all three. He’s done it before and due to a genetic defect in him, any woman who bears his child has been left unable to bring another baby to term.
    So the day after the attack your relatives have the following choice:
    1. Each takes a morning after pill, which would at worst destroy a day-old bundle of cells without brain, let alone brain function.
    2. They risk the fact they might all three be pregnant by this rapist, whose baby they now have to carry for 9 months at risk to their own health, and if they carry the babies to term that they will probably be the only children they ever have.

    I know this is extreme, but try to answer honestly. Please DON’T duck out and say it’s so implausible you won’t consider it, or say ‘it’s their decision not mine’. I’m asking, as a thought experiment, out of the two situations, which you think is preferable. I want to know HOW strongly you stick to the idea that a day-old bundle of cells, albeit which will grow into a baby, is equal in every way to a human post birth.

    Reply
  56. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    Those are very sad stories–tragic. However, I’m not sure what your point is in telling them. I’m still waiting on you to answer the arguments. My point was to show that none of the objections that TIm raised would be considered sufficient justification to take an innocent human life. I used the example of my wife’s grandmother to illustrate the point. The problem is that you don’t think that the unborn are fully human. Would you use any of those objections to justify killing a newborn? I doubt it. So, why don’t we get past all those reasons like financial burden, welfare, hardship, etc. and focus on the real issue–the nature and status of the unborn. I have given good reasons in supposrt of the pro-life position and the notion that life begins at conception.

    You did bring up brain function as a criteria to determine when human life (or personhood) begins. First, even if I granted this criteria (which I don’t), it would suggest a time of about 40 to 45 days, not 18 weeks as you suggested. Am I missing something?

    Second, while I think that brain function is a sign that human life (physically) has ended, it does not work as a criteria for the beginning of a fully human life. The fetus has the inherent capacity to bring about brain function, it just needs sufficient time to do so. Similarly, an infant has the inherent capacity for language, it just needs sufficient time to bring it about. There is a difference between brain activity that is “no more,” and brain activity that is “not yet.” To equate these two is a logical mistake I think.

    Reply
  57. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    I’ll visit those other threads. Also, I hope I did not come off as insensitive to your stories. I’m not. I was just trying to dicern your point. I you are making a point about euthansia or assited suicide, then that is for another thread I think.

    Regarding your thought experiment. Listen, I really do think that like begins at conception. If my daughter was raped and became pregnant I would encourage her to carry to term and give the child up for adoption. Of couse this would be a difficult situation, but I don’t think that 9 months of inconvenience and discomfort is sufficient reason to take an innocent human life. To my mind, the only way I could justify abortion is if the mother’s life is in jeopardy (this is very rare). After all, if the mother dies early in pregnancy then the baby will die also. In this case, not to act would result in two deaths. You may not agree with this view, but it is consistent.

    Now tell me exactly what your criteria is for when life begins (or is worthy of protection) and see if you think it’s consistent. Simply stating that we have to draw the line somewhere is not an argument about where the line should be drawn. Perhaps then I can come up with a thought experiment for you.

    Jeff

    Reply
  58. Andrew Ryan says:

    Jeff, I’m afraid, like I said before, that I’m kind of done here. I’ve said an awful lot. We’d never run out of questions for each other, and like I said before, I’ve posted so many question unanswered by others that I can’t really spend more time answering yours. It’s a shame you joined so late. Pregnancy isn’t just ’9 months of inconvenience and discomfort’. If the father was your rapist it would also be 9 months of trauma.

    Your answer on 3 of your relatives all growing up with these babies and then NEVER being able to produce children with men they love, when you could stop it when the sperm had only just fertilised the egg… well I guess it’s consistent, but that’s about all you can say for it. I’m astonished.

    I know you weren’t insensitive. My point in my response to your partner’s granny was that I think I hold different views to you on when life ends too, and also on when it should end. These views are consistent with my views on when it begins, as are yours within your own belief system.

    Welfare etc is not a red herring – putting a cost on life IS something that every government does. I’m baffled by people who place such value on a zygote on one hand but then actively oppose policies that would improve infant mortality on the other.

    I’ve got so much more to say on this issue, but I’ve really said enough.

    Regards, Andrew

    Reply
  59. Jeff Vannoy says:

    I understand. I’ll let you have the last word. I’m sure we’ll find something else to discuss in another thread.

    Jeff

    Reply
  60. Tim D. says:

    If this is a sufficient reason to take a human life, then we have a lot of killing to do.

    Well, again, a zygote is not the same thing as a developed human being. I would not consider the termination of an early-stage pregnancy to be the same as, say, stabbing a man (or woman) to death. There is a grave difference.

    Are any of the objections sufficient reason to kill the unborn baby? The real issue is that you don’t think that the unborn are human beings worthy of protection, right? Let me illustrate, my wife’s grandmother recently past away. At the end of her life she was a tremendous burden to her daughter (emotionally and financially). Would you argue that her daughter would be justified in killing her based any of the objections you raised? If you say no, it reveals that you don’t think that grandma and an unborn baby are equally human persons. If that is the case, then let’s forget all these superfluous objections and get back to the real issue. What is the nature of the unborn?

    I think we’re getting caught up in wordplay here. You’re right, I don’t believe a zygote is as equally “human” or “person-like” as a developed human who has already matured and been birthed. If I did, then this would be a closed case for me :) But speaking personally, if I were a vegetable for life, I would not want to keep on living and burdening my family based on the hope that one day, somehow, without the use of stem cell research, we might figure out a way to cure alzheimer’s (in Andrew Ryan’s example), or whatever other disease/ailment/disability will have caused me to be in such a condition. If I know that I’m going to die (or if I’m too stupefied by illness to know anything), and there is no chance that my life will ever improve, then I will gladly duck out of existence to spare my family the burden — both financially and emotionally.

    So, if it goes against the wishes of the person, then that’s a slightly different story…..but if the person has claimed they don’t want to live in such circumstances for any reason — whether it be burden to the family, financially, or the horrible pain and disorientation of the illness itself — then I don’t think it’s horrible to allow them to die in peace and comfort.

    This is another point I disagree with very, very much that Evangelicals champion; that “life” itself is just always worth every trouble in and of itself, and that even if someone doesn’t want to keep living (like, say, terminal patients), they’re considered to have “not suitable judgment” for wanting to die. It’s considered more noble to force the family to eat through their life savings a month at a time (and ride the ensuing emotional roller coaster) until the person dies than it is to allow the person to die the way they want to.

    If this is a sufficient reason to take a human life, then we have a lot of killing to do.

    You seem to think that, just because there are special circumstances in which the actual quality of life overrides the “importance” of life itself, I am somehow advocating mass murder for financial reasons. Which, of course, is a ridiculous statement.

    Also there are so many points that I’ve made that have been ignored that it’s getting frustrating. Not just here but on other threads.

    I noticed that; every time a point gets made that’s not really cut-and-dry easy to answer, it just kind of gets overlooked….although I usually chalk that up to Evangelical argumentative tactics. They’re all so similar, sometimes it seems like they go train together for this kind of thing 0_0

    Lastly, I should make the point that even if I were to conceed that abortion should be legalized in the case of rape, are you aware that over 99% of abortions would be eliminated. Less than 1% of women who have abortions do so for the reasons of rape or incest.

    Does that make their cause any less valid? Of course not. Besides, I doubt those statistics are very accurate, seeing as how something like 40% of rapes (especially incest) go unreported. What, you think they’ll keep it a secret from everyone they trust, and then tell their abortionist? That seems odd.

    You did bring up brain function as a criteria to determine when human life (or personhood) begins. First, even if I granted this criteria (which I don’t), it would suggest a time of about 40 to 45 days, not 18 weeks as you suggested. Am I missing something?

    For someone who considers the drawing of a line so arbitrary, I wonder why you’re so obsessed with trying to draw one arbitrarily? Yeah, yeah, I know, “human life is not arbitrary, etc. etc.”, but what it boils down to is that you seem to believe there is a single, definite point at which a bundle of cells (sperm/egg/etc.) just magically becomes “human.” As in, it isn’t human one second and it is the next. I simply don’t believe that; it has human DNA, yes, but does DNA make up humanity? If it does, then when my skin peels from a sunburn that makes me a murderer, because I’m killing human DNA and therefore killing humans. The process of transition between “chunk of DNA” and “human with senses and consciousness” is a slow, undefined one that differs from individual to individual. So, for a line must be drawn for legal reasons, to do so on a “moral” basis seems silly; but then again, to me much of the Evangelical sense of “this is good, but change this one detail and now this is bad” is silly. So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised?

    What disturbs me deeply is that, while Christians claim to value “life” so much….it seems more like a conceptual thing than that they care about real, individual human lives. Like, they don’t look at a life and see a person with real aspirations, thoughts and experiences — they see a “life,” like it’s something to be harvested instead of something that’s always going on. Like there’s no connection between “life” and “people.” Like, the people themselves don’t matter; just their “life.” Like maybe, if there were a way to keep some part of them (say, the brain) “alive” even while destroying every other part of them, then that would be sufficient. Because, hey, we’re “conserving life!”

    Reply
  61. Bob Perry says:

    a zygote is not the same thing as a developed human being

    Tim, you keep saying this over and over and over again, apparently believing that your saying it makes it true. Yet you have been given credentialed textbook citations as evidence that SCIENCE (not the Bible) says a zygote IS the same thing as a human being. Smaller, yes. Different location a few inches up the birth canal, yes. More dependent, yes. But NONE of that takes away from its ontological status as a human person.

    I honestly don’t understand why that is so hard see. The reason this discussion is going nowhere is because some of you simply refuse to acknowledge something that is not arguable, not debatable — and not just because “I said so” but because the scientists who study this stuff say so. Talk about frustrating … it’s hard to know what to say to someone who simply refuses to face such a simple, in-your-face, unarguable fact.

    I could demand that gravity doesn’t exist too, but that would be just as ridiculous. I don’t mean to sound uncharitable but it is very frustrating to just hear the same rote responses over and over again. I guess I need to disengage too.

    Cheers …

    Reply
  62. Tim D. says:

    Tim, you keep saying this over and over and over again, apparently believing that your saying it makes it true.

    Wow. That’s irony in a bottle for ya; an Evangelical accusing me of practicing the Theory of Assertion!

    Yet you have been given credentialed textbook citations as evidence that SCIENCE (not the Bible) says a zygote IS the same thing as a human being.

    We’ve been over this; you keep saying the same thing over and over again, as though your saying it makes it true. Sure, a zygote has human DNA, and it has the medical potential to develop into a human being. But it’s absolutely ridiculous for you to say that a zygote is “the same thing” as a developed human being in any sense beyond “they’re both constructed of living matter.”

    Do you know why I do not kill, maim or torture people? Do you think I don’t do this because “they’re human?” No; I do it because (a) it’s completely unnecessary, and (b) they can feel, they can think, they can understand. To know that a conscious person is in a situation, trying to understand why you are doing something horrible to them….that is enough of a shock to me that I would never be able to bring myself to do it, even if I wanted to (which I sincerely do not). It’s the same way with animals and other species.

    So no, it’s not automatically a Full Human Being just because it’s a zygote. It just isn’t, sorry.

    I honestly don’t understand why that is so hard see. The reason this discussion is going nowhere is because some of you simply refuse to acknowledge something that is not arguable, not debatable — and not just because “I said so” but because the scientists who study this stuff say so. Talk about frustrating … it’s hard to know what to say to someone who simply refuses to face such a simple, in-your-face, unarguable fact.

    Tell me about it. Damn Evangelicals….

    What “inarguable” (BTW, it’s not “unarguable”) fact are we talking about? The fact that a zygote is living tissue with human DNA, or the “fact” you claim (which is false, BTW) that a zygote is the same as a developed human? That’s like claiming that a seed is a tree. It’s simply not true.

    I could demand that gravity doesn’t exist too, but that would be just as ridiculous. I don’t mean to sound uncharitable but it is very frustrating to just hear the same rote responses over and over again. I guess I need to disengage too.

    And you could demand that God exists and you have faith in Him, too….hmm….

    Reply
  63. Bob Perry says:

    Do you know why I do not kill, maim or torture people? Do you think I don’t do this because “they’re human?” No; I do it because (a) it’s completely unnecessary , and (b) they can feel, they can think, they can understand. To know that a conscious person is in a situation, trying to understand why you are doing something horrible to them….that is enough of a shock to me that I would never be able to bring myself to do it, even if I wanted to (which I sincerely do not). It’s the same way with animals and other species….

    …Because it’s “unnecessary”? Wow, that’s telling.

    To you then, there is no difference between hunting a deer and, say, hunting a human? The ONLY reasons you don’t do so now are that it’s 1) unnecessary and, 2) it’s cruel.

    BUT — If it were “necessary” to hunt for food, you could thereby justify hunting either deer or humans? Because I assume, based on your purely evolutionary-based will to survive, once it became “necessary” for you to do that to survive, it would suddenly become OK. After all, if there is no intrinsic difference between a deer and a human, either would suffice for dinner.

    By the way, unless you are a strict vegetarian and don’t wear belts or shoes, you DO kill “animals and other species” now. Or, I should say, you let someone else do it for you.

    Reply
  64. Tim D. says:

    …Because it’s “unnecessary”? Wow, that’s telling.

    What? The fact that it’s not necessary to torture people is telling? What rock have you been under?

    To you then, there is no difference between hunting a deer and, say, hunting a human? The ONLY reasons you don’t do so now are that it’s 1) unnecessary and, 2) it’s cruel.

    Okay, now you’re just being obnoxious; no matter, I can play that game, too. Are you telling me there is nothing stopping you from, say, torturing a deer to death? It’s not necessary, and it certainly is cruel, but by your standards, it’s not human so it’s okay, right? It doesn’t have a soul, or whatever humans have that makes them so special to you. Same goes for small animals; dogs, cats, mice. Anything goes, huh?

    But for obviousness’ sake, I’ll clarify that no, those aren’t the “only” two things stopping me from torturing and murdering animals and humans. They are just my two favorite, most obvious and easy-to-explain examples.

    BUT — If it were “necessary” to hunt for food, you could thereby justify hunting either deer or humans? Because I assume, based on your purely evolutionary-based will to survive, once it became “necessary” for you to do that to survive, it would suddenly become OK. After all, if there is no intrinsic difference between a deer and a human, either would suffice for dinner.

    I’m not the person you should be asking that. For one, hunger is a super-powerful motivator; ask the Donner Party. I don’t know what I would think if, God forbid, I should ever wind up in a situation where I am so ravenous that I would even consider for a second eating another human being.

    By the way, unless you are a strict vegetarian and don’t wear belts or shoes, you DO kill “animals and other species” now. Or, I should say, you let someone else do it for you.

    I never said anything about not killing animals. I used the phrase “torturing,” I believe. Again, your inability to tell the difference disturbs me deeply.

    Reply
  65. Bob Perry says:

    I never said anything about not killing animals. I used the phrase “torturing,” I believe. Again, your inability to tell the difference disturbs me deeply.

    “Tim D. Says:
    September 5th, 2008 at 6:24 pm: “Do you know why I do not kill, maim or torture people? … It’s the same way with animals and other species.”

    Reply
  66. Bob Perry says:

    Tim,
    You think I’m being “obnoxious” but the point of my post was to show just how ridiculous the claims become when you follow your view to its logical conclusion.

    If it sounds obnoxious to do that, maybe you need to reconsider your view.

    Reply
  67. Tim D. says:

    You think I’m being “obnoxious” but the point of my post was to show just how ridiculous the claims become when you follow your view to its logical conclusion.

    It’s ridiculous to not kill, maim or torture people because it’s not necessary and because I find it disturbing to do so?

    Okay, I see. So killing is bad, but it’s disturbing if we think so for any reason other than “because God said so.”

    If it sounds obnoxious to do that, maybe you need to reconsider your view.

    Or, better, I could not do that, and you could develop some discretion. There are always going to be natural social differences between our rules for killing other humans and our rules for killing animals. It’s in our DNA; my point is that your argument is the obnoxious one; that we’re somehow “special” in the eyes of a supposed creator of the universe, simply for being human. You argue that life is only special and unique and worth preserving if it is human life. I am not content with a worldview that says it’s okay to needlessly torture and maim animals, yet to get rid of a single cell that may or may not one day develop into a human is “brutally murdering and exterminating our species,” as yours claims. It shows a sincere lack of perspective for the world around us.

    Reply
  68. Tim D. says:

    P.S. I just realized you basically called me morally inferior for allowing compassion to keep me from torturing people. I guess I should’ve expected as much from an Evangelical 0_0

    Tell me, do you support torturing terrorists to obtain information that, according to the gov’t, may save lives? I’m interested to see if your logic here is as consistent.

    Reply
  69. Bob Perry says:

    I just realized you basically called me morally inferior for allowing compassion to keep me from torturing people. I guess I should’ve expected as much from an Evangelical 0_0

    I did no such thing. You’re putting words in my mouth — and thoughts in my head. I find it interesting that you repeatedly use sarcasm toward me as an evangelical, yet I have never once told you my religious beliefs or brought the Bible or God into this discussion. You are the only one who has done that.

