Personhood

If we are to pinpoint the moment of beginning of personhood that has the best scientific grounding, out of all the moments that are candidates, that will certainly be the beginning of the single-cell stage. A minute before, there were two spatially-separated haploid cells, each with insufficient genetic information ever to become anything resembing a full-grown person; a minute after, there is a single definable organism with the exact genetic information that it will carry throughout life, at 1 month of gestation, at 4 years, at 60 years.

Here Dr. Maureen L. Condic writes:

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

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

Building the complex architecture of the brain is a continuous process that is initiated at sperm-egg fusion and proceeds through orderly steps under the direction of a ‘builder,’ that is, a human organism that is present from the beginning. The presence of an agent capable of constructing the mature body, including the brain, is the only sustainable definition of a human being. This agency should not be misconstrued as some kind of mystical or spiritual element that is merely attributed to an embryo or fetus based on personal or religious belief. The fact that the embryo acts as an agent is entirely a matter of empirical observation; embryos construct themselves. . . .

. . . science does not dictate that citizens have a right to equal protection under the law, but. . . . science has clearly determined when human life commences, and this determination legitimately dictates that equal protection under the law must extend to human beings at embryonic and fetal stages of development.

For more scientific sources attesting to the personhood of the zygote, see Appendix 1.

Though the beginning of the single-cell stage has the best scientific grounding among all the moments that are candidates for the beginning of personhood, some will debate against defining “personhood” in this way. And “personhood” or “person” is not the only word that can be debated. While some will maintain that a zygote is “a human being, but not a person,” others, since they can’t deny that it belongs to the species Homo sapiens, will insist, with an equally straight face, that it is “human, but not a human being.”

Some will even deny that a zygote is “alive.” Though any cell is usually considered “the fundamental unit of life,” and hardly anyone will deny that at least a cell which can reproduce (as a zygote can) is alive, some will say that life requires consciousness — according to their definition of consciousness. (In this view, are plants not alive, or are they alive and conscious?)

Perhaps the unborn babies of the world, overhearing all this chatter with bewilderment and growing apprehension, find solace by reflecting that they don’t really want to be grown-up after all.

More seriously, the problem is that “personhood” (like “life” and “human being”) is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it.

There is no way to prove to a white that a black is a “person.” There is no way to prove to an oriental that a white is a “person.”

Motivation, perception and definition: Motivation will always be a cause of definition and even perception, as much as definition and perception will be a cause of motivation. Those who want to be at liberty to kill embryos (or let’s say “destroy” them, to satisfy those who deny they are alive) will define words in one way, those who want to save them will define in another way. The general approach, if not the universal approach, is to label something we feel should not be killed a “person,” rather than to declare that a person is something that should not be killed.

..in the eyes of the law…the slave is not a person. (Bailey/als. v. Poindexter’s Ex’or, 1858, Virginia Supreme Court)

the word ‘person’ … does not include the unborn. (Roe v. Wade, 1973, US Supreme Court)

Dehumanization: This fate has befallen some races and one gender, and it could happen again to any race (racism) or any gender (sexism), just as it is happening now to the unborn (ageism, size-ism and development-ism). With the help of the US Supreme Court’s brand of socio-linguistic engineering, any group could be dehumanized — tomorrow it could be me or you.

Now, it would be wonderful if we could abandon the semantic convolutions and simply get to the practical question — should people be free to destroy zygotes, or not? Why should pro-lifers not go along with calling a zygote any misleading term — an “inanimate person-elect,” or a “person-morphing inert speck” — as long as it is a person-morphing inert speck with the right to life? It is because our hyperactive cortexes on each side will ask the other side “Why?” One side will reply “Because it’s a person,” and the other will say, “No, it’s not,” and the linguistic debate will begin again.

And words and their definitions affect perception and motivation just as motivation affects perception and definition.

So if we want to save the unborn, it is important that they be “persons.” [Edit: And they are persons in what is ultimately the most pivotal sense, as we shall see.]

But first we must ask the most fundamental question: why do we want to save the unborn?

Well, to get really fundamental, we would also have to ask, Why do we want to save post-natal persons? But for this discussion, there is no need to go so deep. We only need to ask, Why do we want to save the unborn as much as we want to save post-natal persons?

As I said regarding definitions in the “Personhood and Citizenship” post:

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

And it is the same regarding the related question about motivation, about wanting to save the unborn: it all comes down to intuition. If not influenced by religious doctrines [Edit: or political or other kinds of opportunism], pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life.

And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, [Edit: or overreaction against the tragic oppression of women, or simple selfishness,] have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life [Edit: , or do not deserve it at the cost of some degree of sacrifice by post-natal persons, particularly the mother].

Since both sides are mainly sincere (see also Appendix 2), are we headed toward one of the usual cliches such as “Neither side has the whole truth, the truth is somewhere in the middle” — ?

I don’t think so.

I think some people’s intuition is better than others. And I think that as a general rule, a person’s intuition will improve throughout life, especially if they meditate.

Someone will ask, who is to decide whose intuition is better? That too is a matter of intuition. We are in an area where science can’t help us much. But that does not mean that intuitions are not valid.

Though there is no objective standard of intuition, I venture to assert subjectively that the Buddha’s intuition about the richness of life was better than that of Genghis Khan. I venture to assert subjectively that Martin Luther King’s intuition about the sister- and brotherhood of all humanity was better than that of Jeffrey Dahmer.

I think I would be able to find many people who would agree with me, and if there is agreement about extreme contrasts, there can be some degree of agreement about nuances also.

Agreement will not prove, scientifically or otherwise, that pro-lifers are correct, but that is not the point. I think that pro-lifers in different countries will eventually be able to find enough legislators who get it, to enact legislation along the lines of a recent proposed North Dakota state constitutional amendment: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”

And that, that ability to enact legislation, will be the point — the point of a growing intuitive consensus that the unborn deserve life and are persons.

In resting my case ultimately on intuition, am I abandoning scientific proofs because the scientific case for personhood at conception is weak? No, the scientific case for personhood at the beginning of the single-cell stage, as we have seen, is better than the scientific case for any other definition of personhood. What I am doing, rather, is honestly admitting that science fails us in this area. That is better than to claim a scientific basis, which ultimately doesn’t stand up, for some definition or other.

I do not know whether the Buddha ever said anything about abortion. But I bet that he would, at least if he had had access to present-day scientific knowledge, have considered a zygote to be a person, [Edit: the starting point of an organism that can maintain its identity for a life of several decades, and deserving to be valued like any other person]. (Our intuitions will certainly be influenced by scientific data, but in the end they will be intuitions.)

[Edit: (Just as the fact that a paramecium can split into two paramecia does not mean that it was not originally a paramecium, the fact that a developing person can occasionally split into twins does not mean that it was not originally a person.)]

As regards Martin Luther King, his pro-life niece is quoted on this page:

http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=52819

According to Dr. [Alveda] King, when asked about where the Pro-life Movement fits in with her life’s work, “The Pro-life Movement is a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement, and abortion is one of the greatest Civil Rights issues of our time.”

Furthermore, she notes that her father and uncle, Martin Luther King, Jr., were Pro-life and “worked hard to promote and preserve civil rights for all Americans.” In that way, they laid the groundwork for the Pro-life Movement of today . . .

I wrote above: “I think some people’s intuition is better than others. And I think that as a general rule, a person’s intuition will improve throughout life, especially if they meditate.”

For purposes of this post, except for a brief note about my own experience, I will let the meditation topic rest. I think that my intuition about reality has deepened throughout my life and would have deepened even without meditation, but that meditation has helped. And I think my intuition has not deepened more in any area than in relation to the unborn. When I was young, the unborn seemed quite insignificant to me. I was concerned about overpopulation, more for selfish reasons than any other, and probably thought that abortion for population control was a good thing. Today, simply from reading science, thinking, meditating and living, I see the unborn just as I see all my sisters and brothers.

And I think that simply from reading science, thinking and living, even without meditating, similar is the pattern of perceptual unfoldment, with exceptions of course, for people in general. And I think people’s expansiveness toward the unborn often increases exponentially when they are jolted by some emotional experience.

Any number of women have suddenly (or gradually) woken up and become pro-life after having an abortion.

In the case of Albany Rose, who tells her story in a YouTube called “My Abortive Testimony and Conversion,” she aborted her first child at the age of fifteen, then became a pro-choice advocate. But during her second pregnancy she gained a deeper understanding of the reality of life, and is now a very clear and articulate pro-life advocate.

Here is an exact sequence of comments that appeared under her video during a couple of days in October, 2013:

taraist1 –

i had a similar experience, my mother told me i would ruin her and my dad’s life if i had and kept my baby. she told me she had an abortion once too and that it was the best decision she made. i know now she was lieing and it makes it all hurt so much more. how could she push me into that knowing the feelings later? i believe all women come around to the regret eventually, some later than others. my mother let me down that day and all i can do now is stop the cycle with my own.

the propaganda and lies spread by the pro-choice lobbyists are astounding. i wish the whole disgusting truth would be shown. i am also not religious and used to be prochoice. thank you for your video as if you change one person’s mind it was worth it. i wish i had seen something like this when faced with my horrible choice. because it is a choice, meaning you have OTHER choices. we let women do this with their eyes closed, without really understanding what it means what it is. it needs to stop.

Chelsea Saint-Dreher –

Dear Albany, you are so brave! My mother had me as a teen mom, and my premature birth was difficult for her. Seeing photos of aborted babies changed her mind when she considered her options. I wish you love.

telekenisis9 –

Same here i was pro choice after a lot of research i found exactly that its a lie , the silent scream and 22 weeks and 180 film plus a lot of vids from formers abortion providers changed my mind i felt so dupped :( i am agnostic so its down to the evil propaganda its anything to sell you the abortion .

As taraist1 said, “Women come around to the regret eventually, some later than others.” In a YouTube “The Dark Secret: Life After Abortion,” a woman who runs a Christian support group for women who have aborted says: “Some women go into meltdown immediately after . . . and others can keep it buttoned down for a long time, and I was one of those. But there was a deadness and a flatness and a grayness to my life . . .” Referring to other Christians, she says: “They hate what we have done, but believe me, they don’t hate what we have done as much as we hate what we have done.”

What the death they had dealt eventually caused them to realize was the personhood of the unborn baby — or the fact that it deserves to be treated like a person, which is the same thing.

A reader of the “The Reasons Better Be Good” post has commented “Many people regret having children…” Though not the point he was making in that context, this statement could be taken as a rejoinder to the experiences I have listed above, so let me take it in that way and reply to it. First of all, if some people regret having conceived children, that is one thing. But having conceived, do some people regret not having proceeded to abort the children? Here is a statistic I would like to see: the % of aborting women who say that for most of their lives they have regretted what they had done; versus the % of women who raised a child — even those who made great sacrifices to do so — who say they regret having done THAT, i.e., say they wish they had killed the child at the outset. I would expect the latter percentage to be quite small, and to become smaller as the mother’s years go by, becoming vanishingly small when the children start taking care of the mothers.

Here’s the president of Feminists for Life:

https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151830708866882&set=a.10150709936306882.456402.123097641881&type=1&theater

Women aren’t stupid. We know it’s a baby that is growing just like we did in our mother’s wombs. . . . As feminists, we don’t believe in discrimination based on size, age or location. Do you believe that a child has less of a right to exist because he or she is small? Are large or tall people more valuable than small or short people? . . . For years, abortion advocates have been pitting women against their unborn children, dehumanizing the growing child with misleading phrases like “blobs of cells” and “products of conception.”

Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a co-founder of NARAL and one of the main architects of the movement that culminated in Roe v. Wade. He went on to run abortion clinics and to perform thousands of abortions himself. He eventually woke up to a horrible guilt, and produced a famous documentary, The Silent Scream, whose purpose was to prove the personhood of the unborn.

To quote from this page –

http://clinicquotes.com/former-abortionist-dr-george-flesh/

Dr. Flesh talked about the experience he had that led to him quitting abortion practice:

“… a married couple came to me and requested an abortion. Because the patient’s cervix was rigid, I was unable to dilate it and perform the procedure. I asked her to return in a week, when the cervix would be softer.

“The couple returned and told me that they had changed their minds and wanted to ‘keep the baby.’ I delivered the baby seven months later. Years later, I played with little Jeffrey in the pool at the tennis club where his parents and I were members. He was happy and beautiful. I was horrified to think that only a technical obstacle had prevented me from terminating Jeffrey’s potential life. The connection between the six-week-old human embryo and a laughing child stopped being an abstraction for me. While hugging my sons each morning, I started to think of the vacuum aspirator that I would use two hours later.”

That connection is a simple fact of biology. The surprising thing is that it quite normally takes a long time to see it, unless a person has one of these jolting experiences. As with my own worldview when I was young, it is “Out of sight, out of mind,” and a size-ism that seems to be the default, almost universally, until a long time passes. The word is “callow.” We are born callow. A callow person is also callous. Sensitivity has to be learned, acquired. And some people remain callow in relation to the unborn throughout their lives, though sometimes they are not at all so in other dimensions.

Dr. Anthony Levantino was a pro-choice abortionist who performed 1200 abortions. One day his little daughter was killed in a car accident, and after that he found that he was unable to go on killing. He suddenly understood the personhood of the unborn. Here he tells his story:

When you finally figure out in here [heart] not just here [head] that killing a baby this big for money is wrong, then it doesn’t take you too awfully long to figure out that it doesn’t matter if the baby’s even this big, it’s all the same. . . . Even the most pro-choice person, when they see an ultrasound, things change . . .

It is in the heart that we can really come to understand the definition of personhood. I think that once we can, by any means, deeply understand our own humanity, we will understand the humanity of all those we had previously considered second-class citizens.

As with individuals, so with society. Following a clear trend, societies are outgrowing racism and sexism, and I think they will outgrow ageism and development-ism as well; and think that the societies will benefit almost as much as the babies. In the Western context, it humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other, because of the subtlety of thought involved.

And when that happens, the vanished era when we treated embryos as anything other than the most defenseless and vulnerable members of our family, those most deserving of fierce protectiveness on our part, will come to seem like the dark ages.

The late Christopher Hitchens once said: “I’ve had a lot of quarrels with some of my fellow materialists and secularists on this point, [but] I think that if the concept ‘child’ means anything, the concept ‘unborn child’ can be said to mean something. . . . that opinion . . . should be innate in everybody.”

Yes. That opinion is innate. It is not ultimately an opinion that can be formed by science. The skeptical and materialistic Hitchens, a wonder-struck admirer of science, grasped the heart of the matter.

It is innate, but undeveloped in most. It is natural for the undeveloped and mechanistic minds that most of us start life with, to judge a zygote by its size. [Edit: Within the simple framework I sketched out above -- those who have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life, and those who have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life -- there is a big range of variations. Many will feel more compassion for the unborn with each little increase in its size or functionality. It is to be expected that an undeveloped mind will think in such mechanistic terms, just as to a growing child, the size and strength of the people around them, and of themselves, is everything.] But that is purely a lack of vision, and the vision can slowly develop in us.

(According to this website — http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion — Hitchens went on to reply “Yes” to the question whether he was a member of the pro-life movement.)

Appendix 1: Further Scientific Sources on the Personhood of the Zygote

“Dr. Bradley M. Patten from the University of Michigan wrote in Human Embryology that the union of the sperm and the ovum ‘initiates the life of a new individual’ beginning ‘a new individual life history.’ In the standard college text book Psychology and Life, Dr. Floyd L. Ruch wrote ‘At the time of conception, two living germ cells — the sperm from the father and the egg, or ovum, from the mother — unite to produce a new individual.’ Dr. Herbert Ratner wrote that ‘It is now of unquestionable certainty that a human being comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg.’ This certain knowledge, Ratner says, comes from the study of genetics. At fertilization, all of the genetic characteristics, such as the color of the eyes, ‘are laid down determinatively.’ James C. G. Conniff noted the prevalence of the above views in a study published by the New York Times Magazine in which he wrote, ‘At that moment conception takes place and, scientists generally agree, a new life begins — silent, secret, unknown.’” (The Wikipedia, “Beginning of human personhood”)

The Wikipedia offers some other candidate descriptions for the beginning of personhood, but gives prominence to these. Why did the Wikipedia deem these quotes to describe the beginning of personhood, when the words used are “individual” and “human being”? We cannot take the Wikipedia as an absolute authority, but the Oxford Dictionary also makes the connection by defining “person” as “a human being considered as an individual.”

Appendix 2: Perceptions of Each Side by the Other

Above I said that most pro-lifers have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life, while most pro-choicers have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life. Can we expect that each side will be equally baffled by, or incredulous about, the intuition of the other; or on the other hand equally credit the sincerity of the other; or will we not find such equality in how the two sides see each other?

I would think that pro-lifers would be better able to understand the intuitions of pro-choicers, and to judge them as sincere, because of having been there themselves. Humans start out callow, and I think normally with a default size-ism in relation to the unborn. Pro-lifers will be able to remember that in themselves.

Pro-choicers, on the other hand, have probably not experienced the worldview of pro-lifers. They have not acquired the ability to see life as a process, as a constant transition — they tend to rate the value of an embryo as if it were frozen in time rather than being the inescapable first phase of a seamless process. Thus they are likely to find compassion for a tiny speck, incomprehensible or simply insincere. So they will look elsewhere for what makes pro-lifers tick, and begin to impute all kinds of motives to them — a desire to oppress women, for instance, or sexual perversity, or blind religious belief.

[Edit: George Carlin famously said, “Conservatives want live babies so they can raise them to be dead soldiers.” Did he have any evidence that that was a dominant motivation of conservatives, or was he just baffled by a motivation not accessible to his perceptive powers?]

Such motives must also, of course, often be imputed for tactical reasons, knowing that they are false or at best sweeping generalizations. Not that such motives are necessarily non-existent. Blind religious belief is probably widespread, but it could not be as universal a motive as some pro-choicers would like us to believe. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, mentioned above as one of the main architects of the movement that culminated in Roe v. Wade, said later, after becoming pro-life, that one of their most important tactics had been to stereotype all opposition to abortion as stemming from the Catholic Church.

Appendix 3: One Reader’s Questions

I met Timothy.Griffy in the course of a discussion on another website. On that page, among other things, he probed into “Personhood” and the ideas thereof; and probed into my use of the phrase “moral sensitivity.” It will be useful to now address some of his questions here:

T.G: I do believe there are moral absolutes.

No Termination without Representation (Acyutananda): That position of yours is very clear now. Apparently I had misunderstood your first post (pair of posts) based on –

“your argument works only on the assumption that ‘moral sensitivity’ is absolute. It isn’t”

– and –

“Outside . . . clear cut situations [such as the Newtown, CT shootings], the entire concept of ‘moral sensitivity’ becomes void for vagueness.”

Since I had not said that moral sensitivity is absolute, I had taken your first sentence to mean “morality isn’t absolute, therefore any sensitivity will have nothing absolute to sense.”

Now that it’s clear you believe in moral absolutes, may I understand that sentence to mean “your argument works only on the assumption that ‘moral sensitivity’ is perfectly accurate in recognizing moral absolutes. It isn’t” — ?

JulieMeg had said –

“Your assumption is that ‘moral sensitivity’ is somehow absolute”

– and I had replied –

“I feel that some rights and some wrongs are close to absolute, and I think that some people have more sensitivity than others regarding those rights and wrongs.”

This is how I see the relation between moral absolutes and sensitivity.

(All this so far is just to try to get our language straight.)

Let me continue with your first pair of posts.

T.G: Let’s point out one big difference between what Adam Lanza did in Newtown, CT and the abortion *debate*: What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect. And ‘debate’ is the key term here. To judge a person as ‘hardened’ reflects an assumption that, at least in principle, a moral issue has been settled. That is precisely what has *not* happened in the abortion debate. The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”

NTwR: Isn’t all this just what I call “democratizing moral authority”? My main thesis has been that judgments about whether the unborn deserve life are ultimately intuitively-based (we could broaden that to any moral judgments), and that some people’s intuition is better than others. Here aren’t you just saying that many people’s judgments are different from what I consider correct, without addressing my thesis that those people might well all be wrong?

“The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”

The article is aimed at pro-choicers, so as to save babies. How does it stack the deck?

T.G: Am I morally insensitive if, as ["Personhood"] implies, I don’t accept that a zygote is a person? Well, wait a minute here. As Judith Jarvis Thompson pointed out a long time ago, accepting the fetus is a person only gets you so far when talking about the ethics of abortion. The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute. So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.

NTwR: I haven’t seen JJT’s argument, but presumably you more or less summarize it as “The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute.”

“Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.

First of all, when I raised the possibility that women who don’t regret their abortions might not be morally sensitive (unless the circumstances requiring abortion were very compelling), I didn’t try to pinpoint just where that insensitivity might lie — do they fail to see the unborn as a person, or do they fail to see that a temporarily-helpless person deserves compassionate treatment? I guess at the time of writing, I was really thinking “either.” But thinking further, I would say that failure to see the unborn as a person is not exactly moral insensitivity. What could we call it? “Ontological insensitivity” — failing to intuit what they would be able to intuit about reality, if their intuition was more highly developed? “Ontological insensitivity” may not seem to you a more tactful way for me to speak of people who disagree with me than saying “moral insensitivity,” but you’ve asked me to clarify what I mean about people who don’t accept that a zygote is a person, so this is it — as expressed in “Personhood.” As also expressed in the post, science can only be brought to bear to a limited extent, so really everyone will have to take my idea about intuition, or leave it.

But let me ask this, just to start a thinking process (not to finish it): If there are moral absolutes, how do we know them if not through intuition? And if something is a moral absolute, such as “What Adam Lanza did was wrong,” and someone says what he did was right, then isn’t their intuition wrong? Aren’t they morally insensitive? And wouldn’t it be similar with ontological sensitivity?

“So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.”

Anti-abortion positions are not a monolith. My views regarding the special burden on the mother that an unborn child represents are explained in the Aug. 1 post “Personhood and Citizenship.”

T.G: Unless and until the anti-abortion crowd can produce a gamechanger, I have no qualms about dismissing their judgments about my “moral sensitivity” out of hand.

NTwR: I wouldn’t expect a gamechanger based on science, in the sense of an already almost-airtight scientific case for the personhood of the zygote, becoming airtight enough to convince people who are on the pro-choice warpath for whatever reason. I expect an eventual gamechanger in terms of human evolution. To quote from “Education and Art to Change Perceptions of the Unborn”:

“It humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other. . .”

I think coming to see the unborn fully as persons will be a particularly evolutionary step for the human race, because it will involve opening up a deeper and subtler level of our minds – not a new level, but a level that is little visited in our usual frenzy for different ambitions and gratifications.

T.G: . . . for your hypothetical case, I would find it disturbing for a woman to have an abortion simply so she could attend a fun party on her scheduled due date. I don’t even need to grant that the fetus is a person to be disturbed by it. Even if a fetus is not a person, it is a potential person,

NTwR: I think a “potential person” is automatically a person, as discussed most fully in “Too Young for Rights?”

T.G: However, at the end of the day, even IF the fetus is a person, I would still have to admit that in aborting the pregnancy to go to a party does not make her unjust. As I also said in another post, a person’s right to life does not give that person a claim on another person’s body (parts).

NTwR: Normally no permanent damage is being done to the woman’s body parts. A baby being cared for by its father has a claim on the father’s arms and legs. If the father fails to use his arms and legs to go out for infant formula and feed the baby, he is morally culpable and legally indictable. I would support a law requiring people to give blood in certain circumstances. In a peaceful country beset by aggressors, I would see nothing wrong with compulsory military service; think of what the soldiers may have to give [Edit: of their body parts].

T.G: I might think she is callous, stingy, cruel, or [fill in the adjective of your choice], but she absolutely has not violated the fetus’ right to life.

NTwR: Sorry, I find this a conflicted sentence, if our context is a moral discussion. (And not a legal discussion — that is, if you are not just citing Roe v. Wade to me.) You obviously recognize that she has violated SOMETHING — what?

T.G: Now that there should be no doubt I’m not a moral relativist, I think it should also be clear that you really haven’t addressed my arguments at all.

NTwR: As of now, is anything unaddressed?

T.G: For example, your question about killing the two year old becomes a red herring. [this is a new argument] Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, making other options available that simply weren’t there before. We’re no longer comparing apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges.

NTwR: As I replied to a comment on the “Personhood and Citizenship” article:

“Your argument about invasiveness is that the sacrifice a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child is unique — men don’t have to make it — and therefore women should not have to make it either. But what you are doing is artificially defining the issue in such a way that you cannot lose; you are saying that because men don’t have babies inside them, nothing that a woman might do related to her unborn baby could possibly be wrong, lest it violate equality. You are trying to impose a rule ‘If a form of suffering is unique to one gender, that gender has a right to avoid it regardless how much destruction may be wrought, lest it violate equality.’

“But really, every sacrifice that might be made to save some helpless person is unique. If I see a child about to run out in front of a car, I can say, ‘I don’t want to save it because I have a sore ankle, and it’s unique — no one ever had a sore ankle exactly like mine before.’ (It’s completely true.) So merely because some sacrifice is unique, is not necessarily a big deal.

“So I don’t accept that uniqueness is the issue. The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a handicapped man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years — even if that is not your arbitrary ‘invasiveness.’”

Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.

T.G: It is as someone who believes in the existence of moral absolutes that I challenged your thesis. You were (implicitly) saying that a woman who has no regrets about having an abortion lacked “moral sensitivity.” You supported your contention with an article that stacks the deck and relies on the very assumptions that are under contention.

NTwR: Did I ever refer to any of the article’s assumptions that you had already contended?

T.G: It is only when the basic issues have been resolved that one can even begin talk about an individual’s “moral sensitivity.”

NTwR: How are we doing?

(c) 2013

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published. Web links (http://. . .) included in a reply should not exceed three.

 

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

122 thoughts on “Personhood

  1. Timothy Griffy (TG): Thank you for inviting me to continue the discussion we were having in response to the New York Magazine article “My Abortion” on this forum.

    NTwR: Now that it’s clear you believe in moral absolutes, may I understand that sentence to mean “your argument works only on the assumption that ‘moral sensitivity’ is perfectly accurate in recognizing moral absolutes. It isn’t” — ?

    TG: That will be closer. I would add “‘moral sensitivity’ is perfectly accurate in recognizing *and applying* moral absolutes.” I would also add that to even begin measuring moral sensitivity, a moral issue would have to be settled, at least in principle.

    OTOH, the more I think about the notion of “moral sensitivity,” or moral intuition, the more problems I have with the entire concept.

    TG previous: Let’s point out one big difference between what Adam Lanza did in Newtown, CT and the abortion *debate*: What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect. And ‘debate’ is the key term here. To judge a person as ‘hardened’ reflects an assumption that, at least in principle, a moral issue has been settled. That is precisely what has *not* happened in the abortion debate. The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”

    NTwR: Isn’t all this just what I call “democratizing moral authority”? My main thesis has been that judgments about whether the unborn deserve life are ultimately intuitively-based (we could broaden that to any moral judgments), and that some people’s intuition is better than others. Here aren’t you just saying that many people’s judgments are different from what I consider correct, without addressing my thesis that those people might well all be wrong?

    TG: Yes and no. Believing that there are moral absolutes and establishing what they are are two different animals. Imperfect as human beings are, we are unable to do more than approximate what those moral absolutes are. The trick is figuring them out; if there is such a thing as moral absolutes, they have to be objective, applying to everyone, everywhere, every time. One reasonable criterion for establishing a moral absolute does have to do with what you might call “democratizing moral authority.” If a moral standard is accepted so widely as to be considered universal, that points to its veracity. Obviously this isn’t a perfect criterion (e.g., slavery once had nearly universal support), but especially when other factors are included, it can still be a useful guide.

    Getting back to Adam Lanza, we could also add in other factors to rationally conclude his actions were morally wrong. The massacre was completely senseless and utterly lacking in justification. Even Al Qaeda could offer understandable reasons for blowing up the Twin Towers. Whether those reasons actually justify Al Qaeda’s actions may be arguable, but 9/11 is at least understandable. So far as we know, Lamza did not leave any indication why he decided to kill. The massacre served no purpose, achieved no goal, fulfilled no duty and did nothing to maximize happiness. I doubt even the most extreme hedonist would justify Lanza’s actions because self-gratification assumes life and Lanza committed suicide.

    One of the takeaways here is that though moral judgments may ultimately be intuitively based, we can still appeal to more-or-less objective standards to test that intuition. The whole field of ethics is exactly about establishing objective measures for making moral judgments.

    Even adding in other factors, there is still a contrast with abortion. For all intents and purposes, there is no debate regarding whether Adam Lanza’s actions were right or wrong. This is not so with abortion. There is debate about whether a fetus is a person. There is debate about the relevance the fetus’ personhood (if accepted) actually has. There is debate about when and if abortion is justified even for those who accept the fetus is a person. There is debate about whether abortion is murder, even if one accepts that abortion is wrong. If the polls are to be believed, most people seem to believe that abortion on demand is wrong; but when given a chance to vote on outlawing it, they have (so far) universally defeated such measures. We can’t even appeal to history because abortion has been allowed in some cultures and forbidden in others as far back as we have records.

    So I am not just saying many people’s judgments are different, I am saying making judgments about whose intuition is better than others depends on your intuition being right. Those who disagree with you may well be wrong, but you still have the burden of proving it.

    NTwR: “The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”

    The article is aimed at pro-choicers, so as to save babies. How does it stack the deck?

    TG: By using rhetoric that: a) utterly fails to capture the pro-choice position (i.e., creating a strawman) and b) paints them in a bad light. Take these paragraphs:

    “And it is the same regarding the related question about motivation, about wanting to save the unborn: it all boils down to intuition. If not influenced by religious doctrines, pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life.

    “And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life.”

    Pro-choicers do not base their position on the notion “that the unborn do not deserve life.” Few, if any women getting an abortion say they are doing it because the fetus doesn’t deserve to live. Dessert never enters the equation in any mainstream pro-choice argument. That may be the way you sincerely interpret their arguments, but if so, then you are sincerely wrong.

    Next, you ascribe to pro-lifers a motivation that most readers are going to take as value neutral if not a positive, effectively denying pro-choicers can be and are also motivated by religious doctrines. Meanwhile pro-choicers are painted as being driven by political opportunism or pecuniary motivations, as if that also wasn’t true for pro-lifers as well. So who has the superior moral intuition? It certainly isn’t the politically opportunistic money grubber who classes the unborn with mass muderers! Would it be any wonder if a pro-lifer reads this essay and feels justified in feeling superior? And do you really think you are going to save any babies by misrepresenting and insulting pro-choicers?

    NTwR: I haven’t see J[udith]J[arvis]T[homson]’s argument, but presumably you more or less summarize it as “The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute.”

    “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.

    TG: If you are going to be engaging in the ethics of abortion, then Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion” should really be required reading. You can find it at http://spot.colorado.edu/~heathwoo/Phil160,Fall02/thomson.htm. It is not so much an argument that the right to life is not absolute as it is a discussion about what the right to life does and does not entail. Given what you seem to be trying to do, you might find her discussion of the Minimally Decent Samaritan useful. The reference to special pleading was about the typical responses I’ve seen to her article.

    Actually the rest of my paragraph did answer the question; it just isn’t spelled out. Given that 1) even accepting that a fetus is a person doesn’t get one very far when talking about abortion and 2) the right to life is not absolute it follows that 3) accepting or rejecting the personhood of the fetus is of neutral value in measuring moral sensitivity. Therefore, I am not morally insensitive if I reject the personhood of the fetus.

    NTwR: First of all, when I raised the possibility that women who don’t regret their abortions might not be morally sensitive (unless the circumstances requiring abortion were very compelling), I didn’t try to pinpoint just where that insensitivity might lie — do they fail to see the unborn as a person, or do they fail to see that a temporarily-helpless person deserves compassionate treatment? I guess at the time of writing, I was really thinking “either.” But thinking further, I would say that failure to see the unborn as a person is not exactly moral insensitivity. What could we call it? “Ontological insensitivity” — failing to intuit what they would be able to intuit about reality, if their intuition was more highly developed? “Ontological insensitivity” may not seem to you a more tactful way for me to speak of people who disagree with me than saying “moral insensitivity,” but you’ve asked me to clarify what I mean about people who don’t accept that a zygote is a person, so this is it — as expressed in “Personhood.” As also expressed in the post, science can only be brought to bear to a limited extent, so really everyone will have to take my idea about intuition, or leave it.

    TG: As I mentioned, the more I think about the concept of moral sensitivity, the more problems I have with the concept. Calling it “ontological insensitivity” may or may not be more tactful, the concept is still about as clear as mud. I think it still stacks the deck. Look at what you appear to be saying: moral or ontological insensitivity is the failure to see what is obvious to someone whose intuition is more highly developed–like mine. Your argument seems to run thus: 1) My ontological (moral) intuition is highly developed. 2) My intuition tells me a zygote is a person. 3) Therefore, if you disagree, your ontological (moral) intuition is less well developed and you are ontologically (morally) insensitive. Heads I win, tails you lose.

    You are right that science can only go so far when it comes to the personhood argument. In fact, it downright muddies the waters. See, for example, http://www.theskepticalreview.com/JFTPoliticsConception.html.

    I think that absent any kind of objective measure, leaving your idea about intuition seems to be the only course.

    NTwR: I wouldn’t expect a gamechanger based on science, in the sense of an already almost-airtight scientific case for the personhood of the zygote, becoming airtight enough to convince people who are on the pro-choice warpath for whatever reason. I expect an eventual gamechanger in terms of human evolution.

    TG: I wouldn’t expect a gamechanger based on science either, if only because the scientific case for personhood is nowhere near airtight. In fact, Farrel Till, the author of the above-linked article, changed his position on the personhood of a zygote based on the muddied waters that science actually presents.

    If there is going to be a gamechanger, I would expect it to come from technology. If an artificial womb were invented that posed no higher risk or inconvenience to a woman than unrestricted abortion, then Thompson’s Minimally Decent Samaritan concept would almost certainly apply. The woman can terminate the pregnancy and get on with her life, and the fetus is not killed and will develop as it will.

    NTwR: I think a potential person is automatically a person, as discussed most fully in “Too Young for Rights?”

    TG: That is a leap I cannot make. I don’t call acorns “oak trees” though it is certainly true that an acorn is a potential oak tree. I have bacon and eggs for breakfast, not bacon and chickens.

    NTwR: Normally no permanent damage is being done to the woman’s body parts. A baby being cared for by its father has a claim on the father’s arms and legs. If the father fails to use his arms and legs to go out for infant formula and feed the baby, he is morally culpable and legally indictable. I would support a law requiring people to give blood in certain circumstances. In a peaceful country beset by aggressors, I would see nothing wrong with compulsory military service; think of what the soldiers may have to give.

    TG: The key word being “normally,” or course. We’ll just pay no never mind to the fact that childbirth has historically been one of the leading causes of death for women. Or that even in today’s technologically advanced society, women are still at increased risk of death and/or other permanent damage than having an abortion or not having children at all. Depending on how it is done, a law requiring people to give blood may fit well with requiring minimally decent Samaritanism, and thus does not represent anything close to carrying a pregnancy through forty weeks along with its increased risk of death or disability. And as political propaganda always somehow makes the other side the “aggressor,” you’d probably get as much argument about compulsory military service as you do about abortion.

    But let’s concentrate on the baby being cared for by its father. Presumably you intend this as being somehow analogous to pregnancy. But this is hardly the case. First, a baby does not require its father to get the infant formula and feed the baby. Any person can do that, whether it is the baby’s biological parent or not. This is not the case with pregnancy, where the fetus is dependent on the mother’s body, and only the mother’s body. Second, the father has (implicitly or otherwise) accepted the obligation to care for the child. He was not forced to do so. Furthermore, either parent can relinquish those responsibilities, formally or otherwise, without incurring legal culpability, so long as the act of abrogating their responsibility does not place the child in immediate danger. Lord knows enough people have abandoned their partners and children without having to incur any more liability than having to pay child support. Properly speaking, any caregiver responsible for the child, regardless of biological connection, would be morally culpable and legally indictable for failing to feed the baby.

    If you want to get something closer to pregnancy and abortion, then you would have to argue that the father can be forced to donate his organs or otherwise be subjected to the direct use of his body. We don’t even require the mother to do that after birth!

    TG previous: I might think she is callous, stingy, cruel, or [fill in the adjective of your choice], but she absolutely has not violated the fetus’ right to life.

    NTwR: Sorry, I find this a conflicted sentence, if our context is a moral discussion. (And not a legal discussion — that is, if you are not just citing Roe v. Wade to me.) You obviously recognize that she has violated SOMETHING — what?

    TG: In context, there is no conflict. Whether we are having a moral or legal discussion, a fetus can only have a right to life if it is a person. If it is not, then an abortion does not (indeed cannot) violate its right to life. If it is, and if the right to life does not give a fetus a claim to use a woman’s body, then getting an abortion does not violate its right to life. Either way, in your hypothetical case, when all is said and done, and regardless of what either one of us thinks about her reasons, she has done nothing unjust by having an abortion. At most, she would be in violation of decency to have an abortion simply because the due date coincides with a party she wishes to attend.

    TG previous: For example, your question about killing the two year old becomes a red herring. [this is a new argument] Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, making other options available that simply weren’t there before. We’re no longer comparing apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges.

    NTwR: As I replied to a comment on the “Personhood and Citizenship” article:

    “Your argument about invasiveness is that the sacrifice a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child is unique — men don’t have to make it — and therefore women should not have to make it either. But what you are doing is artificially defining the issue in such a way that you cannot lose; you are saying that because men don’t have babies inside them, nothing that a woman might do related to her unborn baby could possibly be wrong, lest it violate equality. You are trying to impose a rule ‘If a form of suffering is unique to one gender, that gender has a right to avoid it regardless how much destruction may be wrought, lest it violate equality.’

    “But really, every sacrifice that might be made to save some helpless person is unique. If I see a child about to run out in front of a car, I can say, ‘I don’t want to save it because I have a sore ankle, and it’s unique — no one ever had a sore ankle exactly like mine before.’ (It’s completely true.) So merely because some sacrifice is unique, is not necessarily a big deal.

    “So I don’t accept that uniqueness is the issue. The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a handicapped man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years — even if that is not your arbitrary ‘invasiveness.’”

    TG: Forgive me, but I haven’t the foggiest idea how this is related to what I said. I had said nothing to that point about the sacrifices a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child, and I’m hardly resting my case on the uniqueness of pregnancy and childbirth. Even now I’ve said nothing about the permissibility of abortion on the basis of gender equality. And sore ankle or otherwise, nothing requires me to put my life in danger to save a child about to run out in front of a car.

    The comment was directed at *your* question about whether a woman can kill a two-year-old child for the same reasons she might have gotten an abortion. I was denying the cases were similar enough to even be worth considering.

    • Thank you. I may need a few days to reply fully. When I reply further, would you like an email notification?

      I will make a start now, and I will give priority to points where there might be misunderstanding, so as to try to clear up the misunderstandings before proceeding further.

      “Forgive me, but I haven’t the foggiest idea how this is related to what I said. I had said nothing to that point about the sacrifices a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child, and I’m hardly resting my case on the uniqueness of pregnancy and childbirth. Even now I’ve said nothing about the permissibility of abortion on the basis of gender equality. And sore ankle or otherwise, nothing requires me to put my life in danger to save a child about to run out in front of a car.

      “The comment was directed at *your* question about whether a woman can kill a two-year-old child for the same reasons she might have gotten an abortion. I was denying the cases were similar enough to even be worth considering.”

      You had said:

      “Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, making other options available that simply weren’t there before. We’re no longer comparing apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges.”

      I had understood your meaning to be: “Because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, the mother no longer has the right to kill it as she had earlier had. There are now options available for the survival of the child that are not such a nuisance for the mother, so she can spare its life without being so inconvenienced.”

      One reason that I had understood you this way was that this is a well-worn argument, so I thought I recognized that argument, and didn’t look for alternative ways to read you. Even now, looking for alternatives, I don’t immediately see one. What did you mean?

      “Pro-choicers do not base their position on the notion ‘that the unborn do not deserve life.’ Few, if any women getting an abortion say they are doing it because the fetus doesn’t deserve to live. Dessert never enters the equation in any mainstream pro-choice argument. That may be the way you sincerely interpret their arguments, but if so, then you are sincerely wrong.”

      Well, were you taking “do not deserve life” as “deserve to die,” and that therefore abortion is “giving them their just desserts?” “Do not deserve life” doesn’t mean that. I meant it as identical to “do not have the right to life.” Would “do not have the right to life” have been better? (I don’t see a literal difference, though I see a little difference in connotation.)

      However, this discussion does make me see a flaw, though I’m not sure it’s the one you’re getting at. In the post, I have now changed –

      “And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life”

      – to –

      “And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life, or do not deserve it at the cost of some degree of sacrifice by post-natal persons, particularly the mother”

      – (acknowledging the edit).

      Would like your feedback on all this.

      “Next, you ascribe to pro-lifers a motivation that most readers are going to take as value neutral if not a positive, effectively denying pro-choicers can be and are also motivated by religious doctrines.”

      I expected most readers to take it as value-negative. I guess that will depend somewhat on the religious orientations or lack of same of the readers, but maybe also on how closely they are reading, because this –

      “If not influenced by religious doctrines, pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life”

      – says that at least some pro-lifers motivated by religious doctrines lack a sincere intuition, which casts doubt on the validity of the religious doctrines, doesn’t it?

      May I ask about your religious views and, if you care to answer that, also ask how they affect your views on abortion?

      “Meanwhile pro-choicers are painted as being driven by political opportunism or pecuniary motivations,”

      Only those who lack sincere intuition. I said both sides are “mainly sincere.”

      “as if that also wasn’t true for pro-lifers as well. So who has the superior moral intuition? It certainly isn’t the politically opportunistic money grubber who classes the unborn with mass muderers!”

      Did I say that some pro-choicers class the unborn with mass murderers?

      “Would it be any wonder if a pro-lifer reads this essay and feels justified in feeling superior? And do you really think you are going to save any babies by misrepresenting and insulting pro-choicers?”

      The question of strategy is very complex and concerns me very much, since after all strategy simply translates into the number of babies, if any, that I can hope to help save.

      I have been concluding that good strategy actually means allocating more energy in ways other than blogging. But just in terms of blogging/debating, I would like to discuss strategy with you, but first let me ask, has your view changed at all regarding what I was saying about pro-lifers and pro-choicers?

      Yes, some pro-lifers are opportunistic and/or money-minded. I was trying to capture what I thought of as the one or two major motivations on each side which are not sincere intuition. Maybe I should try to do a more thorough catalogue of all the motivations on both sides and proportions of importance on both sides, but it will get pedantic-sounding.

      “Your argument seems to run thus: 1) My ontological (moral) intuition is highly developed. 2) My intuition tells me a zygote is a person. 3) Therefore, if you disagree, your ontological (moral) intuition is less well developed and you are ontologically (morally) insensitive. Heads I win, tails you lose.”

      Well, I haven’t read your whole post carefully yet to see everything you say about moral absolutes, etc., but if it WERE true that some have better intuition about moral absolutes than others (which is where we started on the NYMag), then wouldn’t those people inescapably be in a position that the rest find obnoxious, without their unpopularity diminishing the fact that they are right?

      On the other hand, if I commit myself to that theory, then when you say you’re the one who’s right, I may disagree, but I can’t complain about the principle that some are right and some aren’t.

      And if we do end up confronting each other like that, what then?

      “Agreement [among many people] will not prove, scientifically or otherwise, that pro-lifers are correct, but that is not the point. I think that pro-lifers in different countries will eventually be able to find enough legislators who get it, to enact legislation . . .

      “And that, that ability to enact legislation, will be the point — the point of a growing intuitive consensus that the unborn deserve life and are persons.”

      In other words, there will never be complete agreement, but I think that if my intuition is the correct one, it’s likely that enough people will come to that intuition to turn the political tide.

      “I think that absent any kind of objective measure, leaving your idea about intuition seems to be the only course.”

      Haven’t yet read your whole post yet, but let me just ask now, is this sentence okay?

      “I have bacon and eggs for breakfast, not bacon and chickens.”

      Would you strenuously deny it if I preferred to say that you’re eating bacon and unborn chickens?

      • NTwR: You had said:

        “Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, making other options available that simply weren’t there before. We’re no longer comparing apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges.”

        I had understood your meaning to be: “Because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, the mother no longer has the right to kill it as she had earlier had. There are now options available for the survival of the child that are not such a nuisance for the mother, so she can spare its life without being so inconvenienced.”

        One reason that I had understood you this way was that this is a well-worn argument, so I thought I recognized that argument, and didn’t look for alternative ways to read you. Even now, looking for alternatives, I don’t immediately see one. What did you mean?

        TG: First, like our consideration of the father, the mother of a two year old has implicitly taken responsibility for the child by virtue of carrying her pregnancy to term and not giving it up for adoption. Second, like our consideration of the father, she can relinquish that responsibility, formally or otherwise, without it resulting in the death of the child. Third, this is not possible in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, unless and until the artificial womb is invented. Finally, a woman’s right to bodily integrity does not give her the right to kill the fetus, any more than my right to refuse to donate a kidney gives me the right to kill the person who needs it.

        NTwR: Well, were you taking “do not deserve life” as “deserve to die,” and that therefore abortion is “giving them their just desserts?” “Do not deserve life” doesn’t mean that. I meant it as identical to “do not have the right to life.” Would “do not have the right to life” have been better? (I don’t see a literal difference, though I see a little difference in connotation.)

        TG: Yes, I was taking it to mean “deserve to die.” Considering the rhetoric often used by anti-choicers, most pro-choicers will be on guard against verbal abuse, whether by denotation or connotation. So if you really are trying to primarily address pro-choicers, connotation certainly does matter. On the question of whether “do not have the right to life” would be better, see further below.

        NTwR: However, this discussion does make me see a flaw, though I’m not sure it’s the one you’re getting at. In the post, I have now changed –

        Would like your feedback on all this.

        TG: Better yet, just skip all the motivation stuff altogether. They don’t really do anything for your argument and mostly just adds unnecessary clutter. What I would suggest is something like this:

        “Most pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn’s right to life should have priority.

        “And most pro-choicers simply have a sincere intuition that the mother’s right to control her body should have priority.”

        These statements are simpler, more accurate, and neutral enough to avoid raising most people’s hackles.

        NTwR: May I ask about your religious views and, if you care to answer that, also ask how they affect your views on abortion?

        TG: I am a Mormon, though my religious views incorporate what I consider good things from other religions. It would be very difficult to answer how my Mormonism affects my views on abortion without going into a crash course in Mormon theology. But to be brief: Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins, and all the hints in Mormon scripture point to long after the zygote stage, and possibly to birth. Mormonism also stresses the free will of the individual. A Mormon’s duty is to build Zion (basically Utopia), but also has a pragmatic streak. For me, this means that until we do have a Zion society, there are simply going to be some regrettable things we have to tolerate, including permitting abortion. A Mormon’s goal is to become gods, and will often say something like, “human beings are potential gods.” We would never, however, say that human beings are therefore gods.

        NTwR: The question of strategy is very complex and concerns me very much, since after all strategy simply translates into the number of babies, if any, that I can hope to help save.

        TG: Work on things that would enable you to invoke the Minimally Decent Samaritan concept. Work on a society where few, if any, women feel like they have to get an abortion for non-health related reasons. Support the invention of the artificial womb.

        NTwR: I have been concluding that good strategy actually means allocating more energy in ways other than blogging. But just in terms of blogging/debating, I would like to discuss strategy with you, but first let me ask, has your view changed at all regarding what I was saying about pro-lifers and pro-choicers?

        TG: I am happy you are willing to rethink your rhetoric. I don’t think I completely understand your question, though. I understand better what you were trying to say. If you are asking whether I still think your thoughts about pro-choicers are as bad as they came off, the answer is no. If you are asking about your intuition argument, then I still think it is fundamentally flawed.

        NTwR: Well, I haven’t read your whole post carefully yet to see everything you say about moral absolutes, etc., but if it WERE true that some have better intuition about moral absolutes than others (which is where we started on the NYMag), then wouldn’t those people inescapably be in a position that the rest find obnoxious, without their unpopularity diminishing the fact that they are right?

        On the other hand, if I commit myself to that theory, then when you say you’re the one who’s right, I may disagree, but I can’t complain about the principle that some are right and some aren’t.

        And if we do end up confronting each other like that, what then?

        TG: These questions get to the core of why I find the intuition argument fundamentally flawed. You may well have superior moral intuition, but that does not mean you have to come off as obnoxious. If you want to say you have superior moral intuition than a pro-choicer, you have two options. One, actually prove that your moral intuition is actually correct. Or two, have specific, objective, measurable means of testing moral intuition by which you can say you score better than pro-choicers. And, either way, watch your rhetoric. Without either of those two, and preferably both, if we wind up confronting each other, then we either butt heads or simply come to an impasse, depending on how aggressive we are.

        NTwR: “Agreement [among many people] will not prove, scientifically or otherwise, that pro-lifers are correct, but that is not the point. I think that pro-lifers in different countries will eventually be able to find enough legislators who get it, to enact legislation . . .

        “And that, that ability to enact legislation, will be the point — the point of a growing intuitive consensus that the unborn deserve life and are persons.”

        In other words, there will never be complete agreement, but I think that if my intuition is the correct one, it’s likely that enough people will come to that intuition to turn the political tide.

        TG: Turning the political tide alone is not enough. Fifty percent plus one can impose the tyranny of the majority, but the point of fundamental rights, including those of bodily integrity and privacy, is that they cannot be violated at the whim of the majority. So long as legislation is sufficiently controversial, at best all you’re going to do is ensure rebellion against it.

        NTwR: Would you strenuously deny it if I preferred to say that you’re eating bacon and unborn chickens?

        TG: Probably not. But if by that means you were trying to insist that eggs are, in fact, chickens, then I would consider you so far beyond the pale of normal discourse and common sense that I would consider further conversation to be pointless.

        • “First, like our consideration of the father, the mother of a two year old has implicitly taken responsibility for the child by virtue of carrying her pregnancy to term and not giving it up for adoption. Second, like our consideration of the father, she can relinquish that responsibility, formally or otherwise, without it resulting in the death of the child. Third, this is not possible in the case of an unwanted pregnancy, unless and until the artificial womb is invented. Finally, a woman’s right to bodily integrity does not give her the right to kill the fetus, any more than my right to refuse to donate a kidney gives me the right to kill the person who needs it.”

          Your 1 & 2 seem like good reasons not to kill a 2-year-old. Your 3 seems like a justification for killing an unborn child. Your “Finally . . . fetus,” unexpectedly to me, sounds like me: she does not have the right to kill — and seems to contradict the implication of 3. And if she does not have a right to kill the unborn fetus, and does not have the right after it’s born either, then what gamechange has there been?

          Refraining from donating a kidney is not exactly killing, but may result in the person’s death. So by “not give her the right to kill the fetus,” do you mean that the woman has the right to somehow “unplug” herself (Thomson’s word) and let the fetus die, but not to violently kill it?

          “I am a Mormon, though my religious views incorporate what I consider good things from other religions. It would be very difficult to answer how my Mormonism affects my views on abortion without going into a crash course in Mormon theology. But to be brief: Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins, and all the hints in Mormon scripture point to long after the zygote stage, and possibly to birth.”

          Thanks for explaining. Here –

          http://latterdaycommentary.com/2012/04/21/does-a-fetus-have-a-right-to-life/

          http://www.lds.org/ensign/2008/10/abortion-an-assault-on-the-defenseless?lang=eng

          http://www.markmallett.com/blog/is-a-fetus-a-person/

          – are 3 Mormon sites that had earlier given me the impression that Mormonism considered abortion at any stage very wrong, while for pragmatic reasons not demanding illegalization. Any comment?

          ================================================
          NTwR: Would you strenuously deny it if I preferred to say that you’re eating bacon and unborn chickens?

          TG: Probably not. But if by that means you were trying to insist that eggs are, in fact, chickens, then I would consider you so far beyond the pale of normal discourse and common sense that I would consider further conversation to be pointless.
          ===========================================

          My point was that if I believe unborn chickens deserve the same right to life as born chickens (whatever that right may be), my purpose is served better by calling them “unborn chickens” than calling them a dechickenizing word like “eggs.” Please see my reply half an hour ago about acorns.

          More later.

        • Strategy: This gets complex. First, cancel my oversimplification about writing for pro-choicers. In reality, I would like to say something to everybody — different messages to different people. I might actually prefer that one group, for the time being, do not see what I’m saying to another group. But anyone can search the web and see. And then, I do not know which group is more likely to find this site, or, if they find it, to stop and read. (If anyone reads it at all — the internet reminds me of the saying “More people write poetry than read it.”)

          In terms of saving babies and individual decisions, the group where there might be the highest payoff, if I can reach them, might be pregnant women. In terms of saving babies and changing laws, the group where there might be the highest payoff if I could reach them, might be legislators — or other pro-lifers who have the numbers or the means to influence legislators.

          Then, take for instance pregnant women — that will include many different psychologies. I might hear the advice, “Don’t be judgmental.” That might be good advice in relation to many pro-choice feminists, but bad advice in relation to someone more flexible, less convinced about an ideology. I want to change their minds, not necessarily make friends (are these two objectives always compatible?). In my own life I have once or twice heard a tough, judgmental response in relation to something I was proposing to do, and changed my mind. A gentler response might have given me the sense “It won’t really matter to anyone if I do such and such.”

          To be thorough about strategy, I also have to mention the question “What should I think of T.G’s advice?” His goals will be different from mine. Some people, even if they dislike my goals, might temporarily adopt mine and help plan strategy for the challenge of doing so, but others not.

          “Work on things that would enable you to invoke the Minimally Decent Samaritan concept. Work on a society where few, if any, women feel like they have to get an abortion for non-health related reasons. Support the invention of the artificial womb.”

          This is all good advice, thanks.

          Except that my “minimally decent” is so different from Thomson’s; if people rally to a hundred different Minimally Decent banners, I’m not sure anything will be accomplished.

          And following your advice alone would save babies, but saving babies would defuse the issue, which I would see as a mixed blessing. In one way abortion is good, because it has raised the ontological issue about the nature of unborn babies. I think the conflict going on will lead to making clear in the collective mind the personhood of unborn babies, which will be an evolutionary step for the species.

          “just skip all the motivation stuff altogether.”

          I think it’s very valuable for people to see clearly their own motivations. When they do, they tend to lose the selfish ones. To the end of their seeing their own, it may help to hear a guess from me, or from someone who has heard it from me. If the guess is wrong, it may cause some friction, but the value if the guess is right outweighs that negative. And if I go on guessing and getting feedback, my guesses will improve. If I had not written about motivations, you would not have replied, and I would not have thought further.

          “the more I think about the concept of moral sensitivity, the more problems I have with the concept.”

          Everything you and I have said about this, about intuition vs. science, and about moral absolutes was probably said millennia ago. There was probably one philosopher whose name we would both recognize who said exactly what I’ve said, and another who said exactly what you’ve said; and they probably took it farther and said some things you and I haven’t thought of yet. But neither of us seems to have much formal education in philosophy, to look all that up.

          More later.

    • The latest version of two sentences:

      If not influenced by religious doctrines [Edit: or political or other kinds of opportunism], pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life.

      And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, [Edit: or simple selfishness,] have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life [Edit: , or do not deserve it at the cost of some degree of sacrifice by post-natal persons, particularly the mother].

    • “If you are going to be engaging in the ethics of abortion, then Thomson’s ‘A Defense of Abortion’ should really be required reading.”

      Thanks. I had not been familiar with the name Thomson, but I have been familiar with summaries of the violinist argument, and even before seeing those summaries, I had been familiar with the basic logic. I believe the basic logic is the same as how I (mis?)understood your “gamechanger” — the “invasiveness,” or “bodily rights,” or “bodily autonomy,” argument. My reply was: “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a [Edit:disabled] man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years. . . .”

      Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.

      Thomson announces her purpose as follows: “I am arguing only that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body–even if one needs it for life itself.”

      She also prompts us to consider the violinist situation outrageous: “I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument [that a right to life means a baby should not be aborted] I mentioned a moment ago.”

      Now first, for myself, I don’t regard it as so outrageous, when we consider the only alternative. But let’s say that I, as many people apparently do, regard it as outrageous. I do share in that feeling to the extent that a strong sense of unfairness is certainly part of the mix that I feel.

      I think that one fundamental defect in this thought experiment lies in Thomson’s implication that the unfairness we intuitively feel is ascribable only to the use of another person’s body. I think that in reality, that intuition is ascribable more to the DEGREE of the kidnapped person’s sacrifice than to the exact nature of it. I haven’t read every word of the article yet, but I think that Thomson nowhere admits to this sleight of hand of hers, or tries to fix this defect.

      She does not say that bodily rights is a totally sacred cow — it’s only a sacred cow in case of “continued use” — but since she later suggests that “continued use” means anything over an hour, bodily rights is near-sacred to her.

      But since the question, I would say, is really one of degree, then if it can be shown that in situations other than pregnancy, society expects equal or greater sacrifices than carrying the child, for the sake of a helpless person whose life is in danger, particularly if that person’s helplessness is due to its young age, then there will be no unfairness in expecting a woman to endure her pregnancy. Hence my [Edit:disabled man] story.

      There are further defects. She thinks it’s possible to dismiss the responsibility that most parents have for the creation of the unborn baby in the first place:

      “. . . people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however . . . one of the screens is defective, and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not . . .”

      Even she here seems to admit that any couple who have not taken perfect precautions should grant the child a right to the use of the woman’s body. But she does let the most cautious escape. (I wonder if she really intended her whole elaborate article to provide abortion rights to so few — and since those few are the cautious, do all of her abortion ethics relate only to the “very, very rare occasions” when the few face a pregnancy?)

      Regarding those few, I would say that the couple’s sexual activities were something more pro-active than just living in a house. Thomson compares abstinence to living without carpets or upholstery, which she feels is too much to ask of anyone — they are necessities. Living without sex is too much to ask, and, for those few, taking responsibility if they do produce a child is also too much to ask. But I would say that the alternative to readiness for responsibility is to knowingly take a risk for which, though the risk is slight, the consequences for the baby are big. What Thomson is saying is: The “necessity” of that careful couple’s 10 min. of pleasure justifies not only killing a person if one does come along; it justifies bringing into existence, if luck so has it, a person who burdens the woman’s body BECAUSE we have done something which we knew might create it AS necessarily a burden on the woman’s body — and then killing it because it’s a burden on the woman’s body.

      “But if they have taken all reasonable precautions against having a child, they do not simply by virtue of their biological relationship to the child who comes into existence have a special responsibility for it. They may wish to assume responsibility for it, or they may not wish to. And I am suggesting that if assuming responsibility for it would require large sacrifices, then they may refuse.”

      I do not fault her for not supporting this ethical rule with logic. Since we have been talking about intuition, one thing to notice in Thomson and I think in all ethical discussions is that the way examples and thought experiments work is by appealing to the intuition. In most cases she manages to frame her examples and thought experiments so that they appeal to my intuition at least at first (until I think about them). But this rule did not appeal to me even for a moment.

      “you might find her discussion of the Minimally Decent Samaritan useful.”

      With MDS, again, I haven’t nailed down the meaning of every sentence yet, but I think I can say this much: First of all, I agree that the right to life is not absolute, and in “Personhood & Citizenship” I talked about “a citizen who complicates the life of another citizen.” With MDS, Thomson and I seem to find perfect common ground in principle. But there is a big difference between us in where to draw the line between Minimally Decent Samaritan and Good Samaritan. I would say Minimally Decent Samaritanism (defined really as that which should become law) requires most women to be Samaritans to zygotes.

      There will be some exceptions. I first opened this discussion saying: “Many of the comments [to an NY Magazine article] revolve around the question, ‘Is there a strong tendency for women who have had abortions (not necessitated to save their lives or by similarly compelling reasons) to regret it?’”

      I think the law should allow abortion at any stage for compelling reasons, but only for compelling reasons.

      Thomson thinks the law should allow abortion up to 7 months, and even then allow it if the reason is anything stronger than “postponing a trip abroad”:

      “First, while I do argue that abortion is not impermissible, I do not argue that it is always permissible. There may well be cases in which carrying the child to term requires only Minimally Decent Samaritanism of the mother, and this is a standard we must not fall below. . . . It would be indecent in the woman to request an abortion, and indecent in a doctor to perform it, if she is in her seventh month, and wants the abortion just to avoid the nuisance of postponing a trip abroad.”

      “At this place, however, it should be remembered that we have only been pretending throughout that the fetus is a human being from the moment of conception. A very early abortion is surely not the killing of a person . . .”

      Though Thomson claims to have suspended this judgment throughout her article for the purpose of argument, it seems obvious that if her intuitions about the unborn had been different, she would never have been able to marshal the impressive imaginative energy necessary to create all her particular colorful analogies. If she had had a native compassion for the early unborn, her logic and analogies would have come out quite different.

      See how she strains to find a logical basis for rejecting the personhood of the early unborn: “I am inclined to agree, however, that the prospects for ‘drawing a line’ in the development of the fetus look dim. I am inclined to think also that we shall probably have to agree that the fetus has already become a human person well before birth. Indeed, it comes as a surprise when one first learns how early in its life it begins to acquire human characteristics. . . . face, arms and less, fingers and toes . . . internal organs . . . brain activity.” Then abruptly, “On the other hand, I think that the premise is false, that the fetus is not a person from the moment of conception. A newly fertilized ovum, a newly implanted clump of cells, is no more a person than an acorn is an oak tree.”

      Language and the conceptualizations that interact with language get generated organically from among the masses of humanity. The word “acorn” is a creation of the masses, and moreover a creation of the primitive masses. From a modern scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to call an acorn “the acorn stage of an oak tree,” and would it not give us a fuller, less fragmented, and therefore more accurate view of an acorn to do so? And there is absolutely no reason not to call a zygote “the zygote stage of a person.” (Or of course not to call an egg “the egg stage of a chicken.”) See the quote in “Personhood” from the president of Feminists For Life.

      For a baby (a born baby), most people have a stronger protective instinct than for any other human being. And I think that those whose intuitions are developed will have exactly the same instinct for zygotes. (Possibly nature didn’t make that instinct as accessible as the infant-protection instinct because when the human race was still evolving, abortion hadn’t been invented.) Thomson shows no recognition of the possibility of that instinct, and for this and other reasons, you may not be surprised to hear that I question her moral sensitivity.

      “the more I think about the concept of moral sensitivity, the more problems I have with the concept.”

      I hope soon to get back to a direct discussion of that topic. For now, I’d just like to ask you, has there never been anyone in the world, past or present, whom you would venture to call morally insensitive?

      Here –

      http://joshbrahm.com/dfg/

      – you might want to download De Facto Guardian, a talk by a Christian named Josh Brahm. At 27:25 he presents his Cabin in the Blizzard thought experiment, which I think is a good rebuttal to the violinist argument, even when that argument is applied to cases of rape. Something else interesting that JB says:

      “You know the wrong response to the violinist is when pro-lifers say that’s just weird, that obviously can’t happen, or technology — we can’t hook up people via their kidneys — that’s the wrong answer, because thought experiments are all about trying to find our moral intuitions. . . . Any analogy to pregnancy is weird because pregnancy is weird.”