    It may be frustrating for you to come here expecting our responses to be …”God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a single person on here who has done that. We have given scientific and philosophical support for our view. You reject it because … well … because you don’t like it. It doesn’t fit your sensiibilities. It doesn’t feel right. Well, that’s not a deficiency in our view — it’s a deficiency in yours.

    Also, you keep insisting that I am somehow “disturbing” because I don’t think compassion and cruelty are sufficient justifications for not wanting to kill people.

    First, that’s not what I said. In fact, I wish you would apply that same compassion to the fetus for whom you don’t seem to share those moral objections. Also, your feeling that compassion supports my view that there is an objective morality overarching all this that you must deny or suppress in order to accept abortion.

    Second, it’s not your compassion or desire to avoid being cruel that I’m questioning. If you re-read YOUR statement, YOU said that someone’s being human is NOT a sufficient reason for you NOT to kill them.

    Talk about disturbing. Wow.

    Reply
  70. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    You stated: But it’s absolutely ridiculous for you to say that a zygote is “the same thing” as a developed human being in any sense beyond “they’re both constructed of living matter.”

    A zygote is not the “same” as a developed human being any more than a toddler is the same as an adolescent. But they are the same thing. They are both equally human beings. Granted, one is in an earlier stage of development than the other, but since when does level of development determine one’s status as a human being.

    At conception a human life begins. You have been given plenty of evidence for this claim. That human life has its own unique individual genetic identity and has a nature and inherent capacity to develop into a fully “functioning” human being. All it needs is time and nutrition. There is no other logical place in the development process to draw the line of when this being should be counted a fully human life.

    Pick up any embryology textbook and you will read that life begins at conception. While you may think this is ridiculous, but science does not seem to agree. I think it’s ridiculous for a rational human being to refuse to accept the a sound argument and overwhemling evidence.

    This view is logical and consistent and I (and others) have given good reasons for it. We are all still waiting on you to refute the arguments offered.

    Also, if you have an argument for your position, then state it. And please don’t give me something riduculous like comparing an embryo to a skin cell. Most of your posts are mostly filled with assertion, opinion, and various points. If you want others to address your arguments, then you need actually offer an argument.

    Personally, I think your objection is not intellectual in nature, but related to the will. Perhaps, you are simply not willing to accept it. You decide.

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  71. Tim D. says:

    I did no such thing. You’re putting words in my mouth — and thoughts in my head. I find it interesting that you repeatedly use sarcasm toward me as an evangelical, yet I have never once told you my religious beliefs or brought the Bible or God into this discussion. You are the only one who has done that.

    You don’t have to. I can read other topics, too :)

    It may be frustrating for you to come here expecting our responses to be …”God said it, I believe it, that settles it.” Unfortunately, there isn’t a single person on here who has done that. We have given scientific and philosophical support for our view.

    Actually, what I’ve seen is arbitrary enforcement of singular statements that people have made. You guys tend to pick and choose whichever statistics most support your point, and ignore the rest. So it’s a little dishonest for you to pretend like you’re completely scientifically objective.

    You reject it because … well … because you don’t like it. It doesn’t fit your sensiibilities. It doesn’t feel right. Well, that’s not a deficiency in our view — it’s a deficiency in yours.

    For the, let’s see, I think this is the 112th time….you keep talking about me rejecting the idea of a fetus being human. You cited a guy that said an embryo is the same as a human on a genetic level. I have never dissented with this, that an embryo is the same as a human on a genetic level. I am not arguing with that. I am arguing that it is more than “just DNA” that makes something human. I would expect that you guys would understand that more than anybody else, being all Christian and stuff (the whole “we have souls” and whatnot). I am also arguing that an embryo does not possess the characteristics—emotionally, sensually, spiritually—that make up the “complete human.” It is for this reason that what I’m saying here does not discount what Mr. Quoted Science Man said about embryos being “genetically” human. Although I’m sure, even though I explain this here very clearly, you’ll still find a way to ignore it.

    First, that’s not what I said. In fact, I wish you would apply that same compassion to the fetus for whom you don’t seem to share those moral objections.

    Problem with that is, the embryo cannot think, cannot feel, cannot believe. That would be like asking me to feel compassion for a desk lamp. I like the way that commercial phrased it — “Some of you may feel compassion for the lamp. This is because you are crazy; the lamp has no feelings.”

    Second, it’s not your compassion or desire to avoid being cruel that I’m questioning. If you re-read YOUR statement, YOU said that someone’s being human is NOT a sufficient reason for you NOT to kill them.

    If a human being has a gun to your head, and his friend is holding down your daughter and trying to rape her, and you are afforded a brief opportunity to stop both of them by killing them, are you telling me that you would not do it because “they’re human” and therefore their lives are worth sparing?

    If not, then that means there is some other criteria besides “they are human” that determines the worth of their lives. If “they are human” was your only criteria, you wouldn’t be able to kill them because their lives are more important than the quality of yours and your daughter’s (and your daughter’s rape baby, which may or may not come into play).

    Sorry to be so crude, but it’s these extreme examples under which your “absolute morality” should be able to hold up if it is, indeed, absolute. By the way, care to point at the physical place in this world where this morality is? Since, you know, it’s objective. It must exist somewhere, right?

    Also, your feeling that compassion supports my view that there is an objective morality overarching all this that you must deny or suppress in order to accept abortion.

    I never said I felt that compassion supports your view of anything; I’m not sure what you mean here.

    Granted, one is in an earlier stage of development than the other, but since when does level of development determine one’s status as a human being.

    Seed =/= tree, embryo =/= developed human.

    I just now explained this clearly in my response to the other dude, so I’ll give you a chance to read it there before I re-iterate again in my smarmy little fashion :)

    At conception a human life begins. You have been given plenty of evidence for this claim. That human life has its own unique individual genetic identity and has a nature and inherent capacity to develop into a fully “functioning” human being. All it needs is time and nutrition. There is no other logical place in the development process to draw the line of when this being should be counted a fully human life.

    See above.

    This view is logical and consistent and I (and others) have given good reasons for it. We are all still waiting on you to refute the arguments offered.

    Don’t hold your breath. Wrong argument.

    Personally, I think your objection is not intellectual in nature, but related to the will. Perhaps, you are simply not willing to accept it. You decide.

    Of course. You know, we’re all like that, deep down, just because we’re not Christian; when Christians state scientific opinions (and pick and choose which statistics they want to bring out, depending on what political cause they’ve hijacked for the moment), they do it *completely objectively* (hah). It’s just us crazy liberals that “don’t want to hear the Troowth!”

    Give me a break….if you’re gonna try and take a shot at my character when your argument fails, at least admit that’s what you’re doing.

    Reply
  72. Tim D. says:

    P.S. On the whole “DNA makes you human” thing….I think it’s odd how Christians tend to be really vague about things relating to life and spirituality, and they hate on science because it proves things like evolution and the fact that the Bible is an invention of man….and yet, they hear what they like out of a scientist, all of a sudden they play “Mr. Scientifically Objective” and act like they supported science all along.

    Give me a freakin’ break. There’s a post on this very blog attacking science for what it is; and now you’re relying on an arbitrary scientific definition (it has DNA, so that means it’s equivalent to a developed human being!) to support your little argument.

    Reply
  73. Andrew Ryan says:

    Hello again.

    1. I agree with Tim that it seems absurd to say that it’s not a human being one second, but is one the next. We become what we are cell division by cell division. It’s a process.

    2. I often try to work out if rhetoric likening abortion to the holocaust is sincerely meant. I find it hard to believe that people genuinely believe it, for this reason: if I lived in a country where, say, Asians people were kept as slaves and their owners could slaughter them at will… I would move out of that country! Likewise, if I honestly considered abortion equivalent to Nazi death camps, I’d move to a country that outlawed abortion.

    3. I accept that the pro-lifers have avoided mentioning God. But I consider it the elephant in the room. Tim and I probably both suspect that it is the REAL reason for the views people have here. I’ve talked to pro-lifers who’ll quote what they assert are scientific backings for their views on the abortion debate, while rejecting 150 years of evidence for evolution. This leads me to suspect that it’s not the scientific backing that convinces them on the issue of abortion, but religious views.

    That said, I honestly think it’s fair game for them to offer scientific evidence, even if they don’t accept it themselves. They’re saying that atheists or moderate Christians are the side that trumpets the importance of scientific evidence, and therefore should themselves accept scientific evidence that backs the pro-life argument. This is similar to Democrats pointing out the hypocrisy in putting forward Sarah Palin after attacking Obama’s lack of experience. The Dems don’t have to believe themselves that Palin isn’t experienced, just that the GOP is being inconsistent and not following its own argument.

    However, I don’t accept that compelling evidence has been put forward here. We’ve seen that zygotes have their unique DNA, and that they’ll grow into a human, and that they are alive. However, I’m pretty sure that each sperm also has a unique DNA, as do eggs. Or siblings would share the same DNA profile. I agree that skin on my finger is not alive in the same sense as a zygote, but again, sperm is.

    BP posted quotes from doctors asserting that zygotes are unique individuals and other things too. I’ve got several doctors in my immediate family, including two Christian obstetricians. All are pro-choice. There is not scientific consensus on what makes a human being simply because it is not a scientific question but a philosophical one. ‘Human being’ is a man-made concept, as are all biological classifications. Stating that a zygote is a human being in the same sense as an adult, child or baby is an opinion, whether stated by a doctor or a politician.

    You can dismiss the (not necessarily exclusive) signifiers that Tim and I state such as consciousness, awareness of mortality, our ability to reason complex ideas. But these are the things that make us different from the rest of the animal kingdom in the first place. If apes demonstrated these abilities we’d have to consider giving them some of the same rights we accord humans. In fact they DO demonstrate some of these abilities to a small extent, which is why many philosophers, biologists and anthropologists argue that we should treat chimps better than we do.

    Reply
  74. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Please allow me to try a different approach.
    Let me clarify. Two human parents unite, through combination of an egg and sperm, to produce a separate entity, genetically unique (genetically unique from either parent), that is alive and growing in the mother, but it is not her or part of her. Do we agree? This entity is a human being by nature (I mean it’s not a Llama). A human being is a thing (a substance) and has properties and capacities. For example, my dog Molly is a thing that has the property of being brown and hairy. Some properties are essential properties and some are not (being brown for example is not essential to be a dog). Molly also has the capacity to respond to verbal commands (she sits, etc.). Now the properties do not make Molly what she is (a dog), but because of what kind of thing she is, she has these properties. Similarly, a human being has the properties of self-awareness, moral awareness, sentience, response to stimulus, etc. These properties do not make something a human being. On the contrary, these properties flow from human nature. A human displays these characteristics because it is first a human being.

    Why is human life valuable? It seems we can go two ways with this question. We can ground value in either nature or function and properties. We can say that humans are valuable because of their nature as human beings. Admittedly this is the Christian view. It is also the view espoused in the Declaration of Independence and the basis of the Civil Rights Movement. The logic of the civil rights movement is that we are all equal in our human nature. Our inherent value was not determined by our properties (skin color, etc), but by our common human nature.

    What if we try to ground human value in function or properties? This, it seems, is the route you prefer. For example, the ability to form a self concept, establish meaningful relationships, use language, intelligence, you pick. The problem with any criterion you choose is that we don’t all share them to the same level and, thus, are not equal based on the criterion. An adult has a more developed self concept than a 3-year old. Some have a more developed ability to use language, etc. The point is that if you want to base equality and value on function, then we better function equally and that function better be relevant to ethical treatment. The bottom line is that to ground human value in our ability to function at a certain level with eventually lead to the exclusion of many in the human community. Lincoln made this point to Stephen Douglas in his campaign toward abolition.

    You have admitted that the unborn are genetically human, but you argue that they don’t count as fully human (whatever that means) unless they also exhibit certain functions. You have mentioned self-awareness as a criterion. If this is your criterion, then you have just excluded all those humans who are in a coma. Those with Down’s Syndrome do not function at the same level as most of us. Should we exclude them from protection? This problem occurs no matter what criterion you choose. Some humans will always be excluded from protection. This is what happened with slavery and it happens now with the unborn. The unborn are human by nature and it’s that nature that grounds their value and rights, not their ability to function at a certain level.

    You also made the statement that the embryo is not a developed human and used the illustration that a seed is not a tree. You are making a serious mistake here. An acorn is an oak tree. An acorn is a name we use to identify a certain immature form of an oak tree. It’s an oak tree in an earlier stage of development. You are right that an embryo is not a fully developed human being. This is obvious. But it is fully human by “nature.” I suggest that “nature” is what we should be considering, not function. If you agree, then you must count humans beings (at all stages of development) as members of the human community and grant them the right to life that comes along with their nature.
    Jeff

    Reply
  75. Tim D. says:

    You also made the statement that the embryo is not a developed human and used the illustration that a seed is not a tree. You are making a serious mistake here. An acorn is an oak tree.

    Ah, but it is not! An acorn is an acorn; it is the seed of an oak tree. An acorn has the potential to become an oak tree, yes, but it is not yet an oak tree, any more than a maggot is a fly, or a catepillar is a butterfly. All of these things have the potential to grow and evolve, but if something were to happen to stop them from becoming those things, they would simply not become those things. Same goes for embryos; they can develop into human children, but if something stops them from doing so, they never develop and thus never become human children. They remain human embryos.

    And your racial analogy is seriously flawed, as well. I should turn it on you and ask: if it’s a Christian principle that embryos are humans, and you say these doctrines (such as the Civil Rights Act) are based on Christian principle….then shouldn’t they claim embryos are humans? And yet, they don’t. Telling. Because they are not based on Christian principle; they are based on the idea that, as human beings with consciousnesses and feelings and — some might go so far as to say — souls, we are considered equal under the government. Once again, you make the assumption that an embryo falls under this category because it is the genetic root of a human.

    I’m quite tired, so I’ll come back tomorrow and see if I can make this any more obvious to you.

    Reply
  76. Tim D. says:

    P.S. It’s silly to say that “a seed is a tree” because a tree has properties that a seed does not. A tree can make seeds, for instance. A seed cannot make other seeds; unlike human babies, a seed doesn’t even have the parts required for such reproduction. Whereas human babies simply haven’t developed the capability to reproduce yet, seeds don’t possess the proper anatomy, period.

    Likewise, a human embryo is not the same as a developed human. An embryo is not a person yet. Part (mind you, PART, lest you go off on a tangent with that word ‘only’ you cling to so dearly) of the “human being” is the person’s consciousness, the person’s self-awareness; taking into example a person who is medically brain-dead, who will never recover because their brain is dead. That is a person’s body on the table, but is it that person anymore? Their body still functions; their lungs work, their heart pumps, their brain sends basic commands necessary for the survival of the body. But is the “person” still alive? He/she is not conscious, never again will be. Their body is still “human” in nature, but is the “human being” inside still alive?

    Also, note that the law allows us to remove tube feeding (for example) from such a patient, so long as we have power of attorney over that individual.

    Reply
  77. Jeff Vannoy says:

    A thing is what it is from the moment it begins to exist. Human life begins at conception at which point it has a human nature. If you think that human life has value, then it must aquire that value at some point. I argue that it aquires that value from the moment it begins to exist. You argue from when it starts to function at a certain level. I have shown you where this leads and why it’s wrong. You keep bringing up the same objections which I have already addressed. I showed you for example that your criteria would exclude those is a coma, but you did not address this. I dd not say medically brain dead (dead), I said coma. Do you think that someone in a coma is still a human person?

    You said an embryo is a human, but not a person. Human beings are by nature personal beings. The exhibit the properties of personhood because why? Because they are first human. The qualities of personhood do not make something human. If the “nature” of a thing does not determine it’s status, then you need to show why your arbitrary criteria are up to the task. Then show how your criteria will work in the case of the unborn, without excluding other members of the human community. I’m still waiting on this argument. You keep confusing nature and function (producing seeds is a FUNCTION).

    Do you think that NEWBORNS are human persons? Peter Singer (Princeton) applies the personhood criteria consistently and argues that newborns are not fully human persons until some 28 day AFTER birth. This is where your view leads logically. Can you handle that?

    Jeff

    Reply
  78. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Do you think that someone in a coma is still a human person?”

    Can you prove a person in a coma has no brain function, isn’t aware in any way, doesn’t dream etc? We know that a 2 day old zygote does none of these things as it doesn’t have a brain.

    I don’t see exactly how much that is earth-shattering has changed between 2 seconds before conception and 2 seconds after. The change is purely a chemical one at that stage.

    “A thing is what it is from the moment it begins to exist.”
    So at what point over the past 3 million years or so in our development from ape-like creatures did we suddenly become human beings? Was it a process, or a sudden KAZAAAM! flash thing?

    Reply
  79. Jeff Vannoy says:

    “I don’t see exactly how much that is earth-shattering has changed between 2 seconds before conception and 2 seconds after. The change is purely a chemical one at that stage.”

    At conception, a new entity exists marking the beginning of human life. Surely, we’re still not debating this. You admitted this yourself. How much more of a change could there be?

    I said, “A thing is what it is from the moment it begins to exist.”
    You said, “So at what point over the past 3 million years or so in our development from ape-like creatures did we suddenly become human beings? Was it a process, or a sudden KAZAAAM! flash thing?