      “And sore ankle or otherwise, nothing requires me to put my life in danger to save a child about to run out in front of a car.”

      I don’t know if I would agree, but I had meant to present a lesser sacrifice. I wrote, “If I see a child about to run out in front of a car, I can say, ‘I don’t want to save it because I have a sore ankle . . .” The child hasn’t run out yet, and you don’t have to either. But don’t you have to take just a few steps and stop it before it does, in spite of your sore ankle (a unique sacrifice, analogous to the uniqueness of pregnancy)?

      More later.

  2. NTwR: Your 1 & 2 seem like good reasons not to kill a 2-year-old. Your 3 seems like a justification for killing an unborn child. Your “Finally . . . fetus,” unexpectedly to me, sounds like me: she does not have the right to kill — and seems to contradict the implication of 3. And if she does not have a right to kill the unborn fetus, and does not have the right after it’s born either, then what gamechange has there been?

    Refraining from donating a kidney is not exactly killing, but may result in the person’s death. So by “not give her the right to kill the fetus,” do you mean that the woman has the right to somehow “unplug” herself (Thomson’s word) and let the fetus die, but not to violently kill it?

    TG: Basically, yes. The gamechanger is birth. The woman has a right to control what happens in and to her body. This means if she does not want her body used to gestate a fetus, she can have the fetus removed, even though it is likely the fetus will die as a result. However, if, as in the case of the examples you pointed to elsewhere on the site, a baby is born, the mother does not have the right to turn around and kill it. The reason is because the right to bodily integrity no longer applies in that case.

    NTwR: – are 3 Mormon sites that had earlier given me the impression that Mormonism considered abortion at any stage very wrong, while for pragmatic reasons not demanding illegalization. Any comment?

    TG: A few comments, actually. Here are 4 Mormon sites discussing the permissibility of taking a pro-choice position:

    http://mormonliberals.org/tag/pro-choice/

    http://thelogicalmormon.com/2012/08/20/yes-pro-choice-can-be-consistent-with-mormon/

    http://www.byupoliticalreview.com/?p=9927

    http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2008/01/from-the-archives-is-it-okay-to-be-a-pro-choice-mormon/

    I’m not trying to suggest my four sites overrule your three. The point is that there is diversity within Mormonism on the issue of abortion. The sites that we have linked to are only relevant for intra-Mormon discussions.

    Second, you are confusing “Mormon” with “Latter-day Saint” (i.e., a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints). My Mormonism isn’t necessarily connected with the Church, and I don’t consider myself obligated by official Church positions. Call me a Mormon at large, if you will.

    Leading to the most important comment: You asked *me* how *my* religious views affect *my* stance on abortion. I answered that question while giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to understand my views. How dare you to turn around and question the veracity of my beliefs!

    NTwR: My point was that if I believe unborn chickens deserve the same right to life as born chickens (whatever that right may be), my purpose is served better by calling them “unborn chickens” than calling them a dechickenizing word like “eggs.”

    TG: I wonder about that. If part of your purpose is to get people not to eat eggs, and indeed to make eating eggs illegal, then calling eggs “unborn chickens” will probably only be preaching to the choir that already agrees with you. To those who are indifferent, sitting on the fence, opposed, or hostile (the ones you really need to convince), calling eggs “unborn chickens” is going to seem so far outside common usage and common sense as to make you sound crazy, hairsplittingly technical, and/or emotionally overwrought. I’m not so sure those are the kinds of impressions you want to leave.

    NTwR: Strategy: This gets complex. First, cancel my oversimplification about writing for pro-choicers. In reality, I would like to say something to everybody — different things to different people. I might actually prefer that one group, for the time being, do not see what I’m saying to another group. But anyone can search the web and see. And then, I do not know which group is more likely to find this site, or, if they find it, to stop and read. (If anyone reads at all — the internet reminds me of the saying “More people write poetry than read it.”)

    TG: You probably shouldn’t try to say different things to different people in the same blog entry. Figure out what group you primarily want to speak to at any given time, then write accordingly. I wouldn’t bother with trying to conceal what you are saying to the different groups. You’ll be outed sooner or later and you’ll just come off as being deceptive. Then none of the groups will trust you.

    I suspect neither pro-lifers nor pro-choicers will be entirely happy with your proposals. For pro-choicers, your “life panels” would violate a woman’s privacy too much; for pro-lifers, it would still allow abortions in circumstances they are unwilling to permit. That is why I suggested you might be interested in Thomson’s Minimally Decent Samaritan. Develop that concept, and you might be able to make a tentative case to pro-choicers who are uncomfortable with some of the reasons a woman might get an abortion.

    NTwR: In terms of saving babies and individual decisions, the group where there might be the highest payoff, if I can reach them, might be pregnant women. In terms of saving babies and changing laws, the group where there might be the highest payoff if I could reach them, might be legislators — or other pro-lifers who have the numbers or the means to influence legislators.

    TG: For the most part, you don’t need to motivate the pro-lifers to try influencing legislators. The only thing you really need to do is convince them your “life panel” proposal is an acceptable compromise. And by all means do try to persuade pregnant women to not have an abortion. The point of being pro-choice is that it is her decision. If she comes across your site or directly asks you for advice, by all means give it. About twenty years ago, some pro-life organization or another ran some TV commercials that basically had the gist of “It’s your choice. Choose life.” That was something I could respect.

    NTwR: Then, take for instance pregnant women — that will include many different psychologies. I might hear the advice, “Don’t be judgmental.” That might be good advice in relation to feminists, but bad advice in relation to some more suggestible, less confident, group. I want to change their minds, not necessarily make friends (are these two objectives always compatible?). In my own life I have once or twice heard a tough, judgmental response in relation to something I was proposing to do, and changed my mind. A gentler response might have given me the sense “It won’t really matter to anyone if I do such and such.”

    TG: Personally, unless it was someone I knew and had a lost of respect/trust for, my response to a tough, judgmental attitude would reflect the fact I’m the son of a sailor. Instead of changing my mind, the more likely result would be to harden my resolve. If you took that approach to my sisters … well, let’s just say my response would be kind and understanding by comparison. At least I wouldn’t deck you. All else being equal, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

    NTwR: This is all good advice, thanks.

    Except that my “minimally decent” is so different from Thomson’s; if people rally to a hundred different Minimally Decent banners, I’m not sure anything will be accomplished.

    TG: You’re welcome. Even granting that people will have different ideas about what a Minimally Decent Samiritan should do, I’m sure some kind of consensus would emerge. To take Thomson’s example, you might think a Minimally Different Samaritan should have rushed out to save Kitty Genovese even though it could risk death. I and others might disagree, but I think we could come to a consensus that the absolute minimum that should have been done was to call the police. [Note: Despite the sensationalistic reports that have since become urban legend, some people did attempt to call the police. The call system at the time was so Byzantine that they wound up giving up. That's why we now have the 911 system. Thomson probably would not have known that in 1971.]

    NTwR: And following your advice alone would save babies, but saving babies would defuse the issue, which I would see as a mixed blessing. In one way abortion is good, because it has raised the ontological issue about the nature of unborn babies. I think the conflict going on will lead to making clear in the collective mind the personhood of unborn babies, which will be an evolutionary step for the species.

    TG: I’m sorry, but this just does not compute. You want to “save babies,” but you would rather abortion go on until the personhood issue is settled? Indeed, you would take a pass on a win-win scenario an artificial womb would present to allow that debate to continue? That sounds almost as bad as the “pro-lifers” who want to forbid abortion because pregnancy is supposed to be the punishment for women having the temerity to want and enjoy sex.

    NTwR: I think it’s very valuable for people to see clearly their own motivations. When they do, they tend to lose the selfish ones. To the end of their seeing their own, it may help to hear a guess from me, or from someone who has heard it from me. If the guess is wrong, it may cause some friction, but the value if the guess is right outweighs that negative. And if I go on guessing and getting feedback, my guesses will improve. If I had not written about motivations, you would not have replied, and I would not have thought further.

    TG: You’re not typically going to get feedback by using a shotgun approach. I replied to a specific request from you. I probably would not have responded to the article at all if I just happened to stumble upon it. The second I saw myself as being dismissed for political opportunism or pecuniary motives, I’d have just hit the back button.

    NTwR: Thanks. I had not been familiar with the name Thomson, but I have been familiar with summaries of the violinist argument, and even before seeing those summaries, I had been familiar with the basic logic. I believe the basic logic is the same as how I (mis?)understood your “gamechanger” — the “invasiveness,” or “bodily rights,” or “bodily autonomy,” argument. My reply was: “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a handicapped man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years. . . .”

    Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.

    TG: The problem is that your reply is not an answer to the argument at all. Sure, the handicapped man has to make a greater sacrifice, but that sidesteps the issue brought up by the bodily autonomy argument. The handicapped man specifically, if implicitly accepted the obligation. And he still not required to give up any of his body parts to the sick daughter, let alone be physically attached to her just to keep her alive. The fact that you would offer such a red herring suggests that you fundamentally don’t understand the argument. The only real consideration is whether a woman has the right to control what happens to and in her body. Period.

    NTwR: I think that one fundamental defect in this thought experiment lies in Thomson’s implication that the unfairness we intuitively feel is ascribable only to the use of another person’s body. I think that in reality, that intuition is ascribable more to the DEGREE of the kidnapped person’s sacrifice than to the exact nature of it. I haven’t read every word of the article yet, but I think that Thomson nowhere admits to this sleight of hand of hers, or tries to fix this defect.

    TG: Thomson most directly applied that thought experiment to cases of rape. Thomson’s implication applies to the entirety of the circumstances. Not only were you (kidnapped), but you were plugged into the violinist (became pregnant), *then* told, “Sorry, we can’t do anything about it” (“Sorry, but you have to carry the pregnancy to term”). You need not have read every word of the article, all you needed to do is move on to the next paragraph where she specifically applied it to rape cases.

    NTwR: She does not say that bodily rights is a totally sacred cow — it’s only a sacred cow in case of “continued use” — but since she later suggests that “continued use” means anything over an hour, bodily rights is near-sacred to her.

    TG: That’s the reason I suggested developing her concept of the Minimally Decent Samaritan. How much is too much than can be reasonably expected? Previously you suggested that, in some circumstances, a person could legally be forced to donate blood. I agreed in principal, writing, “Depending on how it is done, a law requiring people to give blood may fit well with requiring minimally decent Samaritanism.” But I also added that a blood donation, which requires little time and poses few risks, “does not represent anything close to carrying a pregnancy through forty weeks along with its increased risk of death or disability.” If you were to say that I could be forced to donate a lung, a kidney, or my liver, then I would say you’ve gone far beyond the limits of requiring me to be a minimally decent Samaritan. Why? Because now we are talking about a much bigger investment in time, risk, and probably expense. Perhaps you can make that case, but unless and until you do, bodily rights are not just a sacred cow, they are fundamental to the question of abortion.

    NTwR: But since the question, I would say, is really one of degree, then if it can be shown that in situations other than pregnancy, society expects equal or greater sacrifices than carrying the child, for the sake of a helpless person whose life is in danger, particularly if that person’s helplessness is due to its young age, then there will be no unfairness in expecting a woman to endure her pregnancy. Hence my handicapped-man story.

    TG: And as I keep pointing out, you have to have a situation similar enough to pregnancy for the principle to apply. The handicapped man story is so dissimilar to pregnancy that it is just a red herring. It doesn’t actually address the argument, it merely tries to divert attention to a different, irrelevant topic.

    NTwR: There are further defects. She thinks it’s possible to dismiss the responsibility that most parents have for the creation of the unborn baby in the first place:

    “. . . people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however . . . one of the screens is defective, and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not . . .”

    Even she here seems to admit that any couple who have not taken perfect precautions should grant the child a right to the use of the woman’s body. But she does let the most cautious escape. (I wonder if she really intended her whole elaborate article to provide abortion rights to so few — and since those few are the cautious, do all of her abortion ethics relate only to the “very, very rare occasions” when the few face a pregnancy?)

    TG: Actually, she does no such thing. Having already admitted not reading the whole thing through, you shouldn’t also embarrass yourself by showing how little you understand what you have read. She is in fact saying that the mere act of voluntary intercourse does not *necessarily* mean the fetus therefore has a right to the woman’s body. The act of voluntarily opening a window still would not give anyone the right to climb in and live in one’s house, and it would be even more absurd to say that such a person would have that right when the owner took reasonable precautions before opening the window. And even though a woman could have a hysterectomy to perfectly prevent pregnancy, such a demand is too unreasonable. Therefore, though there may be cases where the fetus has the right to use the mother’s body, the mere fact she voluntarily engaged in intercourse does not establish that right.

    NTwR: Regarding those few, I would say that the couple’s sexual activities were something more pro-active than just living in a house. Thomson compares abstinence to living without carpets or upholstery, which she feels is too much to ask of anyone — they are necessities. Living without sex is too much to ask, and, for those few, taking responsibility if they do produce a child is also too much to ask. But I would say that the alternative to readiness for responsibility is to knowingly take a risk for which, though the risk is slight, the consequences for the baby are big. What Thomson is saying is: The “necessity” of that careful couple’s 10 min. of pleasure justifies not only killing a person if one does come along; it justifies bringing into existence, if luck so has it, a person who burdens the woman’s body BECAUSE we have done something which we knew might create it AS necessarily a burden on the woman’s body — and then killing it because it’s a burden on the woman’s body.

    TG: Thomson actually specifically said that carpets or upholstery are *not* a necessity. You *could* live without them. By the same token, you *could* live without sex, or a woman *could* have a hysterectomy. Does a burglar have a right to come through my voluntarily opened window unless I get rid of absolutely everything of value? Regardless of any other precautions I might have taken to still keep the burgler out? I can’t even have a small television set if I want to open my window to let some air in?

    It might be well to add here that since Thomson wrote her article, we have come to realize just how important a healthy sex life is to a person’s total well being. Thus, few would object to treating erectile dysfunction disorder (and using public funds to do so) even though strictly speaking, a man *could* live without having sex. So living without sex is, in fact, too much to ask.

    NTwR: [quoting Thomson] “But if they have taken all reasonable precautions against having a child, they do not simply by virtue of their biological relationship to the child who comes into existence have a special responsibility for it. They may wish to assume responsibility for it, or they may not wish to. And I am suggesting that if assuming responsibility for it would require large sacrifices, then they may refuse.”

    I do not fault her for not supporting this ethical rule with logic. Since we have been talking about intuition, one thing to notice in Thomson and I think in all ethical discussions is that the way examples and thought experiments work is by appealing to the intuition. In most cases she manages to frame her examples and thought experiments so that they appeal to my intuition at least at first (until I think about them). But this rule did not appeal to me even for a moment.

    TG: But this is the rule as it is already applied in the real world. What do you think giving up a child for adoption entails, if not divesting the biological parents of the responsibilities entailed in raising it?

    NTwR: With MDS, again, I haven’t nailed down the meaning of every sentence yet, but I think I can say this much: First of all, I agree that the right to life is not absolute, and in “Personhood & Citizenship” I talked about “a citizen who complicates the life of another citizen.” With MDS, Thomson and I seem to find perfect common ground in principle. But there is a big difference between us in where to draw the line between Minimally Decent Samaritan and Good Samaritan. I would say Minimally Decent Samaritanism (defined really as that which should become law) requires most women to be Samaritans to zygotes.

    There will be some exceptions. I first opened this discussion saying: “Many of the comments [to an NY Magazine article] revolve around the question, ‘Is there a strong tendency for women who have had abortions (not necessitated to save their lives or by similarly compelling reasons) to regret it?’”

    I think the law should allow abortion at any stage for compelling reasons, but only for compelling reasons.

    TG: The usefulness of the MDS concept comes in exactly at the point of establishing what are and are not compelling reasons. Back on the NY Magazine article comments, I took exception to someone saying pro-choicers are pro-abortion. I responded this was certainly not the case because being pro-choice does not necessarily mean agreeing with the reasons a woman might have for getting an abortion. So, in principle, I agree with you that a woman should get an abortion only for compelling reasons. It’s probably only when we leave the strictly moral arena and move to the legal one where we have differences. I would say that the law shouldn’t get involved until about thirty-four weeks (I don’t know how that works out in the standard trimester system, but it probably works out to Thomson’s seven months or Roe v. Wade’s third trimester).

    NTwR: Though Thomson claims to have suspended this judgment throughout her article for the purpose of argument, it seems obvious that if her intuitions about the unborn had been different, she would never have been able to marshal the impressive imaginative energy necessary to create all her particular colorful analogies. If she had had a native compassion for the early unborn, her logic and analogies would have come out quite different.

    TG: Oh, not necessarily. I would imagine that anyone who accepts the argument that personhood begins with conception could still makes similar arguments if they were also pro-choice. I had leaned pro-choice since I had learned what abortion was and what the debate was all about. I also accepted the fetus had a right to life. Thomson’s essay merely helped me fully clarify my thoughts.

    NTwR: Language and the conceptualizations that interact with language get generated organically from among the masses of humanity. The word “acorn” is a creation of the masses, and moreover a creation of the primitive masses. From a modern scientific perspective, there is absolutely no reason not to call an acorn “the acorn stage of an oak tree,” and would it not give us a fuller, less fragmented, and therefore more accurate view of an acorn to do so? And there is absolutely no
    reason not to call a zygote “the zygote stage of a person.” (Or of course not to call an egg “the egg stage of a chicken.”) See the quote in “Personhood” from the president of Feminists For Life.

    TG: There is no scientific reason we must call an acorn “the acorn stage of an oak tree,” either. Consider that we still use the terms “sunrise” and “sunset” even though we have every scientific reason *not* to. More to the point, people knew acorns grew into oak trees, chickens came from eggs, and fetuses developed into people even from a premodern scientific perspective. Yet the premodern masses still distinguished acorn from oak tree, chicken from egg, fetus from infant. The only thing modern science adds is greater detail.

    NTwR: For a baby (a born baby), most people have a stronger protective instinct than for any other human being. And I think that those whose intuitions are developed will have exactly the same instinct for zygotes. (Possibly nature didn’t make that instinct as accessible as the infant-protection instinct because when the human race was still evolving, abortion hadn’t been invented.) Thomson shows no recognition of the possibility of that instinct, and for this and other reasons, you may not be surprised to hear that I question her moral sensitivity.

    TG: I suspect that the stronger protective instinct most people have for babies is itself a relatively recent phenomenon due to the fact that modern medicine allows them a greater chance of survival than they had historically. Best not to get too attached to something that, statistically speaking, won’t be around next year. This may be why Judaism denies mourning rites to babies under thirty days old. Be it as it may, abortion most likely has prehistorical roots and probably originated as a survival strategy. In hunter-gathering and early agricultural societies, pregnancy becomes a big liability when resources become particularly scarce. In such cases, abortion would have been necessary to ensure the continued survival of the family/tribe.

    I’m not surprised that you question Thomson’s moral sensitivity, though doing so on the basis of one article would probably be hasty. Indeed, simply granting personhood to the fetus even for the sake of argument might be seen as prima facie evidence that she recognized the possibility of that instinct. And it would still leave you with the problem that granting personhood to the fetus doesn’t necessarily get you too far.

    NTwR: I hope soon to get back to a direct discussion of that topic. For now, I’d just like to ask you, has there never been anyone in the world, past or present, whom you would venture to call morally insensitive?

    TG: A psychopath, but then by definition a psychopath is severely deficient in empathy and impulse control, if not moral callousness. However, I presume you mean a person who would otherwise qualify as a morally responsible agent. But lacking a clear, objective definition of moral sensitivity, let alone an objective means of measuring it, I would be extremely hesitant to call anyone morally insensitive. At least, not when we start moving into morally ambiguous areas.

    NTwR: – you might want to download De Facto Guardian, a talk by a Christian named Josh Brahm. At 27:25 he presents his Cabin in the Blizzard thought experiment, which I think is a good rebuttal to the violinist argument, even when that argument is applied to cases of rape.

    TG: I find that the Cabin in the Blizzard is not sufficiently analogous to rape that it makes a case for legally denying an abortion to a rape victim. It is also insufficiently analogous to the violinist argument to make it a good rebuttal for that argument. Most obviously, one consideration the Cabin argument does not make is that Mary could have simply left the cabin. One might make the case that in the “formula” version, the case could easily be made that the failure to feed the infant would constitute depraved indifference (i.e., failing to at as a MSD). At most, that would just confirm Thomson’s contention that there may be some cases where obligating a woman to carry a pregnancy to term is justifiable. But the more onerous the requirements become (e.g., moving from having formula to requiring breastfeeding to outright chaining the infant to Mary), the less obvious the case for depraved indifference becomes. And it becomes less obvious precisely because the task was forced upon her.

    NTwR: I don’t know if I would agree, but I had meant to present a lesser sacrifice. I wrote, “If I see a child about to run out in front of a car, I can say, ‘I don’t want to save it because I have a sore ankle . . .” The child hasn’t run out yet, and you don’t have to either. But don’t you have to take just a few steps and stop it before it does, in spite of your sore ankle (a unique sacrifice, analogous to the uniqueness of pregnancy)?

    TG: I don’t know how unique the sacrifice of taking a few steps to stop a child from running out in front of a car is (especially compared to pregnancy, where one actually is risking death). In any case, like the degree of the sacrifice, the uniqueness of the sacrifice is irrelevant to the argument of the right to bodily autonomy.

    • NTwR: Thanks for your reply.

      NTwR old: . . . then what gamechange has there been?

      . . . do you mean that the woman has the right to somehow “unplug” herself (Thomson’s word) and let the fetus die, but not to violently kill it?

      TG: Basically, yes.

      NTwR new: “Yes” is in reply to my “right to somehow ‘unplug,’ not violently kill,” correct? Most abortions are done violently. I’ve heard that the effect of RU-486 could be argued to be “unplugging.” Let me confirm: Do you think that the woman has the right to use RU-486, but not to violently kill? (This is a distinction Thomson offered with the violinist.) If you do think that, what do you think the moral difference is?

      TG: The gamechanger is birth. The woman has a right to control what happens in and to her body. This means if she does not want her body used to gestate a fetus, she can have the fetus removed, even though it is likely the fetus will die as a result.

      NTwR new: What if the ONLY way to get it out is a method that is likely or sure to kill it before it’s out? In that case, to you, does she have to let her body be used?

      When you had objected to my “2-yr.-old” argument saying “Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body . . . ,” I had understood you to be making one or both of two arguments familiar to me: 1) bodily integrity is sacrosanct; 2) pregnancy is a burden that is unique to women, therefore expecting women to bear it violates gender equality.

      I replied with a rebuttal I had used before which rebuts both arguments — though I had made 2, uniqueness, most explicit as the target of the rebuttal. (You then said, “I had said nothing to that point about the sacrifices a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child,” though if “dependent on the mother’s body” doesn’t involve sacrifices, I don’t see why bodily rights/autonomy/integrity should be an issue at all). Now it appears that you were not making argument 2, but were making argument 1, bodily rights/autonomy/integrity. (My rebuttal to argument 1, which apparently you didn’t understand as a rebuttal to argument 1, was “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice.”)

      You repeat the bodily integrity argument in your post that I’m now replying to, so let’s focus for a moment on bodily integrity as a value: It certainly wasn’t new as a value before the late 60’s, but I wonder if it had ever been articulated as a value before the abortion-rights advocates of that time found it convenient for their cause. Personally I don’t intuitively feel that bodily integrity per se is a big deal. We’ll get to some more specifics later.

      TG: A few comments, actually. Here are 4 Mormon sites

      NTwR new: Thanks.

      TG: Leading to the most important comment: You asked *me* how *my* religious views affect *my* stance on abortion. I answered that question while giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to understand my views. How dare you to turn around and question the veracity of my beliefs!

      First of all, I’m not sure whether “beliefs” refers to your whole belief system (which you summarized in your answer), or your apparent tentative belief that personhood starts some time after conception (which was also part of your answer); but either way, what I wrote about the websites was related, as I thought would be clear, to another part of your answer: “Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins.” I didn’t think that this sentence was an article of faith for you, and your reply now (“diversity”) proves that it isn’t an article of faith.

      I always try to be sensitive to anyone’s religious views. In my original question I was indeed trying to understand your religious views. In my follow-up, I was questioning a view, which you had even said was a “brief” view (and is not an article of faith), that “Mormonism has taken a pass.”

      As mentioned, thank you for your anwer.

      TG: calling eggs “unborn chickens” is going to seem so far outside common usage and common sense as to make you sound crazy

      NTwR new: We can discuss this better when we get to “acorns.”

      NTwR old: I might actually prefer that one group, for the time being, do not see what I’m saying to another group.

      TG: You probably shouldn’t try to say different things to different people in the same blog entry. . . . I wouldn’t bother with trying to conceal what you are saying to the different groups.

      NTwR new: When I had said, “I might actually prefer that one group, for the time being, do not see what I’m saying to another group,” I had meant “might privately prefer.” Not that I would attempt to put this into practice.

      TG: “life panels” . . . for pro-lifers, it would still allow abortions in circumstances they are unwilling to permit.

      NTwR new: That would depend on the panel members.

      By the way, I’m not so concerned about structuring the panels such that they would always decide what I might decide. The main value of the panels in my mind is that they establish the principle that an unborn child belongs to society, just as a born child does.

      TG: That is why I suggested you might be interested in Thomson’s Minimally Decent Samaritan. Develop that concept,

      NTwR new: Thanks. I think I’ve been doing that already, but having a name for it that some people might relate to could be very useful. In “Personhood & Citizenship” I said, “Civilized sensibilities require that person B be prepared to make some sacrifices for the sake of person A.”

      NTwR old: In terms of saving babies and individual decisions, the group where there might be the highest payoff, if I can reach them, might be pregnant women. In terms of saving babies and changing laws, the group where there might be the highest payoff if I could reach them, might be legislators — or other pro-lifers who have the numbers or the means to influence legislators.

      TG: some pro-life organization or another ran some TV commercials that basically had the gist of “It’s your choice. Choose life.” That was something I could respect.

      NTwR new: Maybe you respected it because it was a pro-choice statement, in spite of who may have made it.

      NTwR old: many different psychologies.

      TG: Instead of changing my mind, the more likely result would be to harden my resolve. If you took that approach to my sisters … All else being equal, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

      NTwR new: But you agree there are exceptions. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

      This verse does not much reflect my personal attitudes. But just as the Bible can be quoted to different effects, I think there are different tactics for different persons. I have taken note and put you and your sisters into the “soft answer” category. I will always aim for results.

      (Speaking of results, I don’t expect that much from the internet in general. I’m working on setting up some on-the-ground initiatives here in Calcutta, India, where I live, that I think could make a difference.)

      NTwR old: . . . but saving babies would defuse the issue, which I would see as a mixed blessing. In one way abortion is good, because it has raised the ontological issue about the nature of unborn babies. I think the conflict going on will lead to making clear in the collective mind the personhood of unborn babies, which will be an evolutionary step for the species.

      TG: I’m sorry, but this just does not compute. You want to “save babies,” but you would rather abortion go on until the personhood issue is settled? Indeed, you would take a pass on a win-win scenario an artificial womb would present to allow that debate to continue?

      NTwR new: No, I wouldn’t. An artificial womb would be a blessing. I’m just saying it would not be an unmixed blessing. I was trying to point out that our perceptions need to include the unborn in our human family, in order for all of us to become fully human. Dr. Jerome Lejeune, “the father of modern genetics,” said:

      “We need to be clear: The quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members.”

      “The genetic makeup of a human being is complete from the moment of fertilization: not a single scientist doubts it. What some of them want to debate is the amount of respect due to an individual based on her stage of development. If a human being is a half-inch long, does she deserve respect? If she is 20 inches long, does she deserve 40 times more? People who use years and pounds to quantify the respect due to another human being are not well intentioned.”

      A society where there are few abortions, but where we continue to be dismissive of the unborn? I think that we ourselves will continue to be stunted in such a society.

      TG: That sounds almost as bad as the “pro-lifers” who want to forbid abortion because pregnancy is supposed to be the punishment for women having the temerity to want and enjoy sex.

      NTwR new: Is there any documented case of such a pro-lifer?

      TG: The second I saw myself as being dismissed for political opportunism or pecuniary motives, I’d have just hit the back button.

      NTwR new: Hopefully some pro-choicers would have read the “mainly sincere” part.

      NTwR old: Thanks. I had not been familiar with the name Thomson, but I have been familiar with summaries of the violinist argument, and even before seeing those summaries, I had been familiar with the basic logic. I believe the basic logic is the same as how I (mis?)understood your “gamechanger” — the “invasiveness,” or “bodily rights,” or “bodily autonomy,” argument. My reply was: “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a [Edit:disabled] man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years. . . .”

      Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.

      TG: The problem is that your reply is not an answer to the argument at all. Sure, the handicapped man has to make a greater sacrifice, but that sidesteps the issue brought up by the bodily autonomy argument.

      NTwR new: “Sacrifice” means “sacrifice of worldly happiness,” worldly happiness being the highest value that could be at issue here. (By making the sacrifice of worldly happiness, he might win spiritual happiness, or according to some beliefs, happiness in the afterlife, but I don’t know if we can factor such things into our calculations here. So worldly happiness is the highest value here.)

      So degree of sacrifice is the currency that matters. To me, what you’re saying is, “Sure, the handicapped man has to lose $1000, but that sidesteps the issue of the woman losing 100 Euros, because the Euros is a currency with a special status” — whereas the purchasing power is the only currency that really matters.

      TG: The handicapped man specifically, if implicitly accepted the obligation.

      NTwR new: By “only support,” I meant only possible support. It doesn’t matter how he got into the situation. Without him, the daughter will die.

      TG: And he still not required to give up any of his body parts to the sick daughter, let alone be physically attached to her just to keep her alive.

      NTwR new: My same currency analogy applies here. You’ve admitted that the man has to make a greater sacrifice. Here in India where I live, people sometimes sell their kidneys. They expect it to be a good deal for them, and sometimes it must be.

      TG: The fact that you would offer such a red herring suggests that you fundamentally don’t understand the argument. The only real consideration is whether a woman has the right to control what happens to and in her body. Period.

      NTwR new: Sorry, but that’s totally arbitrary. It’s a value conjured out of thin air. You haven’t supported that assertion at all, so apparently it just depends on your intuition. That is what all values depend on (I’ll reply when I can to things you have said about “objective standards,” which is a crucial point), but my intuition, for example, is totally different.

      NTwR old: I think that one fundamental defect in this thought experiment lies in Thomson’s implication that the unfairness we intuitively feel is ascribable only to the use of another person’s body. I think that in reality, that intuition is ascribable more to the DEGREE of the kidnapped person’s sacrifice than to the exact nature of it. I haven’t read every word of the article yet, but I think that Thomson nowhere admits to this sleight of hand of hers, or tries to fix this defect.

      TG: Thomson most directly applied that thought experiment to cases of rape. . . . all you needed to do is move on to the next paragraph where she specifically applied it to rape cases.

      NTwR new: And the para after that she applied it to “spend the nine months of her pregnancy in bed” cases; and the para after that she applied it to “save the mother’s life” cases.

      If I understand correctly, she mentions rape and “nine months” just in order to be thorough in building up to “save the mother’s life” cases; and she mentions the last because “a number of points of interest come out in respect to it.” But I think these points are subordinate to the original point she intended in presenting the violinist. Isn’t the basic point framed clearly by the 4 sentences that introduce the violinist –

      “But surely a person’s right to life is stronger and more stringent than the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body, and so outweighs it. So the fetus may not be killed; an abortion may not be performed.

      “It sounds plausible. But now let me ask you to imagine this.”

      – ? (She has clearly framed what she’s trying to do with the violinist analogy, and no mention of rape so far.)

      Would this thought experiment have become so famous if it had not applied directly to pregnancy in general?

      NTwR old: Thomson’s implication that the unfairness we intuitively feel is ascribable only to the use of another person’s body. I think that in reality, that intuition is ascribable more to the DEGREE of the kidnapped person’s sacrifice . . .

      TG: Thomson’s implication applies to the entirety of the circumstances.

      NTwR new: Then why does she present the violinist as a rebuttal to the sentences quoted above, and why does she later announce her purpose as follows: “I am arguing ONLY that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body [no mention of degree] –even if one needs it for life itself.”

      (By the way, the long phrases she used at that time indicate to me that she would not have expected the short phrases “bodily integrity” or “bodily autonomy” or “bodily rights” to be understood. I’m thinking the whole idea had not really been articulated till around that time, helping cast doubt on its sacrosanct nature.)

      TG: Not only were you (kidnapped), but you were plugged into the violinist (became pregnant),

      NTwR new: Do you mean –

      “Not only were you kidnapped (raped), but you were plugged into the violinist (became pregnant),”

      – ?

      I agree that the kidnapping sounds like rape, which muddies the waters, but considering everything, I think she just means that the pregnancy wasn’t planned.

      TG: If you were to say that I could be forced to donate a lung, a kidney, or my liver, then I would say you’ve gone far beyond the limits of requiring me to be a minimally decent Samaritan. Why? Because now we are talking about a much bigger investment in time, risk, and probably expense. Perhaps you can make that case, but unless and until you do, bodily rights are not just a sacred cow, they are fundamental to the question of abortion.

      NTwR new: Abortion-right advocates frequently make this body-parts analogy. I think we could make the case that in some circumstances people should be required to give a body part (let’s say on a lottery basis so that no one would be singled out), but it hardly seems necessary to make that case in the abortion debate, so it puzzles me why the analogy keeps coming up. Pregnant women do not normally lose any body part.

      NTwR old: There are further defects. She thinks it’s possible to dismiss the responsibility that most parents have for the creation of the unborn baby in the first place:

      “. . . people-seeds drift about in the air like pollen, and if you open your windows, one may drift in and take root in your carpets or upholstery. You don’t want children, so you fix up your windows with fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy. As can happen, however . . . one of the screens is defective, and a seed drifts in and takes root. Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not . . .”

      Even she here seems to admit that any couple who have not taken perfect precautions should grant the child a right to the use of the woman’s body. But she does let the most cautious escape. (I wonder if she really intended her whole elaborate article to provide abortion rights to so few — and since those few are the cautious, do all of her abortion ethics relate only to the “very, very rare occasions” when the few face a pregnancy?)

      TG: Actually, she does no such thing. Having already admitted not reading the whole thing through, you shouldn’t also embarrass yourself by showing how little you understand what you have read. She is in fact saying that the mere act of voluntary intercourse does not *necessarily* mean the fetus therefore has a right to the woman’s body. The act of voluntarily opening a window still would not give anyone the right to climb in and live in one’s house, and it would be even more absurd to say that such a person would have that right when the owner took reasonable precautions before opening the window. And even though a woman could have a hysterectomy to perfectly prevent pregnancy, such a demand is too unreasonable. Therefore, though there may be cases where the fetus has the right to use the mother’s body, the mere fact she voluntarily engaged in intercourse does not establish that right.

      NTwR new: The MERE fact would not (according to Th), but you have said that the right to life is absurd WHEN THE OWNER TOOK REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS. What if she voluntarily engaged in intercourse AND, fact TWO, did not take reasonable precautions? And Thomson has set a condition more stringent than yours. She says, “Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not . . . ,” but she says that IN a case where you have put up “fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy” – a case of PERFECT precautions (apparently meaning the FEW — worldwide, anyway, it’s few, I don’t know about the US — who never miss a pill or dispense with a condom). What about other cases?

      NTwR old: Regarding those few, I would say that the couple’s sexual activities were something more pro-active than just living in a house. Thomson compares abstinence to living without carpets or upholstery, which she feels is too much to ask of anyone — they are necessities. Living without sex is too much to ask, and, for those few, taking responsibility if they do produce a child is also too much to ask. But I would say that the alternative to readiness for responsibility is to knowingly take a risk for which, though the risk is slight, the consequences for the baby are big. What Thomson is saying is: The “necessity” of that careful couple’s 10 min. of pleasure justifies not only killing a person if one does come along; it justifies bringing into existence, if luck so has it, a person who burdens the woman’s body BECAUSE we have done something which we knew might create it AS necessarily a burden on the woman’s body — and then killing it because it’s a burden on the woman’s body.

      TG: Thomson actually specifically said that carpets or upholstery are *not* a necessity. You *could* live without them.

      NTwR new: Well, at one point I said “necessities,” but at another point I said “too much to ask.” What Thomson says, exactly, is –-

      “Someone may argue that you are responsible for its rooting, that it does have a right to your house, because after all you could have lived out your life with bare floors and furniture, or with sealed windows and doors. But this won’t do”

      – i.e., Thomson says, No, for practical purposes you could NOT have lived out your life with bare floors and furniture.

      TG: I find that the Cabin in the Blizzard . . . is also insufficiently analogous to the violinist argument to make it a good rebuttal for that argument.

      NTwR new: Both the Cabin in the Blizzard and the violinist are supposed to be analogous to pregnancy. It would not matter whether the Cabin in the Blizzard was analogous to the violinist unless the violinist were a perfect analogy to pregnancy. Brahm is offering an ALTERNATIVE to the violinist — one which he thinks is a better analogy, and which comes to the opposite conclusion.

      TG: Most obviously, one consideration the Cabin argument does not make is that Mary could have simply left the cabin.

      NTwR new: She is snowed in by the blizzard.

      TG: A psychopath, but then by definition a psychopath is severely deficient in empathy and impulse control, if not moral callousness. However, I presume you mean a person who would otherwise qualify as a morally responsible agent. But lacking a clear, objective definition of moral sensitivity, let alone an objective means of measuring it, I would be extremely hesitant to call anyone morally insensitive.

      NTwR new: Do you mean anyone except psychopaths?

      Is there an “objective means” of measuring the empathy deficiency and moral callousness of a psychopath?

      I would like to reply to some more points, not only in this present post of yours, but also in some older ones. In particular I think I could frame a tough question or two about “objective standards,” an important point. But I won’t be able to do so right away. There’s been a flood of comments and other communications recently.

      Here is one question going back to the NY Magazine:

      TG: a decision to abort a pregnancy. . . . Being pro-choice does not mean I have to approve the reasons every woman has for getting one.”

      NTwR new: When an unborn baby is being killed and you consider it to be unjustified, how do you feel about it? Around the world, 100,000 babies will be killed today. A lot of the cases will no doubt be justified, but that will still leave a lot.

      • TG: I’m going to do what appears to be a bit of skipping around in this response, but I’m hoping to reorganize the discussion topically so I won’t have to repeat myself so much.

        NTwR: “Yes” is in reply to my “right to somehow ‘unplug,’ not violently kill,” correct? Most abortions are done violently. I’ve heard that the effect of RU-486 could be argued to be “unplugging.” Let me confirm: Do you think that the woman has the right to use RU-486, but not to violently kill? (This is a distinction Thomson offered with the violinist.) If you do think that, what do you think the moral difference is?

        TG: What I mean specifically is that I would have the right to unplug myself from the violinist. But I could not then turn around and kill the violinist myself, nor could I demand that the doctor kill him. The violence or lack thereof in making the separation is not at issue. My right to bodily integrity simply means I can have myself unplugged. That was the distinction Thomson offered.

        NTwR: When you had objected to my “2-yr.-old” argument saying “Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body . . . ,” I had understood you to be making one or both of two arguments familiar to me: 1) bodily integrity is sacrosanct; 2) pregnancy is a burden that is unique to women, therefore expecting women to bear it violates gender equality.

        TG: You originally threw in the question as a response to someone who was a moral relativist and to someone (me) whom you perceived as a moral relativist. As a moral absolutist, I introduced the right to bodily integrity as a factor that is in play in the abortion debate, not necessarily that it is sacrosanct. The right to bodily integrity no longer applies when an infant is born. That was why the situation of abortion is different from a woman killing her two-year-old child.

        NTwR: I replied with a rebuttal I had used before which rebuts both arguments — though I had made 2, uniqueness, most explicit as the target of the rebuttal. (You then said, “I had said nothing to that point about the sacrifices a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child,” though if “dependent on the mother’s body” doesn’t involve sacrifices, I don’t see why bodily rights/autonomy/integrity should be an issue at all). Now it appears that you were not making argument 2, but were making argument 1, bodily rights/autonomy/integrity. (My rebuttal to argument 1, which apparently you didn’t understand as a rebuttal to argument 1, was “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice.”)

        TG: You are correct that I was not making argument two. Though the unique burdens and/or the degree of sacrifices that come with pregnancy do play a role, they are at most secondary to my argument. I understood you were trying to make some kind of rebuttal, but that rebuttal is a red herring. Trying to switch the argument to the degree of the sacrifice was an attempt to divert attention from the topic at hand. While your rebuttal may or may not be relevant to the uniqueness argument, it does nothing whatsoever to address the bodily integrity argument.

        NTwR: You repeat the bodily integrity argument in your post that I’m now replying to, so let’s focus for a moment on bodily integrity as a value: It certainly wasn’t new as a value before the late 60’s, but I wonder if it had ever been articulated as a value before the abortion-rights advocates of that time found it convenient for their cause. Personally I don’t intuitively feel that bodily integrity per se is a big deal. We’ll get to some more specifics later.

        Sorry, but that’s totally arbitrary. It’s a value conjured out of thin air. You haven’t supported that assertion at all, so apparently it just depends on your intuition. That is what all values depend on (I’ll reply when I can to things you have said about “objective standards,” which is a crucial point), but my intuition, for example, is totally different.

        Abortion-right advocates frequently make this body-parts analogy. I think we could make the case that in some circumstances people should be required to give a body part (let’s say on a lottery basis so that no one would be singled out), but it hardly seems necessary to make that case in the abortion debate, so it puzzles me why the analogy keeps coming up. Pregnant women do not normally lose any body part.

        TG: The right to bodily integrity involves far more than just right to determine what your body (parts) are used for. They include, among other things, the right to be free from assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent. Placing these things under the rubric of “bodily integrity” may be relatively new, but they’ve hardly come out of thin air.

        As you pointed out previously, pregnancy is weird, and hence thought experiments about abortion tend to be weird.
        Abortion-rights advocates make the body-parts analogy because that is the most comparable real-life example to what happens in pregnancy as it gets. No, pregnant women do not normally use a body part, but legally denying women access to abortion has the same effect as forcing someone to give up their body parts to someone else.

        Now, in your case, you are willing to argue that in some circumstances people should be made to give up a body part to keep someone else alive. I can respect that–in fact, it makes you more consistent than most other pro-lifers. But get this: That is what you have to argue if you truly want to rebut the bodily autonomy argument. Nearly everything else you might offer is just a red herring.

        TG previous: Leading to the most important comment: You asked *me* how *my* religious views affect *my* stance on abortion. I answered that question while giving you the benefit of the doubt that you were trying to understand my views. How dare you to turn around and question the veracity of my beliefs!

        NTwR: First of all, I’m not sure whether “beliefs” refers to your whole belief system (which you summarized in your answer), or your apparent tentative belief that personhood starts some time after conception (which was also part of your answer); but either way, what I wrote about the websites was related, as I thought would be clear, to another part of your answer: “Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins.” I didn’t think that this sentence was an article of faith for you, and your reply now (“diversity”) proves that it isn’t an article of faith.

        I always try to be sensitive to anyone’s religious views. In my original question I was indeed trying to understand your religious views. In my follow-up, I was questioning a view, which you had even said was a “brief” view (and is not an article of faith), that “Mormonism has taken a pass.”

        As mentioned, thank you for your anwer.

        TG: All you had to do was ask if you needed clarification. When I stated that “Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins,” I was stating a fact, not an article of faith. Even the LDS Church’s official statement on abortion says nothing about when personhood begins. In light of that fact, individual Mormons have taken a variety of stances on when personhood begins, from conception to birth. There is no definitive statement in Mormon scripture on the topic. That is another fact. There are precisely three passages that might have some bearing on the beginning of personhood, two of which hint that it is at birth, with the third being somewhat inconclusive.

        What I failed to do is spell out how Mormonism taking a pass on defining when personhood begins affects my beliefs. Mainly it means I have to use whatever resources I have at hand to make a tentative answer on that question. If I start with Scripture, then I have lean most heavily toward birth, but the third passage still muddies the waters. And even then, how much weight should be placed on it is debatable. Science doesn’t really clarify the matter, except to also suggest that personhood starts sometime after conception. On the human rights perspective, personhood is basically irrelevant to the abortion debate. So, like Mormonism itself, I take a pass on pinpointing exactly when personhood starts.

        TG previous: “life panels” . . . for pro-lifers, it would still allow abortions in circumstances they are unwilling to permit.

        NTwR: That would depend on the panel members.

        By the way, I’m not so concerned about structuring the panels such that they would always decide what I might decide. The main value of the panels in my mind is that they establish the principle that an unborn child belongs to society, just as a born child does.

        TG: That only raises another problem with these “life panels.” Both sides will wary that such panels will almost certainly be packed one way or the other. I know what you proposed as the ideal appointment, but this is real life. “Pro-lifers” will try to pack it with “pro-life” members, resulting in a kangaroo court where women are denied an abortion when it really is in their best interests to have one. Pro-choicers will try to pack it with pro-choice members, resulting in rubber stamping in which few, if any abortions are denied. In the end, we will just be back at square one.

        TG previous: That is why I suggested you might be interested in Thomson’s Minimally Decent Samaritan. Develop that concept,

        NTwR: Thanks. I think I’ve been doing that already, but having a name for it that some people might relate to could be very useful. In “Personhood & Citizenship” I said, “Civilized sensibilities require that person B be prepared to make some sacrifices for the sake of person A.”

        TG: Keep working on it, and let’s see what you come up with. Under what circumstances could person B be required to make sacrifices for person A? What are the limits? How much can one be required to sacrifice for the other? Who decides? How?

        NTwR: When an unborn baby is being killed and you consider it to be unjustified, how do you feel about it? Around the world, 100,000 babies will be killed today. A lot of the cases will no doubt be justified, but that will still leave a lot.

        TG: As with any right, I accept that there are going to be a certain number of people who will abuse it.

        TG previous: some pro-life organization or another ran some TV commercials that basically had the gist of “It’s your choice. Choose life.” That was something I could respect.

        NTwR: Maybe you respected it because it was a pro-choice statement, in spite of who may have made it.

        TG: Perhaps. I think it was also the tone of the commercials too. They tried to be persuasive but without resorting to emotional blackmail.

        TG previous: All else being equal, “a soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1).

        NTwR: But you agree there are exceptions. “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. . . . ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’”

        This verse does not much reflect my personal attitudes. But just as the Bible can be quoted to different effects, I think there are different tactics for different persons. I have taken note and put you and your sisters into the “soft answer”
        category. I will always aim for results.

        TG: Of course there are always exceptions. If you are going to use a “harsh word,” you had better know your audience
        really well, or count on it backfiring.

        TG previous: I’m sorry, but this just does not compute. You want to “save babies,” but you would rather abortion go on until the personhood issue is settled? Indeed, you would take a pass on a win-win scenario an artificial womb would present to allow that debate to continue?

        NTwR new: No, I wouldn’t. An artificial womb would be a blessing. I’m just saying it would not be an unmixed blessing. I was trying to point out that our perceptions need to include the unborn in our human family, in order for all of us to become fully human.

        A society where there are few abortions, but where we continue to be dismissive of the unborn? I think that we ourselves will continue to be stunted in such a society.

        TG: You said you always aim for results. If something “saves babies,” don’t complain.

        TG previous: That sounds almost as bad as the “pro-lifers” who want to forbid abortion because pregnancy is supposed to be the punishment for women having the temerity to want and enjoy sex.

        NTwR: Is there any documented case of such a pro-lifer?

        TG: Yes. Here:

        http://www.addictinginfo.org/2013/07/20/how-to-spot-and-out-a-pro-lifer-that-really-just-hates-women-and-sex/

        Pretty much, anytime someone says something to the effect of, “That’s what you get for having sex,” that is the basic attitude nine times out of ten.

        NTwR: Hopefully some pro-choicers would have read the “mainly sincere” part.

        TG: They will probably be few and far in between. Remember what I said about pro-choicers are likely going to be on guard against verbal abuse, whether in denotation or connotation. Perhaps they get past the money grubbing political opportunist aspect, then run right into being told they don’t believe the unborn deserve to live. Or being told they are morally insensitive because you’re much more enlightened and you say so. If you really desire good feedback so you can get your guesses right, that isn’t the way to go about it.

        TG previous: The problem is that your reply is not an answer to the argument at all. Sure, the handicapped man has to make a greater sacrifice, but that sidesteps the issue brought up by the bodily autonomy argument.

        NTwR: “Sacrifice” means “sacrifice of worldly happiness,” worldly happiness being the highest value that could be at issue here. (By making the sacrifice of worldly happiness, he might win spiritual happiness, or according to some beliefs, happiness in the afterlife, but I don’t know if we can factor such things into our calculations here. So worldly happiness is the highest value here.)

        So degree of sacrifice is the currency that matters. To me, what you’re saying is, “Sure, the handicapped man has to lose $1000, but that sidesteps the issue of the woman losing 100 Euros, because the Euros is a currency with a special status” — whereas the purchasing power is the only currency that really matters.

        TG: That would be true only if we were comparing things that are fundamentally the same. We’re not. Fundamentally speaking, the handicapped man CHOSE to take on the obligation to care for the sick daughter. His rights were not at stake when he took on the obligation, and whatever curtailment of his rights that may have followed was directly due to his choice. This is not the case with a woman facing an unwanted pregnancy. You’re actually effectively saying the pregnant woman MUST lose 100 Euros because the handicapped man chose to spend $1000.

        TG previous: The handicapped man specifically, if implicitly accepted the obligation.

        NTwR: By “only support,” I meant only possible support. It doesn’t matter how he got into the situation. Without him, the daughter will die.

        TG: Irrelevant. The daughter had not claim on the man until he accepted the obligation, whether implicitly or explicitly.

        NTwR: If I understand correctly, she mentions rape and “nine months” just in order to be thorough in building up to “save the mother’s life” cases; and she mentions the last because “a number of points of interest come out in respect to it. But I think these points are subordinate to the original point she intended in presenting the violinist. Isn’t the basic point framed clearly by the 4 sentences that introduce the violinist –

        TG: The whole thing actually ties together. The first thing she asks is whether, based on the thought experiment, we could say those who oppose abortion can make an exception for rape, to which she says, “Certainly.” Then starts to address those who wouldn’t allow for that exception. This is why she is applying the violinist thought experiment to a number of other different factors. And while she allows that there might be some cases where abortion might not be impermissible, she says her argument “of course” allows a person who was raped to have an abortion. She is actually building a case where abortion would be allowable under a number of different circumstances.

        NTwR: Then why does she present the violinist as a rebuttal to the sentences quoted above, and why does she later announce her purpose as follows: “I am arguing ONLY that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body [no mention of degree] –even if one needs it for life itself.”

        TG: Because rape is one of the first and most obvious cases that could be argued, then or now.

        NTwR: (By the way, the long phrases she used at that time indicate to me that she would not have expected the short phrases “bodily integrity” or “bodily autonomy” or “bodily rights” to be understood. I’m thinking the whole idea had not
        really been articulated till around that time, helping cast doubt on its sacrosanct nature.)

        TG: Irrelevant. Notice she also says that both sides grant that a woman (normally) has the right to choose what happens in and to her body. She is, in effect, arguing that what is normally granted also applies to pregnancy as well.

        TG previous: Actually, she does no such thing. Having already admitted not reading the whole thing through, you shouldn’t also embarrass yourself by showing how little you understand what you have read. She is in fact saying that the mere act of voluntary intercourse does not *necessarily* mean the fetus therefore has a right to the woman’s body. The act of voluntarily opening a window still would not give anyone the right to climb in and live in one’s house, and it would be even more absurd to say that such a person would have that right when the owner took reasonable precautions before opening the window. And even though a woman could have a hysterectomy to perfectly prevent pregnancy, such a demand is too unreasonable. Therefore, though there may be cases where the fetus has the right to use the mother’s body, the mere fact she voluntarily engaged in intercourse does not establish that right.

        NTwR: The MERE fact would not (according to Th), but you have said that the right to life is absurd WHEN THE OWNER TOOK REASONABLE PRECAUTIONS. What if she voluntarily engaged in intercourse AND, fact TWO, did not take reasonable precautions?

        And Thomson has set a condition more stringent than yours. She says, “Does the person-plant who now develops have a right to the use of your house? Surely not . . . ,” but she says that IN a case where you have put up “fine mesh screens, the very best you can buy” – a case of PERFECT precautions (apparently meaning the FEW — worldwide, anyway, it’s few, I don’t know about the US — who never miss a pill or dispense with a condom). What about other cases?

        TG: Hold on, that is not what I said. I said “even more absurd.” It is already absurd to think that voluntarily opening a window gives someone else the right to climb in and live in one’s house, and it would be even more absurd to think so if the person took precautions before opening the window. I was in fact merely restating what Thomson wrote. Basically, even if the woman did not take precautions when having intercourse, it still does not mean she is obligated to let the fetus use her body. And if she has taken reasonable precautions (and no precaution is absolutely perfect), she has even less obligation.

        NTwR: Well, at one point I said “necessities,” but at another point I said “too much to ask.” What Thomson says, exactly,
        is –-

        “Someone may argue that you are responsible for its rooting, that it does have a right to your house, because after all you could have lived out your life with bare floors and furniture, or with sealed windows and doors. But this won’t do”

        – i.e., Thomson says, No, for practical purposes you could NOT have lived out your life with bare floors and furniture.

        TG: Exactly. She is precisely arguing against your thought that “But I would say that the alternative to readiness for responsibility is to knowingly take a risk for which, though the risk is slight, the consequences for the baby are big.”

        You would, in effect, force the person to live with bare floors and furniture. In fact, you are coming very close to saying women can’t have an abortion because pregnancy is supposed to be punishment for wanting and enjoying sex.

        NTwR: Both the Cabin in the Blizzard and the violinist are supposed to be analogous to pregnancy. It would not matter whether the Cabin in the Blizzard was analogous to the violinist unless the violinist were a perfect analogy to pregnancy.

        Brahm is offering an ALTERNATIVE to the violinist — one which he thinks is a better analogy, and which comes to the opposite conclusion.

        TG: That’s the problem. I don’t find the Cabin in the Blizzard a good enough analogy to pregnancy for it to offer an alternative to the violinist.

        TG previous: Most obviously, one consideration the Cabin argument does not make is that Mary could have simply left the cabin.

        NTwR: She is snowed in by the blizzard.

        TG: So what?

        NTwR: Do you mean anyone except psychopaths?

        Is there an “objective means” of measuring the empathy deficiency and moral callousness of a psychopath?

        TG: Yes, I meant I would hesitate to call anyone morally insensitive, except psychopaths. There are a number of
        instruments measuring degrees of psychopathy, but as far as I know, there is no general consensus that any one of them offers a gold standard of diagnosis.

        • Timothy Griffy, sorry for my delay getting back to you. I got sidetracked by a recent post made on another blog. The ensuing discussion came around to one of the topics that had become important in your and my discussion also, bodily autonomy/integrity/rights. My latest reply on that other blog, addressed to two participants in the discussion named ASZ and FMD, might be longer than appropriate there, so I am posting it here, where you can consider it also. Here I address the specific arguments mainly of ASZ and FMD. I still mean to reply soon to your specific arguments, on bodily autonomy and other topics. My reply to those two:

          Some in this discussion have been asserting that bodily autonomy is a sort of gold standard of moral values. I have argued that that is an arbitrary idea, and that what matters for our moral thinking about any situation is the DEGREE of any suffering or sacrifice, not the NATURE of it.

          Perhaps I need to make more clear what I mean by “arbitrary,” and can do so with an example. A few centuries ago a Shakespeare character said:

          Who steals my purse steals trash. ‘Tis something, nothing:
          ‘Twas mine, ’tis his, and has been slave to thousands.
          But he that filches from me my good name
          Robs me of that which not enriches him
          And makes me poor indeed.

          So there you have it — the Iago gold standard, Reputation: “You may steal my purse, and (it can be assumed) you may violate my bodily autonomy, but do not sully my reputation.” Iago even provides some logic to support his case.

          I would bet that the phrase “bodily autonomy” was not even in currency in the 17th century. In fact, even in the classic case for bodily autonomy, the 1971 “A Defense of Abortion,” Judith Jarvis Thomson used phrases such as “[no] right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person’s body.” She never used “bodily autonomy/integrity/rights.” Those phrases may have existed in 1971, but I doubt that they were in currency even by that time, or at least not widely proclaimed as the gold standard. I suspect that they originally became promoted, if not invented, purely to try to justify abortion.

          I could make up my own gold standard if I wished, for instance: “My right to engage in philosophical debates trumps anyone’s right to life.”

          Earlier FMD had said that she would abort if delivering a child meant, for example, failing to “defend my dissertation for my last chance ever.” Here the real value is academic attainment. Associating it with bodily autonomy does not add anything to the argument. Academic attainment could also be proclaimed as the gold standard.

          But any of these gold standards remain arbitrary without a robust defense.

          ASZ wrote: An intrusion — determined by my state of mind — on my body is functionally rape. A pregnancy that I want to abort is an intrusion on my body. The moral agenthood of the thing doing the intruding is not relevant to the fact that it is in my body and I do not want it there.

          NTwR (Acyutananda): “Determined by my state of mind” means regardless of any degree of real harm or risk, hence a purely ideological commitment to bodily autonomy. (And, though not relevant to the bodily autonomy question, treating an unborn baby like a rapist, since a rapist does not need your body to live, [Edit: means not only considering the life of the unborn baby to be forfeit -- due to being inside your body -- but also treating it as completely valueless.])

          And FMD wrote: Yes, “in your body” is an important issues IN ITSELF.

          NTwR: These are both clear answers to my question “Is ‘in your body’ an important issue IN ITSELF?” But are they convincing answers?

          ASZ didn’t seem to feel a need to support the perceived-intrusion-is-rape statement, though I immediately react to it, “WHY is bodily autonomy so sacred?” (And also react, “The complete innocence of the baby is not even relevant?”)

          FMD, perhaps because her moral intuition is slightly closer to mine than that of ASZ, did feel the need to support her statement. She tries to support her statement in two ways, first philosophically, then . . . but we will get to that later. First her philosophical argument:

          FMD: Our bodies are our selves. We exist purely for the time our flesh and brain are alive and functional. There is nothing more personal than the self, nothing more private than one’s own body, nothing more important than the body’s survival and integrity.

          NTwR: If that is true, then Patrick Henry should have said, “Give me bodily survival or give me bodily survival.” But a few lines later, you quote him very differently. I would agree with your second thoughts about the matter — I would say that if we survive only for the sake of survival, it would matter little whether we survive or not. We both eventually agree with what Henry actually said.

          Even Iago valued something higher than bodily survival.

          “We exist purely for the time our flesh and brain are alive and functional.”

          That brain during that time is capable of great nobility and magnanimity and selflessness, and doesn’t it find the highest fulfillment in those ways, rather than in thinking “me, me” and worrying merely about survival? We may be hardwired for altruism:

          Research is continuing to reinforce the true secret to happiness is in helping others. . . . This is best summed up by researcher Barbara L. Fredrickson, a Kenan Distinguished Professor of psychology . . .: “We can make ourselves happy through simple pleasures, but those ‘empty calories’ don’t help us broaden our awareness or build our capacity in ways that benefit us physically. At the cellular level, our bodies appear to respond better to a different kind of well-being, one based on a sense of connectedness and purpose.”

          In one psychology study, subjects were each given $100. Some were told to spend it on themselves, and some were told to spend it on others. At the end of the day, those who had spent on others were happier than those who had spent on themselves, as measured in part by greater activity in the altruism centers of the pre-frontal cortex, and higher dopamine levels. (Just a thought: Maybe if those subjects had given a kidney, they would have been even happier.)

          So FMD’s philosophical defense of “Yes, ‘in your body’ is an important issues IN ITSELF” doesn’t work very well. (My point right here is not whether we should or should not legislate surrenders of bodily autonomy, but just to show that philosophically, bodily autonomy cannot be supported by “nothing more important than the body’s survival.”)

          And what is the second part of her defense?

          FMD: even an hour [of pregnancy] can be too much, too long, too hard, if it is the wrong hour. Do I have to submit myself to an hour of torture . . . ?

          NTwR: For this second part of her defense, she resorts to an argument based on the DEGREE of the sacrifice, which cannot work, because a degree argument is an argument for a different value. And even though I had said in the example which she is replying to, “You will not lose your job or anything” (trying to exclude arguments about this hour or that hour), she needs to reintroduce that factor in order to make out a case. I wouldn’t be convinced, and maybe she wouldn’t be convinced either, just by an unsupported, arbitrary assertion “Yes, ‘in your body’ is an important issue IN ITSELF.”

          As she continues with further degree arguments, it is not clear to me whether she thinks of these arguments also as support for “bodily autonomy,” or whether she is changing direction and defending legal abortion with an argument-by-degree. As an argument-by-degree, it is certainly very strong, even stronger than in her previous post. Her continuation here is:

          FMD: Pregnancy and labor are torture- they are so painful and so dangerous that they were considered a curse from God in at least one notable ancient culture (the Israelites). Women got to Valhalla in Norse cultures by dying in childbirth; childbirth was recognized as being as dangerous, bloody, painful, and traumatic as a battlefield. Women in much of Africa, even today, bid farewell to their families when they become pregnant and even in the US, it is highly encouraged to update one’s will when one discovers one is pregnant. In at least one African country, a woman announces her pregnancy by saying she has one foot in the grave.

          NTwR: Values are ultimately determined by intuition (and I argued in “Personhood” that some people’s intuition is better than that of others). There doesn’t seem to be any logical argument for bodily autonomy IN ITSELF, and in terms of intuition, the idea does nothing for me (as just one person hearing the idea). Our physical body provides scope for extreme degrees of suffering, and that’s why “bodily autonomy/integrity/rights” has some superficial appeal. But if we analyze, it is the degree of suffering that counts and there is no need to mention the ADDITIONAL detail that the suffering is related to the body. So let’s take FMD’s above lines (“torture. . . . one foot in the grave”) as degree-of-suffering arguments, a purpose that they seem to serve very well.

          Since I personally will never be pregnant, I would feel very diffident trying to quantify the suffering of pregnancy, much less directly argue with an evaluation of it by a woman, possibly a woman who has actually delivered a child. But now she has put me on the spot, and I have to explain how I can be pro-life in the face of these strong arguments. For the moment let me just say a few things:

          1. There are many women who have delivered babies who feel passionately that abortion should be illegal, except in certain circumstances.

          2. A 2004 Guttmacher survey of women who had had abortions showed that 74% gave “Having a baby would dramatically change my life” as at least one reason, 73% gave “Can’t afford a baby now.” Etc. 12% mentioned “physical problem with my health.”

          “Pain” specifically, apart from however it MAY have figured in “physical problem with my health,” was a reason that Guttmacher apparently didn’t think it important to ask about; or if they did ask it, 0% of respondents said that that was a reason. According to this page –

          http://www.guttmacher.org/pubs/journals/3711005.html

          – “a space was provided to write in reasons that were not listed.” Yet apparently no one reported pain as a reason.