    What are you talking about? What does the question of evolution have to do with the beginning of an individual human life? When do you think YOU began to exist? 3-miillion years ago? I’m arguing that a thing has a nature from the moment it begins to exist. Your response reveals that you are not able (or willing) to follow the argument and stay on point.

    I really think you are just here to argue and not to consider the arguments and evidence presented.

    I think we are done here. See you in another thread.

    Jeff

    Reply
  80. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I’m arguing that a thing has a nature from the moment it begins to exist. ”
    And I’m saying that becoming a human being isn’t a ‘BANG’ thing, where a human being doesn’t exist one second and then suddenly comes into existence.

    I DID have a point in bringing up evolution. It’s a clear, indisputable fact that we didn’t as a species suddenly become human beings. At one point we were ape-like creatures, and 3m years later we now class ourselves as humans. It’s impossible to say at what point we turned from one to the other, yes? It was a slow process.

    So this clearly shows that, on a species level, it is incorrect to say: “A thing is what it is from the moment it begins to exist.” ‘Human being’ is a human construct.

    If it is true that on a species level there was no ‘BANG’ moment, then I think one can say the same on the individual level. And for the fifth or whatever time, two seconds after conception is obviously right at the beginning of the process of becoming human. But that doesn’t make that cluster of cells ‘a human being’.

    “How much more of a change could there be?”
    How much more of a change from 2 seconds after conception to 9 months later? Well, thousands, millions of cell divisions, the development of the brain, and other organs of the body, etc.

    “I think we are done here.”
    I agree we’ve come against a brick wall. I’m sorry if you think I’m trying to lead you up the garden path in this and my last post. I am quite sincere, believe I am staying on topic, and hope that the above makes my meaning clearer. I’m you still don’t agree with me, and possibly still don’t even get my point. But at least I hope you believe I had one!

    Reply
  81. Tim D. says:

    Do you think that NEWBORNS are human persons? Peter Singer (Princeton) applies the personhood criteria consistently and argues that newborns are not fully human persons until some 28 day AFTER birth. This is where your view leads logically. Can you handle that?

    Jeff

    Actually, that’s not where my argument leads “logically” at all. I’d argue that a zygote/fetus becomes “human” in the same sense that I am once it develops the capacity for consciousness (note “the capacity for,” not actual consciousness), if I were forced to put it into such arbitrary terms. But the very point of this (dare I say “debate?”) is that it’s not arbitrary; you are trying to make it simple, cut-and-dry, and arbitrary, and I am not. That is where we differ.

    As such, a zygote does not have the capacity to be conscious. Whereas a coma patient does have both the capacity to do so, as well as the possible chance of doing so eventually. A zygote does not develop this capacity until later on, when it becomes a fetus.

    A thing is what it is from the moment it begins to exist

    By that “logic” nothing would ever change. Everything would simply exist and never grow or adapt. Things change into different things; caterpillars grow into butterflies, seeds grow into trees. They are different by their nature.

    You keep bringing up the same objections which I have already addressed. I showed you for example that your criteria would exclude those is a coma, but you did not address this.

    Yeah, you do keep bringing up the same objections (in different format, of course). I noticed that, and it’s kind of annoying.

    Oh, and I totally just now addressed your coma thing. So I’ll wait before I add something smarmy to that.

    At conception, a new entity exists marking the beginning of human life. Surely, we’re still not debating this. You admitted this yourself. How much more of a change could there be?

    Well, it could be like you seem to think it is — that a tiny person incapable of consciousness, self-awareness, or any biological function beyond the command to grow that is embedded into its DNA, just magically POOF!s into existence. As in, is there one minute and isn’t the next.

    Except it’s not like that. The zygote gradually modifies itself to expand the structure of its DNA and begins to devlop things like brain and heart function, and eventually consciousness.

    I really think you are just here to argue and not to consider the arguments and evidence presented.

    I want *so bad* to make fun of you for saying that again, but I think I already did, so I’ll just let the weakness of your case speak for itself.

    i.e. a person who has established a point does not say such things, etc.

    But that’s what’s always disturbed me about Evangelicals; they make a simple case, point to simple proofs, and refuse to see any deeper meaning to the situation. Which is odd, considering that you guys claim to have a monopoly on morality, significance, transcendence, etc.

    But I digress; you guys do that, and then you declare the issue closed; at this point, if nobody agrees with you (or, God forbid, if not everybody agrees with you), then you just declare them “ignorant” or “missing the point,” or you say they “won’t accept evidence,” just because what you consider to be “unarguable” proof doesn’t convince them.

    And should I respond with, “people have different standards for belief” (which the difference of belief between you and I so clearly demonstrates), you are likely to respond by comparing me to some murderer or (again) Hitler, and then ask if we should accept everybody’s personal standards no matter how extreme.

    So while I can’t speak for anyone else out of courtesy, I can’t say I’m here to argue. Maybe I would be, if you guys weren’t so predictable….but what’s fun about arguing with people who repeat the same tired case over and over again as though it were a moral atrocity instead of an open discussion?

    Reply
  82. Jeff Vannoy says:

    I guess, I’m back for a while.

    I’ll address you full post later. First this:

    Finally, you have set a criterion. So I take it that you think a fetus becomes fully human at the point where it develops the “capacity” for consciousness. Earlier you mentioned brain function. Are they the same to you? So when do you think that the unborn should be counted as fully human and is consciousness your only criterion? If you have another, please tell me now. Based on this, I assume (correct me if I’m wrong) that you think that there is a human “person” present at about 45 days. If that’s true, then you would oppose abortion after that time. Is that right?

    By the way, many things you attributed to me are incorrect. You must have me confused with someone else. What do you mean comparing you to Hitler, for example? I never said that.

    Jeff

    Reply
  83. Tim D. says:

    Finally, you have set a criterion. So I take it that you think a fetus becomes fully human at the point where it develops the “capacity” for consciousness. Earlier you mentioned brain function. Are they the same to you? So when do you think that the unborn should be counted as fully human and is consciousness your only criterion? If you have another, please tell me now. Based on this, I assume (correct me if I’m wrong) that you think that there is a human “person” present at about 45 days. If that’s true, then you would oppose abortion after that time. Is that right?

    It depends. Does brain activity = the capacity for consciousness? I imagine the early stages of brain development do not. But then again, that’s a matter that’s generally taken on a case-by-case basis — some fetuses begin to show signs of brain activity sooner than others, some later. If you’re trying to get me to set a definitive deadline after which any and all abortion becomes morally impermissible, you’re not going to get far, I’ll tell you that now. But as a general rule, I do oppose late-term abortions — if you’ve had 7+ months to think about it and still haven’t made a decision, then that’s kind of a different story. But I hardly expect a mother to know at the moment of conception (or at the moment she becomes aware of the pregnancy) that she wants or needs to terminate, and so naturally there is a window of acceptability there.

    By the way, many things you attributed to me are incorrect. You must have me confused with someone else. What do you mean comparing you to Hitler, for example? I never said that.

    Hitler was an extreme example. I’m aware it wasn’t you that compared me to him, but that’s where about 70% of these kinds of conversations wind up, in my experience — somebody getting compared with Hitler. It’s just another one of those stereotypical Evangelical responses.

    Interesting how you don’t dissent with any of the other things I “attributed to you,” though….

    Reply
  84. Tim D. says:

    P.S. If you want some proof to that end, type “Hitler” into the search queue in the upper right-hand corner of this page. You’ll get about 8 blogs that come up.

    Reply
  85. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    Maybe I should bring up that you guys just keep bringing up the same old tired argument also. I could lump you in with a whole of others and attribute to you all those things that others like you have said. I don’t think this is very helpful. Would it be okay if we just dealt with each other’s arguments and statements?

    “Interesting how you don’t dissent with any of the other things I “attributed to you,” though….”

    I would prefer not to have to waste my time. Why don’t you just leave them out of your posts? The Hitler thing was just an example. It does indicate that perhaps you are not really paying attention to me and my arguments.

    You stated: And should I respond with, “people have different standards for belief”

    Is this also supposed to be a quote from one of my posts? Once again, I think this came from someone else. And what’s the point anyway? We obviously have different beliefs. And where they contradict, they can’t both be true. That’s why we are having this discussion, I think my view is actually true and yours is mistaken. Obviously, you think the same of mine.

    YOU STATED: “It depends. Does brain activity = the capacity for consciousness? I imagine the early stages of brain development do not. But then again, that’s a matter that’s generally taken on a case-by-case basis — some fetuses begin to show signs of brain activity sooner than others, some later. If you’re trying to get me to set a definitive deadline after which any and all abortion becomes morally impermissible, you’re not going to get far, I’ll tell you that now. But as a general rule, I do oppose late-term abortions — if you’ve had 7+ months to think about it and still haven’t made a decision, then that’s kind of a different story. But I hardly expect a mother to know at the moment of conception (or at the moment she becomes aware of the pregnancy) that she wants or needs to terminate, and so naturally there is a window of acceptability there.”

    I think this reveals one weakness of your position. You establish some criteria for when a human being counts as “fully human” or a “person” (I’ll just use the term person for now). The criteria you use are clearly related to the point in development at which a thing has the capacity for certain functions, not what the thing (human) is. Then you admit that you don’t even know when something has the capacity in question. It’s interesting that you said the criterion was “capacity” for consciousness and not just consciousness? What does count as the capacity for consciousness? Is it the hardware you have in mind (a brain), or something else? You claim to oppose late-term abortions in general. May I ask why? I assume you will say that a there is a full human person present. True? But, you admit that you are not sure when this being was present. It’s like saying “I’m agnostic on the question of when life begins, so go ahead and have the abortion.” Would you demolish a building not knowing if there were people in the basement? What if your criterion is wrong?

    You want the unborn to have a “capacity for consciousness” to be counted fully human. Well, because an embryo IS human it has all the necessary capacities inherently (or the capacity to develop the capacities). For example, let’s say you want brain function to be present. This was mentioned earlier as a valid criterion since the cessation of brain activity is the point at which a human dies. An early embryo does not have brain function because an early embryo does not have a brain, not at that level of development. But, since it is a human being, what it does have is the capacity to develop a brain and thus the capacity for brain function. It has these capacities naturally and inherently. For example, a one-month old does not have the capacity for language which is appropriate at that stage of development. But, in virtue of being a human person by nature, she has the capacity to develop the capacity for language.

    To illustrate further, I have a chocolate lab (Molly). When she was a puppy she did not have the capacity to bark. But, because she is a dog, she has the capacity to develop the capacity to bark once she reaches the appropriate level of development. Your criteria for personhood are similar. They are related to level of development of a thing, not the nature of the thing.

    Now, can you answer this thought experiment (I answered yours). Let’s take the criterion of consciousness. Suppose 300 years from now, we have a new procedure. We can clone human beings and and place them in a coma so they are never conscious and never develop the capacity for consciousness even thought they grow to adulthood physically. The thought of the day is that since they are not fully human persons so society uses them for organ farms to replace defective organs among the diseased and elderly. In the context of your view, is this wrong? Or, is does our hypothetical future society have it right?

    It seems that all that has been done is interrupt the inherent natural human capacity to for consciousness. This is what an abortion does. It interrupts the emerging natural capacity for consciousness.

    Jeff

    Reply
  86. Andrew Ryan says:

    “In the context of your view, is this wrong? Or, is does our hypothetical future society have it right?”

    I’ve had this very conversation with one of my doctor cousins. He didn’t have a problem with it, though he added that the cloned human wouldn’t have a brain stem, and would therefore have no thought at all. In that respect it would be quite similar to a fetus in early development.

    Perhaps my answer shocks you, but then your answer to my thought experiment shocked me too. If such a clone saved the life of one of your nearest and dearest then you’d probably appreciate it.

    By the way, do you know anyone who holds a funeral service for a fetus that miscarries in the first month of pregnancy?

    Reply
  87. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Thanks for being honest Andrew. I take it you, like your cousin, see no problem with it.

    You stated: If such a clone saved the life of one of your nearest and dearest then you’d probably appreciate it.

    Absolutely not my friend. I think that cloned humans are human beings with the natural inherent capacity to develop and function as such. I think they have an interest in and a right to their own development. So, I would not appreciate it.

    While we do not usually see funeral services for miscarriages in the first month of pregnancy, I’m not sure what this proves. We do see grief. Obviously, the parents do not have the same affection and attachement to a fetus as they do their 10-year old. That proves nothing about the nature of the fetus.

    Perhaps we have now reached an impasse. What do you think? I appreciate the dialogue though. I have benefited from our discussion. I hope I have given you something new to consider and not the “same old tired arguments.”

    Jeff

    Reply
  88. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I think that cloned humans are human beings with the natural inherent capacity to develop and function as such. I think they have an interest in and a right to their own development.

    The clones my cousin and I discussed would have developed completely without brain stems. They would never have been ‘alive’ in the same sense as you or I in the first place.

    By the way, that 30% figure of certainty regarding man-made global warming that I used just by way of example – I just saw on the TV that the IPCC – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – actually states that it is 90% certain that man is causing a dangerous rise in global temperatures through carbon emissions. Not especially on topic, except in the sense that unless we start taking the issue seriously it will increase cause hundreds of millions of infant deaths in the next few decades.

    Reply
  89. Andrew Ryan says:

    I think possibly the difference between us is that in my view everything that makes us human as being in the brain. There’s nothing external to my brain function that makes ‘me’. So without a brain, there’s no human.

    This view is possibly incompatible with Christian thinking, or possibly not. Perhaps there’s a Christian idea that there’s something else that exists even if the brain doesn’t – a soul or something. I don’t know.

    Reply
  90. Tim D. says:

    That’s why we are having this discussion, I think my view is actually true and yours is mistaken. Obviously, you think the same of mine.

    The irony here is actually that no, I don’t think your view of abortion is necessarily “wrong,” objectively or otherwise. I believe you’re entitled to believe whatever you want, and to choose not to have abortions (or approve of anyone you know having abortions), and I could care less about that. What I actually take issue with is your assertion that “your view is right and my view is mistaken,” as you say. This discussion has not been resolved; there is no magic “easy answer” that you can pull out like a trump card and then declare the case closed. I’m interested in debating the finer points, even though I know neither of us is likely to change our minds….but that claim of yours is absurd, that you are somehow privy to some “Superior Morality” because you believe you are. By that rationality, I could make up a belief system or religion right now and claim that I believe it, then hold you to those standards (and claim they are objective) on the grounds that “I believe them, so they are true for you, too, even though you don’t.”

    I think this reveals one weakness of your position.

    And you’d be wrong, again.

    You claim to oppose late-term abortions in general. May I ask why? I assume you will say that a there is a full human person present.

    You know what they say happens when you assume…?

    But seriously, you’re wrong here as well. It has nothing to do with the “humanity” of the fetus; the fact of the matter is that 7 months is a long time to make a decision to have an abortion. It’s possible to slip up and get pregnant by many different means (get slipped a roofie at a party and date raped, or just plain raped, or have sex with misconceptions about the effectiveness of certain methods of pregnancy prevention), and among other things I don’t think it’s entirely fair to expect the mother to dedicate the next 18 years of her life to a cause that may or may not have been intended. As such, I don’t think it’s a horrible crime for a woman to take a morning after pill or some such thing at this point. Likewise, if there is confusion about what to do, I don’t expect a woman to exercise 100% perfect judgment from day one; I expect that there might be some conflict about how to resolve the issue. So it seems quite arbitrary to cut off the deadline at “day one” given that most abortions are not had on the day of (or even week of) conception.

    *waits for assault on character*

    True? But, you admit that you are not sure when this being was present.

    Again, wrong. I “admit” that the time at which this occurs (a) is not precise or exact or arbitrary, and (b) varies from individual to individual. Anything I could say about when brain function begins, or when heartbeat can first be measured, would be based on universal statistics, not individual cases. No matter what the statistics say, there are always cases that vary, and while statistics are sometimes helpful in coming to conclusions on such matters, it’s foolish to regard them as some sort of set-in-stone gospel commandment.

    Would you demolish a building not knowing if there were people in the basement? What if your criterion is wrong?

    For one; you’re not going to prove anything with that analogy, though I’m sure you know that. Two; it depends on the circumstances. Are the people hostages that have been put there against their will? Are they kids that are playing in an area where they shouldn’t be? Or do we not know? All I can say is, if it’s a derelict building and I’ve made every effort to secure the premesis before detonation, at what point is it considered that I have done my job to this end, and from that point on it becomes the responsibility of the person to get out of their own accord?

    The reason this analogy is stupid is because there are so many variables — once again, a Christian trying to make a black-and-white inkblot out of a rainbow, to be colorful about it :)

    (^See my double-pun?)

    An early embryo does not have brain function because an early embryo does not have a brain, not at that level of development.

    And there we have it. Once again, an embryo is not a human; it does not possess a brain, and therefore does not possess the capacity for consciousness. You can play the word game until the cows come home, but the bottom line is that the capacity to develop the capacity for consciousness does not, in itself, constitute a capacity for consciousness. What that basically means (to draw another arbitrary line, so you can understand it) is that it does not have anywhere for a consciousness to be stored. It does not have any means by which a consciousness could be registered by the rest of its body.