          Again, I have NO intention of minimizing what must sometimes be terrible pain in childbirth. But no one surveyed at that time (1,209 respondents) seems to have mentioned it as a reason for abortion.

          In fact, in that Guttmacher list of reasons, there is no specific mention at all of the experience of pregnancy and delivery, though something of that experience must be reflected in “physical problem with my health,” and possibly something in “Having a baby would dramatically change my life.”

          3. “Do I have to submit myself to an hour of torture”

          “Torture” is by definition suffering that is high in degree, so in that case no, you don’t. If you’re referring to torture in the process of normal delivery, c-sections, not available in primitive societies, solve a lot of problems. But there will be some pregnancies that should indeed be terminated by killing the baby. However, what about cases such as that of Sarah, described here:

          http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/58965:offering-abortion-rebirth

          “His first patient of the day, Sarah, 23. . . . When she became pregnant this fall, Sarah, who works in real estate, was in the midst of planning her wedding. ‘I don’t think my dress would have fit with a baby in there,’ she says.”

          For her the reason was the wedding dress. She was not, apparently, worried about the pain.

          Again, I have no way of knowing the truth about the suffering of pregnancy for myself, so I just have to take in everything I hear from different sides and try to find some point of balance amid all the confusion.

          Regarding the agonizing reality of the risk of death, for now we can only remind ourselves of the obvious — that in that dimension and other dimensions, once there is an unwanted pregnancy, there is no perfectly happy solution. A bad situation has already been created. The question now is about the least risky of all the risky outcomes. If an abortion is performed, the risk of death for the baby is 100%.

          Abortion is not completely risk-free (or always pain-free) for women either, and some pro-lifers argue that the physical and psychological risks have been much understated. Their arguments should be investigated, for instance –

          http://clinicquotes.com/?s=maternal+mortality

          I think that society has some obligation toward the babies as well as toward the women. I think that obligation includes not letting the babies die for reasons that are not compelling — even though letting them die for such reasons certainly does cement society’s commitment to bodily autonomy as an ideological abstraction that overrides other things that we might hold dear.

           

          Getting back for a moment to my above point “it is the degree of suffering that counts and there is no need to mention the ADDITIONAL detail that the suffering is related to the body,” let’s look for a moment at a paragraph from TG’s above post: “The right to bodily integrity involves far more than just right to determine what your body (parts) are used for. They include, among other things, the right to be free from assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent. Placing these things under the rubric of ‘bodily integrity’ may be relatively new, but they’ve hardly come out of thin air.”

          I have speculated a little about the history of the concept and will leave it at that; I might be wrong. But more important than the history, it seems to me that this list (body parts, assault, kidnapping . . .) just makes my point. We know that kidnapping is bad, so what further enlightenment do we get from the taxonomical information that it fits under a certain rubric — especially if the rubric/category is huge and diffuse? I said above, “Our physical body provides scope for extreme degrees of suffering, and that’s why ‘bodily autonomy/integrity/rights’ has some superficial appeal.” It might be more meaningful to look at the injustices that CANNOT be called “bodily autonomy.” Compulsory vaccinations are a violation of bodily autonomy, but if we make a point of that, what are we saying — that compulsory vaccinations are the same as kidnapping?

          • NTwR: Timothy Griffy, sorry for my delay getting back to you. I got sidetracked by a recent post made on another blog. The ensuing discussion came around to one of the topics that had become important in your and my discussion also, bodily autonomy/integrity/rights. My latest reply on that other blog, addressed to two participants in the discussion named ASZ and FMD, might be longer than appropriate there, so I am posting it here, where you can consider it also. Here I address the specific arguments mainly of ASZ and FMD. I still mean to reply soon to your specific arguments, on bodily autonomy and other topics. My reply to those two:

            TG: No problem with the delays. As you have seen, I’ve had problems keeping up with my replies here as well. It might be helpful to have the web page of the argument you are responding to so that I can evaluate how well your arguments to FMD and ASZ apply to what I’m saying.

            NTwR: Some in this discussion have been asserting that bodily autonomy is a sort of gold standard of moral values. I have argued that that is an arbitrary idea, and that what matters for our moral thinking about any situation is the DEGREE of any suffering or sacrifice, not the NATURE of it.

            TG: I need to make some clarifications here, since some of my statements may be confusing when taken together.

            Rights are the base standard, but that does not mean they are therefore sancrosanct. The point of rights as a base standard is that they cannot be violated arbitrarily. A person may forfeit certain rights, such as when they commit a crime. A person may waive certain rights, such as when they enter contractual obligations. In matters of public policy, it does mean if you are going to violate someone’s rights, then you have to have compelling reasons. A law against human sacrifice may indeed violate someone’s freedom of religion, but it is one that can be imposed in order to protect the lives of sacrificial victims. Even then, the violation must be as minimal as possible. One can prohibit human sacrifice, but they cannot go on to forbid believing it is necessary to make such sacrifices, nor prohibit the religious believer from finding some other method of appeasing their god. As an additional rule of thumb, the more rights that are violated, the more unjust the policy is. Violating religious freedom is one thing; violating religious freedom AND free speech AND freedom of assembly all at the same time is another.

            It also may be helpful to distinguish between moral values and legal ones. Something may be legal, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it is moral. Pro-choicers are not arguing that bodily autonomy is about a moral value; they are arguing that it is about a legal value. It is not that bodily autonomy is a gold standard or so sacrosanct that it cannot be violated at all. It is about the arbitrary nature of violating a woman’s right to bodily autonomy by forcing her to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.

            This is why I argue that your contention that what matters is the degree of the suffering or sacrifice is merely a diversion from the main argument. Granted the degree of sacrifice does play a role, however, you still have to address the nature of the sacrifice. As I see it, there are only a few arguments you could use:

            1) Bodily integrity is not actually a right. Now, if I am understanding you properly, this is NOT what you are saying. You certainly do argue that it is not sacrosanct. I’m not saying that it is either, so I think we can safely set that aside in our discussions. You do object that bodily autonomy has become the “gold standard” for pro-choicers. I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but it does seem to me that pro-choicers are not making bodily autonomy a “gold” standard. It is, however, the base standard. Given that you qualify your arguments about other situations involving bodily integrity (“in some circumstances, one may be forced to….”), you seem to agree that bodily autonomy is at least a general standard that must be considered in the abortion debate. But here I have to leave it to you to clarify further.

            2) Pregnancy somehow causes the woman to forfeit or waive her right to bodily autonomy. Some pro-lifers do actually argue this, and you have taken some stabs at it yourself. In most cases, such arguments can only apply to voluntary intercourse, and such arguments usually do allow exceptions for life/health reasons and/or rape/incest.

            3) Argue that carrying a pregnancy to term is required by minimally decent Samaritanism. This is actually the main argument you seem to be making. NOW the degree of suffering is certainly a factor. You allow a far wider range of circumstances for abortion than most pro-lifers, so you are really just arguing against abortion on demand.

            4) Offer compelling reasons why a woman’s bodily autonomy may be violated in the case of pregnancy. This is, in essence, what the “right to life” argument is all about. But if, as Thomson argued, abortion does not violate the fetus’ right to life, then the right to life argument is insufficient in itself as a compelling reason.

            5) Some combination of arguments 1-4 above.

            We can also dispense with your argument that the bodily autonomy argument is an arbitrary standard. The standard itself is already there. Either everyone has the general right to decide what happens in and to their bodies, or no one does. If there are exceptions to the general right, then the exceptions need to be justified. If no one has the general right, then the application also has to be consistent. This is what pro-choicers like myself see as the fundamental flaw of the anti-choicers. They offer no compelling justification to why pregnant women lose the right to decide what happens in and to their bodies and why they lose it only during pregnancy and at no other time.

            From what I understand about what you are trying to do, you are trying to offer something like a third way. You don’t present yourself as anti-abortion. To use the title of one of your other posts, you are merely saying the reasons better be good. You would therefore require women who seek an abortion to face a “life panel” to justify their decision. So now
            you are adding a violation of their right to privacy to holding their right to bodily autonomy hostage to the whim of said panel. But you still have no compelling justification to why pregnant women, and only pregnant women, should have to face such panels.

            You are a bit more consistent than most pro-lifers when it comes to arguing that potentially anyone can be required to give up their body parts for the sake of someone else. Fine and well. This is the case you should really be developing.

            Make out a general case wherein a person can justifably required to give up their body parts to another person. Mark out the limits, figure out who decides and on what basis. Then discuss how pregnancy applies specifically to your general case.

            Remember, the bodily autonomy argument is as much about the inconsistencies (if not outright hypocrisy) involved in saying a woman MUST carry a pregnancy to term. To pro-choicers, the inconsistencies are just as arbitrary as you perceive the bodily integrity as a gold standard to be.

          • “It might be helpful to have the web page of the argument you are responding to”

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2013/12/03/does-it-make-sense-to-be-a-pro-life-atheist/#

            It won’t be easy for you to disentangle the sequence. But the sequence started with a comment I made addressed mainly to the blogger himself. In that comment I quoted a few of his statements from his video, and asked questions about them. For that post, search for “Do I respect someone else’s right to make that decision . . .” (now 19 days ago).

            That post and the SECOND reply to it are still the highest of that whole conversation on the page, but, for instance, the FIRST reply to that post is way down on the page . . . so good luck.

            To summarize where our (your and my) conversation stood, from my perspective, before this post of yours:

            1. Prior to the post that I directed to ASZ and FMD as well as you, the last post had been your 2013/12/09 at 1:58 am “I’m going to do what appears to be a bit of skipping around . . .” I had felt puzzled by your “Trying to switch the argument to the degree of the sacrifice was an attempt to divert attention from the topic at hand. . . . it does nothing whatsoever to address the bodily integrity argument” in that post (coming on top of something similar in your post before that), because I had said, in the context that you called switching, “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice,” and in my next post (and elsewhere as well) I further clarified what I thought was UNreal:

            “. . . the ‘invasiveness,’ or ‘bodily rights,’ or ‘bodily autonomy,’ argument. My reply was: ‘The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice.’” [Edit: (I did not mean in the post that I quoted from, nor mean here, that bodily autonomy is not a value at all. By "bodily autonomy argument," I mean a premise that I have been trying to rebut, that bodily autonomy is "the gold standard of moral values," that is, a value that overrides all other values. Some would say that the defense of one's bodily autonomy against even a slight infringement justifies killing an unborn baby.)]

            I then referred to an example of a high degree of sacrifice that I had given in my previous post (that of a disabled man taking care of a sick daughter for years and years), and commented: “Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.”

            My saying that A (the infringement on bodily autonomy in pregnancy) was an unimportant consideration compared to B (the overall degree of sacrifice) was something you might or might not agree with, but I thought it made clear that A had been disposed of, in my view — which was not diverting attention from A, but disposing of it. It seemed to me that if you wanted to argue that A was not so easily to be disposed of, the ball was in your court.

            You did object to the disabled-man comparison, and we started going back and forth, but even if you thought you had a strong argument about that (which I don’t think you did), it didn’t seem to explain your saying, before I could finish responding to your objection, that I was attempting to divert attention from the bodily integrity argument. I was at worst unsuccessful in disposing of it while directly addressing it.

            Am I missing something?

            2. I needed to get back to Thomson again, whether or not I enjoyed reading her exhaustive catalog of all the things one human being doesn’t have to do for another, or can avoid doing for another, or can arguably escape from doing for another.

            3. I wanted to get back to the point where we started, the identification of moral absolutes by intuition or moral sensitivity, since perhaps my first priority now in this discussion would be to probe your idea that there could be any alternative to intuition.

            4. I also felt that something more deserved to be said about “the acorn stage of an oak tree” and some other points.

            As I just wrote to Anon Y Mous, pro-life work on the ground has been taking up more of my time than before (which is basically good from my point of view). But I do hope to start addressing adequately at least whatever is most pertinent in all your points, in a few days. If you would like, I could notify you, when I do so, at the email address you have posted with. For that matter, I could also notify you when anyone else posts to you. One of these days I’ll get the plug-in that will do all that automatically for those who want.

            Regarding your present post, for now let me just get to the lines where you return to that which, above, I numbered 1:

            “This is why I argue that your contention that what matters is the degree of the suffering or sacrifice is merely a diversion from the main argument.”

            Again it puzzles me that you can say this, as explained above.

            “Granted the degree of sacrifice does play a role, however, you still have to address the nature of the sacrifice. As I see it, there are only a few arguments you could use:

            “. . . I’m not saying that [bodily integrity is sacrosanct] either, so I think we can safely set that aside in our discussions. You do object that bodily autonomy has become the ‘gold standard’ for pro-choicers. I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but it does seem to me that pro-choicers are not making bodily autonomy a ‘gold’ standard.”

            You will see some examples if you spend some time at the above link.

            “It is, however, the base standard. Given that you qualify your arguments about other situations involving bodily integrity (‘in some circumstances, one may be forced to….’), you seem to agree that bodily autonomy is at least a general standard that must be considered in the abortion debate. But here I have to leave it to you to clarify further.”

            If by “general standard” you mean one standard among other standards, yes, I think it should be considered.

            Though I don’t know where our miscommunication and the source of my puzzlement lies, I have been wondering whether “bodily autonomy” has ever been defined carefully (carefully enough to be able to distinguish all cases of violation of same from cases that aren’t), and if so, whether you have been using an existing such definition. Thomson announces her purpose as the rejection of “a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body,” but I don’t think she elaborates enough to make clear for all situations whether they do or don’t constitute such impermissible “use of another person’s body.” (I still haven’t read every word of her article, but I’ll go out on a limb again, and will say this.) Your lines “The right to bodily integrity involves far more than just right to determine what your body (parts) are used for. They include, among other things, the right to be free from assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent” might be referring to some existing body of thought about the subject, and perhaps you could refer me to a source that merits your support.

            Meanwhile, here is how it seems to me:

            “Violation” implies harm. All that humans are or have that can be harmed is their bodies and minds. (If they have a consciousness/soul that is not reducible to their bodies and minds, I will define it here as Eastern religions do, as the unaffected witness of the pleasurable and painful events of the mind — it itself cannot be harmed. Most scientists, of course, would say that even minds are just an emergent property of bodies/brains. Anyway, I can proceed with my argument.) Most kinds of harm involve harm to one’s body which is consequently harm to one’s mind also. Iago’s concern about reputation (“good name”) relates to harm to the mind only. Theft of objects not needed for one’s bodily comfort is harm to the mind only.

            “All that humans are or have that can be harmed is their bodies and minds.” A violation cannot be harmless, so a violation of bodily autonomy must constitute either 1) harm to the body or 2) harm to the mind or 3) both.

            1. In a case of harm to the body, a violation of bodily autonomy is a form of harm that involves trespass on one’s physical boundaries, one’s bodily autonomy. But doesn’t “bodily autonomy” virtually mean “right to freedom from bodily harm”? If so, then a violation of bodily autonomy is just a form of harm that involves harming the body! What distinction is gained by talking about bodily autonomy? Why not just say “bodily harm,” or “Don’t physically harm me, please” — ?

            I’m suggesting, as said, that “bodily autonomy” virtually means “freedom from bodily harm.” Being forced to carry a child that one has conceived, forcible use of one’s body parts, assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent are all violations of bodily autonomy. But then what is left? What form of bodily harm is NOT a violation of bodily autonomy?

            An unborn child is inside the mother, and consumes some of the nutrients in its mother’s body. A clear violation of bodily autonomy, we might say. Whereas when an enemy army surrounds a city and cuts off its food supply, it deprives the inhabitants of nutrients without touching their bodies. So we might say that here we have discovered at least one “form of bodily harm that is NOT a violation of bodily autonomy.” But how useful is this distinction? It’s not. So it seems to me that in terms of BODILY harm, the concept of bodily autonomy doesn’t add anything, i.e., is not useful. When neo-bodily autonomy theory comes along, won’t scholars decide that besieging a city is also a violation of bodily autonomy?

            2. But now let’s look at harm to the mind. Suppose you are in a foreign country and someone reaches out with a thumb and forefinger and feels a few strands of your hair, because he has never seen hair like yours before. Though he is “using your body,” to employ Thomson’s term, you are not harmed at all physically, nor harmed mentally APART from the violation of autonomy, but you are harmed a little mentally by the mere sense of being violated — you wish he wouldn’t do it. So now we are finally talking about the harm of a violation of bodily autonomy per se, without having to bring in forms of physical or mental suffering that may be related to, but are separable from, the violation of bodily autonomy. [Edit: I don't presently have a formal definition, in a few words, of "bodily autonomy" to offer, but a formal definition of the mental harm caused by a violation of bodily autonomy might be this: "a sense that someone has crossed my physical boundaries without my permission, either in an important way or in an unimportant way."] A violation of bodily autonomy genuinely IS mental harm. But how much suffering is involved? In this hair example, not much — the NATURE of the offense is a violation of bodily autonomy, but the suffering is of low DEGREE.

            On the other page, by contrast, someone brought up homosexual rape as an example that they thought a man could understand, of the potentially high degree of harm in a violation of bodily autonomy. Yes, this is an example of suffering that is about as high in degree as a violation of bodily autonomy per se can possibly cause. But if the victim is lucky, there will be no physical injury; the only physical harm will be that he was restrained for ten minutes. Not necessarily a big deal, as if the cops had mistakenly handcuffed you and held you down for ten minutes, without being rough. The big deal is the mental suffering — something being involuntarily inserted into one’s body equates MENTALLY to humiliation, to dehumanization and objectification; having one’s movements forcibly restricted also, but less so; add to those factors the mental suffering of the close presence of a repulsive person. I would not make fear part of the equation, because though quite likely the worst part of the experience, it does not result from the violation of bodily autonomy per se — suppose you knew that you were not going to get hurt, only trespassed.

            Time and again on the other page, people tried to show me how great a violation of bodily autonomy an unwanted pregnancy was, and each time they ended up talking about women going blind, getting osteoporosis, losing their teeth, etc. As we’ve seen, the only sense in which “bodily autonomy” is meaningful is the sense of the mental harm, but those commenters had to resort to physical harm to show me the seriousness — which shows that the violation of bodily autonomy qua violation of bodily autonomy in pregnancy doesn’t usually translate into a huge form of suffering — any real suffering lies elsewhere. If instead of pregnancy they had talked about heterosexual rape — the humiliation, the dehumanization and objectification, the presence of a repulsive person — I would have understood that there was huge suffering in the violation of autonomy itself, unrelated to any bodily harm that might also occur. It is, as I said, the degree of the suffering that matters, and that just seems to me to be a truism, undeniable — because “matters” necessarily means “matters in terms of pain or pleasure of one kind or another.”

            [Edit: Here in India a famous newspaper editor was recently charged with molesting a woman. But here the legal term is "outraging of modesty." This term, though possibly quaint, succeeds in making clear that the harm of a violation of bodily autonomy may be almost entirely mental, yet that does not mean it is unreal. And I am arguing that it is ONLY in regard to mental harm that the expression "a violation of bodily autonomy" is particularly meaningful. In some cases of violation of bodily autonomy, the violation is very harmful to the body, but it is not meaningful to use that expression to try to indicate that.]

            (As one more illustration of the distinction I’m making, suppose the baby in the womb is consuming a portion of one of the nutrients in its mother’s body. Above I called this a clear violation of bodily autonomy. It is ALSO prima facie harmful to the mother’s body. But suppose nature has arranged so that during pregnancy her body automatically produces more of that nutrient, replacing whatever the baby consumes that her body needs. Here there is no physical or mental harm done apart from the violation of autonomy, but the mere awareness of that violation, that “parasitism,” may distress her mentally. Here it might be well to take a short break and watch a touching and amusing 4-min. music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=osWuWjbeO-Y )

            If birth were forced by society (as implied in the pro-choice phrase “forced birth”), that would certainly add greatly to the degree of violation of bodily autonomy already represented by an unwanted baby, but society does not force birth. Nature does that. If society simply withholds, on principle, its cooperation in the performance of an abortion, it would be unfair to blame society for that, but that might be perceived as a further degree of violation of autonomy (though less than an actual forced birth if that ever happened). If society further prohibits some of its members from helping in the abortion, that will be a degree of violation intermediate between forced birth and withholding cooperation. But as I have said, I think society should impose that degree of violation on anyone — man, unpregnant woman or pregnant woman — who represents the only chance for life of a helpless child. I believe you have said that US society presently does that (prosecutes child neglect) only if someone has taken legal responsibility for a post-natal child, but in other societies it may be different, and I don’t morally see the legal responsibility as an important factor if the fact is that a child will die without a defined degree of Samaritanism. (I would not demand an unlimited degree, such as requiring anyone to run a high risk of losing their life.)

            3. I said above, “. . . so a violation of bodily autonomy must constitute either 1) harm to the body or 2) harm to the mind or 3) both.” Now I’ve discussed the meaningfulness, such as it is, of 1 and 2, and perhaps 3 will be clear enough without discussion.

            It is the degree of suffering that matters, and therefore if society expects an unpregnant woman, or a man, to embrace suffering in order to help a child that will die without that help — a suffering equal in degree (the nature being irrelevant) to that which a pregnant woman must embrace to keep her child alive — then there is no injustice. Hence my thought experiment:

            “Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a disabled man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and caregiver (and only possible support) of a sick daughter for years and years.”

            Certainly the woman’s bodily autonomy, if the pregnancy is unwanted, is more infringed on than the man’s, and that mental distress is a real factor that should be weighed in the balance. But you agreed that overall, his suffering is greater. To say that a particular nature of suffering is a gold standard that outweighs the totality of the suffering, would be arbitrary.

            You objected that the man, unlike the woman, had at one point voluntarily incurred his responsibility. I don’t know if he had or not, but anyway according to my intuition, that is not an important factor. It’s up to him now, and he’s got to take care of her. And it’s up to the woman now, and (unless there are compelling circumstances), she’s got to take care of her child.

            Getting back to your –

            “This is why I argue that your contention that what matters is the degree of the suffering or sacrifice is merely a diversion from the main argument”

            – in this post of yours it became clear to me that you agree that “It is not that bodily autonomy is . . . so sacrosanct that it cannot be violated at all.” You go on: “It is about the arbitrary nature of violating a woman’s right to bodily autonomy by forcing her to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term.”

            You’re saying like me that bodily autonomy is just one value among various, right? — of some relative importance (I’m not sure what you mean by “base standard”) — so you must mean that it is intuitively obvious that the life of the baby (“carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term”) is even less sacrosanct.

            Well, that is not intuitively obvious to me, and regarding bodily autonomy, on the other hand, above I tried to show that even some fierce bodily-autonomy advocates didn’t seem to feel themselves that the per se bodily-autonomy violation in pregnancy was that great, when isolated from physical harm. Also, in an earlier post I cited a Guttmacher study in which none of the 1209 respondents seemed to have expressed a concern about pain as a reason for abortion. Similarly, none seem to have mentioned bodily autonomy. You may say that it is bodily autonomy which gave them a right to abort for their stated reasons, but if a violation of autonomy is not a great affliction in itself, such a statement would be to set up bodily autonomy as a value arbitrarily.

            In that earlier post I also mentioned the legions of women who have delivered babies, who feel passionately that abortion should be illegal, except in certain circumstances — which also helps put the importance of bodily autonomy in perspective.

            So it seems to me that I have put bodily autonomy in perspective, not arbitrarily, and according to my intuition the value of the life of the baby is very high.

            “Granted the degree of sacrifice does play a role, however, you still have to address the nature of the sacrifice.”

            The nature of the sacrifice is bodily autonomy, and I’ve said that in the case of rape the suffering of that nature must be huge, but in the case of pregnancy other things may justify abortion, but that bodily autonomy doesn’t seem to weigh so heavily and therefore normally wouldn’t. There may be a few rare cases — not so rare in cases of rape — where the mere idea of the baby’s presence inside is somehow intolerable, and in those cases bodily autonomy looms large and might justify abortion. But such cases seem to be fewer than 1 out of 1209.

          • P.S.:

            “Granted the degree of sacrifice does play a role, however, you still have to address the nature of the sacrifice. As I see it, there are only a few arguments you could use:

            “. . .

            “3) Argue that carrying a pregnancy to term is required by minimally decent Samaritanism. This is actually the main argument you seem to be making. NOW the degree of suffering is certainly a factor. You allow a far wider range of circumstances for abortion than most pro-lifers, so you are really just arguing against abortion on demand.”

            Well, I would say that even before this post of yours, I had addressed the nature of the sacrifice. I had said that the nature is irrelevant. If you stay hooked up for a minute to a violinist (once you’re already there), that’s a sacrifice small in degree, whose nature is bodily integrity (among other things). If you stay hooked up for 9 months, that’s a sacrifice bigger in degree, whose nature is the same (bodily integrity). If Henry Fonda walks across a room to help J.J. Thomson, that’s a sacrifice small in degree, whose nature is time. If Henry Fonda travels across the country to help J.J. Thomson, that’s a sacrifice bigger in degree, whose nature is the same (time). I’m saying that big sacrifices should be given weight in ethical contexts and small ones shouldn’t, but the nature is irrelevant. The affluent woman’s sacrifice was not as big as the disabled man’s, and therefore doesn’t outweigh it, even though the nature of hers is bodily integrity. To say that it does override it, would be what I’ve been calling arbitrary, or “making bodily integrity a gold standard.” Therefore if he can’t let a child die, neither can she.

            Your 3 does represent my position, and I appreciate your taking the trouble to understand that (and to put it in the context of other alternatives). You probably understand that I think society has a right to enforce the minimally decent Samaritanism as well, at least to the extent of making it an offense to help a woman abort if her need to do so is not weighty. I would say that the main thing my 3 (as elaborated by my sentence before this one) addresses, is the question of individual rights versus the greater good: society can override what would normally be individual rights for what it considers a greater good.

          • There’s something really vile about your flippant rejection of bodily autonomy. I mean, I haven’t been assaulted since grade school, but my daughter was mugged at the bus stop last year, and still bursts into tears at the mention of it. As an atheist, I don’t care for the idea of fixed moral standards, but this is one thing that I would subscribe to as most basic; that your body is for you alone to have authority over. For instance, the government cannot require you to take a vaccination. They can shun you for being a disease carrier, but that’s all.

            I have over a hundred donations recorded at the local blood donor clinic. A couple years ago, they handed out forms to have our DNA recorded to the bone-marrow registry. I refused. Donating bone marrow is painful, requires a hospital stay, and a far longer recovery than blood donation. I absolutely do not want to know that someone out there has been matched to me, and is going to die shortly with the only hope being that I will submit to this procedure. That’s their tough luck, not mine. The clinic respects that. Even when matched, I would still have the right to refuse, but I did not want them to even test me. They cannot force me to give body parts without my free consent.

            If you think that such bodily autonomy is not so important, I invite you to donate a kidney. There is someone out there right now, who can’t sleep at night from fear and worry, crying to her mother, or whispering “it’s okay” to his kids, who needs a transplant and is absolutely going to die in the next six months without your help. I’m not doing that for them. Will you? That’s what you are saying, is that your personal safety and comfort is not as important as someone else’s life. If that’s truly how you feel, then you had better come to us as one who has given his body in such a personal fashion, before saying that women must risk death for these tiny embryos. Know what? Even then, we will tell you, it’s MY body, MY choice to sacrifice it. Not yours, and not the place for the government to meddle into it and force me.

            The degree or nature of my suffering is entirely irrelevant. It is not for you or the government to decide how much suffering I can endure, or of what nature. I don’t want to know that someone is my DNA match because I will feel bad about letting her die. …and make no mistake that I will choose to let her die, and that my denial of filling out the form is solely to assuage my feelings. Can you do the same? Will you leave to die another person with feelings and hopes and a family that loves her? Go ahead, give that kidney. You don’t need it. Me, I will keep my kidneys and bone marrow, and kill any number of embryos as I wish. My decision is for me, as yours is for you. …and for those others who are affected; too bad for them.

          • Assault is a violation of bodily autonomy that causes a high degree of mental harm and sometimes bodily harm. I have argued that regarding the bodily harm, nothing is gained by bringing in the idea of autonomy, and that it would be better to just say “inflicting bodily harm.” But I never rejected the importance of the mental harm or the bodily harm (call the latter what we may).

            Your referring to your daughter’s experience, in arguing against me, indicates that when you say “your flippant rejection of bodily autonomy,” you think I have rejected not only some of the importance of bodily autonomy as a concept, but also the importance of the harm done by events such as assault — which I have not done.

            I have looked through my post now to see how you might have misunderstood me, and I found this –

            “I further clarified what I thought was UNreal:

            “‘. . . the “invasiveness,” or “bodily rights,” or “bodily autonomy,” argument. My reply was: “The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice.”‘”

            Perhaps you misunderstood “bodily autonomy argument” to mean “bodily autonomy.” By “bodily autonomy argument” I was referring to some previous parts of the conversation that Timothy Griffy would understand.

            Seeing how my lines might be misunderstood, I have now edited them as follows:

            =======================================================
            I further clarified what I thought was UNreal:

            “. . . the ‘invasiveness,’ or ‘bodily rights,’ or ‘bodily autonomy,’ argument. My reply was: ‘The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice.’” [Edit: (I did not mean in the post that I quoted from, nor mean here, that bodily autonomy is not a value at all. By "bodily autonomy argument," I mean a premise that I have been trying to rebut, that bodily autonomy is "the gold standard of moral values," that is, a value that overrides all other values. Some would say that the defense of one's bodily autonomy against even a slight infringement justifies killing an unborn baby.)]
            ===============================================================

            It will be a few days before I can reply further to you. Meanwhile, it would help if you could confirm whether some of my meaning has now become clearer to you.

            It might also help me to know whether your reference to kidneys relates to where my line of reasoning seems to lead to in the post of mine that you replied to (where I didn’t actually mention kidneys), or to something in the post by Timothy Griffy that I was replying to, or to something I had written elsewhere.

            I appreciate your record on blood donations.

          • Actually, yes that helps a lot. The section you have annotated is what led me to think that you were rejecting bodily autonomy outright; that you were willing to discuss the level of discomfort you could inflict, but that you retained the entitlement to power over someone else.
            My suggestion about the kidneys is a jab at the hypocrisy of making the demands that you do on women, while taking no such charitable responsibility upon yourself. This is especially egregious since you aren’t just arguing that women should do this, but that they ought to be compelled to do so. Doesn’t your argument lead to forced donations? If it is justifiable to require a person to continue a pregnancy, then all sorts of other compulsions to provide body parts can be declared justifiable as well. Our society completely disagrees in this respect. Hence come the rules that proceed from the sacrosanct premise of the right to life and liberty. The degree of suffering is entirely irrelevant.

            However, the status of the pregnancy makes a difference. The Supreme Court declared this in the ruling on Roe vs Wade. Third trimester abortions can be restricted, and from this comes the partial-birth abortion act. First trimester abortions are between the woman and her doctor alone. Why do you have such an attachment to the zygote? I have a soft spot for Catholic theology. They value not just the fetus, but the sperm, they egg, and the very act of lovemaking that allowed them to come together. Why do you consider the fertilization of the egg as the creation of something of such value? It might not even be within the woman’s body. I cannot fathom how you can attach equivalent significance to a born child as to the petri dish with its in vitro fertilized embryo. It’s as if you believe that’s when the soul is created.

    • “since Thomson wrote her article, we have come to realize just how important a healthy sex life is to a person’s total well being.”

      Apparently there have been some studies showing that in that time period. Can you conveniently refer me to such a study? I’m not necessarily doubting it; I could use the information for another project.

      • I have nothing at hand. But since that information is likely going to be important to something else I’m working on as well, I am going to be looking for it. I’ll share once I have it.

        Otherwise, it will take me a while to get back to you on your other posts. I’ve been working on other things myself and haven’t had time to work on the type of response your posts demand.

  3. NOTE: A casual skimming of the “Personhood” article hints that it might be difficult to determine “who stated what”. I may find myself replying to almost everything, regardless of who wrote it. Expect this to be a LONG reply.
    =========================

    If we are to pinpoint the moment of beginning of personhood that has the best scientific grounding, out of all the moments that are candidates, that will certainly be the moment of conception.
    —————
    FALSE, primarily because “personhood” has not been defined at this point in the article. Not to mention that we one day expect to build True Artificial Intelligences that will qualify for personhood exactly as much as the average adult human –and robots DON’T HAVE a “moment of conception”. Alternately, consider a science-fictional scenario in which an intelligent species reproduces by “budding” –a common reproductive method used by non-sexual species. (There is also yet another reproductive method, “fission”, employed by intelligent beings in a rather famous SF novel, “Double Star” by Robert A Heinlein.)

    So, since you can’t prove that “conception” is required for personhood to exist, it is FALSE to associate the two in the way you did.
    ==========

    A minute before, there were two spatially-separated haploid cells, each with insufficient genetic information ever to become anything resembling a full-grown person; a minute after, there is a single definable organism with the exact genetic information that it will carry throughout life, at 1 month of gestation, at 4 years, at 60 years.
    —————–
    AGREED. But that does not a “person” make. The above description is EXACTLY the same for Galapagos tortoises, after all (so long as one keeps in mind that tortoise-gestation takes place inside a laid egg, and not inside a womb).
    BUT INCOMPLETE. Because adult humans consist of lots more than merely human cells with human DNA. There are 10 times as many bacterial cells in an adult human body, than human cells! And most of them are “symbiotic”, the human cells cannot survive without the bacterial cells. (And, likely, that 10-to-1 thing also applies to adult cats, dogs, worms, tortoises, etc.)
    ==========

    Here –

    http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7300/

    – Dr. Maureen L. Condic writes –

    “Structures capable of new functions are formed throughout embryogenesis. For example, grasping becomes possible once hands have formed. But the fundamental process of development proceeds continuously, both prior to and after hand formation, and the onset of this function reflects an ongoing developmental process. Given the continuous nature of development, to argue that embryos and fetuses become humans once some anatomical or functional landmark such as “consciousness” has been achieved is to assert some kind of magical transformation; i.e., that at some ill-defined point, a non-human entity spontaneously transmogrifies into a human being, without any change whatsoever in its behavior, its molecular composition, or any other observable feature.
    ——————
    I see below “I reject this argument”, and I reject it also, but not for the same reason. The entity is entirely a human organism from conception, and therefore at no point afterward does the phrase “become human” apply. However, the word “being” is as easily mis-use-able as the word “baby”, so it must be used with care. One way in which the word can be mis-used is this: “All humans are also human beings.” –that can ONLY be true if the definition of “being”, in that context, is “exists”. In which case it becomes exactly-as-possible to correctly say, “All rocks are also rock beings”. Rocks exist, after all!

    If you want to use a DIFFERENT definition of “being”, a synonym for “person”, then BOTH of the two statements become false. There are no rock-persons at all (that we know of), and there are plenty of human organisms that also are not persons (white blood cells, for example).

    Meanwhile, Science allows for a Universe in which oodles of non-human persons/beings can exist. That one fact, all by itself, hints that just because an organism is human, it does not necessarily automatically also qualify as a person/being. The two concepts of “human” and “person” are SEPARATE concepts –the best reason of all, why the phrase “human being” needs to be used CAREFULLY.
    ==============

    “I reject this argument. For something actually to transform into a different kind of thing, a change must take place in its composition or in its pattern of biological activity. For example, sperm and egg are two specific human cell types that fuse to produce a distinct cell (the zygote) with unique molecular composition and with a pattern of organismal behavior that is distinct from the behavior of either sperm or egg. A clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation from one kind of entity (two human cells) to another kind of entity (a distinct human organism) has occurred. . . .
    —————
    I’m not seeing anything wrong with that.
    ============

    “Building the complex architecture of the brain is a continuous process that is initiated at sperm-egg fusion and proceeds through orderly steps under the direction of a ‘builder,’ that is, a human organism that is present from the beginning. The presence of an agent capable of constructing the mature body, including the brain, is the only sustainable definition of a human being.
    —————–
    MIS-USE OF “being”! Just replace the word “human”, throughout the partial paragraph, with the word “lamprey”, and see!
    ==============

    This agency should not be misconstrued as some kind of mystical or spiritual element that is merely attributed to an embryo or fetus based on personal or religious belief. The fact that the embryo acts as an agent is entirely a matter of empirical observation; embryos construct themselves. . . .
    ———————
    Nothing wrong there.
    ==============

    “. . . science does not dictate that citizens have a right to equal protection under the law, but. . . . science has clearly determined when human life commences, and this determination legitimately dictates that equal protection under the law must extend to human beings at embryonic and fetal stages of development.”
    ——————–
    MIS-USE OF “being”! Also note that in the USA, the Constitution uses the word “person” throughout, and does not use the word “human” even once. The word “citizen” appears 11 times, but does not appear to be defined. I shall assume that a “common-law” definition is relevant. That definition is almost certainly a SUBSET of the definition of “person”, because not all persons in the USA are US citizens (the simplest evidence: see any foreign tourist).

    Anyway, once the word “being” is removed from the text, where it is falsely used to equate “human” with “person”, the argument-of-the-moment collapses. Equal protection under the law is for PERSONS, and not necessarily for humans that you simply CALL “persons”, without backing the claim up with evidence.
    ===============

    For more scientific sources attesting to the personhood of the zygote, see Appendix 1.
    ————-
    OK, since there are no other references to Appendix 1, I am moving it to Right Here:
    +++++++++++
    Appendix 1: Further Scientific Sources on the Personhood of the Zygote

    “Dr. Bradley M. Patten from the University of Michigan wrote in Human Embryology that the union of the sperm and the ovum ‘initiates the life of a new individual’ beginning ‘a new individual life history.’ In the standard college text book Psychology and Life, Dr. Floyd L. Ruch wrote ‘At the time of conception, two living germ cells — the sperm from the father and the egg, or ovum, from the mother — unite to produce a new individual.’
    ————–
    The above is OK. But the next part is WRONG.
    ————–
    Dr. Herbert Ratner wrote that ‘It is now of unquestionable certainty that a human being comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg.’
    ————-
    MIS-USE OF “being”! Replace it with the word “organism”, or simply delete it, and the problem goes away.
    ————-
    This certain knowledge, Ratner says, comes from the study of genetics. At fertilization, all of the genetic characteristics, such as the color of the eyes, ‘are laid down determinatively.’ James C. G. Conniff noted the prevalence of the above views in a study published by the New York Times Magazine in which he wrote, ‘At that moment conception takes place and, scientists generally agree, a new life begins — silent, secret, unknown.’”
    ————
    No problem there. But the title of the Wikipedia article is flawed, since personhood has nothing to do with conception.
    ————
    (The Wikipedia, “Beginning of human personhood”)

    The Wikipedia offers some other candidate descriptions for the beginning of personhood, but gives prominence to these. Why did the Wikipedia deem these quotes to describe the beginning of personhood, when the words used are “individual” and “human being”? We cannot take the Wikipedia as an absolute authority, but the Oxford Dictionary also makes the connection by defining “person” as “a human being considered as an individual.”
    ————
    DEFINITIONS ARE WHAT THEY ARE. You should look up exactly how dictionaries and encyclopedia decide what a word means. I have, and the answer is not pretty: they mostly just describe “common usage”. That is, dictionaries are not actually in charge of making any word mean something! They are “reporting” what ordinary folks say it means! So, what is wrong with “common usage”? Only the fact that, very often, it has nothing whatsoever to do with Scientific Fact. And therefore TWO results can happen in the long run: A word’s meaning may mutate to become something else, just as arbitrary as the original, OR, a word’s meaning might get modified as a result of Scientific Discovery, after which at least that one definition is likely to become permanent. We NEED that second thing to happen for the concept of “person”, if for no other reason than to expunge its prejudiced association with “human”!
    +++++++++++ (end of Appendix 1)

    ===========================

    Though the moment of conception has the best scientific grounding among all the moments that are candidates for the beginning of personhood,
    ————–
    FALSE, as explained above.
    =============

    some will debate against defining “personhood” in this way. And “personhood” or “person” is not the only word that can be debated. While some will maintain that a zygote is “a human being, but not a person,” others, since they can’t deny that it belongs to the species Homo sapiens, will insist, with an equally straight face, that it is “human, but not a human being.”
    —————–
    EXACTLY, because the concepts of “person” and “human” are fundamentally different concepts. And the word “being” is too-easily mis-used. For evidence, let’s apply the word “being” to the word “zygote”, as in “zygote being”. Well, what if the zygote happened to be a worm-zygote instead of a human zygote? It is a pretty stupid thing, to claim that a particular exact phrase only SOMETIMES refers to a “person”, and only because of worthless prejudice about the concept of “human”! And therefore it is quite reasonable to distinguish the phrase “a human” from the phrase “a human being”, because, SINCE THEY ARE DIFFERENT PHRASES, they CAN refer to different things.
    =================

    Some will even deny that a zygote is “alive.” Though any cell is usually considered “the fundamental unit of life,” and hardly anyone will deny that at least a cell which can reproduce (as a zygote can) is alive, some will say that life requires consciousness — according to their definition of consciousness. (In this view, are plants not alive, or are they alive and conscious?)
    ————-
    Not I. A zygote is indeed a living organism. It is simply an ANIMAL organism, a biological stimulus-response machine, not a person.
    ==========

    Perhaps the unborn babies of the world, overhearing all this chatter with bewilderment and growing apprehension, find solace by reflecting that they don’t really want to be grown-up after all.
    ——————-
    IRRATIONAL, since unborn humans don’t have the brainpower to understand the concepts referenced. Also, the word “baby” is misused –another typical error of abortion opponents.
    =========

    More seriously, the problem is that “personhood” (like “life” and “human being”) is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride.
    —————–
    NOT ENTIRELY ACCURATE. The words “sodium” and “chloride” DO have undebatable meanings!
    “personhood”, however, is quite debatable. “being” need not be debated –it merely needs to be used carefully!
    ===========

    Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it.
    ——————
    PARTLY TRUE. The most famous science-invented word that I’m aware of, that turned out to be wrong, is “polywater”. And as previously stated, dictionaries tend to REPORT word-usages. Some are more complete about it than others. So, some dictionaries are likely to include a new word as soon as it gets formally published somewhere, while other dictionaries will wait for the usage of the word to become at least modestly widespread, before including it.
    ============

    There is no way to prove to a white that a black is a “person.” There is no way to prove to an oriental that a white is a “person.”
    —————
    This is EXACTLY why a Scientific Definition is needed. Because then such proofs CAN be offered!
    ============

    Motivation, perception and definition: Motivation will always be a cause of definition and even perception, as much as definition and perception will be a cause of motivation. Those who want to be at liberty to kill embryos (or let’s say “destroy” them, to satisfy those who deny they are alive) will define words in one way, those who want to save them will define in another way. The general approach, if not the universal approach, is to label something we feel should not be killed a “person,” rather than to declare that a person is something that should not be killed.
    ————–
    FALSE. After all, consider the Endangered Species Act. None of THEM are called “persons”….
    Oh, you want to focus on humans, do you? Well, what of the fact that various Scientific Facts do exist about persons, even if they haven’t yet been Formally Consolidated into a Scientific Definition? NOW the situation changes: abortion opponents try to DENY those Facts, while other folks embrace them.

    (Which leads to an interesting conundrum. If a “person” is an “intelligent being”, then one who denies facts is NOT exhibiting intelligence! By that logic, abortion opponents choose to become non-persons by choosing to deny facts, hah!)
    ============

    “..in the eyes of the law…the slave is not a person.” (Bailey/als. v. Poindexter’s Ex’or, 1858, Virginia Supreme Court)
    ——————-
    That was a True Thing about the LAW at the time of that decision. Here is some Original Text of the U.S. Constitution (since superseded by one or more Amendments): “Representatives and direct Taxes shall be apportioned among the several States which may be included within this Union, according to their respective Numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole Number of free Persons, including those bound to Service for a Term of Years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons.” –this quote is partly about the Census; slaves were only counted as 3/5 of a person.
    =============

    “the word ‘person’ … does not include the unborn.” (Roe v. Wade, 1973, US Supreme Court)
    —————-
    TRUE, regarding Existing Law. Once again I can reference the Census: “The actual Enumeration shall be made within three Years after the first Meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent Term of ten Years, in such Manner as they shall by Law direct.” So, Congress is Required to Count Persons, and to write a Law detailing how it should be done. The first Census was done in 1790, so the Founding Fathers were right there to write that first Census Law. That Census Law has been modified in various ways since, but two things about it have remained pretty much the same for EVERY Census. (1) The Law specifies a list of Questions to ask regarding members of a household, and (2), in NO Census have unborn humans EVER been counted as Persons! Here is a link:
    .census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/ (I have removed the “http” and the “www” from the start of it)

    So, even the Founding Fathers did not consider unborn humans to be persons. Sensible folk, they. “Gentlemen farmers”, they sometimes called themselves. There is a classic adage well-known to farmers everywhere: “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!” The Founding Fathers were NOT stupid enough to count Persons before they were born. Abortion opponents, however, apparently ARE that stupid.
    ============

    Dehumanization: This fate has befallen some races and one gender, and it could happen again to any race (racism) or any gender (sexism), just as it is happening now to the unborn (ageism, size-ism and development-ism).
    —————
    FALSE, and for two reasons. (1) The words “human” and “person” mean two different things, so to use the word “dehumanization” is to spout Stupid Propaganda. Try “depersonization” instead! (2) As just shown above, unborn humans have never, under the US Constitution, been considered to be persons (the word “now” is extremely inaccurate). They cannot be “depersonized” because they have never been “personized”!!!
    ===========

    With the help of the US Supreme Court’s brand of socio-linguistic engineering, any group could be dehumanized — tomorrow it could be me or you.
    ———-
    FALSE. The claim that a human can suddenly become a non-human is something that so far can only happen in Science Fiction (such as tail-end of movie “Avatar”). There is too much Science around these days for politicians to get away with trying to modify basic/widely-known Facts. Just see the trouble that Creationists are having, trying to get their particular brand of idiocy into the schools….
    ==========

    Now, it would be wonderful if we could just abandon the semantic convolutions and simply get to the practical question — should people be free to destroy zygotes, or not?
    ———
    AS THEY CHOOSE, of course. Since zygotes are mere animal organisms, biological stimulus-response machines, not persons.
    ============

    Why should pro-lifers not go along with calling a zygote any misleading term — an “inanimate person-elect,” or a “person-morphing inert speck” — as long as it is a person-morphing inert speck with the right to life?
    ———–
    THEY ALREADY DO, simply by calling the zygote a “person”, call it a misleading term.
    ===========

    It is because our hyperactive cortexes on each side will ask the other side “Why?” One side will reply “Because it’s a person,” and the other will say, “No, it’s not,” and the linguistic debate will begin again.
    —————-
    That Debate will End when Science gets its definition of “person” together. Since all the available data indicates that zygotes can’t possibly qualify, we can expect the abortion opponents to be the Losers.
    ============

    And words and their definitions affect perception and motivation just as motivation affects perception and definition.

    So if we want to save the unborn, it is important that they be “persons.”
    ————-
    FALSE. All you have to do is be willing to PAY for what you want. Pay for all the pre-natal care, the childbirth costs, and 18 years of food, clothing, toys, shelter, education, etc., and a large percentage of women seeking abortions will be happy to let you do that. Some may get an abortion anyway (most likely those who were informed they would probably die in childbirth). But most would be quite happy to take advantage of the “ecological niche” you would be offering. (An ecological niche is ANY environment in which some organism can survive and successfully reproduce.) Some of those women will happily breed as frequently as the OctoMom, until you go broke, trying to pay for all those mouths-to-feed that YOU want to be born. But perhaps THEN you might agree that abortion has its positive aspects.
    ===========

    Which brings us to the most fundamental question: why do we want to save the unborn?
    ————-
    ANSWER: “K-strategy” reproductive biology, for the most part. The biological drive to protect human offspring is as innate as the sex drive –and since humans have Free Will, EITHER drive can be ignored if chosen.
    ============

    Well, to get really fundamental, we would also have to ask, Why do we want to save post-natal persons?
    —————
    ANSWER: The Social Contract. Situations change. Those we save today might be in a position to save us in the future. (Note that unborn humans would have no “awareness of being saved”. They could disbelieve you, if you told them you saved them, hoping they would save you in return. How could you prove you weren’t lying?)
    ================

    But for this discussion, there is no need to go so deep. We only need to ask, Why do we want to save the unborn as much as we want to save post-natal persons?
    —————
    ANSWER: K-strategy reproductive biology.
    ==============

    As I said regarding definitions in the “Personhood and Citizenship” post:

    “One can define personhood, or define anything, in any way one likes. But to view any object of the universe, not to mention an unborn child,
    —————
    MIS-USE OF “child”. As described elsewhere, the Fact is, an unborn human is a “baby under construction” (equivalent to “child under construction”). So long as its needs its placenta in order to survive, it is NOT equivalent to a “baby” or “child”. Furthermore this particular mis-use of the language is HEINOUS, because it does not take Murphy’s Law into account, that the construction process is very complex, and anything that can go wrong will. No, abortion opponents callously “set pregnant women up for an emotional fall”, wanting them to SUFFER whenever a miscarriage Naturally happens, by priming them with LIES about “baby” or “child”, as if the desired outcome, birth of a healthy infant, was 100% guaranteed. Abortion opponents stupidly deny the Fact that about 1/7 to 1/6 of confirmed pregnancies Naturally fail to be carried to term, whenever they call an unborn human a “baby” or “child”.

    Meanwhile, caring pro-choicers who know better than to deny Facts can tell pregnant women the Truth, that if they swallow the lies of abortion opponents, and let themselves become too emotionally attached to the child-under-construction in each of their wombs, they will regret it if the construction process fails and a miscarriage happens. “Hope for the best, but be prepared for the worst” is the CORRECT mental attitude to employ during pregnancy.
    ===============

    But to view any object of the universe … with disregard of its potential, would be a very reductive and disconnected way of seeing reality.
    ———————
    And to EQUATE the Potential with the Actual is a WORSE way to view the Universe. Pick a random plot of land, and a Developer could envision lots of different potential uses for it. NONE ARE VALID UNTIL ACTUALIZED. Not even it the final decision is to use it as a garbage dump.
    ============

    Full human potential exists at the zygote stage.”
    ———————
    TRUE, but not important. The fulfilling of that potential could yield an Einstein, or it could yield a Hitler. The possibilities cancel out, which is why it is not important to especially value “potential”.
    ============

    And it is the same regarding the related question about motivation, about wanting to save the unborn: it all boils down to intuition.
    ———————
    FALSE. It is our K-strategy of reproduction at work, a built-in biological drive.
    ============

    If not influenced by religious doctrines [Edit: or political or other kinds of opportunism], pro-lifers simply have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life.
    —————
    INACCURATE. Pro-lifers have a sincere belief. That belief even makes a lot of sense in a certain circumstance –if the total human population was 5,000, then the species begins to be in danger of extinction from a too-limited gene pool –but this sole situation, a valid reason to ban abortion, has not been applicable for well over 100,000 years. Today, all that belief does is promote a Malthusian Catastrophe and the death at most of humanity.

    Look up history of Easter Island. The humans living there proved that we are NOT immune to a Malthusian Catastrophe, with 80%-99% dying when it happened. The percentage is uncertain because the before-and-after population figures are only estimates (the NORMAL death rate, for other animals experiencing a Malthusian Catastrophe, is 99% –but even 80% dying counts as “most”). Meanwhile, Island Earth is LIMITED in its resources, just like Easter Island. It is Mathematically Impossible for constant growth to be forever compatible with limited resources –and all the intuition and K-strategy caring in the world, regarding unborn humans, doesn’t change that Fact one whit.
    ==========

    And most pro-choicers, if not simply influenced by political or other kinds of opportunism, or a financial stake in the abortion industry, [Edit: or overreaction against the tragic oppression of women, or simple selfishness,] have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life [Edit: , or do not deserve it at the cost of some degree of sacrifice by post-natal persons, particularly the mother].
    —————–
    I can’t say how accurate or inaccurate that assessment is. I’m quite certain what you’ve written is quite true for SOME pro-choicers. Others, such as myself, have other reasons –some of which I’ve presented above. Nevertheless,some of the situations you have just described work equally well for abortion opponents….

    It is quite possible for a politician to opportunistically embrace the anti-abortion agenda because there will be a guaranteed base of political supporters. Baby-product manufacturers have a financial stake in the birth industry. There can be an overreaction to pictures of aborted fetuses (note how the placenta almost never appears in those pictures). There is a particular sex-deviation involving rape (selfishness) where the rapist WANTS the raped woman to become pregnant. Do you think for one minute that someone with that particular sex-deviation will be a pro-choicer? There is also a tactic, less violent but just as selfish, that can be called “seduce her and run” –lots of guys have been known to run when they find out the women they dated have become pregnant. Being ‘pro-life’ gives them a way to help ensure their insidious genes get passed on, without actually personally assisting! This makes them equivalent to that last group you specified, wanting an outcome without a long-term cost to themselves.

    So, basically, for just about any bad motive you can assign to a pro-choicer, an equivalent bad motive can be assigned to a pro-lifer. Since it all cancels out, like the Einstein/Hitler potential cancels out, the argument becomes worthless to BOTH sides of the overall Debate.
    =====================

    Since both sides are mainly sincere (see also Appendix 2), are we headed toward one of the usual cliches such as “Neither side has the whole truth, the truth is somewhere in the middle” — ?

    I don’t think so.
    ——————–
    AGREED, except for what you wrote in Appendix 2, which appears to be an excuse to make unsubstantiated detrimental claims about pro-choicers. Besides, the Overall Abortion Debate can be entirely Won by the pro-choicers, since ALL pro-lifer arguments, relevant to this day-and-age, can be proved to be badly flawed.
    ==============

    I think some people’s intuition is better than others. And I think that as a general rule, a person’s intuition will improve throughout life, especially if they meditate.

    Someone will ask, who is to decide whose intuition is better? That too is a matter of intuition. We are in an area where science can’t help us much. But that does not mean that intuitions are not valid.

    Though there is no objective standard of intuition, I venture to assert subjectively that the Buddha’s intuition about the richness of life was better than that of Genghis Khan. I venture to assert subjectively that Martin Luther King’s intuition about the sister- and brotherhood of all humanity was better than that of Jeffrey Dahmer.

    I think I would be able to find many people who would agree with me, and if there is agreement about extreme contrasts, there can be some degree of agreement about nuances also.
    ——————
    IRRELEVANT, because it is impossible to prove that “intuition” is actually at the foundation of someone’s argument. The actual foundation might well be Bad Data, things that are not Facts.
    ==============

    Agreement will not prove, scientifically or otherwise, that pro-lifers are correct, but that is not the point. I think that pro-lifers in different countries will eventually be able to find enough legislators who get it, to enact legislation along the lines of a recent proposed North Dakota state constitutional amendment: “The inalienable right to life of every human being at any stage of development must be recognized and protected.”
    ——————–
    DELUSION IN ACTION, PER MIS-USE OF “being”. Note that such a Law sets the stage for Interstellar War, caused by Stupidly Prejudiced humans who think that non-humans cannot qualify as persons. THE MOST WONDERFUL thing about the US Constitution is that it uses “person” throughout, and doesn’t use the word “human” even once. IT IS READY to allow, without modification, immigration of non-human persons from other worlds. Is North Dakota ready? HAH! N.D. is proposing to promote Stupid Prejudice!
    ===========

    And that, that ability to enact legislation, will be the point — the point of a growing intuitive consensus that the unborn deserve life and are persons.
    ————–
    DREAM ON. Delusions such as yours NEED to be opposed every step of the way, since they are fundamentally BAD in the long run, a recipe for a Malthusian Catastrophe or an Interstellar War.
    ===============

    In resting my case ultimately on intuition, am I abandoning scientific proofs because the scientific case for personhood at conception is weak? No, the scientific case for personhood at conception, as we have seen, is better than the scientific case for any other definition of personhood.
    —————
    UTTERLY FALSE, mostly because “human” and “person” are utterly different concepts.
    ===============

    What I am doing, rather, is honestly admitting that science fails us in this area. That is better than to claim a scientific basis, which ultimately doesn’t stand up, for some definition or other.
    ———————
    FALSE. You obviously haven’t studied enough Science, if you can reach that horribly-flawed conclusion.
    ==============

    I do not know whether the Buddha ever said anything about abortion. But I bet that he would, at least if he had had access to present-day scientific knowledge, have considered a zygote to be a person, or at least considered it as deserving to be treated like a person. (Our intuitions will certainly be influenced by scientific data, but in the end they will be intuitions.)
    ———————–
    SPECULATION. I have no objection to speculation, since I greatly enjoy it. But I also try to label it as what it is, not present it as something else. Tsk, tsk! (Perhaps I might mention a dream that was described to me many years ago by a married female acquaintance. Basically, the dream indicated that she MIGHT be pregnant, but she was entirely free to CHOOSE to not be pregnant –OR to be pregnant. There was no indication whether or not a zygote existed –perhaps it did but womb-implantation hadn’t happened yet. If so, obviously a pro-lifer would say, “You must choose to be pregnant!” –thereby IGNORING the fundamental Fact of the dream, that it was HER Choice to make, not some knee-jerk pro-lifer’s choice!)
    ==================

    As regards Martin Luther King, his pro-life niece is quoted on this page:

    http://www.catholic.org/politics/story.php?id=52819

    “According to Dr. [Alveda] King, when asked about where the Pro-life Movement fits in with her life’s work, ‘The Pro-life Movement is a continuation of the Civil Rights Movement, and abortion is one of the greatest Civil Rights issues of our time.’

    “Furthermore, she notes that her father and uncle, Martin Luther King, Jr., were Pro-life and ‘worked hard to promote and preserve civil rights for all Americans.’ In that way, they laid the groundwork for the Pro-life Movement of today . . .”
    —————————
    Anyone can be right about one thing and be wrong about some other thing. Basically, since “human” and “person” are two different things, the MORE important thing to promote is “person rights”, not “human rights”. Unfortunately, MLK lived at a time where plenty of post-natal humans were not granted the same degree of person status as other post-natal humans. To focus on “human rights” made a great deal of sense at that time, in order for all post-natal humans to be granted equality of person-status under the Law –and it then simply becomes Logically Consistent to oppose abortion, too. Even though there are NO Scientific Facts associating “personhood” with unborn humans. (Note that for the most part, data about the GROWTH of personhood, for humans, was unknown in the days of MLK.)
    ==============

    I wrote above: “I think some people’s intuition is better than others. And I think that as a general rule, a person’s intuition will improve throughout life, especially if they meditate.”

    For purposes of this post, except for a brief note about my own experience, I will let the meditation topic rest. I think that my intuition about reality has deepened throughout my life and would have deepened even without meditation, but that meditation has helped. And I think my intuition has not deepened more in any area than in relation to the unborn. When I was young, the unborn seemed quite insignificant to me. I was concerned about overpopulation, more for selfish reasons than any other, and probably thought that abortion for population control was a good thing. Today, simply from reading science, thinking, meditating and living, I see the unborn just as I see all my sisters and brothers.
    ———————
    You CHOSE to become deluded??? Tsk, tsk! Perhaps the fault was to cherry-pick the Scientific data, but I suspect the real fault was the fundamental equating of “person” and “human”, instead of recognizing/remembering that they are fundamentally different concepts. Once you correct THAT fault, Logic will lead you back to the point where the unborn don’t matter so much. (They DO matter in the sense that our species can’t survive without them, but Too Much Of Any Good Thing Is Always A Bad Thing, and there are definitely too many unborn humans around these days. The overpopulation problem is real and getting worse. When was the last time you paid attention to THIS data, that there are about 50 million human deaths every year from all causes, and about 130 million human births every year. IF WE ONLY WANTED TO MAINTAIN our current overpopulated world, we could EASILY allow 80 million abortions every year –and FAR fewer numbers than that are actually sought by pregnant women.)
    =================

    And I think that simply from reading science, thinking and living, even without meditating, similar is the pattern of perceptual unfoldment, with exceptions of course, for people in general. And I think people’s expansiveness toward the unborn often increases exponentially when they are jolted by some emotional experience.

    Any number of women have suddenly (or gradually) woken up and become pro-life after having an abortion.
    ——————–
    AND quite a few female abortion opponents found themselves pregnant when they didn’t want to be pregnant, so they changed their minds and had abortions. The scenarios cancel out, in terms of the Overall Debate.

    By the way, I see you failed to include all the hecklings and denunciations of women who had abortions, by abortion opponents. This psychological torture is known to sometimes cause such women to become pro-lifers (look up “Stockholm syndrome” for an ANALOGY), and so the torture continues, in spite of being TOTALLY unethical.
    ============

    In the case of Albany Rose, who tells her story in a YouTube called “My Abortive Testimony and Conversion,” she aborted her first child at the age of fifteen, then became a pro-choice advocate. But during her second pregnancy she gained a deeper understanding of the reality of life, and is now a very clear and articulate pro-life advocate.
    ——————-
    ACTUALLY, she came under the influence of psychological addictive hormones, mostly “progesterone”, during pregnancy. The thing known as “postpartum depression” is directly related to the associated huge reduction of the supply of those addictive hormones, and happens regardless of whether a pregnancy ends with birth –or with a miscarriage –or with an abortion (unless miscarriage or abortion happens extremely early in a pregnancy). Here is a link (you have to prepend an “http”, but NOT a “www”)
    li123-4.members.linode.com/files/Addiction%20to%20Oestrogen%20and%20Progesterone.pdf

    Those hormones are known to cause women to LIKE being pregnant, and it is part of the 3-pronged ASSAULT conducted by unborn humans upon their hosts. (They steal biological resources from their hosts. They dump toxic biowastes into the bodies of their hosts. And they inject addictive hormones into their hosts. The placenta is the weapon they employ to carry out those assaults. Per Evolution, it makes perfect sense for unborn mammals of all species to drug their hosts –the Law of the Jungle only cares about what WORKS to assist survival, not about what is ethical.)