    By your logic, a sperm is a human being because it has the capacity to merge with an egg and develop. If we play the “but if we do this and this, then it will….” game, then we could make virtually anything into a moral debate, thus crushing the gravity of real arguments like this one.

    For example, a one-month old does not have the capacity for language which is appropriate at that stage of development.

    It does. Moreso than a zygote, most definitely. That which constitutes a baby’s “language” is not the same as that which constitutes, say, English, but it is a form of verbal communication nonetheless (or signal communication, in the event of a deaf/mute child). A zygote cannot communicate at all, because it has no conscious thought or desire to communicate. It contains no threshold for such desires.

    They are related to level of development of a thing, not the nature of the thing.

    Here we are again with nature. See, I think I’ve finally begun to understand what the hell Andrew Ryan was saying about gays earlier; about how Christians view them as intrinsically “worth less than straight people” because of their functionality. They are less valuable to Christians as human beings (and as such do not deserve the same civil rights that the rest of us do, nor the same priveleges), not because of their nature but in spite of it. In this case, you belive their actions override their nature. Same with murderers; you believe their actions override the “inherent value” of their nature. So it seems that human nature alone is not enough to fully determine what is “human” or “valuable” and what is not; for there are humans that you would agree with seeing sentenced to death for their actions, in spite of their “human value.”

    So by your own logic, gays should be able to have all the same civil rights and liberties that straight folks do, because they are worth the same (after all, they’re “human” and are intrinsically “equally valuable” to the rest of us, right?). So why does this argument apply to single cells with no capacity for thought or feeling or spirituality, and not to fully-developed humans? Because of their actions? If so, then it is the actions of the person that determines their worth in your criterium, not their inherent value.

    Please, explain this to me if I’ve misunderstood.

    We can clone human beings and and place them in a coma so they are never conscious and never develop the capacity for consciousness even thought they grow to adulthood physically. The thought of the day is that since they are not fully human persons so society uses them for organ farms to replace defective organs among the diseased and elderly. In the context of your view, is this wrong? Or, is does our hypothetical future society have it right?

    Hmm…that’s kind of an interesting one, I’ll give you that.

    It really depends on a number of factors. For one, I’d need more details on the process used to create these so-called human clones (are they just clusters of organs, or is there a way to measure brain activity, etc.?).

    In a sense, I’d have to oppose the creation of conscious entities (even if they’re in a coma, I assume they do possess the capacity for consciousness, since we know coma patients possess such a capacity — basically, I assume that all I know of coma patients applies here), if their only purpose is to be literally killed and harvested. Many reasons for this, but to keep it simple I’ll say that just doesn’t sit with me right. However, if we were talking about creating organs — i.e. “hey, let’s make a stomach!”, or, “hey, check this, we can make brain cells!” — that doesn’t seem too farfetched to me. Odd, perhaps, but it doesn’t carry the same stigma that farming complete, living human beings for organs does.

    I’ll be thinking about this one today. I might get back to you with more later….

    P.S. It makes me think to ask you: Do you think that a cloned human being (assuming that to clone were possible) counts as a human being? They have the same DNA; according to you, it is the uniqueness of their DNA that makes them human. So they both have the same DNA, that means one must be “real” and one must be “fake,” right?

    It seems that all that has been done is interrupt the inherent natural human capacity to for consciousness. This is what an abortion does. It interrupts the emerging natural capacity for consciousness.

    Just like Christianity! (/rimshot)

    No, no, I jest….but seriously. You’ve stopped arguing here and started preaching, so naturally I have no response. I just couldn’t resist the bait you offered -_-

    This view is possibly incompatible with Christian thinking, or possibly not. Perhaps there’s a Christian idea that there’s something else that exists even if the brain doesn’t – a soul or something. I don’t know.

    I’m curious to this end, as well. What is the Christian stance? If the brain is removed from the body, do we still call the body by the name of the person? Or do we call the brain by that name? Or both? And why, in any case?

    Seriously, for once I’m not being a smartass. I’d really like to know.

    Reply
  91. Andrew Ryan says:

    “See, I think I’ve finally begun to understand what the hell Andrew Ryan was saying about gays earlier”

    Jeez Tim, if it’s taken you this long to work it out, no wonder it flummoxed everyone else!

    “I assume they do possess the capacity for consciousness, since we know coma patients possess such a capacity”
    Yes, that’s where Jeff’s original coma analogy fell down. In this futuristic analogy though, if the clones have been ‘grown’ from a zygote, it would be pretty simple to develop them so that they lacked brains from the off, and would therefore never have been ‘alive’ in the first place in the sense that you are I are.

    I’m unconvinced on the argument that the zygote is a human being because it contains unique DNA.
    I’m unconvinced because
    a) the same could be said of sperm, and
    b) it suggests that a clone wouldn’t count as its DNA isn’t unique. In fact identical twins wouldn’t count either (or at least one of them wouldn’t).

    Reply
  92. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Real quick. I’ll be back later.

    Andrew,

    It’s not the presence of human DNA that makes human life. Sperm are not human beings and more than skin cells or liver cells. No one argues this way. Sperm are haploid (23 chromosomes). Just because a cell has a nucleus with DNA does not make it a human life. At conception, a entirely new entity (individual) begins to exist, with it own unique genetic code (different than mom and dad) and with all the NATURAL INHERENT capacities to develop into a fully funtional human being. All it needs is food, water, time, and the proper environment. Skin cells don’t have this capacity.

    Also, the futuristic analaogy is a thought experiment so you shouldn’t change the scenario. The clones in my example have a rudimentary brain, they are just in a permanent state of coma (not conscious). Thus, they are in the same state as a standard fetus prior to consciousness.

    If the criteria is going to change to having a brain, it doesn’t really help the position of the pro-abortionist since brain function is detected very early – 40 to 43 days.

    Also, if we were to make a clone of you Andrew, it would be a human being just like you or your twin would be. Just because another person has your DNA does not make it identical to you (you are more than your DNA), or less human than you.

    Hope that helps,
    Jeff

    Reply
  93. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Also, if we were to make a clone of you Andrew, it would be a human being just like you or your twin would be. ”

    I know, that was my point. Saying that having a ‘unique genetic code’ makes a zygote special seems to suggest that they’d be LESS special if their genetic code wasn’t unique. But we’ve agreed that clones would be human beings despite NOT having a ‘unique genetic code’, and sperm AREN’T special despite HAVING a unique genetic code. The CLONE part of your thought experiment had no affect on how I viewed it. Repeating it with unique DNA wouldn’t change my mind either way.

    “Skin cells don’t have this capacity.”
    I didn’t say they did. I was talking about sperm. Sperm lead to new life, skin cells don’t.

    “All it needs is food, water, time, and the proper environment.”
    I think the phrase ‘all it needs’ here is somewhat of an understatement. That’s quite a lot! You might as well apply it to include sperm and say ‘all it needs is an egg, food, water, time, and the proper environment.’

    “Thus, they are in the same state as a standard fetus prior to consciousness.”
    Then it would depend how far developed they are. Prior to 20 week’s development I’d say yes, after that my answer would be no. And if the clones were being kept alive by being connected to another human being for 9 months, against that human being’s will, then I’d say no. Because that’s the difference between your thought experiment and a pregnant woman.

    Reply
  94. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    I’ll get to the soul thing. But first,

    You stated: “The irony here is actually that no, I don’t think your view of abortion is necessarily “wrong,” objectively or otherwise. I believe you’re entitled to believe whatever you want, and to choose not to have abortions. What I actually take issue with is your assertion that “your view is right and my view is mistaken,” as you say….even though I know neither of us is likely to change our minds….but that claim of yours is absurd, that you are somehow privy to some “Superior Morality”….

    I did not say that the answer is easy or magical, nor did I say I’m morally superior. My point is simply that I think my position better accounts for the evidence. If you really don’t care what I believe then why are you trying to convince me that I’m wrong? I assume you hold the views you do because you think they are true (correspond to reality). Unless you think they are just true for you and my views are true for me (relativism). If so, let me know and we can deal with that.

    Probably neither one of us will change our minds. However, many years ago I held a view similar to yours, but I changed MY mind. So it is clearly possible for someone to change their view. My mind is open enough to weigh evidence and I admit that my position could be wrong. However, based the arguments I have heard and read and all the evidence I have considered to date, I think my position is accurate. If not, I would not hold it. That’s not arrogance or “moral superiority,” just common sense. I’m not sure why this offends you. And it’s certainly not “absurd.” The bottom line is that we can believe anything we want, but our beliefs do not make something true. I can believe I’m a poached egg, but that doesn’t make it true. The important thing is that we try to make our beliefs match reality. Don’t you agree?

    Reply
  95. Tim D. says:

    Jeez Tim, if it’s taken you this long to work it out, no wonder it flummoxed everyone else!

    What can I say, I’m a slow learner. Keep in mind, I talk mostly with conservatives and Evangelicals; I don’t know a whole lot of liberal-minded folks who aren’t completely insane conspiracy theorists.

    b) it suggests that a clone wouldn’t count as its DNA isn’t unique. In fact identical twins wouldn’t count either (or at least one of them wouldn’t).

    That was the point I was getting at, for the most part.

    Also, the futuristic analaogy is a thought experiment so you shouldn’t change the scenario. The clones in my example have a rudimentary brain, they are just in a permanent state of coma (not conscious). Thus, they are in the same state as a standard fetus prior to consciousness.

    Well, to be fair, there wasn’t enough information in your scenario. I’ not one to make snap decisions with such a limited view of things.

    I think the phrase ‘all it needs’ here is somewhat of an understatement. That’s quite a lot! You might as well apply it to include sperm and say ‘all it needs is an egg, food, water, time, and the proper environment.’

    I was actually just about to say something like this. Reading the “all you need is” statement reminds me of those times when my OCD sister would point out, “You know, that word is just like that other word if you change this letter, and this letter, and move this one over here….” which basically translates to, “They’re the same thing, except they’re not in any way.” Because you have to change them to make them the same.

    I did not say that the answer is easy or magical, nor did I say I’m morally superior. My point is simply that I think my position better accounts for the evidence.

    And I, obviously, disagree with that.

    If you really don’t care what I believe then why are you trying to convince me that I’m wrong?

    What I meant was, I think you’re entitled to your opinion. While I’d gladly admit that I would love for you to not think that way, I’m not going to spend my time trying to force you not to. I just put forth my case and see what happens (which is usually nothing, but hey, it never hurts to try).

    Unless you think they are just true for you and my views are true for me (relativism).

    Oh, God no! Absolutely not.

    Probably neither one of us will change our minds. However, many years ago I held a view similar to yours, but I changed MY mind.

    Yeah, I’ve heard that one before. It’s supposed to demonstrate that you’re somehow “ahead” of me ideologically, because you’ve changed your mind from my position. Well, to be perfectly ironic, I was raised anti-choice. I later changed my mind after talking to several friends about it and hearing explanations that satisfied me in ways the anti-choice argument does not.

    My mind is open enough to weigh evidence and I admit that my position could be wrong.

    See, that’s where the religion thing comes in….I admit I can’t really take you seriously here because I think it’s the “Godness” in you that doesn’t want to believe my case, not the science. Because the science is blurry; you can point out an arbitrary line here and there, but the actual significance is not 100% clear. It’s up to us to interpret it. So there has to be some other motivator for you to be as sure about this as you are; the science alone isn’t convicing to that end. All the science says to me is that a zygote turns into a human baby. It doesn’t say they’re the same, which would seem to imply that they are different; it simply says one turns into the other.

    That’s not arrogance or “moral superiority,” just common sense.

    The “Moral Superiority” bit comes from the idea that you think life is sacred and so you think Zygotes are sacred (because they are alive w/human DNA). That, to me, is a misguided notion of moral superiority and has nothing to do with the scientific viewpoint.

    I can believe I’m a poached egg, but that doesn’t make it true.

    Now, if only people would learn that I can turn around and apply that to belief in God, too. Sometimes I wonder if you guys realize that.

    Just for the record: “I could say that God is real, but that doesn’t make it true.”

    The important thing is that we try to make our beliefs match reality. Don’t you agree?

    Oh, I’ve always wanted to say this, ever since I got in the other end of an argument like this in the past:

    “Define reality.”

    Reply
  96. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim, you are prolific.

    Anyway, I still don’t think you have refuted my arguments. Your objections die the death of a thousand qualifications. There are so many things to address. I feel like I am trying to hit a moving target.

    I said, First, You claim to oppose late-term abortions in general. May I ask why? I assume you will say that a there is a full human person present.
    You said, “You know what they say happens when you assume…?
    But seriously, you’re wrong here as well. “

    I’m a little confused now. You said that the criterion for full humanity was the “capacity for consciousness.” I addressed that. You said that you oppose late term abortions. I apparently assumed the wrong reason why. I’m curious, if you don’t think a human person is present late term, then why oppose late term abortions? Look, if it’s just a mass of tissue, then have at it. If this is the case, then I support all abortions for any and all reasons. It’s no different that removing a wart. However… I think you know the however.

    *waits for assault on character*
    Why do you think I’m going to assault your character? I’m pretty sure I’ve not done that. It seems you have had a bad experience with some other Christians. Is that true? I think I can disagree with your views without assaulting your character. For all I know, you might be a better person that I am.

    How what I’ve said fits with my view of homosexuality seems to be on your mind.

    You stated:
    Here we are again with nature. See, I think I’ve finally begun to understand what the hell Andrew Ryan was saying about gays earlier; about how Christians view them as intrinsically “worth less than straight people” because of their functionality. They are less valuable to Christians as human beings (and as such do not deserve the same civil rights that the rest of us do, nor the same priveleges)….

    I’m not sure what Christians you and Andrew have been talking to, but either they are confused, or you have misunderstood them. This is really for a different thread, but I’ll say something about it and it you want to pursue it further, I think I saw a thread for it. Homosexuals are human beings and as such deserve the same dignity and rights as everyone else on the planet. They are not worth less or less valuable. Yes, I do believe that they practice a form of sexuality that is in conflict with their nature. This should not be surprising. Does not human anatomy itself give us some clues here? Regarding civil rights, I assume you are referring to gay marriage. Please understand, Homosexuals have (and should have) the same civil rights as everyone else. They have the same right as I do—the right to marry anyone they choose of the opposite sex. What they have is a different PREFERENCE. Based on their different preference, they want a special right to go along with it. Why is heterosexual marriage protected by the State? It’s because heterosexual marriage is the basis for the family and the basis for society. Homosexual marriage is not, and thus the State has no legitimate interest in protecting it. If homosexuals want to live together and commit to one another, that’s fine. No one is stopping them. But, why do they need governmental approval and protection for this arrangement? This does not mean I hate homosexuals or that they have less value as human beings or they should have less civil rights. I’ll leave it there for now. Does that make sense?

    Oh, you brought up murderers also. It seems that they also are of equal value to the rest of us. What they have done is commit a crime worthy of punishment. By taking another innocent human life, they have forfeited some of their rights. Notice I said some, like the right to live as a free member of society, etc. They are still intrinsically valuable as human being and retain their dignity as such.

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  97. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    you said,
    Just for the record: “I could say that God is real, but that doesn’t make it true.”

    I agree 100 percent. The question of whether there is a God or not, is a question of arriving at the best explanation for the evidence. Now, you will say, I thought you believed in God based on “faith.” No. Trusting in God takes faith, not believing that such a being exists.

    “Define reality.” Are you serious?

    Jeff

    Reply
  98. Tim D. says:

    Tim, you are prolific.

    Very much so :)

    Anyway, I still don’t think you have refuted my arguments. Your objections die the death of a thousand qualifications. There are so many things to address. I feel like I am trying to hit a moving target.

    Thanks for the poetry lesson.

    I apparently assumed the wrong reason why. I’m curious, if you don’t think a human person is present late term, then why oppose late term abortions? Look, if it’s just a mass of tissue, then have at it. If this is the case, then I support all abortions for any and all reasons. It’s no different that removing a wart. However… I think you know the however.

    You did assume the wrong reason. Look, the maternal period is about the mother until the fetus has achieved the capacity for consciousness. Then it is about both the fetus and the mother.

    This whole time I have never argued that there is a point at which the zygote —> fetus and fetus —> baby. I have argued with trying to slap an arbitrary (or unforgivingly universal) line onto that process that says, “This is exactly where it happens.” But you can’t assume that an individual will be brought to full term from the moment of conception; that’s like assuming that a couple will produce children from the time they are married. Yes, steps have been taken, but a child has not yet been born, nor has one begun to exist. We have a single cell; that is not a child. It has the potential to become a child, but it is not a child. Like a couple has the potential to produce a child; but a couple is not a child, nor can they be said to have children.

    In the late term, the fetus is half-formed and has begun to show signs of consciousness. Whenever it may be during the pregnancy that this began to take place (use whatever statistics, or if you prefer, arbitrary lines you must to decide that for the sake of this particular case), it is not deniable that at this point in the late term, it has happened. I feel this should be obvious to you.

    But then again, you’ve made the pregnancy about the baby from day one, with little regard for the mother.

    Why do you think I’m going to assault your character? I’m pretty sure I’ve not done that. It seems you have had a bad experience with some other Christians. Is that true? I think I can disagree with your views without assaulting your character. For all I know, you might be a better person that I am.