    It Logically Follows that a woman whose psychology has been modified by drugs can be expected to say things that are different from what she said before being drugged. I will therefore skip/delete the comments that followed the posting of the video, since they all appear to be posted by women who have similarly been drugged.
    ====================

    What the death they had dealt eventually caused them to realize was the personhood of the unborn baby — or the fact that it deserves to be treated like a person, which is the same thing.
    —————
    MIS-USE OF “baby”, and again you are confusing “human” with “person”. Tsk, tsk!
    =================

    A reader of the “The Reasons Better Be Good” post has commented “Many people regret having children…” Though not the point he was making in that context, this statement could be taken as a rejoinder to the experiences I have listed above, so let me take it in that way and reply to it. First of all, if some people regret having conceived children, that is one thing. But having conceived, do some people regret not having proceeded to abort the children? Here is a statistic I would like to see: the % of aborting women who say that for most of their lives they have regretted what they had done; versus the % of women who raised a child — even those who made great sacrifices to do so — who say they regret having done THAT, i.e., say they wish they had killed the child at the outset. I would expect the latter percentage to be quite small, and to become smaller as the mother’s years go by, becoming vanishingly small when the children start taking care of the mothers.
    ——————-
    SPECULATION. Obtaining the desired statistics could of course be useful. One thing, however, you may be overlooking. Why do you assume that any child which a mother might regret raising will automatically also be a child that will one day start taking care of the mother?
    ====================

    Here’s the president of Feminists for Life:

    https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151830708866882&set=a.10150709936306882.456402.123097641881&type=1&theater

    “Women aren’t stupid. We know it’s a baby that is growing just like we did in our mother’s wombs. . . . As feminists, we don’t believe in discrimination based on size, age or location. Do you believe that a child has less of a right to exist because he or she is small? Are large or tall people more valuable than small or short people? . . . For years, abortion advocates have been pitting women against their unborn children, dehumanizing the growing child with misleading phrases like ‘blobs of cells’ and ‘products of conception.’”
    ———————–
    MIS-USE OF “baby” and “child”, and continued confusion of the separate concepts “human” and “person”. Worthless blather, therefore.
    ==============

    Dr. Bernard Nathanson was a co-founder of NARAL and one of the main architects of the movement that culminated in Roe v. Wade. He went on to run abortion clinics and to perform thousands of abortions himself. He eventually woke up to a horrible guilt, and produced a famous documentary, The Silent Scream, whose purpose was to prove the personhood of the unborn.
    ———
    DOOMED TO FAIL, since the goal is impossible, when ALL the relevant Scientific Facts are considered. The most the documentary can be expected to accomplish is to delude people, confusing facts with nonsense. Just like all other anti-abortion arguments.
    ============

    To quote from this page –

    http://clinicquotes.com/former-abortionist-dr-george-flesh/

    – “Dr. Flesh talked about the experience he had that led to him quitting abortion practice:

    “’… a married couple came to me and requested an abortion. Because the patient’s cervix was rigid, I was unable to dilate it and perform the procedure. I asked her to return in a week, when the cervix would be softer.

    “‘The couple returned and told me that they had changed their minds and wanted to “keep the baby.” I delivered the baby seven months later. Years later, I played with little Jeffrey in the pool at the tennis club where his parents and I were members. He was happy and beautiful. I was horrified to think that only a technical obstacle had prevented me from terminating Jeffrey’s potential life. The connection between the six-week-old human embryo and a laughing child stopped being an abstraction for me. While hugging my sons each morning, I started to think of the vacuum aspirator that I would use two hours later.’”
    ——————–
    CONFUSION OF THE POTENTIAL WITH THE ACTUAL.. If he can’t keep the two concepts separate, then he has no business conducting abortions. But he ALSO has no business trying to cause others to become as confused as himself!
    =============

    That connection is a simple fact of biology. The surprising thing is that it quite normally takes a long time to see it, unless a person has one of these jolting experiences. As with my own worldview when I was young, it is “Out of sight, out of mind,” and a size-ism that seems to be the default, almost universally, until a long time passes. The word is “callow.” We are born callow. A callow person is also callous. Sensitivity has to be learned, acquired. And some people remain callow in relation to the unborn throughout their lives, though sometimes they are not at all so in other dimensions.
    ———————-
    NO CONFLICT NEED EXIST. As indicated above, emotional/mental conflict can certainly exist after one confuses the Potential with the Actual.
    ===============

    Dr. Anthony Levantino was a pro-choice abortionist who performed 1200 abortions. One day his little daughter was killed in a car accident, and after that he found that he was unable to go on killing. He suddenly understood the personhood of the unborn. Here he tells his story:

    [video not included]

    “When you finally figure out in here [heart] not just here [head] that killing a baby this big for money is wrong, then it doesn’t take you too awfully long to figure out that it doesn’t matter if the baby’s even this big, it’s all the same. . . . Even the most pro-choice person, when they see an ultrasound, things change . . .”
    ———————
    MIS-USE OF “baby”, and more confusion of the Potential with the Actual. Worthless blather, therefore.
    =============

    It is in the heart that we can really come to understand the definition of personhood. I think that once we can, by any means, deeply understand our own humanity, we will understand the humanity of all those we had previously considered second-class citizens.
    —————-
    WISHFUL THINKING. Desire that a Fact be different from what it is does not change that Fact one whit. In this case the Fact is that unborn humans have Potential. They do not have the Actuality of personhood.
    ===========

    As with individuals, so with society. Following a clear trend, societies are outgrowing racism and sexism, and I think they will outgrow ageism and development-ism as well; and think that the societies will benefit almost as much as the babies.
    —————-
    To SOME extent that would be good. However, “too much of a good thing is Always a bad thing.” Consider the “developmentalism” associated with obtaining a driver’s license. Are you planning on expecting to give 3-year-olds licences to drive on the highways? No? Then SOME developmentalism remains Very Appropriate! Likewise, it REMAINS stupid to try to equate potential personhood with actual personhood.
    ==============

    In the Western context, it humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons;
    ——————
    TRUE.
    ============

    and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other, because of the subtlety of thought involved.
    ————–
    FALSE, because you are now promoting the Denial of Facts. It Is Always Stupid To Deny Facts.
    ==============

    And when that happens, the vanished era when we treated embryos as anything other than the most defenseless and vulnerable members of our family, those most deserving of fierce protectiveness on our part, will come to seem like the dark ages.
    ——————-
    FALSE, unless everyone becomes deluded about the Facts. You might as well believe the Earth was Flat, then.
    ===========

    The late Christopher Hitchens once said: “I’ve had a lot of quarrels with some of my fellow materialists and secularists on this point, [but] I think that if the concept ‘child’ means anything, the concept ‘unborn child’ can be said to mean something. . . . that opinion . . . should be innate in everybody.”

    Yes. That opinion is innate. It is not ultimately an opinion that can be formed by science. The skeptical and materialistic Hitchens, a wonder-struck admirer of science, grasped the heart of the matter.
    ———————–
    MIS-USE OF “child”. No amount of blather can change the Fact that an unborn human is actually a “child under construction”, different from an actual born child.
    ============

    It is innate, but undeveloped in most. It is natural for the undeveloped and mechanistic minds that most of us start life with, to judge a zygote by its size. [Edit: Within the simple framework I sketched out above -- those who have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life, and those who have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life -- there is a big range of variations. Many will feel more compassion for the unborn with each little increase in its size or functionality. It is to be expected that an undeveloped mind will think in such mechanistic terms, just as to a growing child, the size and strength of the people around them, and of themselves, is everything.] But that is purely a lack of vision, and the vision can slowly develop in us.

    (According to this website — http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion — Hitchens went on to reply “Yes” to the question whether he was a member of the pro-life movement.)

    ——————
    K-STRATEGY OF REPRODUCTION fully explains those biological drives. We are not required to be slaves to our biological drives, however. Why are you promoting slavery? Because you don’t know all the relevant Facts!!! (Or because you are ignoring relevant Facts, a much-worse thing, because to do so is to exhibit stupidity.)
    ===========

    Appendix 2: Perceptions of Each Side by the Other

    Above I said that most pro-lifers have a sincere intuition that the unborn deserve life,
    —————–
    TRUE. That is what they think, but they are denying a Fact. Nature Does Not Care One Whit Whether Or Not Any Living Thing Survives. The “deserve” in your sentences is entirely a Human Subjective Valuation, not an Objective Truth.
    ============

    while most pro-choicers have a sincere intuition that the unborn do not deserve life.
    ————-
    THEY ACCEPT FACTS. Why should the Subjective Valuation of “deserve”, by Group A, be forced upon Group B, when that valuation is not Objectively True.?
    ============

    Can we expect that each side will be equally baffled by, or incredulous about, the intuition of the other; or on the other hand equally credit the sincerity of the other; or will we not find such equality in how the two sides see each other?
    —————–
    All we need is for both sides to have ALL the relevant Facts available, AND for NONE of those Facts to be denied. Then the Overall Abortion Debate will end.
    ===========

    I would think that pro-lifers would be better able to understand the intuitions of pro-choicers, and to judge them as sincere, because of having been there themselves. Humans start out callow, and I think normally with a default size-ism in relation to the unborn. Pro-lifers will be able to remember that in themselves.
    —————-
    “Callow” has NOTHING to do with Accepting Facts, and acting in accordance with that Acceptance. Perhaps you should look up a classic science fiction story, “The Cold Equations”. Facts are ENTIRELY independent of Opinions. There are certainly occasions when we might wish some Fact to be different from what it is, but wishes do not change Facts one bit. Deal with it (that is, “Accept Reality”)!
    ===========

    Pro-choicers, on the other hand, have probably not experienced the worldview of pro-lifers. They suffer from a certain inability to see life as a process, as a constant transition — they tend to rate the value of an embryo as if it were frozen in time rather than being the inescapable first phase of a seamless process. Thus they are likely to find compassion for a tiny speck, incomprehensible or simply insincere. So they will look elsewhere for what makes pro-lifers tick, and begin to impute all kinds of motives to them — a desire to oppress women, for instance, or sexual perversity, or blind religious belief.
    ————–
    SOME pro-choicers may match aspects of that description. Do not assume that all of them do. Nor does it really matter much, exactly how they reached their Conclusion, when All The Scientific Facts Support Their Conclusion, and not the pro-life Conclusion.
    =========

    Such motives must also, of course, often be imputed for tactical reasons, knowing that they are false or at best sweeping generalizations. Not that such motives are necessarily non-existent. Blind religious belief is probably widespread, but it could not be as universal a motive as some pro-choicers would like us to believe. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, mentioned above as one of the main architects of the movement that culminated in Roe v. Wade, said later, after becoming pro-life, that one of their most important tactics had been to stereotype all opposition to abortion as stemming from the Catholic Church.
    ————
    IRRELEVANT. Almost **ALL** anti-abortion arguments are fatally flawed, INCLUDING Religion-based arguments. In other words, I don’t care one whit what the source of an anti-abortion argument is. It Is Provably Flawed –EXCEPT for the single anti-abortion argument I specified earlier, about a human population in danger of extinction, which Does Not Apply To Today’s World.
    =============

    Appendix 3: One Reader’s Questions

    I met Timothy.Griffy in the course of a discussion on another website. On that page, among other things, he probed into “Personhood” and the ideas thereof; and probed into my use of the phrase “moral sensitivity.” It will be useful to now address some of his questions here:

    T.G: I do believe there are moral absolutes.
    —————
    Personal Belief is Not an Objective Fact. Besides, anyone studying the concepts of “morals” and “ethics” and comparing the two can quickly notice that Morals Are Arbitrary, while Ethics has at least a Chance of having a solid foundation. (If morals were NOT arbitrary, then why is eating pork considered immoral in some places but not other places? Or, in various Western places nudity is considered to be immoral, but in various Eastern places, they have an adage, “Nudity is often seen but seldom noticed”.) The arbitrariness of “morals” Logically Implies that they should always be rejected in favor of some other standard, of which “ethics” appears to be the best available candidate.
    =========

    No Termination without Representation (Acyutananda): That position of yours is very clear now. Apparently I had misunderstood your first post (pair of posts) based on –

    “your argument works only on the assumption that ‘moral sensitivity’ is absolute. It isn’t”

    – and –

    “Outside . . . clear cut situations [such as the Newtown, CT shootings], the entire concept of ‘moral sensitivity’ becomes void for vagueness.”

    Since I had not said that moral sensitivity is absolute, I had taken your first sentence to mean “morality isn’t absolute, therefore any sensitivity will have nothing absolute to sense.”

    Now that it’s clear you believe in moral absolutes, may I understand that sentence to mean “your argument works only on the assumption that ‘moral sensitivity’ is perfectly accurate in recognizing moral absolutes. It isn’t” — ?

    JulieMeg had said –

    “Your assumption is that ‘moral sensitivity’ is somehow absolute”

    – and I had replied –

    “I feel that some rights and some wrongs are close to absolute, and I think that some people have more sensitivity than others regarding those rights and wrongs.”

    This is how I see the relation between moral absolutes and sensitivity.

    (All this so far is just to try to get our language straight.)
    ———————
    If you want to take the phrase “moral sensitivity” to refer to some sort of sensitivity regarding whether or not something could be called “moral”, then based on what I just wrote in the last segment, I can only conclude that the phrase merely opens the way to Arbitrarily Declare something to be immoral or otherwise, regardless of the Objective Truth. WORTHLESS, that is. Even an intuitive person can be a Liar, especially if that person stands to benefit from the Lie.
    =============

    Let me continue with your first pair of posts.

    T.G: Let’s point out one big difference between what Adam Lanza did in Newtown, CT and the abortion *debate*: What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect.
    ———————–
    MOSTLY AGREED. However, the word “moral” need not apply. Just consider the Social Contract. It is a thing with which people are expected to agree –and when they do agree, there could exist a “right to life” in the interactions between the persons who agreed. Someone who doesn’t agree with the Social Contract, however, is someone who Logically could be expected to arbitrarily shoot other people. I Will Submit The Proposition That Instead Of Focusing On “Moral”, It Would Be Better To Focus On The Social Contract, to ensure that EVERYONE fully understands the consequences of refusing to accept it. Killers can be arbitrarily killed, because that is the Logical Consequence of THEIR OWN denying a “right to life” in their interactions with others, see? Thieves can arbitrarily have all their property stolen, if they deny a “right to property” of others. And so on. “Ye reap what ye sow” is the relevant adage. How many, after such an education, would choose a life that could be called “immoral”, even though that word need not be used at all during the education process? To be determined, of course!
    ==============

    And ‘debate’ is the key term here. To judge a person as ‘hardened’ reflects an assumption that, at least in principle, a moral issue has been settled. That is precisely what has *not* happened in the abortion debate. The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”
    —————–
    IRRELEVANT, since there are much better ways to destroy the arguments of abortion opponents. No deck can be stacked when the underlying foundation is fatally flawed!
    ===========

    NTwR: Isn’t all this just what I call “democratizing moral authority”? My main thesis has been that judgments about whether the unborn deserve life are ultimately intuitively-based (we could broaden that to any moral judgments), and that some people’s intuition is better than others. Here aren’t you just saying that many people’s judgments are different from what I consider correct, without addressing my thesis that those people might well all be wrong?
    —————-
    IRRELEVANT, because there is no way to know whether or not an intuitive person is actually using intuition to reach the conclusions that are stated by the intuitive person. All humans are able to LIE, remember!
    ===========

    “The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”

    The article is aimed at pro-choicers, so as to save babies. How does it stack the deck?
    —————
    IRRELEVANT, as already noted above. Also, “baby” is mis-used. Tsk, tsk!
    =============

    T.G: Am I morally insensitive if, as ["Personhood"] implies, I don’t accept that a zygote is a person? Well, wait a minute here. As Judith Jarvis Thompson pointed out a long time ago, accepting the fetus is a person only gets you so far when talking about the ethics of abortion. The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute. So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.
    ————–
    There is absolutely nothing wrong with considering an unborn human (any degree of development from zygote to almost-born) to be a human organism. But Problems arise when one makes the mistake of denying Facts, and claiming it also qualifies for Personhood. Problems ALWAYS arise when one denies Facts.
    ===========

    NTwR: I haven’t seen JJT’s argument, but presumably you more or less summarize it as “The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute.”
    ————–
    There Is No Such Thing As A Right To Life In Nature. Therefore it cannot possibly be an “absolute”. IT CAN BE, AND IS, A USEFUL HUMAN INVENTION. And it STILL remains true that “too much of a good thing is Always a bad thing.”
    ============

    “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.
    ————-
    Basically, whoever wrote the above is uncertain of the relevant Facts. Since it is a Fact that a zygote is not a person, the issue of “moral sensitivity” Does Not Apply. And since it is a Fact that almost all “person rights” are Subjective Human Inventions, Not Objective Fact, it logically follows that the issue of “moral sensitivity” again Does Not Apply.
    ==========

    First of all, when I raised the possibility that women who don’t regret their abortions might not be morally sensitive (unless the circumstances requiring abortion were very compelling), I didn’t try to pinpoint just where that insensitivity might lie — do they fail to see the unborn as a person, or do they fail to see that a temporarily-helpless person deserves compassionate treatment?
    —————-
    LOADING A QUESTION. One definition of “loaded question” is, “A question that contains a trap, a faulty assumption that the person answering the question must accept in order to be able to answer the question.” The Correct way to deal with a Loaded Question is to point out the trap. In this case the trap is being built by FALSELY equating unborn humans with persons.
    ===============

    I guess at the time of writing, I was really thinking “either.” But thinking further, I would say that failure to see the unborn as a person is not exactly moral insensitivity. What could we call it? “Ontological insensitivity” — failing to intuit what they would be able to intuit about reality, if their intuition was more highly developed?
    ——————–
    NICE TRY BUT NO CIGAR. You are essentially claiming that others need to become as deluded as you, denying Facts about personhood, in order to agree with your position.
    ==============

    “Ontological insensitivity” may not seem to you a more tactful way for me to speak of people who disagree with me than saying “moral insensitivity,” but you’ve asked me to clarify what I mean about people who don’t accept that a zygote is a person, so this is it — as expressed in “Personhood.” As also expressed in the post, science can only be brought to bear to a limited extent, so really everyone will have to take my idea about intuition, or leave it.
    —————
    LEAVE IT, because it is worthless. Nobody can prove that intuition is actually used when stating a conclusion. AND you continue to deny Facts about personhood –Science DOES have lots of relevant Facts!
    ===========

    But let me ask this, just to start a thinking process (not to finish it): If there are moral absolutes, how do we know them if not through intuition? And if something is a moral absolute, such as “What Adam Lanza did was wrong,” and someone says what he did was right, then isn’t their intuition wrong? Aren’t they morally insensitive? And wouldn’t it be similar with ontological sensitivity?
    ————
    IRRELEVANT, since the initial “if” is faulty. There is no such thing as a “moral absolute”.
    ===========

    “So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.”

    Anti-abortion positions are not a monolith. My views regarding the special burden on the mother that an unborn child represents are explained in the Aug. 1 post “Personhood and Citizenship.”
    ———————-
    I’ve seen some of that but don’t intent to reply to it. It is obviously based on the same fundamentally flawed foundations as most of your other posts.
    =============

    T.G: Unless and until the anti-abortion crowd can produce a gamechanger, I have no qualms about dismissing their judgments about my “moral sensitivity” out of hand.

    NTwR: I wouldn’t expect a gamechanger based on science, in the sense of an already almost-airtight scientific case for the personhood of the zygote, becoming airtight enough to convince people who are on the pro-choice warpath for whatever reason. I expect an eventual gamechanger in terms of human evoluti

  4. Well, well, my reply was so long it got truncated. Here is the tail-end:
    ===========

    T.G: Unless and until the anti-abortion crowd can produce a gamechanger, I have no qualms about dismissing their judgments about my “moral sensitivity” out of hand.

    NTwR: I wouldn’t expect a gamechanger based on science, in the sense of an already almost-airtight scientific case for the personhood of the zygote, becoming airtight enough to convince people who are on the pro-choice warpath for whatever reason. I expect an eventual gamechanger in terms of human evolution. To quote from “Education and Art to Change Perceptions of the Unborn”:
    ———————–
    UTTER NONSENSE. The most obvious things that Science can say about unborn humans are:
    They are alive
    They are human
    They survive via parasitic actions, and worse (because parasites don’t normally inject addictive drugs into their hosts)
    They are NOT persons.
    ====================

    “It humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other. . .”

    I think coming to see the unborn fully as persons will be a particularly evolutionary step for the human race, because it will involve opening up a deeper and subtler level of our minds – not a new level, but a level that is little visited in our usual frenzy for different ambitions and gratifications.
    ————–
    I’ve already replied to that, and don’t need to hunt it down and repeat it here.
    ============

    T.G: . . . for your hypothetical case, I would find it disturbing for a woman to have an abortion simply so she could attend a fun party on her scheduled due date. I don’t even need to grant that the fetus is a person to be disturbed by it. Even if a fetus is not a person, it is a potential person,

    NTwR: I think a “potential person” is automatically a person, as discussed most fully in “Too Young for Rights?”
    ——————–
    DENIAL OF FACTS. It is a Mistake to equate the Potential with the Actual.
    =================

    T.G: However, at the end of the day, even IF the fetus is a person, I would still have to admit that in aborting the pregnancy to go to a party does not make her unjust. As I also said in another post, a person’s right to life does not give that person a claim on another person’s body (parts).
    ——————-
    IRRELEVANT, because the assumption is being made that the organism making a claim upon a person’s body is also a person, when the Facts are: IT IS NOT.
    ==============

    NTwR: Normally no permanent damage is being done to the woman’s body parts. A baby being cared for by its father has a claim on the father’s arms and legs. If the father fails to use his arms and legs to go out for infant formula and feed the baby, he is morally culpable and legally indictable. I would support a law requiring people to give blood in certain circumstances. In a peaceful country beset by aggressors, I would see nothing wrong with compulsory military service; think of what the soldiers may have to give [Edit: of their body parts].
    ———————
    Requiring persons to help persons is one thing. Requiring persons to help non-persons is another.
    =============

    T.G: I might think she is callous, stingy, cruel, or [fill in the adjective of your choice], but she absolutely has not violated the fetus’ right to life.

    NTwR: Sorry, I find this a conflicted sentence, if our context is a moral discussion. (And not a legal discussion — that is, if you are not just citing Roe v. Wade to me.) You obviously recognize that she has violated SOMETHING — what?
    —————-
    A GUESS: She has violated Custom. See Herodotus, and the phrase “Custom is King”
    ===============

    T.G: Now that there should be no doubt I’m not a moral relativist, I think it should also be clear that you really haven’t addressed my arguments at all.

    NTwR: As of now, is anything unaddressed?

    T.G: For example, your question about killing the two year old becomes a red herring. [this is a new argument] Birth is a gamechanger because an infant is no longer dependent on the mother’s body, making other options available that simply weren’t there before. We’re no longer comparing apples to apples, it’s apples to oranges.
    ——————-
    AGREED. At birth the Modus Operandi for survival, of a human, switches from TAKING to “cannot survive without receiving gifts”. It cannot even reach a teat by itself; it must be given the gift of being carried to a teat (or equivalent), if it is to survive.
    =============

    NTwR: As I replied to a comment on the “Personhood and Citizenship” article:

    “Your argument about invasiveness is that the sacrifice a pregnant woman makes in carrying and delivering a child is unique — men don’t have to make it — and therefore women should not have to make it either. But what you are doing is artificially defining the issue in such a way that you cannot lose; you are saying that because men don’t have babies inside them, nothing that a woman might do related to her unborn baby could possibly be wrong, lest it violate equality. You are trying to impose a rule ‘If a form of suffering is unique to one gender, that gender has a right to avoid it regardless how much destruction may be wrought, lest it violate equality.’
    —————
    IRRELEVANT EXCESS COMPLICATIONS. Simply think about Free Will. Persons have it and use it, regardless of being male or female. Pro-choicers recognize that and accept it. Pro-lifers act like pregnant women should be slaves to mere animals –WORSE than being slaves to other persons!
    ==========

    “But really, every sacrifice that might be made to save some helpless person is unique. If I see a child about to run out in front of a car, I can say, ‘I don’t want to save it because I have a sore ankle, and it’s unique — no one ever had a sore ankle exactly like mine before.’ (It’s completely true.) So merely because some sacrifice is unique, is not necessarily a big deal.
    —————-
    PER THAT DESCRIPTION, it may be Physically Impossible to save the child. Are you sure you can move fast enough? People with sore ankles tend to move more slowly than other people, including children.
    ============

    “So I don’t accept that uniqueness is the issue. The real consideration is the degree of the sacrifice. Compare a healthy and affluent woman who has a trouble-free pregnancy and as smooth as possible a delivery, and thereafter gives for adoption or employs a nanny, to a handicapped man living at bare subsistence level who is the only support and care-giver of a sick daughter for years and years — even if that is not your arbitrary ‘invasiveness.’”

    Here a person who is not pregnant and is moreover male is morally and legally obliged to make a greater sacrifice on behalf of a child than is a pregnant woman on behalf of her unborn child.
    —————-
    MIS-USE OF “child”, plus the continuing FALSE notion that an unborn human is a person. So, persons can be obligated to other persons. AND ONE CAN CHOOSE to accept the consequences of a pregnancy (if you are going to do it, then you need to do it right!). In no sense does that mean “choice” should be replaced with Mandate.
    ====================

    T.G: It is as someone who believes in the existence of moral absolutes that I challenged your thesis. You were (implicitly) saying that a woman who has no regrets about having an abortion lacked “moral sensitivity.” You supported your contention with an article that stacks the deck and relies on the very assumptions that are under contention.

    NTwR: Did I ever refer to any of the article’s assumptions that you had already contended?
    ———————-
    REPHRASING T.G., you are “calling names” a woman aborts and doesn’t agree with your Opinion. And since your Opinion is derived from worthless data, such as denial-of-Facts and mis-used language, you are in no moral position to do that thing (call names).
    ================

    T.G: It is only when the basic issues have been resolved that one can even begin talk about an individual’s “moral sensitivity.”

    NTwR: How are we doing?
    —————–
    YOU HAVE FAILED UTTERLY.

    • TG previous: I do believe there are moral absolutes.
      —————
      Anon Y Mous (AYN) Personal Belief is Not an Objective Fact. Besides, anyone studying the concepts of “morals” and “ethics” and comparing the two can quickly notice that Morals Are Arbitrary, while Ethics has at least a Chance of having a solid foundation. (If morals were NOT arbitrary, then why is eating pork considered immoral in some places but not other places? Or, in various Western places nudity is considered to be immoral, but in various Eastern places, they have an adage, “Nudity is often seen but seldom noticed”.) The arbitrariness of “morals” Logically Implies that they should always be rejected in favor of some other standard, of which “ethics” appears to be the best available candidate.

      TG: I never said my belief was an objective fact. As I hope you have since noticed, I also went on to say believing they exist and establishing what they are two different things. In the original context, I was just denying I am a relativist without going all the technical differences between “morals” and “ethics.”


      TG previous: Let’s point out one big difference between what Adam Lanza did in Newtown, CT and the abortion *debate*: What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect.
      ———————–
      (AYN) MOSTLY AGREED. However, the word “moral” need not apply. Just consider the Social Contract. It is a thing with which people are expected to agree –and when they do agree, there could exist a “right to life” in the interactions between the persons who agreed. Someone who doesn’t agree with the Social Contract, however, is someone who Logically could be expected to arbitrarily shoot other people. I Will Submit The Proposition That Instead Of Focusing On “Moral”, It Would Be Better To Focus On The Social Contract, to ensure that EVERYONE fully understands the consequences of refusing to accept it. Killers can be arbitrarily killed, because that is the Logical Consequence of THEIR OWN denying a “right to life” in their interactions with others, see? Thieves can arbitrarily have all their property stolen, if they deny a “right to property” of others. And so on. “Ye reap what ye sow” is the relevant adage. How many, after such an education, would choose a life that could be called “immoral”, even though that word need not be used at all during the education process? To be determined, of course!

      TG: I have certain problems with your Propostion, but they are beyond the scope of a discussion focussed on abortion. I should have mentioned the Social Contract when I went into further reasons why Lanza’s actions were immoral, however. Moreover, since I do believe that the right to life is grounded in something beyond the Social Contract, the word “moral” still applies well enough. I could have gone with the term “ethical” as well.


      TG previous: And ‘debate’ is the key term here. To judge a person as ‘hardened’ reflects an assumption that, at least in principle, a moral issue has been settled. That is precisely what has *not* happened in the abortion debate. The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”
      —————–
      (AYN) IRRELEVANT, since there are much better ways to destroy the arguments of abortion opponents. No deck can be stacked when the underlying foundation is fatally flawed!

      TG: Again, in the original context, I was responding to Acyutananda’s thoughts about “moral sensitivity” while still disagreeing with the cultural relativism of another poster. [At that time, I did not know Acyutananda was the author of the personhood article.] Since the primary subject I was talking about was the concept of “moral sensitivity,” pointing out that he was stacking the deck was relevant.


      TG previous: Am I morally insensitive if, as ["Personhood"] implies, I don’t accept that a zygote is a person? Well, wait a minute here. As Judith Jarvis Thompson pointed out a long time ago, accepting the fetus is a person only gets you so far when talking about the ethics of abortion. The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute. So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.
      ————–
      (AYN) There is absolutely nothing wrong with considering an unborn human (any degree of development from zygote to almost-born) to be a human organism. But Problems arise when one makes the mistake of denying Facts, and claiming it also qualifies for Personhood. Problems ALWAYS arise when one denies Facts.

      TG: Again, I was responding to the “moral sensitivity” argument, not the personhood argument per se. I was pointing out the issue of personhood by itself is irrelevant.


      (AYN) Basically, whoever wrote the above is uncertain of the relevant Facts. Since it is a Fact that a zygote is not a person, the issue of “moral sensitivity” Does Not Apply. And since it is a Fact that almost all “person rights” are Subjective Human Inventions, Not Objective Fact, it logically follows that the issue of “moral sensitivity” again Does Not Apply.

      TG: Since you are presumably referring to me, let me assure you that I am not uncertain of the relevant facts. I haven’t taken a definitive stance on the personhood of a zygote (though I lean against it based on the relevant facts) for a couple reasons. First, we lack an objective definition of “person” that is as undebatable as, say the definition of sodium chloride (a fact Acutananda pointed out). Second, I consider the personhood issue irrelevant.

      What is irrelevant in this context is whether human rights are an objective or subjective reality. Both Acyutananda and I have accepted that human rights are applicable as one of the grounding points of our discussion. In that context, the issue of “moral sensitivity” is certainly open to discussion.


      TG previous: However, at the end of the day, even IF the fetus is a person, I would still have to admit that in aborting the pregnancy to go to a party does not make her unjust. As I also said in another post, a person’s right to life does not give that person a claim on another person’s body (parts).
      ——————-
      (AYN) IRRELEVANT, because the assumption is being made that the organism making a claim upon a person’s body is also a person, when the Facts are: IT IS NOT.

      TG: I see that despite the fact you missed you missed that “if” in all caps. I made no assumption the fetus was a person; I granted it for the sake of argument.

    • This is a reply to Anon Y Mous’s December 17, 2013 at 4:33 am post.

      “Has my language truly been THAT harsh, in attempting to present Facts without sugar-coating them?”

      Okay, let’s wait a little and see if TG says anything that might help me think about this.

      • That’s OK by me, but I’m not sure how you can expect him to see your comment above (to which this is a reply) here in the middle of this overall long long page.

        • Maybe I need a technical manager.

          I will reply to some of TG’s points soon, and at that time, since I’ve been out of touch with him, I’ll take the liberty of sending an email to the address he provided (hoping that it’s a real one). And then I will also draw his attention to this.

          And I still plan to get back to your points here and on PLH.

          Pro-life work on the ground has been taking up more of my time than before, which is basically good from my point of view.

  5. TG previous: I do believe there are moral absolutes.
    —————
    Anon Y Mous (AYN) Personal Belief is Not an Objective Fact. Besides, anyone studying the concepts of “morals” and “ethics” and comparing the two can quickly notice that Morals Are Arbitrary, while Ethics has at least a Chance of having a solid foundation. (If morals were NOT arbitrary, then why is eating pork considered immoral in some places but not other places? Or, in various Western places nudity is considered to be immoral, but in various Eastern places, they have an adage, “Nudity is often seen but seldom noticed”.) The arbitrariness of “morals” Logically Implies that they should always be rejected in favor of some other standard, of which “ethics” appears to be the best available candidate.

    TG: I never said my belief was an objective fact. As I hope you have since noticed, I also went on to say believing they exist and establishing what they are two different things. In the original context, I was just denying I am a relativist without going all the technical differences between “morals” and “ethics.”
    +++++++++++
    My arguments here are largely directed at the things stated by NTwR or “Acyutananda” (possibly the same poster). However, the main article here included snippets from things originally posted elsewhere by a variety of others, including yourself, TG, and some of the things they/you stated also deserved a response. In this particular case I was pointing out that there is no evidence that your stated belief, regarding moral absolutes, has any foundation in Reality — that in fact the whole concept of “morals” is suspect (which can quickly lead to the conclusion that there CAN’T be such a thing as a “moral absolute”).