    Aww….

    Does not human anatomy itself give us some clues here?

    Obviously it does. Gay dudes figured out like, two or three different ways to do it than you guys say is necessary.

    Regarding civil rights, I assume you are referring to gay marriage. Please understand, Homosexuals have (and should have) the same civil rights as everyone else. They have the same right as I do—the right to marry anyone they choose of the opposite sex.

    Which is ridiculous to say; that’s like saying you have the right to marry any man you choose. What good is a right, based on a technicality, that you have no use for? That’s a sarcastic argument at best, and an insult to the intelligence of gays/lesbians everywhere.

    Based on their different preference, they want a special right to go along with it.

    It’s not a special right; you’d have the right to marry other men if you wanted to, as well.

    See how this works?

    Why is heterosexual marriage protected by the State? It’s because heterosexual marriage is the basis for the family and the basis for society.

    Ah, a classic Christian assumption. I mean, it exists so it must be based around the Christian idea of a “family,” right?

    But, why do they need governmental approval and protection for this arrangement?

    I say the same thing about straight couples. If they want to make the efforts to live together and raise chilren, then so be it. But why do they need special rules to bail them out while gay couples get none?

    This does not mean I hate homosexuals or that they have less value as human beings or they should have less civil rights. I’ll leave it there for now. Does that make sense?

    No, it just means you support giving people rights they have no use for, while denying them of rights they could actually use. Makes perfect sense!

    [/irony]

    Oh, you brought up murderers also. It seems that they also are of equal value to the rest of us. What they have done is commit a crime worthy of punishment. By taking another innocent human life, they have forfeited some of their rights. Notice I said some, like the right to live as a free member of society, etc. They are still intrinsically valuable as human being and retain their dignity as such.

    I was talking about the death penalty, specifically. Evangelicals, as a rule, tend to support the death penalty; that’s taking a life. That’s not so much a punishment as it is a complete removal of the affected individuall; punishment is meant to deter, and is based more around the being of the offender. In this case, there is simply no offender left at all.

    Reply
  99. Tim D. says:

    I agree 100 percent. The question of whether there is a God or not, is a question of arriving at the best explanation for the evidence. Now, you will say, I thought you believed in God based on “faith.” No. Trusting in God takes faith, not believing that such a being exists.

    I reckon this is your attempt to turn that around on me. Well, if you can prove that the Christian God (not just any God) exists without using:

    –things that are really fortunate that you insist are miracles
    –feelings of smallness in the scale of the universe
    –emotions
    –interesting coincidences
    –things that the Bible says

    and more, but you get the idea….

    …then you might have a case.

    But first you must prove that the existence of a God is possible and how. Then you must prove that a God does exist. Then you must prove it is your God that exists. Then you must prove that he is worthy of worship, beyond the simple fact that he exists (that is not good enough reason to worship something, simply because it exists, or that it created the universe, assuming it did).

    “Define reality.” Are you serious?

    A reality in which God exists is a very different reality in which God does not exist.

    So yes, I ask you to define reality. What do you mean by “real?” What is proof to you that something is “real,” or that something is “not real?” What is your criteria here?

    Reply
  100. Andrew Ryan says:

    “What they have done is commit a crime worthy of punishment. By taking another innocent human life, they have forfeited some of their rights.”

    That’s if ultimate guilt can be established. Which it can’t. If you’re for cap punishment, you are allowing that innocents will sometimes be executed. Back to your people in the condemned building – do you destroy it knowing some people might still be inside?

    Reply
  101. Jeff Vannoy says:

    You said,
    I reckon this is your attempt to turn that around on me. Well, if you can prove that the Christian God (not just any God) exists without using:

    –things that are really fortunate that you insist are miracles
    –feelings of smallness in the scale of the universe
    –emotions
    –interesting coincidences
    –things that the Bible says

    and more, but you get the idea….

    …then you might have a case.

    Tim, I do have a case.

    What’s your case? In your view of reality, I would like you to explain,
    1. How something came from nothing (there was nothing and then it exploded). Why does something exist rather than nothing.
    2. How life came from non-life.
    3. How higher consciouness emerged from physical processes operating on physical matter.
    4. The information content and appearance of design in living systems.
    5. The presence of objective morality.
    6. Why the universe patterns after numbers (why math works)
    7. How strictly physical beings can have a free will.
    8. Why human life has any value at all, at any stage of development
    9. Where human rights come from in the first place.
    10. why you should trust your reasoning

    Go ahead, give it a try.

    There are many, many things your worldview cannot even begin to explain. My worldview can explain all of these things.

    Also, I’m getting a little tired of your sarcasm and smart aleck(sp?) comments. I’ve tried to ignore them, but they are beginning to irritate me. If you want to have an adult discussion, then act like one.

    Jeff

    Reply
  102. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Yes, I do believe that they practice a form of sexuality that is in conflict with their nature. This should not be surprising. Does not human anatomy itself give us some clues here?”

    Their nature, or YOUR nature? It’s not natural for any of us to be attracted to other men, but that’s because we’re not gay. For a gay man it’s completely natural to be attracted to other men. As for human anatomy, it is tempting to point out the positioning of the male G-spot (I won’t say where). Also, if we’re going completely along the lines of ‘human anatomy is how it’s supposed to be’, why do so many religions require parents to slice off functioning parts of baby boys’ genitals at birth?

    At any rate, there are plenty of examples of anomalies in our species. Left-handed people used to be seeing as going against nature. The rule in schools was to force them to use their right hand. It screwed with their heads and caused all sorts of behavioural problems. Trying to get gays to go straight works about as well – which is to say about as successful as you’d expect a programme to turn straight people into gays would go.

    And there is plenty of evidence that homosexuality is fixed if not from birth then from a very early age. Most likely it is caused by processes in the womb. I know that my own sexuality wasn’t a choice – I never chose to be attracted to women, I just am.

    Yes, gays marriages won’t lead to naturally produced kids, but you could say the same of marriages between the over fifties. We don’t prevent people from marrying just because we don’t expect kids to result.

    Reply
  103. Andrew Ryan says:

    “4. The information content and appearance of design in living systems.”

    We’ve known this one for 150 years now: evolution.

    “5. The presence of objective morality.”
    If we hadn’t developed a sense of killing being wrong and all our other moral values then the species would have died out long ago. It’s entirely explained again by evolution.

    Reply
  104. Tim D. says:

    1. How something came from nothing (there was nothing and then it exploded). Why does something exist rather than nothing.

    This is easy: I don’t know.

    There, is that so hard to admit?

    Answer this, while we’re at it: How can God create “everything?” Everything =/= nothing. Whatever nothing isn’t, everything is, and whatever everything isn’t, nothing is. They are two sides of the same coin. So if God created everything, he’d have to be nothing. Which simply cannot be.

    So how did God create “everything?”

    [in before "He's God, he can just do that." Because "it's the big bang, it can just happen" would mean the same thing to you :)]

    4. The information content and appearance of design in living systems.

    Appearance of design? Where? Oh, you mean the fact that they work together? How is that appearance of design?

    5. The presence of objective morality.

    Where? Where is objective morality? I don’t see it anywhere. I mean, I feel it, but according to you that’s just my opinion.

    6. Why the universe patterns after numbers (why math works)

    See #1.

    7. How strictly physical beings can have a free will.

    Some would say we don’t, and that DNA predetermines everything we will ever do. So again, no clue :)

    8. Why human life has any value at all, at any stage of development

    Where is this objective value? It has no value; it only has what value we give it. That’s why we say “we value life.” If there was no life, there would be no value to life; it’s only valuable because we are here to respect it and give value to it.

    9. Where human rights come from in the first place.

    Um…duh? Humans.

    10. why you should trust your reasoning

    Who else would I trust? Your reasoning?

    There are many, many things your worldview cannot even begin to explain. My worldview can explain all of these things.

    Oh, I see. So you have an answer, but no way to know if it’s right or wrong (besides the fact that “it’s an answer” one way or the other), and so that makes it right? Aw, cool, that means I can do it, too!

    Here we go with your list:

    1.The All-Powerful Flying Spaghetti Monster created all of the everything in the universe. In spite of the apparent contradictions, he’s all powerful and so he can do whatever he wants regardless of whether or not it’s possible.
    2. The Flying Spaghetti Monster brought life forth from His Noodly Appendages because he’s all powerful and can create life at will.
    3. We’re all actually separated pieces of one consciousness: that of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    4. The Flying Spaghetti monster designed everything and put information in it.
    5. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is morality.
    6. The Flying Spaghetti Monster made math work because he’s all powerful and can create physical properties on a whim.
    7. Free will is there because the Flying Spaghetti Monster made it and gave it to you.
    8. The Flying Spaghetti Monster commands us not to kill each other, so life is therefore valuable.
    9. Human rights come from the Ultimate Decree of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
    10. Because our reasoning is a gift from the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

    Also, I’m getting a little tired of your sarcasm and smart aleck(sp?) comments. I’ve tried to ignore them, but they are beginning to irritate me. If you want to have an adult discussion, then act like one.

    But they’re so much fun! And you make it so easy for me….it’s like giving beer to an alcoholic 0_0

    To your credit, though, you did spell smart aleck right.

    But seriously, your arguments for “Christian God” could be reapplied to almost any other religious deity, and that’s after we take the liberty of assuming half of them (like the “presence of objective morality”) to be real in the first place (which you apparently cannot prove that they are). That doesn’t prove Christian God is real any more than it proves my Flying Spaghetti Monster is real.

    I guess what I mean by “you having a case” is, is there anything you could show me or point to that would imply the existence of Christian God and no other, and could not possibly be explained by another God (or Demon, or supernatural entity, or even a physical explanation)? And when I say it implies Christian God, I mean objectively, not just in your opinion. Something you could point to that would make a person who’s never heard of Christianity go, “Hey, okay, Christianity is real!” And of course, I don’t mean the Bible ;_

    Reply
  105. Tim D. says:

    P.S. Allow me to clarify. The Bible doesn’t count as evidence because, if the Christian Worldview is so innately obvious as you claim it is, then we should be able to see signs of it in the world itself, with or without the Bible. The Bible should merely be an indicator of evidence, not the evidence in and of itself.

    But I suspect this is a type of Evangelical Back-Argument, where we claim it’s really obvious with or without the Bible (to make it seem more naturally obvious than it is) and then can’t prove it without actually using the Bible.

    Feel free to prove me wrong, by all means~

    Reply
  106. Plumb Bob says:

    “Explain this to me, please. I want to believe, so badly, that you are not an idiot. ”

    “This is what irks me about you Jeezer folk.”

    “It’s bigoted and ignorant.”

    What is it with atheists that if you disagree with them, they

    1) completely misstate, misread, misinterpret, and misrepresent your arguments; and then

    2) call YOU (and your God) names because you don’t accept their misrepresentations?

    Tim D, you didn’t come within a light year of understanding. Try again, or I’m just going to stop trying. And try without insulting, if you please.

    “Nice claim. Care to support it? How do you know that “most” do it?”

    Easy. The reasons offered for abortions that have nothing to do with birth control are endangerment to the mother, rape, and incest. This accounts for fewer than 3% of abortions. Ergo, at least 97% of abortions are for the purpose of birth control.

    Your counter-claim, that there are life reasons that make having a baby difficult or unwelcome for some reason, does not change the nature of the decision, which is “I don’t want to have a baby just now because…” I used birth control with my wife for precisely the same sorts of reasons. That’s what birth control IS — choosing to interrupt the process of conception and birth for various personal reasons. Any abortion decision that rests on an explanation beginning with those words is an abortion decision that is, at its core, birth control. This is not judgment, just simple definition. If you disagree, explain why you would not categorize “aborting the gestating offspring because you have legitimate reasons why a baby would complicate your life just now” as “birth control.”

    Of course, this completely changes the subject. The original argument — which you ignored — was that somehow attempting to restrict abortions was comparable to prosecuting all Christians for the acts of one or two that shoot up liberal churches. I explained how your analogy was simply and completely wrong. You didn’t attempt to defend it, you just got all huffy and insulting about me saying what’s obvious, that most women use abortion as a form of birth control. I’m not apologizing for that; it’s a fact. Deal with it.

    It’s an embryo. It’s alive in the sense that a blade of grass is alive; it can’t feel, it can’t think, and if it is conscious (which I doubt), then it cannot feel or sense and it cannot express feeling. Insofar as we assume it is conscious at all (again, doubtful), it is not even aware of its own existence.

    These things don’t exactly describe things humans are known for.

    Again, inserting philosophy into a strictly biological question: consciousness (how do you define that?); expression (so if I’m unconscious and not expressing anything, I’m not human?); sensation (so if I have leprosy, I’m not human?)

    If it’s human (species) and it’s life (simple biological definition) it’s a human life. How difficult is that to understand?

    Any other consideration constitutes an incursion of philosophy into the discussion. The definitions I’m using are from any biology textbook you care to pick up and read.

    Abortion proponents cannot rebut this without attempting to wrest the question away from science and turn it into philosophy.

    extermination of the species

    There aren’t any “exaggeration” html tags, so I guess you missed the jest, and assumed it was a deadly insult or something. No, Tim D, I wasn’t saying that gays are exterminating the species. Allow me to rephrase: “We’re apt to regard the SURVIVAL of the species as a good thing, so yes, we’re likely to regard the birth rate dropping below replacement level with some concern.” Is that more to your liking?

    I really hate to say this, but talking to you on this topic is something like talking to my 12-year-old temperamental teenage daughter during that time of the month (she’s 25 now, but I still remember…) Your fuse gets lit over the strangest things…

    Again, you changed the subject by getting offended over something peripheral, thus missing the point. I made a perfectly logical distinction between cells and a living organisms — once again, a distinction you can find in any biology textbook — and you’re calling me names rather than admit that you’re trying to argue with things that any high school junior would probably get right on a test.

    I still don’t see anything resembling a coherent argument from you, Tim. Gestating offspring are human lives by simple, scientific definition from the moment the sperm and egg unite. I’ll accept a quibble based on the fact that it takes time for the uniting to take place, but once the zygote is really a zygote, it’s both fully human and fully life, by common definitions. You have to introduce non-scientific considerations (which seldom make sense) in order to change this conclusion.

    Reply
  107. Plumb Bob says:

    This is easy: I don’t know.

    There, is that so hard to admit?

    Apparently it’s very easy to admit, but it’s apparently difficult for you to accept the consequence of admitting it. You asked Jeff to prove that God exists. He responded by (somewhat loosely) positing one of the key proofs that God exists: namely, that ANYTHING exists. If there is no God, then there’s no particular reason that anything exists, rather than nothing. This is not proof of the Christian God, per se, but it is pretty convincing evidence that there’s a point to creation and therefor a Something behind it that is immensely powerful and personal enough to make choices, because it’s not possible for things to have a point without somebody to whom it matters.

    Your quibble about “everything and nothing” is an artifact of Jeff’s imprecise wording. The actual argument goes something like this:

    1) Everything that comes to be has a cause.
    2) The universe came to be.
    3) Therefore the universe has a cause.

    Up ’till about 50 years ago, atheists uniformly agreed that things that had always existed did not need a cause; they simply said “The universe has always existed, therefore it does not need a cause.” They seem to be questioning that now, not because the premise was incorrect, but because it’s becoming increasingly clear that the universe has NOT always existed, and if they continue to accept the premise as they always had, they’ll be forced to admit that the cosmological argument proves the existence of God.

    Reply
  108. RC Metcalf says:

    Tim,

    Excuse me for butting in, but I feel compelled to ask why this thread even continues… Jeff asked you 10 important questions which you either admitted ignorance of or scoffed at. If you really have “no clue” about so many things, why should we accept your opinion as valid?

    You may wish to consider a book entitled “No One Sees God” by Michael Novak. Mike makes the case for God’s existence from what is known as “natural theology,” that is, a theology that derives completely from nature and not from any scripture.

    Also, Jeff asked you why “something” came from nothing, not why “everything” came from nothing. There is a big difference. The real question should have been why did space, time, matter and energy come from nothing. These are the basic components of the universe, so the question could be restated, “Why did the universe come from nothing?” And what is most interesting about these four components is that, even at the smallest level, nothing is solid. Something exists beyond these four components… something provides the background upon which they exist, move, change and interact.

    Consider the question, “If there ever was a ‘time’ when absolutely nothing existed, what would exist today?” the answer would have to be “nothing.” So something must have always existed… the question is, “What is that something?” There are only two contenders… God or the universe (space/time, matter/energy). Scientists have been unable to adequately suggest a way the universe might always have existed, and the big bang mitigates against such an answer. So, either God always existed, or I have committed the fallacy of the excluded middle and there’s actually a third possible answer (if so, do tell), or you may have come up with an explanation that allows the universe to be eternal that satisfies you, which we’d love to hear also.

    I try to read at least 20 times as much as I write each year, so that when I do put pen to paper, I can truly pass on something of worth. However, I haven’t read all 108 posts in this thread, so if you’ve addressed this already, forgive me. However, I try to read both Christians and atheists, and scientists and philosophers (who may or may not share any metaphysical or religious views in their writings). On blogs, I can only jump in as my time allows.

    All the best,
    RC

    Reply
  109. Andrew Ryan says:

    It’s perfectly valid to say that a) you don’t know the answer and b) you don’t therefore automatically attribute the supernatural. Thousands of years ago you’d have been able to challenge people to explain solar eclipses without citing a dragon swallowing the sun, which was then the only explanation that made sense. Similarly, 200 years ago you could cite biological diversity as a problem for atheists. Nowadays we have non-supernatural explanations for that too.

    So some of Jeff’s questions we already have the answer to. Others we don’t know yet, but may well do in the future. It doesn’t mean we have to cite a deity as the answer in the interim.

    At any rate, citing a God just moves the problem back a space. You still have to explain where the God comes from.

    “Scientists have been unable to adequately suggest a way the universe might always have existed, and the big bang mitigates against such an answer. ”
    This is not my area of expertise, but aren’t there theories that there could be a cycle of bangs and crunches? Anyway, there are people who know more about this subject than either of us, some of whom are religious, some of whom aren’t. I’m not aware of Stephen Hawking concluding there must be a God, and he’s as much of an expert on cosmology etc as anyone. Given this, I think it’s fair to say that one can’t prove or disprove God either way on this subject, or experts on the subject would be writing scientific papers on the existance or otherwise of God.

    Reply
  110. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    [Their nature, or YOUR nature? ]

    Our nature–human nature in general.

    [why do so many religions require parents to slice off functioning parts of baby boys’ genitals at birth? ]

    This is not relevant–many religions don’t. And many non-religious parents also do it for other reasons.

    [Left-handed people used to be seeing as going against nature]

    I think this is a false analogy since no one really argues that it’s not natural to be left handed. It’s may be less conveinient (especially if you are buying golf clubs), not less natural.

    [And there is plenty of evidence that homosexuality is fixed if not from birth then from a very early age]

    First, there is also evidence to the contrary. Nevertheless, even if I were to grant this, it does not make it right.

    [gays marriages won’t lead to naturally produced kids, but you could say the same of marriages between the over fifties.]

    Yes, but the marriage between a heterosexual couple that does not, or cannot, have children is at least the same “kind” of relationship.

    Look, shall we change the definition and institution of marriage to match what certain groups of society prefer? For example, once we abandon the traditional concept of marriage, then what prevents inter-family marriage, or inter-species marriage, or marriage between 3 or 4 people. Is it fair to exclude those who have a lasting affection for the family pet? In my view, three men in a tub is not a family and should not be protected by the State. Marriage than can be anything is really nothing at all. You are probably thinking that some of my examples are far-fetched, but that is where the view leads. Not long ago it was considered far-fetched for homosexuals to want to marry. Moreover, there are already actual cases in which people have requested to marry animals.

    Of couse, under the atheistic view, humans are nothing more than animals anyway, so maybe you don’t have a problem with that either. If you do, I would like to know how you justify it. I you don’t, then perhaps you know something intuitively that you don’t want to admit intellectually.

    Best,
    Jeff

    Reply
  111. Andrew Ryan says:

    “I think this is a false analogy since no one really argues that it’s not natural to be left handed. ”

    Up until very recently that’s exactly what many people did argue. That’s exactly my point! They would try to force left-handed school children to use their right hand. My analogy stands.

    “Nevertheless, even if I were to grant this, it does not make it right.”
    You weren’t arguing that it was immoral, you were arguing that it was ‘against their nature’. If you want to argue the morality of it, that’s a separate subject.

    It seems quite clear that it is NOT against their nature. Their nature is to be gay, just like yours and mine is to be hetero. Gay men marrying women tends to lead to loveless marriages. I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry a gay man – would you?

    “Yes, but the marriage between a heterosexual couple that does not, or cannot, have children is at least the same “kind” of relationship”
    Same ‘kind’ or otherwise, two senior citizens are not going to have kids, so obviously that’s not a pre-requisite. It’s between two loving, consenting adults – what more is necessary than that?

    “For example, once we abandon the traditional concept of marriage, then what prevents inter-family marriage, or inter-species marriage, or marriage between 3 or 4 people.”
    Oh, the slippery slope argument. That’s the same as the argument that used to be used against inter-racial marriage.
    Incest leads to demonstrable harm to the children produced; Animals cannot give CONSENT; and (in case you were thinking of going there) neither can children. From a legal perspective it would be very complicated to have marriages for more than two people (and isn’t the religious people who defend polygamy anyway?).

    So these aren’t far-fetched analogies, they’re just false ones.

    “Not long ago it was considered far-fetched for homosexuals to want to marry.”
    And again, it used to be considered far-fetched for people of different races to want to marry. Lots of things used to be considered far-fetched.

    And Jeff, it’s a bit of a bizarre leap to say that admitting that we are part of the animal kingdom means accepting beastiality.

    Reply
  112. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    You have used two things against me that my view does not imply. One, left handedness is unnatural. The analogy is false. Two, polygamy. What does it prove that some other religion may endorse it. Am I here to defend all religious views? I hope not, because some are just silly. Shall I make you defend all atheist’s view or just your own. It is fair to make me defend views that logically flow from my views. Likewise with yours.

    [And Jeff, it’s a bit of a bizarre leap to say that admitting that we are part of the animal kingdom means accepting beastiality]

    Why is it bizarre? Please give me a reason based on your worldview. You may find it interestind that Peter Singer (Princeton) has defended just such a view, based on the implications of evolutionary naturalism. The only thing stopping it (beastiality) in our culture, according to him, it this outdated Judeo-Christian morality that won’t go away. I believe the article he wrote was called “Heavy Petting” (yes, cute title). You may be able to find it online. Truly, ideas have consequences.

    Also, there is a slippery slope argument and a slippery slope fallacy. The fallacy has not been committed unless the view does not lead logically to the situations I have descriped. I (and many others) think it does.

    Jeff

    Reply
  113. Andrew Ryan says:

    “Two, polygamy. What does it prove that some other religion may endorse it. Am I here to defend all religious views?”

    My polygamy comment was in brackets, I wasn’t making a big deal out of it, and certainly wasn’t implying that you support polygamy.

    I’m not aware of Peter Singer’s work. I’m talking about MY views, not his.

    “Why is it bizarre? Please give me a reason based on your worldview”
    Because there’s nothing in the phrase “humans are part of the animal kingdom” to suggest that the person saying it supports bestiality! Dogs and cats are both part of the animal kingdon, yes? Does saying that mean that you think dogs and cats should have sex with each other?

    “You have used two things against me that my view does not imply. One, left handedness is unnatural”
    I never said that you believed that. People used to think that being left-handed was unnatural. That’s why so many Latin-based words for left also mean ‘odd’ or ‘sinister’. Iin the same way some people think that homosexuality is unnatural. I’m pointing out that just asserting that something is unnatural isn’t an argument. What does it even mean? If I could prove that it WAS natural you’d just say ‘well does that make it right?’.

    “The fallacy has not been committed unless the view does not lead logically to the situations I have descriped. I (and many others) think it does.”
    But you’ve done nothing to show that it does. If people start arguing that people can marry animals they would first have to change the laws on bestiality. Given that animals can’t consent to sex, that isn’t going to happen.

    Reply
  114. Tim D. says:

    Excuse me for butting in, but I feel compelled to ask why this thread even continues… Jeff asked you 10 important questions which you either admitted ignorance of or scoffed at. If you really have “no clue” about so many things, why should we accept your opinion as valid?

    Oh, you’re not “butting in,” this is an open discussion, of course.

    However….why should I accept any excuse you (or him, in this case) can provide to “answer” those questions, just because it is an answer in and of itself? You/he simply make(s) claims to fill these voids, with no care given towards actually proving them. The Evangelical Theory of Assertion, in prime practice.

    And personally, I couldn’t care less if you take my opinion as valid. I can’t control what you think; that’s up to you. I’m not going to get my feeligns hurt if you want to declare me morally and intellectually inferior and then storm off in a cloud of your own ego-matter, but I will be a little disappointed; as I tell most hardcore religious folk in conversations like these, “I listen to you because I have a very basic faith that, deep down, you might have something new, interesting, or plausible to say, somewhere down below all of the parroted jargon and sound bytes and fallacies.”

    But feel free to prove me wrong. Like I said, I’m not going to get my feelings hurt.

    You may wish to consider a book entitled “No One Sees God” by Michael Novak. Mike makes the case for God’s existence from what is known as “natural theology,” that is, a theology that derives completely from nature and not from any scripture.

    Maybe I would (I do like to read books by people with whom I think I’ll strongly disagree, due to some strange fascination of mine). However, as of the moment I’m confident that the existence of any specific deity cannot be determined from nature alone. Perhaps a creator, should one choose to interpret it that way (I am not opposed to that idea in the most basic sense). But certainly not Christian God (heretofore referred to as “CG”). The evidence of nature is simply not specific enough.

    Also, Jeff asked you why “something” came from nothing, not why “everything” came from nothing. There is a big difference.

    “Everything” is made of “something.” You say a universe of “nothing” must make “something” in order for us to exist; therefore, “everything” must eventually come from that something, which in turn came from nothing. Even if just one “something” comes from that “nothing,” it will still lead to more “somethings,” and eventually “everything.”

    My point, though, was that your answers do not exclude other possible explanations. They do not prove any other possible explanations wrong by their own existence; we would first have to prove that your worldview is the case, which of course we cannot. It is only by assuming that you are right (in a number of ways too great to simply settle for “assumption) that we can truly say “your worldview better explains things than anyone else’s.” And since I’m not hopelessly biased towards the existence of CG, I do not see it that way—not saying it’s impossible, but I prefer to stay critical of any and all explanations, scientific or religious.

    The real question should have been why did space, time, matter and energy come from nothing.

    IIRC, the Big Bang Theory states not that “something came from nothing,” but that all things (matter and space itself) were compressed into a single point in space (where maybe it had existed for all eternity, Hell, I don’t know), and were then caused by some cataclysm to spread outward and form the universe. Based on that, it’s merely your assumption that “something came from nothing.”

    I think Big Bang is based more on the formation of our specific universe, not necessarily an explanation for the beginning of everything in itself. I mean, how do we know ours is the only universe? I read something in SA about how there might be other Big Banged-up universes that are expanding as well, and that ours may someday collide with one of theirs as they both expand.

    There are only two contenders… God or the universe (space/time, matter/energy).

    Oh, so very wrong! There are infinite possibilities; if we are allowed to consider God as a possibility, then we must consider all other possible alternatives: Space Robots, Alien life, Flying Spaghetti Monsters, other Gods and religions….I mean, all of these things have been prophesized at some point. So by your logic they’re all valid. On what basis do we restrict things to this very false dichotomy of “God vs. Science”? Because “they’re silly?” Prove it.

    So, either God always existed, or I have committed the fallacy of the excluded middle and there’s actually a third possible answer (if so, do tell), or you may have come up with an explanation that allows the universe to be eternal that satisfies you, which we’d love to hear also.

    wrong again. Just because I, as an individual with no professional background in Cosmology or Physics, haven’t thought of another possible way, doesn’t mean that one can’t theoretically exist. Again, there might be more universes, thus more beginnings that stretch farther back than we can know. We simply cannot know for sure, if we are to be as critical as you say we must of science. There may be things that we could never imagine beyond this universe of ours, such as another universe where even the laws of mathematics are different.

    Your argument that “if we don’t know right now, then that means we can never know and so we should go with religion” can be proved wrong simply by looking at the past. We used to think thunder was caused by God, for crying out loud! And now we—I’m sorry, you—are just doing the same thing again.

    I know, I know, I read this blog, so I know exactly how you guys have been trained to respond to that. So now I lie in wait….

    Yes, but the marriage between a heterosexual couple that does not, or cannot, have children is at least the same “kind” of relationship.

    Yeah, just like same-race marriage. Hmm.

    Look, shall we change the definition and institution of marriage to match what certain groups of society prefer? For example, once we abandon the traditional concept of marriage, then what prevents inter-family marriage, or inter-species marriage, or marriage between 3 or 4 people.

    Ahh, the ol’ Argue Against The Other Stuff That Might Happen If We Do That Instead Of Actually Arguing Against That In Itself argument—that if we legalize gay marriage, it will lead to the HAWRURS of OTHER KINDS OF WEIRD MARRIAGE!

    Sorry, that’s a terrible argument. All it does it prove you have no case against gay marriage, as it actually argues against those other things, not against gay marriage itself. Yes, we know incest and bestiality are not acceptable behaviors for several reasons (1-we can’t classify animals as consenting, thus any sex involved between a human and an animal would have to be considered “rape” for any of our laws, Christian in nature or no, to be consistent; and 2, incest both (a) breaks and abuses the bond (or, in the case of a parent, the authority) between two family members for a cause that leads to reason (b): that it also leads to genetic defects in the offspring that may or may not ensue).

    Not long ago it was considered far-fetched for homosexuals to want to marry. Moreover, there are already actual cases in which people have requested to marry animals.

    Same goes for interracial marriages. I guess those are wrong, too?

    It doesn’t matter how many people have said it or for how long, wrong is wrong.

    Should we just let society decide who should marry who? I mean, why not let the racists who illegalized interracial marriages decide? After all, it’s not up to society to tell them they’re wrong, right? Maybe it’s Satan, trying to split up the Masta Race by dividin’ up the gene pools? That’s a scary thought….maybe we should “err on the side of caution” and go with that explanation?

    Of couse, under the atheistic view, humans are nothing more than animals anyway,

    Always with the excessive simplification. “Nothing more than animals;” just because we don’t think we’re sacred, that means we feel we have no value. I’ve explained this already, and I don’t feel like doing it again, but if you insist on pressing me further, I will gladly do so.

    Although I would much rather you go back and read it….

    And Jeff, it’s a bit of a bizarre leap to say that admitting that we are part of the animal kingdom means accepting beastiality.

    I think that was actually the sound of his argument dying….it was crying out, begging someone to save it….

    I hope not, because some are just silly.

    What if I think yours are silly? How do you defend that accusation? Because it’s a different God? From me on the outside, that seems even sillier.

    “what a nerd! He doesn’t know that our pile of rocks is the real God!”

    You may find it interestind that Peter Singer (Princeton) has defended just such a view, based on the implications of evolutionary naturalism.

    Okay, I’m gonna have to stop ya right there for a minute. I noticed you keep using arguments that other people have made (mostly stupid ones) that, they claim, are somehow derived from evolution or science or whatever non-Christian ideology you’re trying to tear down this week….and to you, this somehow devalues the base of the idea? Let me tell you why you’re wrong in simple terms: If I say that the Bible gave me the idea to go rape some virgins (because I read Numbers 31:7-18 NLT, for example), and then I go out and do that. Would you say that destroys what you see as the “validity” of the Bible as a whole? Or even that one verse?

    Of course not. You’d argue that I took it out of context and acted incorrectly as a result. And yet, when the shoe is on the other foot….hmm.

    I (and many others) think it does.

    Another dangerous argum—I mean, fallacy. The “everybody else thinks so” fallacy. I have a book for you my friend, and it is called 1984.

    Reply
  115. Plumb Bob says:

    There are only two contenders… God or the universe (space/time, matter/energy).

    Oh, so very wrong! There are infinite possibilities;

    No, there are not. You’ve messed up the categories.

    Here’s the syllogism:

    1) Everything that came to be, has a cause.
    2) The universe came to be.
    3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.

    The question is of uncaused first causes. There cannot be an infinite regress of causes back into history: there has to be something uncaused to cause the first event, whatever that might have been. Space aliens, flying spaghetti monsters, etc. are out of the running, not because they’re silly, but because if they exist, they are obviously, themselves, part of the caused universe, and therefore not the first cause.

    (By the way, if you decide to call me (or RC, or Jeff) some sort of derisive name for making this argument, include Aristotle in your insult; this was his argument, if I recall correctly. )

    We’re not saying “the Christian God” is the cause (at least, not at this point in the argument.) We’re simply saying “there’s an uncaused first cause preceding the universe.” If you would like to call that first cause “Jewel the White Unicorn,” you may, although that would suggest characteristics that are not in evidence.

    Either there is an uncaused first cause, or the universe has existed forever. Those are the two logical possibilities. There are no other possibilities.

    I’m getting ahead of myself here, but once we’ve established that there must be a first cause preceding the universe, there are characteristics in evidence, given the fact that an event was caused, and given the nature of the universe. These include: 1) timeless (because time is created); 2) immaterial (because material is created); 3) personal (because a choice was made to cause an event; 4) immensely powerful (because the energy available in the universe is immense); 5) immensely intelligent (because the universe is complex.)

    Reply
  116. Tim D. says:

    No, there are not. You’ve messed up the categories.

    How silly, to presume you know the nature of the “First Cause!” You assume those things are not all-encompassing; God cannot exist without being caused, or else he violate the very laws you accuse the universe of being unable to violate. You can’t cover up a contradiction with another contradiction and then just say, “Well, he’s God so he can do that.” That’s the ultimate cop-out (or should I say, God-out). But then again, that’s all Evangelical Christianity really is anyway, is a giant cop-out.

    In any case, you don’t know what beings may or may not exist outside the scope of our universe. You don’t know if it’s the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Cthulu, God, or something in between. Nobody does; thus the fallacy that is religion: people who pretend they can explain the unexplainable by just stuffing crazy glue into the cracks.

    (By the way, if you decide to call me (or RC, or Jeff) some sort of derisive name for making this argument, include Aristotle in your insult; this was his argument, if I recall correctly. )

    Ah, some snappy retorting going on! Not bad.

    We’re not saying “the Christian God” is the cause (at least, not at this point in the argument.) We’re simply saying “there’s an uncaused first cause preceding the universe.” If you would like to call that first cause “Jewel the White Unicorn,” you may, although that would suggest characteristics that are not in evidence.

    As would calling it “The Christian God.” Eventually, somewhere down the line, there may have been a first cause, yes. But that’s about as far as you can stretch it; any further and you cross into blind assumption. That it’s somehow “been proven that it’s Christian God!” is just a hot load.

    1) timeless (because time is created); 2) immaterial (because material is created); 3) personal (because a choice was made to cause an event; 4) immensely powerful (because the energy available in the universe is immense); 5) immensely intelligent (because the universe is complex.)

    (1) Not so; we don’t even know if time is a real thing or a concept used to measure the sensation of age/passing “time”, much less if it can be “created” or “destroyed.” Even if we assume it was created at some point, that may have been eons before the universe itself was created. Time doesn’t need space or matter around which to exist.

    (3) A choice based on what? What caused that choice?

    (5) Actually, the common theory is that the universe started rather simply. It’s Christian Theology that all this complexity just OOMPHED itself into existence. Oh, I’m sorry, technicality–that somebody OOMPHED all this stuff into existence.

    Reply
  117. Tim D. says:

    P.S. And do you really expect me to believe that, while all of the creatures and systems in the universe mature gradually across time from simple to complex (i.e. a small group of organisms populating an ecosystem and taking effect on it across several generations), the universe itself is somehow “magically always complex?” That the universe was just magically here one day in all its current glory and began changing and evolving (because we know the systems in the universe—galaxies, planets, ecosystems, etc.—are changing constantly due to new intervening factors, so you have to include that in your little theory)? Why would the universe suddenly burst into being in the mid-stages of development, bypassing the early stages of existence? That makes no sense; that’s like a person being born as a teenager and then continuing to grow into an adult.

    Reply
  118. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Tim,

    This seems like an odd conversation for a thread on the beginning of life. Nevertheless….

    [God cannot exist without being caused, or else he violate the very laws you accuse the universe of being unable to violate.]

    This is an unfair objection. The argument Plum Bob gave did not state that EVERYTHING needs a cause, only that everything that begins to exist needs a cause. If God did not begin to exist, then He does not need a cause. Also, it is theoretically possible for the universe to be eternal. To decide, we need to look at the nature of the universe. All the evidence both from science and philosophy indicates it had a beginning. Thus, it had a cause. All the evidence from the hot big bang, General Relativity, 2nd law of thermodynamics and the nature of infinity indicate that our universe had not been here forever. To deny this is to ignore an overwhelming amount of evidence. However, it seems you agree with this point.

    [But that’s about as far as you can stretch it; any further and you cross into blind assumption. That it’s somehow “been proven that it’s Christian God!” is just a hot load]

    Tim, some (not all) of the properties/attributes of the first cause are not that difficult to discern. The point is that the properties that we do know about the first cause are at least consistent with the Christian concept of God.

    Jeff

    Reply
  119. Andrew Ryan says:

    I’m still waiting for the explanation of why being a member of the animal kingdom must mean that bestiality is allowable. Does Jeff assume that all the other species should be mating with with other? Cats with dogs etc? If not, does this mean he doesn’t consider cats and dogs part of the animal kingdom either?

    Reply
  120. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    [I’m still waiting for the explanation of why being a member of the animal kingdom must mean that bestiality is allowable. Does Jeff assume that all the other species should be mating with with other? Cats with dogs etc? If not, does this mean he doesn’t consider cats and dogs part of the animal kingdom either?]

    This is not about the question of whether animals copulate between species. This is about humans copulating with other animals. If humans are really no different than other members of the animal kingdom, then how does one object to bestiality? To further make my point, Peter Singer has made a case for it. It’s consistent with his worldview. It (bestiality) brings some people pleasure and in some cases it seems to either bring animals pleasure or at least causes no harm. SInger mentions an example of a female researcher who was living among higher primates (Orangutan’s I think). Apparently, the Orangutan was sexually aroused by her and attempted to copulate with her. When her research partner tried to stop the animal, he was told not to. After all, aren’t we all just higher primates? Now, the penetration never occurred, but the researcher thought the act was acceptable based on her worldview.

    I can offer reasons why bestiality is wrong based on my worldview, but that’s not the question. I’m asking you whether you think it’s wrong, and if so, how you justify its wrongness based on YOUR worldview (atheism and evolutionary naturalism).

    You may be tempted to say that it’s wrong because animals can’t consent to the act. First, consent is a moral presupposition that you have assumed. Why is consent required and how do you justify it? Why would humans need an animal to consent? Does an antelope need to consent to being eaten by a lion? Do animals have rights? If you say humans give them rights, then why can’t humans revoke those rights? Second, even if I allow you to import the notion of consent into your worldview, it seems the consent argument fails when the act is initiated by the animal and seems to give it some sort of pleasure.

    You may also want to say that humans really are different than other animals. If so, on what basis do you make that judgment? Do you think humans are more valuable or have more dignity than other animals? If so, isn’t that a speciesism?

    Jeff

    Reply
  121. Andrew Ryan says:

    “If humans are really no different than other members of the animal kingdom, then how does one object to bestiality?”

    When did anyone say we were ‘no different’. I don’t hold that view. All species are different to each other. A whale is different to an ant. A cat is different from a dog. We’re different to both. And we’re different to all the other animals in many obvious ways – we’re the only ones who can construct logical arguments to justify moral behaviour. We can transcend our instincts to act morally. That doesn’t mean that we don’t still share 96% of our DNA with chimps. Just that this 4% makes a BIG difference.

    “Why is consent required and how do you justify it?”
    If consent is irrelevant then why do we have laws against rape? After all, rape is just sex without consent. Try and make your ‘consent isn’t important’ idea stand up in court!

    “Second, even if I allow you to import the notion of consent into your worldview, it seems the consent argument fails when the act is initiated by the animal and seems to give it some sort of pleasure.”
    You’re in very dodgy territory here – you’re using the argument that paedophiles give – that the children were really enjoying it.

    If you’re saying that the only argument you’ve got against bestiality is the bible then a) Can you tell me which passage forbids it and b) I’m glad that you’ve got your faith holding you back from raping animals!

    Reply
  122. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    You have completely sidestepped the issue.

    [Try and make your ‘consent isn’t important’ idea stand up in court!]

    Look, I think consent is a legitimate concept. I’m asking YOU to justify it.

    I asked you to justify your position based on your worldview. You still have not done that. I’m asking you to ground your view of morality. Please re-read my previous post and tell me how your worldview justifies the morality that you seem to intuitively grasp.

    What I would like to know is how YOU would critique Singers position. Give him an argument. I want to help you see how you import moral categories and concepts into the critique that are foreign to your worldview.

    Jeff

    Reply
  123. Andrew Ryan says:

    I’m not aware of Singer’s argument; I don’t know who he is. If anyone’s stupid enough to argue that raping animals is a good idea then I wouldn’t waste any time debating with him at all – there are plenty of decent issues to debate, it seems a waste time to argue about this. Neither you nor I think bestiality is a good idea, so I don’t really see what the point is in me justifying my belief that bestiality is wrong.

    Whether you see humans as a massively advanced species of ape, or as having a supernatural origin doesn’t really affect the issue either way.

    At any rate I have explained why I think bestiality is wrong – like children, animals can’t give consent. Therefore having sex with animals is an act of rape. This isn’t side-stepping the issue – it’s pretty essential.

    Now you want me to explain why rape is wrong? I see this drifting inexorably down the path of ‘why is morality right’. If this is your aim then tell me now – I’ve already beaten this subject to death with Frank. It just turns into a circular debate. Go to the morality debate that I already posted extensively on. Suffice it to say, I’m not convinced by Frank’s circular argument that the supernatural is the only way to justify the notion of morality.

    Reply
  124. Jeff Vannoy says:

    Andrew,

    Are you familiar with Thornbill and Palmers work “A Natural History of Rape”? They admit that rape is an evolutionary adaptation and a strategy for getting one’s genes into the next generation. If you accept evolutionary naturalism, then their view is pressed upon you by the simple force of logic. For example, Darwinist and founder of the sociobiology movement, E. O. Wilson admitted,

    “the basis of ethics does not lie in God’s will”; instead, ethics “is an illusion fobbed off on us by our genes” because of its survival value.

    Also, in her review of Thornbill’s and Palmer’s work in World Magazine, Nancy Pearcey writes, “In short, Darwinism and its unpalatable moral implications are a package deal; protest, and you invite a return to the theistic worldview. It’s an agonizing dilemma for evolutionists: Either they can be logically consistent to their starting assumptions, but end up with an inhumane worldview–or they can be true to their God-given sense of morality, at the cost of being inconsistent.”

    However, you claim that you can account for objective morality within your worldview. What I, and many others, on this site can’t figure out is how you would go about doing that. I invite you again to offer your justification. We all really want to know—seriously. If you have already done this on this site, can you please tell me where to find it?

    PS- If you want to continue this discussion on another thread, just post there and refer to this thread and I’ll pick it up there.

    Thanks,
    Jeff

    Reply
  125. Tim D. says:

    This is an unfair objection.

    Oh, please….

    If God did not begin to exist, then He does not need a cause.

    Then how are we to believe that He didn’t begin to exist? The postulation of a First Cause doesn’t say that the first cause must not have been able to begin to exist; it only suggests that there has to have been one. Therefore the rules of “being God” (i.e. no beginning and no end, alpha/omega, etc.) do not necessarily apply and are not valid defenses, as the nature of this first cause is not specified by the logical deduction that caused its postulation.

    So how do you know that this postulated First Cause is:

    (a) Christian God in particular (as opposed to, say, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, who also “has always existed”)
    (b) Something that never began to exist? If it can always have existed, then that negates the need for a “First Cause,” because we can take the argument back down a notch and say that the universe has always existed. But we know that’s not the case, so how is it that the First Cause can have always existed? The very first assumption in that line of reasoning negates the final result you claim is so certain.

    Tim, some (not all) of the properties/attributes of the first cause are not that difficult to discern. The point is that the properties that we do know about the first cause are at least consistent with the Christian concept of God.

    They’re also consistent with the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and Allah, and a bunch of other deities. We know very little about a First Cause, and nothing at all with regard to what it may actually have been.

    This is not about the question of whether animals copulate between species. This is about humans copulating with other animals. If humans are really no different than other members of the animal kingdom, then how does one object to bestiality?

    And his point was very clear even to me: that even in the natural “Animal Kingdom,” humans excluded, animals do not breed with other animals. So even by your outrageous standard here, “animals breeding with animals” does not extend across species borderlines.

    To further make my point, Peter Singer has made a case for it. It’s consistent with his worldview.

    Doesn’t matter. If I made a case for it using Christianity, would you attack Christianity on that basis? No, you’d say I was wrong and explain why. But when the shoe is on the other foot….hmm, that yummy ol’ Christian bias comes into play.

    Apparently, the Orangutan was sexually aroused by her and attempted to copulate with her. When her research partner tried to stop the animal, he was told not to.

    And to assume that I wouldn’t be just a *little* weirded out by that is a bit odd, to me. I mean, it makes no more sense to say that primates should just be left to mate with other primates on the sole basis of being primates than it does to say that all fowl should mate with each other on that basis alone. Have you ever seen a penguin mating with a flamingo?

    You may be tempted to say that it’s wrong because animals can’t consent to the act. First, consent is a moral presupposition that you have assumed. Why is consent required and how do you justify it?

    Why is it required in your worldview? Because a man (Jesus) said it wasn’t? Why do you trust him? Because he’s the Son of God? How do you know that? Because he told you? Why do you believe him?

    I asked you to justify your position based on your worldview. You still have not done that. I’m asking you to ground your view of morality. Please re-read my previous post and tell me how your worldview justifies the morality that you seem to intuitively grasp.

    Um…he’s against it. Isn’t that proof enough that he can be against it? I mean, he got that way somehow, right?

    Unless you mean to imply that Jesus somehow “secretly got to him and made him feel that way?”

    Also, in her review of Thornbill’s and Palmer’s work in World Magazine, Nancy Pearcey writes, “In short, Darwinism and its unpalatable moral implications are a package deal; protest, and you invite a return to the theistic worldview. It’s an agonizing dilemma for evolutionists: Either they can be logically consistent to their starting assumptions, but end up with an inhumane worldview–or they can be true to their God-given sense of morality, at the cost of being inconsistent.”

    Why the hell do you guys always assume that all of our morality comes from “evolution?” That makes no sense to me; it’s like asking someone who believes in gravity “how gravity justifies morality.”

    Science isn’t just the answers, in and of itself. A certain amount of common sense is required; and if you’re of the type that belives the Bible is the only thing holding us back from becoming a bunch of baby Hitlers ushering primitive evolutionary instincts into the next generation of Third-Reich-baby-producing rape-victim mothers and murder-victim Christians, then you’re demonstrably not privy to this common sense.

    However, you claim that you can account for objective morality within your worldview. What I, and many others, on this site can’t figure out is how you would go about doing that. I invite you again to offer your justification. We all really want to know—seriously. If you have already done this on this site, can you please tell me where to find it?

    I can’t speak for anyone else, but I’ve never made that claim. I don’t believe in objective morality (you still have yet to point me to it). Where is this morality? In the Bible? How do you know the Bible is moral? Because the Bible says so? Why do you believe it? Because it says it quotes Jesus? Why do you believe that’s true? Why do you believe Jesus? Because he’s the son of God? Why do you believe that, because he says it? Why do you believe him?

    This can go on and on and on forever if it needs to, unfortunately….

    Reply
  126. Andrew Ryan says:

    Sure Jeff.
    ‘God is not dead yet’ and ‘Evolution cannot explain morality’.

    I think it’s my first post in the latter blog where I explain there why it’s a fallacy for Frank to say that rape would ‘help the species’.

    You’re probably best off just reading my first couple of posts in each thread, and then skipping right to the last few! In between I made the mistake of getting waylaid arguing with other posters. My conversations with Frank were the ones were both parties remained civil, and stayed on point.

    Reply
  127. Emily Jean Smith says:

    I do agree life begins at conception. Abortion is evil, and we know this because we have a moral law written on our hearts. We must always follow God’ s commands especially when it deals with life and death.

    Reply
  128. Tim D. says:

    I do agree life begins at conception.

    There is some living tissue at conception, yes. Well, actually, not even tissue — it hasn’t developed beyond the capacity of a single cell. It takes some time for it to grow into tissue (several weeks, at least).

    Although, I’d argue that the removal of less than a handful of tissue is less of an immediate danger to society than, say, suicidal economic policies, rampant borrowing, unnecessary war, and the consistent erosion of civil rights for all based on the religious priorities of a small minority of extremist Christians.

    Abortion is evil, and we know this because we have a moral law written on our hearts.

    I have no such law written on my heart. I don’t have access to any X-ray technology at the moment, but in spite of this I think I can safely say there’s not much of anything “written on my heart,” whatever that means.

    We must always follow God’ s commands especially when it deals with life and death.

    Blah, blah, blah…..well, maybe I think we should follow Odin’s commands. Or maybe Zeus? I don’t know, I’ll have to think about this one.

    Reply
  129. Blogz says:

    I worship the Almighty Floom. He tells me abortion is ok. Therefore I don’t have to rationally justify my ethics or opinions, because Floom wrote the truth on my heart.

    Reply
  130. Tim D. says:

    Everyone no matter what religion or no religion have the same moral law written on their hearts. I am a born again christain.

    There’s nothing about preventing gay folks from marrying “written on my heart,” just for the record….

    Reply
  131. Justin says:

    Peggy Noonan said this about the beginning of life:

    “Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins.”

    As complicated as many people would try to make the issue, her statement hits the heart of it. Most of the “it’s a complicated issue” rhetoric is just intellectual smokescreen.

    Reply
  132. Andrew Ryan says:

    A single woman who wants a baby might start by joining a dating agency. Does that mean THAT’S when life begins? Anyway, I thought all the people who buy condoms are Godless heathens? Peggy Noonan’s statement is asinine.

    Reply
  133. Tim D. says:

    “Everyone who ever bought a pack of condoms knows when life begins.”

    This brings us back to the beginning of the abortion debate; living tissue vs. human life. It has living human DNA, yes. But is it the life of the DNA you wish to preserve, or is it the life of the human being? Is it the DNA that determines the human being, and nothing else? If so, then how do you argue for a soul? Where exactly does the soul exist in the cell that is formed during conception? Why does the soul suddenly come into existence when the sperm fertilizes the egg? Where does the soul come from? Energy can neither be created nor destroyed, IIRC.

    I am honestly confused; I don’t recall if it was you or not who said so, but it’s been argued here that humans are “more than just cells and DNA and chemicals.” If that’s the case, then how do you reconcile this with the fact that a zygote is just that — a cluster of cells and chemicals with no capacity for consciousness, awareness, individuality, thought, or any sensation whatsoever?

    And I’m sorry, I’ve never heard of Peggy Noonan 0_0

    Reply
  134. Justin says:

    Tim D.,
    Oh, it’s ok if you’ve never heard of Peggy Noonan. I’m not claiming that she’s some kind of scientific expert or anything. She’s a columnist. I just thought her comment got to the heart of the matter in a very common-sense way.
    I’ve come into this thread rather late. I didn’t make the comment about the zygote. However, I think that the argument is that, if left alone (actually for a very short period of time), the natural course of events is that the zygote will develop into a human being. We were all zygotes once.
    The earliest that most women realize that they are pregnant is sometime between two and a half and three weeks, around the same time the heartbeat starts..

    Andrew,
    I’ve never claimed anything about people being Godless heathens, let alone in the context of contraceptive use.

    Reply
  135. Andrew Ryan says:

    Justin, Peggy’s statement adds nothing to the debate. She is pointing out where conception begins. We know that already. The argument is over whether ‘Life begins at conception’ in the sense of whether it’s a human being in any meaningful term from that moment.

    The argument is basically going round and round in circles.

    Reply
  136. Tim D. says:

    Tim D.,
    Oh, it’s ok if you’ve never heard of Peggy Noonan. I’m not claiming that she’s some kind of scientific expert or anything. She’s a columnist. I just thought her comment got to the heart of the matter in a very common-sense way.

    I’ll probably wiki her later just for future reference’s sake. I hate not knowing stuff that is really easy to learn about >:(

    However, I think that the argument is that, if left alone (actually for a very short period of time), the natural course of events is that the zygote will develop into a human being. We were all zygotes once.

    This is true. Perhaps there is more to that (I trust you’ll respond with more if there is, given what I am about to say), but on the surface I see one problem with that line of reasoning: If we leave all things to the “natural course of events,” then a lot of things that we don’t want to happen will suddenly be allowed to happen, and vice-versa (i.e. it doesn’t seem universally consistent). The natural course of events is that a person who needs life support to stay alive will die; inserting a feeding tube is, in that sense, ‘defying the natural course of events.’ The same could be said of saving a newborn that has suffered some terrible mishap during the delivery process and will die without intensive long-term medical care. Basically, it forces us to consider the question — how much of our human behavior can be considered “natural order,” and how much of it can be considered “interfering with nature?” Are we not, by our very definition as living things, a part of nature? If an animal does something odd, we don’t accuse it of defying nature because it is incapable of doing so by its nature. So how are we different? All of the things we do are based on natural processes that occur in our minds and bodies.

    Secondly….we could go back and extent the “natural process” argument to before the child is conceived. If we place two people in a serious relationship together and allow the natural process to run free, there is a high chance that they will copulate and produce offspring. So if they decide not to, or if they consciously make an effort to avoid producing offspring, should we say that they are defying the natural order as well? Are we guaranteeing the child a “right to life” before it is even born? If so, that seems odd; for that would mean that we’d be placing the rights of a person who doesn’t even exist yet — who may never exist — as “more important” than the rights of two actual, living humans to decide when and how they want to reproduce, if at all. With this line of reasoning, we could argue for the rights of billions of “theoretical” humans — humans that don’t exist but could, given the right circumstances — and if we proceed down the line towards the extreme example that results, we reach a point at which it is rationally acceptable to punish people for doing anything that doesn’t result in the production of offspring. Watching TV, for example; in the “theoretical human” theory, you’d be morally wrong for doing that because you could have been having sex with the intent of producing children. Anything that is not required for the bare minimum of survival then becomes “immoral.”

    Although I doubt that’s what you want to imply; I’m interested to hear your response.

    Reply
  137. Justin says:

    Tim D.,
    Funny you should bering some of these issues up; I was thinking about some of the same things last night. :) I’m kind of shooting from the hip on this, as I haven’t hashed it all out in my mind, but here goes…
    I’m not big on the “it’s unnatural so it’s bad” argument as a hard and fast rule about everything. Seems like a lot of the things we do could be deemed “unnatural.” I’m pro many “unnatural” things such as medical interventions, etc.
    So, the moral imperative here is not about what is “natural,” but about the value of human life. To borrow from the Peggy Noonan quote again, anyone who buys a box of condoms knows that the act they are about to engage in is a reproductive act. It has other benefits, yes, but one of the natural and expected consequences of the very act is the bringing forth of new human life. If they didn’t know this, they wouldn’t bother with the condoms.
    It is not really rocket science, then, to figure out when human life begins. It’s common sense, which is why even a teenager who doesn’t want to have a baby on his or her hands knows that condoms reduce the chance of pregnancy. It’s why a woman says “We’re going to have a baby” when she sees the little + sign in the window of the pregnancy test. In fact, most high school biology textbooks will even say that human life begins at conception.
    The very brief embryionic stage of human development is still human life. The “undifferentiated group of cells” will never be a frog or a deer or a tree, because it is a stage of HUMAN development.
    As such, I value human life at any stage.

    If so, that seems odd; for that would mean that we’d be placing the rights of a person who doesn’t even exist yet — who may never exist — as “more important” than the rights of two actual, living humans to decide when and how they want to reproduce, if at all.
    I don’t think it is morally evil to not reproduce.

    Reply
  138. Tim D. says:

    So, the moral imperative here is not about what is “natural,” but about the value of human life. To borrow from the Peggy Noonan quote again, anyone who buys a box of condoms knows that the act they are about to engage in is a reproductive act. It has other benefits, yes, but one of the natural and expected consequences of the very act is the bringing forth of new human life. If they didn’t know this, they wouldn’t bother with the condoms.
    It is not really rocket science, then, to figure out when human life begins. It’s common sense, which is why even a teenager who doesn’t want to have a baby on his or her hands knows that condoms reduce the chance of pregnancy. It’s why a woman says “We’re going to have a baby” when she sees the little + sign in the window of the pregnancy test. In fact, most high school biology textbooks will even say that human life begins at conception.
    The very brief embryionic stage of human development is still human life. The “undifferentiated group of cells” will never be a frog or a deer or a tree, because it is a stage of HUMAN development.
    As such, I value human life at any stage.

    I see what you’re saying….I still have one major analogy-type-issue:

    If a zygote is a baby, and a fetus is a baby….is a seed a tree? The reason for this analogy is to point out that, although circumstances will eventually bring an organism/lifeform to become another, that does not necessarily imply that it is that thing (I might take it a step further and argue that the need for the change to take place at all seems to imply that it is not this other thing; otherwise, why would it need to change into that thing? It’s already that thing, is it not?). Take an oak tree, for instance; we call it a tree at any stage of development, no matter how old or young…..and yet, when it is a seed, we call it a seed, not a tree. When it is still developing into a tree, we do not call it a tree; we say, “it’s not a tree yet,” and the same folks who object to mowing down trees in large numbers seem to have no problem with seeds being sold at supermarkets in snack-packages. So yes, a zygote is “human” in the sense that it is part of the chain of the human biological process…but is it really human in the same sense that a born, developed human baby is?

    I don’t think it is morally evil to not reproduce.

    Well, that’s good I suppose :D

    Reply
  139. Justin says:

    Tim D.,
    Again, shooting from the hip – I guess a zygote is not the same asa born, developed human baby is, if you mean that it can’t do the same things a born baby can. But, a zygote is still a stage in human development. There are also a lot of very signficant changes in human development even after the baby is born, but none are “more human” or “lesshuman.”

    I googled some info about zygotes. After about 13 days, the zygote is officially an embryo. (Before that, it even develops into what is called a “pre-embryo.”) The zygote stage is very short.

    Reply
  140. Tim D. says:

    Again, shooting from the hip – I guess a zygote is not the same asa born, developed human baby is, if you mean that it can’t do the same things a born baby can. But, a zygote is still a stage in human development. There are also a lot of very signficant changes in human development even after the baby is born, but none are “more human” or “lesshuman.”

    I don’t consider it “more human” or “less human,” per se; rather, a different kind of human. It is human in the strict sense that it has human DNA; but it does not comprise any of the other features that we consider humans to have. I guess what I mean is, the value that we place on life is not just placed on it because it is “human” life; otherwise, we would have no reason to value the lives of animals or other intelligent species, like monkeys or dolphins. I have just as much of a problem killing such an animal as I would killing a human (perhaps slightly less of one, given that I am more emotionally attached to humans in that I am a part of the species); I would consider needlessly killing such animals to be almost as bad as (if not as bad as) needlessly killing a human. Granted, if a monkey or a dolphin were attacking a human unprovoked, then I might say that we’d have to kill the monkey or the dolphin in defense, but I can’t imagine many instances of monkeys attacking humans (particularly territorial gorillas, maybe, or perhaps orangutans or baboons), and I can’t imagine any instances of dolphin attacks….but that’s all a tangent, beside my point. My point is, there are grounds other than species-relations on which to value life. Even Christians agree with me on this; the general consensus is that we allow a baby to be born, give it a chance to make an impression on society….and once it has matured, if it makes a negative impression (i.e. commits violent crimes), we lock it up in prison or kill it (death sentence). In doing so we deem that life to be “less valuable,” even though it is human and has human DNA.

    And I don’t condone the “punishment argument,” that we are punishing these prisoners by death and that this is not a statement about the value of the prisoner’s life; in this case, the punishment is judged to outweigh the value of the prisoner’s life, which is never proclaimed in any case but this one, and so the life is deemed “less valuable” than the punishment.

    There’s more….but I really have to be leaving for work now 0_0 I’ll get back on later when I have more time.

    Reply
  141. Justin says:

    Tim D.,
    Looking forward to reading about the punishment thing.

    I agree with you about animal life. I value animal life, too, but not nearly as much as human life. I am not vegetarian, for example, but I do think that animals should not be abused. (There might be a distinction to be drawn here as to a Christian worldview valuing human life more because humans area made in the image of God. I don’t know what the distinction is in the naturalistic worldview that divides human life from other animal life, especially other primates.)

    Reply
  142. Tim D. says:

    Tim D.,
    Looking forward to reading about the punishment thing.

    Actually, I was hoping to hear your rebuttal of that much before I went on….but the long and short of it is (as I see it), if our reason for not killing humans is because human life is intrinsically valuable….then any instance in which killing is allowed can be interpreted as a case in which someone’s life has been deemed “less valuable” to the extent that it is justifiable to take it — death row inmates, for example, or enemy factions on the battlefield. Or, if that’s too harsh of an interpretation, one might say that some other factor — be it another person’s life, or some cause or effort — is deemed “even more important” than this person’s life. In either case, what it amounts to is a condition that allows for the degredation of the intrinsic value of human life. I’m curious as to how this can be reconciled with the belief that life is inherently valuable; if it is, indeed, believed to be possible to “take away” or “reduce” that value.

    Or, if that is not the case….then how, on the matter of valuing individual lives, do we go about the process of justifying the killing of anyone, even a criminal? I would think that the Christian would rather the inmate have a life sentence, not be killed, granted that the inmate’s life is intrinsically valuable (even if he/she has killed someone).

    (There might be a distinction to be drawn here as to a Christian worldview valuing human life more because humans area made in the image of God. I don’t know what the distinction is in the naturalistic worldview that divides human life from other animal life, especially other primates.)

    I feel the distinction between humans and animals, as well. I find it most reasonable to attribute this (speaking from a somewhat naturalistic worldview) to the fact that I am human, and so I am more likely to feel compassion or relationship with other humans (and to a greater degree). Most species tend to kill members of other species, such as lions killing for food….but also, most species tend to mourn the death of their own. So I think that makes sense either way you look at it. It seems to be agreeable that humans are, as far as humans themselves are concerned, “more valuable” than animals, harsh as it may sound; not that I would discard my dog or abuse it or malnourish it, or that I feel motivation to do such things….just that, if it came down to a choice between a busload of humans and a busload of puppies, I would probably go for the busload of humans on instinct.

    Reply
  143. Justin says:

    Tim,
    I would think that a relative few species mourn the death of one of their own. Most I can think of don’t display anything that looks like mourning, though I have seen what appears to be mourning in dogs that lost a long-time companion. I think also that the gorilla Koko signed to a scientist that she was sad when her cat died, but I could be totally wrong about that.
    I think that most all people with a naturalistic worldview feel this same affinity for humans. I think given the choice between bus full of puppies and even one human, all of us (with the exception of the mentally unstable) would choose the human. What I’m not sure about is if the naturalist can give a solid, logical grounding to the value of humans from the naturalistic worldview without it coming down to subjectivity.

    I do see where you are coming from on the punishment thing. I’l need to do some more thinking on that. Some Christians, of course, are anti-death penalty, but I think that is a relative minority. (I could be wrong -= I don’t know the actual numbers on this.)
    RIght now, without having thought it through thoroughly, I am thinking that in the case of the death penalty, the solution to this comes down to the intersection of the value of human life and the concepts of justice and innocence. Innocent human life is so valuable that the only just punishment for taking that innocent life is the death penalty. Anything less than the death penalty devalues innocent human life.

    Reply
  144. Andrew Ryan says:

    There are some very interesting moral dilemma questions which show that people’s knee-jerk moral responses aren’t always consistent.

    1) You are standing next to a train track. Suddenly you realize that a train is heading down the track towards 5 railroad workers. You cannot shout to warn them. The only way that you can save their lives is to pull a level that will re-direct the train down another track. On this second track there is a single railroad worker. If you pull the lever the single railroad worker will die. If you do not five ment will die. There are no other choices. What do you do?

    2) Now consider this: Now there is only one track. The train is heading down the track towards the five workers. There is a very big guy standing on a bridge above the track. The only way you can save the men on the track is by pushing the big guy. You cannot jump in front of the track yourself. You cannot warn the workers. Do you push him to his death to save those five?

    Now most people are willing to pull the leaver in the first scenario, killing the single worker in order to save the five. But most people presented with the second scenario opt not to push the fat guy, despite it playing out in a similar way to the first scenario.

    It’s interesting when our reactions are different to two scenarios that appear unrelated, but in actual fact are quite similar. Here’s another one:

    1) You just bought yourself a pair of $200 shoes. You are walking down the street with your brand new shoes and suddenly you pass a pond where a baby is drowning. You can jump in and save the baby, but you will ruin your $200 shoes (no you don’t have time to take them off). What do you do?

    Everyone says ‘jump in the pond’. But then here’s scenario 2:

    2) You receive a letter in the mail from an organization you trust. There is a tragic drought in Africa. People are starving. A donation of $36 dollars will save a child’s life. Do you give the money?

    Many people say ‘yes’, though not as many as to scenario 1. However, the truth is that droughts are going on like that in Africa all the time. People find that much easier to ignore than a baby drowning in front of them, despite the end result being the same.

    Similarly, Republicans will pay lipservice to opposing abortion, but will vote for health policies that lead directly a greater infant mortality rate than in most of Western Europe, with Nationalised medical systems. And yet the same GOPs will deride these systems of health care as socialist and even ‘evil’.

    Reply
  145. Andrew Ryan says:

    “What I’m not sure about is if the naturalist can give a solid, logical grounding to the value of humans from the naturalistic worldview without it coming down to subjectivity.”

    It makes obvious evolutionary sense to value your own species more than another. Species that didn’t would die out! Humans value other humans the most, and generally put the other great apes above the rest of the animal kingdom. This makes evolutionary sense too – as chimps share more DNA with us than any other animals (something like 97%).

    Furthermore, we generally value our family higher than strangers, and our kids most of all. Again, we’re valuing those with whom we share most DNA. This is exactly as a biologist would predict.

    As for the attitudes of other species, many animals will fight to the death to defend their offspring; again this is what any naturalist would expect. A mother wolf who didn’t care about her cubs would be less likely to care for them, and her offspring would be less likely to have offspring of their own. So ‘care for your kids’ genes are selected to continue.

    The animals that DON’T give a toss about their kids are generally the ones that don’t need to -eg the ones that spawn hundreds of eggs. Here, sheer weight of numbers ensures that some survive without parental help. Genes that foster parent/child bonding are never selected to continue in such animals.

    Reply
  146. Justin says:

    Andrew,
    I’ll grant you that those moral dilemmas are interesting and that responses to those dilemmas are interesting as well. What seems important to me, though, is that the there would not be a moral dilemma at all if human life were not valuable.
    I’m not sure one can prove a direct link between Republican policy and infant mortality rates. There are a lot of factors involved, including pre-term deliveries, which account for a lot infant mortalities. Pre-term delivery could be a function of medical care, but it could also be linked to alcohol and drug usage rates for example. There just isn’t a clear enough link to prove causation in my opinion.
    The mortality rate is sad. I find the abortion rate (1.2 million abortions in 2005 – which amounts to about 1 in 5 pregnancies) to be appalling.
    We need to find more ways to prevent infant mortality. This is a more difficult task than finding a way to stop killing 1.2 million babies per year.

    Reply
  147. Andrew Ryan says:

    Hi Justin, do you accept my ‘naturalist’ explanation for why species value the lives of other members of their own species? Does it make sense to you? I don’t see why you are still confused by the secular notion of life being valuable.

    Reply

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