    If you nevertheless think that there is such a thing as a moral absolute, why didn’t you present a specific example?

    Let me now focus on “ethics” for a moment. All it really needs is a “foundation principle”, after which “ethical behavior” becomes just about any action consistent with that foundation principle, while non-ethical behavior would be most any action that violates the foundation principle. Any remaining actions would be ethically Neutral.

    So, what might qualify as a suitable foundation principle? Well, when we consider various Facts, such as “humans are social animals”, and “human infants typically need more Nurturing care than just one person can easily provide” (adaged as “it takes a village to raise a child”), well, it should be obvious that it is quite important for humans to “get along” with each other. If we were to turn that observation into a generic statement, “Persons need to get along with each other”, then it wouldn’t matter if the interacting Persons were humans or extra-terrestrial intelligences, or even machine-beings. All could co-exist peacefully if they adopted the ethical foundation that Persons need to get along with each other.

    I can now take that directly to the Overall Abortion Debate, and notice that an unborn human acts WORSE than a parasite, stealing biological resources from a person’s body, dumping toxic bio-wastes into that same body, and even infusing that body with addictive hormones. The unborn human makes NO effort to “get along” with that person! Therefore It Is Ethically Perfectly Fair if the person refuses to get along with the unborn human, and aborts it — it would be Ethically Perfectly Fair even if the unborn human qualified as a Person (which it in fact does not).
    ===============

    TG previous: Let’s point out one big difference between what Adam Lanza did in Newtown, CT and the abortion *debate*: What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect.
    ———————–
    (AYN) MOSTLY AGREED. However, the word “moral” need not apply. Just consider the Social Contract. It is a thing with which people are expected to agree –and when they do agree, there could exist a “right to life” in the interactions between the persons who agreed. Someone who doesn’t agree with the Social Contract, however, is someone who Logically could be expected to arbitrarily shoot other people. I Will Submit The Proposition That Instead Of Focusing On “Moral”, It Would Be Better To Focus On The Social Contract, to ensure that EVERYONE fully understands the consequences of refusing to accept it. Killers can be arbitrarily killed, because that is the Logical Consequence of THEIR OWN denying a “right to life” in their interactions with others, see? Thieves can arbitrarily have all their property stolen, if they deny a “right to property” of others. And so on. “Ye reap what ye sow” is the relevant adage. How many, after such an education, would choose a life that could be called “immoral”, even though that word need not be used at all during the education process? To be determined, of course!

    TG: I have certain problems with your Propostion, but they are beyond the scope of a discussion focussed on abortion. I should have mentioned the Social Contract when I went into further reasons why Lanza’s actions were immoral, however. Moreover, since I do believe that the right to life is grounded in something beyond the Social Contract, the word “moral” still applies well enough. I could have gone with the term “ethical” as well.
    +++++++++++++++
    You should be able to support your belief with Evidence, if you want others to believe it, too. Meanwhile, in Nature there is no such thing as a “right to life”. A “gamma ray burst” could happen in outer space close enough to fry the Earth, making humans as extinct as the giant dinosaurs, and Nature will go mindlessly on its way, without us, just fine. “Right to life” is ENTIRELY a human invention, useful for human purposes, but entirely separate from Objective Truth.
    ===============

    TG previous: And ‘debate’ is the key term here. To judge a person as ‘hardened’ reflects an assumption that, at least in principle, a moral issue has been settled. That is precisely what has *not* happened in the abortion debate. The anti-choice article ['Personhood'] stacks the deck in favor of their position so as to allow other anti-choicers to feel justified in feeling superior.”
    —————–
    (AYN) IRRELEVANT, since there are much better ways to destroy the arguments of abortion opponents. No deck can be stacked when the underlying foundation is fatally flawed!

    TG: Again, in the original context, I was responding to Acyutananda’s thoughts about “moral sensitivity” while still disagreeing with the cultural relativism of another poster. [At that time, I did not know Acyutananda was the author of the personhood article.] Since the primary subject I was talking about was the concept of “moral sensitivity,” pointing out that he was stacking the deck was relevant.
    +++++++++++
    Irrelevance is irrelevance, regardless of the reason. My reason is simply that the deck has actually FAILED to be stacked, because the arguments that might stack it are based on fundamentally flawed assumptions.
    ================

    TG previous: Am I morally insensitive if, as ["Personhood"] implies, I don’t accept that a zygote is a person? Well, wait a minute here. As Judith Jarvis Thompson pointed out a long time ago, accepting the fetus is a person only gets you so far when talking about the ethics of abortion. The right to life–like *every* other right–is not absolute. So assuming I did accept the fetus was human, it still wouldn’t follow that I would have to accept the special pleading it takes to get to the anti-abortion position.
    ————–
    (AYN) There is absolutely nothing wrong with considering an unborn human (any degree of development from zygote to almost-born) to be a human organism. But Problems arise when one makes the mistake of denying Facts, and claiming it also qualifies for Personhood. Problems ALWAYS arise when one denies Facts.

    TG: Again, I was responding to the “moral sensitivity” argument, not the personhood argument per se. I was pointing out the issue of personhood by itself is irrelevant.
    ++++++++++++
    As far as I’m concerned, the “moral sensitivity” argument is just “name-calling”, and doubly worthless (first-worthless because it is derived from the irrational/arbitrary quagmire of “morals”).

    =================

    ‘“Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.”‘

    (AYN) Basically, whoever wrote the above is uncertain of the relevant Facts. Since it is a Fact that a zygote is not a person, the issue of “moral sensitivity” Does Not Apply. And since it is a Fact that almost all “person rights” are Subjective Human Inventions, Not Objective Fact, it logically follows that the issue of “moral sensitivity” again Does Not Apply.

    TG: Since you are presumably referring to me, …
    ++++++++++++++
    I’ve re-quoted above the text about which I previously commented “Basically, whoever wrote the above …” Are you claiming that you wrote that text? Perhaps you wrote pieces of it, and Acyutananda quoted and assembled it.
    ===============

    … let me assure you that I am not uncertain of the relevant facts. I haven’t taken a definitive stance on the personhood of a zygote (though I lean against it based on the relevant facts) for a couple reasons. First, we lack an objective definition of “person” that is as undebatable as, say the definition of sodium chloride (a fact Acutananda pointed out). Second, I consider the personhood issue irrelevant.

    What is irrelevant in this context is whether human rights are an objective or subjective reality. Both Acyutananda and I have accepted that human rights are applicable as one of the grounding points of our discussion. In that context, the issue of “moral sensitivity” is certainly open to discussion.
    +++++++++++
    Regarding the personhood of ANY unborn human, there are additional facts that make an objective definition of “person” almost irrelevant. See my Dec. 1 post at the .prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion web-page (prepend that with the standard “http” and “www”), and the minor Dec. 3 edit. Without appropriate Nurture, ANY human would just be a clever animal, not a person. And so …

    I will take that as ONE starting point for disagreeing with the notion that “human rights” is a proper grounding point. The other main starting point for disagreeing involves the word “prejudice”. If we one day start building faster-than-light spaceships and go exploring and find all sorts of non-human intelligences Out There, it would be Detrimental to ONLY think of “human rights”. It would also be Stupid to have to maintain a List of types of beings that are acknowledged to be equal to humans in deserving rights –you have to keep adding intelligent organisms as fast as they are discovered.

    So, focus on “person rights” instead, and use the “I’ll recognize a person when I interact with one” definition, until something more formal comes along. Meanwhile, here on Earth we have Existing Law that arbitrarily designates born humans to be persons, regardless of the Scientific Facts. That’s OK, because very few have an interest in changing that Law to more-closely match the Facts. What is NOT OK is the group of irrational Fact-Deniers who want to change the Law to make it EVEN MORE INCONSISTENT with the Facts. The phrase “moral sensitivity” has NOTHING to do with Facts and Logic, and ALSO nothing to do with Objective Truth (because morals are arbitrary!).
    =============

    TG previous: However, at the end of the day, even IF the fetus is a person, I would still have to admit that in aborting the pregnancy to go to a party does not make her unjust. As I also said in another post, a person’s right to life does not give that person a claim on another person’s body (parts).
    ——————-
    (AYN) IRRELEVANT, because the assumption is being made that the organism making a claim upon a person’s body is also a person, when the Facts are: IT IS NOT.

    TG: I see that despite the fact you missed you missed that “if” in all caps. I made no assumption the fetus was a person; I granted it for the sake of argument.
    +++++++++++++++
    I did NOT miss that “if” in all-caps, because I specified “assumption” in my response, a thing that is very-often described in terms of “if” (by intellectually honest folks, anyway). My claim of irrelevance came from the fact that there was no need to make that assumption –one has to deny Facts in order to make that assumption!

    • Anon Y Mous (AYN): If you nevertheless think that there is such a thing as a moral absolute, why didn’t you present a specific example?

      TG: At that point in the particular discussion, there was no need to present a specific example. It was only when I started working on specific cases that I introduced specific examples (Lanza, the permissibility of abortion) of what I feel are moral absolutes.

      AYN: You should be able to support your belief with Evidence, if you want others to believe it, too. Meanwhile, in Nature there is no such thing as a “right to life”. A “gamma ray burst” could happen in outer space close enough to fry the Earth, making humans as extinct as the giant dinosaurs, and Nature will go mindlessly on its way, without us, just fine. “Right to life” is ENTIRELY a human invention, useful for human purposes, but entirely separate from Objective Truth.

      TG: I did later go on to support my belief with evidence. Acyutananda asked me if I were merely “democratizing morality” by pointing to the nearly universal agreement that Lanza’s actions were morally wrong. Besides the near-universal agreement, I also noted that Lanza’s actions could not be condoned under a number of ethical foundation principles, including virtue ethics, consequentialism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, and hedonism.

      It makes no practical difference to me whether the right to life is an entirely human invention or stems from an objective truth. Whatever its origin the right to life is part of the Social Contract you discussed previously and follows from your own proposition “Persons need to get along with each other.” I happen to believe there is more to it that that, but to each their own.

      AYN: Irrelevance is irrelevance, regardless of the reason. My reason is simply that the deck has actually FAILED to be stacked, because the arguments that might stack it are based on fundamentally flawed assumptions.

      TG: You may well be right. The more the discussion about “moral sensitivity” continued, the less I was convinced it was a useful concept. Nevertheless, I felt it worthwhile to have that discussion.

      NTwR: ‘“Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.”‘

      AYN previous: Basically, whoever wrote the above is uncertain of the relevant Facts. Since it is a Fact that a zygote is not a person, the issue of “moral sensitivity” Does Not Apply. And since it is a Fact that almost all “person rights” are Subjective Human Inventions, Not Objective Fact, it logically follows that the issue of “moral sensitivity” again Does Not Apply.

      TG previous: Since you are presumably referring to me, …
      ++++++++++++++
      AYN: I’ve re-quoted above the text about which I previously commented “Basically, whoever wrote the above …” Are you claiming that you wrote that text? Perhaps you wrote pieces of it, and Acyutananda quoted and assembled it.

      TG: He was quoting parts of what I said while responding to it. I could see how your response might be directed toward the quoted material, so I did feel the need to clarify.

      TG previous: … let me assure you that I am not uncertain of the relevant facts. I haven’t taken a definitive stance on the personhood of a zygote (though I lean against it based on the relevant facts) for a couple reasons. First, we lack an objective definition of “person” that is as undebatable as, say the definition of sodium chloride (a fact Acutananda pointed out). Second, I consider the personhood issue irrelevant.

      What is irrelevant in this context is whether human rights are an objective or subjective reality. Both Acyutananda and I have accepted that human rights are applicable as one of the grounding points of our discussion. In that context, the issue of “moral sensitivity” is certainly open to discussion.
      +++++++++++
      AYN: Regarding the personhood of ANY unborn human, there are additional facts that make an objective definition of “person” almost irrelevant. See my Dec. 1 post at the .prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion web-page (prepend that with the standard “http” and “www”), and the minor Dec. 3 edit. Without appropriate Nurture, ANY human would just be a clever animal, not a person. And so …

      I will take that as ONE starting point for disagreeing with the notion that “human rights” is a proper grounding point. The other main starting point for disagreeing involves the word “prejudice”. If we one day start building faster-than-light spaceships and go exploring and find all sorts of non-human intelligences Out There, it would be Detrimental to ONLY think of “human rights”. It would also be Stupid to have to maintain a List of types of beings that are acknowledged to be equal to humans in deserving rights –you have to keep adding intelligent organisms as fast as they are discovered.

      So, focus on “person rights” instead, and use the “I’ll recognize a person when I interact with one” definition, until something more formal comes along. Meanwhile, here on Earth we have Existing Law that arbitrarily designates born humans to be persons, regardless of the Scientific Facts. That’s OK, because very few have an interest in changing that Law to more-closely match the Facts. What is NOT OK is the group of irrational Fact-Deniers who want to change the Law to make it EVEN MORE INCONSISTENT with the Facts. The phrase “moral sensitivity” has NOTHING to do with Facts and Logic, and ALSO nothing to do with Objective Truth (because morals are arbitrary!).

      TG: While I’d be happy to discuss “human rights” or “person rights” as a proper gounding point in the overall abortion debate, I’m not sure exactly what point you are trying to make here. We seem to be agreed that whenever personhood begins it is (me: likely; you: definitely) after the zygote stage. We both seem to be agreed that the term “person” has no objective definition. We either agree or can live with birth as the beginning of personhood for practical purposes if nothing else. I just don’t understand how anything that you said is relevant to the topic of the discussion Acyutananda and I were having.

      AYN: I did NOT miss that “if” in all-caps, because I specified “assumption” in my response, a thing that is very-often described in terms of “if” (by intellectually honest folks, anyway). My claim of irrelevance came from the fact that there was no need to make that assumption –one has to deny Facts in order to make that assumption!

      TG: Granting something for the sake of argument is not the same thing as making the assumption that something is correct.

      • Anon Y Mous (AYN): If you nevertheless think that there is such a thing as a moral absolute, why didn’t you present a specific example?

        TG: At that point in the particular discussion, there was no need to present a specific example. It was only when I started working on specific cases that I introduced specific examples (Lanza, the permissibility of abortion) of what I feel are moral absolutes.

        AYN: You should be able to support your belief with Evidence, if you want others to believe it, too. Meanwhile, in Nature there is no such thing as a “right to life”. A “gamma ray burst” could happen in outer space close enough to fry the Earth, making humans as extinct as the giant dinosaurs, and Nature will go mindlessly on its way, without us, just fine. “Right to life” is ENTIRELY a human invention, useful for human purposes, but entirely separate from Objective Truth.

        TG: I did later go on to support my belief with evidence. Acyutananda asked me if I were merely “democratizing morality” by pointing to the nearly universal agreement that Lanza’s actions were morally wrong. Besides the near-universal agreement, I also noted that Lanza’s actions could not be condoned under a number of ethical foundation principles, including virtue ethics, consequentialism, utilitarianism, pragmatism, and hedonism.

        It makes no practical difference to me whether the right to life is an entirely human invention or stems from an objective truth. Whatever its origin the right to life is part of the Social Contract you discussed previously and follows from your own proposition “Persons need to get along with each other.” I happen to believe there is more to it that that, but to each their own.
        ————————————-
        You may have missed part of the point I was making. There is simply no need for any such thing as a “moral absolute” to exist. Consider the Golden Rule: It doesn’t say anything about “moral”; it is simply a recipe for behavior after the concept of “hypocrisy” has been removed from influencing the possibilities. So while the G.R. doesn’t denounce murder, it does tell any would-be murderer what should be expected as a consequence. IN GENERAL, knowledge of undesired consequences tends to encourage people to interact more civilly than otherwise –and Religion has taken the notion to the extreme by promising “eternal torment” as the consequence of bad behavior. (The mere claim doesn’t make Religion correct, of course.) Which leads me back to your own claim: “I happen to believe there is more to it…” –without evidence, it is just a CLAIM, so why should it be believed by anyone, including yourself?
        =====================

        AYN: Irrelevance is irrelevance, regardless of the reason. My reason is simply that the deck has actually FAILED to be stacked, because the arguments that might stack it are based on fundamentally flawed assumptions.

        TG: You may well be right. The more the discussion about “moral sensitivity” continued, the less I was convinced it was a useful concept. Nevertheless, I felt it worthwhile to have that discussion.
        ———-
        OK
        ================

        NTwR: ‘“Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” We would expect the rest of your paragraph to try to answer that question, but it seems to answer not that question exactly, but rather an understood question, “Does a person have absolute rights?” But I think that is a different question, and so “Am I morally insensitive if . . . I don’t accept that a zygote is a person?” remains unanswered. I’ll try to answer it.”‘

        AYN previous: Basically, whoever wrote the above is uncertain of the relevant Facts. Since it is a Fact that a zygote is not a person, the issue of “moral sensitivity” Does Not Apply. And since it is a Fact that almost all “person rights” are Subjective Human Inventions, Not Objective Fact, it logically follows that the issue of “moral sensitivity” again Does Not Apply.

        TG previous: Since you are presumably referring to me, …
        ++++++++++++++
        AYN: I’ve re-quoted above the text about which I previously commented “Basically, whoever wrote the above …” Are you claiming that you wrote that text? Perhaps you wrote pieces of it, and Acyutananda quoted and assembled it.

        TG: He was quoting parts of what I said while responding to it. I could see how your response might be directed toward the quoted material, so I did feel the need to clarify.
        ——————–
        Thank you.
        ================

        TG previous: … let me assure you that I am not uncertain of the relevant facts. I haven’t taken a definitive stance on the personhood of a zygote (though I lean against it based on the relevant facts) for a couple reasons. First, we lack an objective definition of “person” that is as undebatable as, say the definition of sodium chloride (a fact Acutananda pointed out). Second, I consider the personhood issue irrelevant.

        What is irrelevant in this context is whether human rights are an objective or subjective reality. Both Acyutananda and I have accepted that human rights are applicable as one of the grounding points of our discussion. In that context, the issue of “moral sensitivity” is certainly open to discussion.
        +++++++++++
        AYN: Regarding the personhood of ANY unborn human, there are additional facts that make an objective definition of “person” almost irrelevant. See my Dec. 1 post at the .prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion web-page (prepend that with the standard “http” and “www”), and the minor Dec. 3 edit. Without appropriate Nurture, ANY human would just be a clever animal, not a person. And so …

        I will take that as ONE starting point for disagreeing with the notion that “human rights” is a proper grounding point. The other main starting point for disagreeing involves the word “prejudice”. If we one day start building faster-than-light spaceships and go exploring and find all sorts of non-human intelligences Out There, it would be Detrimental to ONLY think of “human rights”. It would also be Stupid to have to maintain a List of types of beings that are acknowledged to be equal to humans in deserving rights –you have to keep adding intelligent organisms as fast as they are discovered.

        So, focus on “person rights” instead, and use the “I’ll recognize a person when I interact with one” definition, until something more formal comes along. Meanwhile, here on Earth we have Existing Law that arbitrarily designates born humans to be persons, regardless of the Scientific Facts. That’s OK, because very few have an interest in changing that Law to more-closely match the Facts. What is NOT OK is the group of irrational Fact-Deniers who want to change the Law to make it EVEN MORE INCONSISTENT with the Facts. The phrase “moral sensitivity” has NOTHING to do with Facts and Logic, and ALSO nothing to do with Objective Truth (because morals are arbitrary!).

        TG: While I’d be happy to discuss “human rights” or “person rights” as a proper grounding point in the overall abortion debate, I’m not sure exactly what point you are trying to make here. We seem to be agreed that whenever personhood begins it is (me: likely; you: definitely) after the zygote stage. We both seem to be agreed that the term “person” has no objective definition. We either agree or can live with birth as the beginning of personhood for practical purposes if nothing else. I just don’t understand how anything that you said is relevant to the topic of the discussion Acyutananda and I were having.
        ——————————
        “We seem to be agreed that whenever personhood begins it is (me: likely; you: definitely) after the zygote stage.” –this applies to you and me, but not to abortion opponents such as Acyutananda. What I was trying to do was point you toward some data that helps consolidate the conclusion that abortion opponents are totally wrong about when personhood becomes a relevant part of “human life”. It involves special brain development without-which the result would be a “feral child” –just a clever animal, not a person, like all humans and their ancestors were, prior to about 50-70 thousand years ago. And that brain development takes place well after birth –at different rates for different humans, naturally, which is why even Science cannot be expected to specify a particular time after birth when humans generally qualify as persons. But Science can most certainly say that NO unborn human qualifies as a person! And in theory that should eventually suffice to End the Overall Abortion Debate, because only human animals get killed, not human persons. That is, Science Has Relevant Facts, and all the denial in the world, by abortion opponents, can’t change those Facts one whit. Furthermore, all their focus on “human”, while ignoring “animal”, merely reveals Stupid Prejudice on the part of abortion opponents, who generally don’t hesitate to kill spider animals or cockroach animals or rat animals or …. The Law is not supposed to be Prejudiced, but that is exactly what abortion opponents want to do to it!
        =====================

        AYN: I did NOT miss that “if” in all-caps, because I specified “assumption” in my response, a thing that is very-often described in terms of “if” (by intellectually honest folks, anyway). My claim of irrelevance came from the fact that there was no need to make that assumption –one has to deny Facts in order to make that assumption!

        TG: Granting something for the sake of argument is not the same thing as making the assumption that something is correct.
        —————
        Very well.

        • AYN: You may have missed part of the point I was making. There is simply no need for any such thing as a “moral absolute” to exist. Consider the Golden Rule: It doesn’t say anything about “moral”; it is simply a recipe for behavior after the concept of “hypocrisy” has been removed from influencing the possibilities. So while the G.R. doesn’t denounce murder, it does tell any would-be murderer what should be expected as a consequence. IN GENERAL, knowledge of undesired consequences tends to encourage people to interact more civilly than otherwise –and Religion has taken the notion to the extreme by promising “eternal torment” as the consequence of bad behavior. (The mere claim doesn’t make Religion correct, of course.) Which leads me back to your own claim: “I happen to believe there is more to it…” –without evidence, it is just a CLAIM, so why should it be believed by anyone, including yourself?

          TG: I believe it because it is part of a package of related beliefs that I choose to accept. I’m hardly trying to press that belief on anyone; as I said, to each their own.

          AYN: “We seem to be agreed that whenever personhood begins it is (me: likely; you: definitely) after the zygote stage.” –this applies to you and me, but not to abortion opponents such as Acyutananda. What I was trying to do was point you toward some data that helps consolidate the conclusion that abortion opponents are totally wrong about when personhood becomes a relevant part of “human life”. It involves special brain development without-which the result would be a “feral child” –just a clever animal, not a person, like all humans and their ancestors were, prior to about 50-70 thousand years ago. And that brain development takes place well after birth –at different rates for different humans, naturally, which is why even Science cannot be expected to specify a particular time after birth when humans generally qualify as persons. But Science can most certainly say that NO unborn human qualifies as a person! And in theory that should eventually suffice to End the Overall Abortion Debate, because only human animals get killed, not human persons. That is, Science Has Relevant Facts, and all the denial in the world, by abortion opponents, can’t change those Facts one whit. Furthermore, all their focus on “human”, while ignoring “animal”, merely reveals Stupid Prejudice on the part of abortion opponents, who generally don’t hesitate to kill spider animals or cockroach animals or rat animals or …. The Law is not supposed to be Prejudiced, but that is exactly what abortion opponents want to do to it!

          TG: Though I am inclined to agree with you that full personhood requires certain developments of the brain that are not present until after birth, I have troubles with the implications of that line of thinking. I had reference to the phenomena of spontaneous cloning and chimerism leading me to the conclusion that personhood likely begins sometime after the zygote stage. Birth at least has the practical advantage that it gives us a bright and clear line to work with.

          • AYN: You may have missed part of the point I was making. There is simply no need for any such thing as a “moral absolute” to exist. Consider the Golden Rule: It doesn’t say anything about “moral”; it is simply a recipe for behavior after the concept of “hypocrisy” has been removed from influencing the possibilities. So while the G.R. doesn’t denounce murder, it does tell any would-be murderer what should be expected as a consequence. IN GENERAL, knowledge of undesired consequences tends to encourage people to interact more civilly than otherwise –and Religion has taken the notion to the extreme by promising “eternal torment” as the consequence of bad behavior. (The mere claim doesn’t make Religion correct, of course.) Which leads me back to your own claim: “I happen to believe there is more to it…” –without evidence, it is just a CLAIM, so why should it be believed by anyone, including yourself?

            TG: I believe it because it is part of a package of related beliefs that I choose to accept. I’m hardly trying to press that belief on anyone; as I said, to each their own.
            ————————–
            OK, thank you.
            ================

            AYN: “We seem to be agreed that whenever personhood begins it is (me: likely; you: definitely) after the zygote stage.” –this applies to you and me, but not to abortion opponents such as Acyutananda. What I was trying to do was point you toward some data that helps consolidate the conclusion that abortion opponents are totally wrong about when personhood becomes a relevant part of “human life”. It involves special brain development without-which the result would be a “feral child” –just a clever animal, not a person, like all humans and their ancestors were, prior to about 50-70 thousand years ago. And that brain development takes place well after birth –at different rates for different humans, naturally, which is why even Science cannot be expected to specify a particular time after birth when humans generally qualify as persons. But Science can most certainly say that NO unborn human qualifies as a person! And in theory that should eventually suffice to End the Overall Abortion Debate, because only human animals get killed, not human persons. That is, Science Has Relevant Facts, and all the denial in the world, by abortion opponents, can’t change those Facts one whit. Furthermore, all their focus on “human”, while ignoring “animal”, merely reveals Stupid Prejudice on the part of abortion opponents, who generally don’t hesitate to kill spider animals or cockroach animals or rat animals or …. The Law is not supposed to be Prejudiced, but that is exactly what abortion opponents want to do to it!

            TG: Though I am inclined to agree with you that full personhood requires certain developments of the brain that are not present until after birth, I have troubles with the implications of that line of thinking. I had reference to the phenomena of spontaneous cloning and chimerism leading me to the conclusion that personhood likely begins sometime after the zygote stage. Birth at least has the practical advantage that it gives us a bright and clear line to work with.
            ————————–
            There is an additional fact about Birth that perhaps you should be more-aware of, involving the “placenta”. When a blastocyst implants into a womb, it divides into two major (but connected) components, one of which becomes the embryo/fetus, and the other of which becomes the placenta. The placenta is an ORGAN just like the heart or a lung is an organ, and the unborn human cannot survive without THAT PART OF ITSELF. When abortion opponents talk about the strong resemblance of unborn humans to born humans, they NEGLECT to mention that the placenta is a vital part of every unborn human –they are focusing on the similarities only, and not that huge/important Difference between it and a born human. Sure, we all know that the placenta is disposed-of during the overall sequence of birth-events. But that doesn’t change the fundamental Fact that an unborn human is NOT equivalent to a born human, even minutes before birth, because the unborn human needs its placenta to keep stealing oxygen from its mother during the birth-event.

            Moving on, are you perhaps thinking of various Religion-based notions regarding unborn humans and personhood? It is easy to show that those are no more valid than Secular notions on the topic. The first piece of evidence against their arguments is that they have CHANGED. Centuries ago an unborn human wasn’t even considered to be “alive” before it began to “kick” in the womb. If Religions want to claim they have the Truth, then why did they change their claims on that subject after Science made various discoveries about “life”???

            The most logical answer is: “They changed their tune for HUMAN reasons, not because of Godly reasons.” That is, if you read all the Biblical strictures against ALL forms of sexual behavior EXCEPT those that lead to reproduction, it becomes obvious that the preachers who wrote the Bible, and created a Theocracy with themselves on top, simply wanted more and more people/tithers under their control (who could become Holy Warriors, conquer additional lands, and bring even more people/tithers under their control). Obviously opposing abortion would be part of such a policy for any LIVING unborn human. So, if Science shows that the unborn are alive from conception, making a policy-change directly benefits the greedy preachers….

            Next item. Science has discovered that ANYTHING that can begin to exist as a result of some purely physical process can also be destroyed by some other purely physical process. So, if a “soul” is claimed to be immortal, immune to mere physical harm, it CANNOT begin to exist as a result of the purely-physical/biological process of egg-fertilization. That means it can only begin to exist as a result of some other Event, perhaps an “Act of God”. WHEN would God do that? Is anyone idiotic enough to think that God MUST create a soul JUST because a human ovum got fertilized? How do you know that God didn’t create a zillion souls fourteen billion years ago, and the Universe was Created as a playground for them? (Such a possibility would lead us to “reincarnation” philosophy –most believers in that philosophy think a soul joins a human body at/after birth, not before birth. There also appears to be more Scientific evidence in favor of reincarnation than the notion that souls are created at conception. Try Googling for the phrase “twenty cases sugges” —Google will offer to fill in the rest.)

            Next argument: Consider the claim, “the body is a vehicle for the soul” –human engineers are smart enough to NOT install a driver of a vehicle before it is ready to be driven. Religionists apparently want us to think that God is more stupid than mere human engineers.

            Next argument: Look up “sensory deprivation experiments”. Science has discovered that just about any ordinary person deprived of sensory experiences can begin to go insane after about a week. Well, for most of a pregnancy, an unborn human is EXACTLY a sensory-deprivation environment; the physical senses haven’t GROWN into existence yet. Would a Loving God deliberately subject innocent souls to MONTHS of sensory deprivation?

            Next argument: A soul is supposed to be the source of a human’s Free Will. What can it DO during nine months of pregnancy? The entire growth process is controlled by DNA and the Law of Cause and Effect! AND that growth process Naturally fails to succeed about 1/7 to 1/6 of the time, mostly due to defective DNA. Is God ignorant of the DNA code, and unable to know which conceptions have no chance of succeeding, while our own genetics experts, using early-pregnancy amniocentesis samples, can determine exactly that thing? AGAIN Religionists want us to think that God is less capable than mere humans, and that God would install a zygote with a soul regardless of such Knowledge!

            Next argument: Start with the claims that God is Omniscient and Loving. That means that God knows, just as soon as any woman becomes pregnant, the exact probability that she would seek an abortion. God also knows that to kill a soul-possessing entity is to commit murder. So, would a Loving God install a soul into a zygote JUST so that the woman can be condemned later, a participant in a murder?

            Like I said, it is easy to show that Religion-based opposition to abortion is just as nonsensical/irrational as Secular-based opposition. Enjoy!

          • A couple of things were left out of my previous post. The “What could a soul DO inside a zygote?” is equivalent to asking, “What does a zygote need a soul FOR?” –since all its growth is under automatic control per DNA.

            The other thing is a Fact about which Science first began discovering supporting evidence back in 1828. At that time there was a wide-spread notion that living things were somehow fundamentally different from non-living things, and that notion was summed-up under the over-arching word “vitalism”. It could possibly be described as saying that all living things had souls, while non-living things didn’t (and human souls were special because they also had Free Will). But in 1828 the first substance known to be derived from life-forms was synthesized from non-living substances (urea). Here is a link (http and www need to be prepended): .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10213830

            Ever since, more and more “organic” compounds have been synthesized from raw inorganic substances, until there remained NO data in support of the “vitalism” notion. Today we are quite certain that all of Biology is simply complicated-Chemistry-in-action. We could compare a living cell to a steam engine, and simultaneously compare a modern computer chip with an old-fashioned “crystal” radio set; the fact two of them are extremely complex and have much-greater capabilities, than the other two, does not make them more than what they are –ALL FOUR are “soul-less machines”. It logically follows that organizations of cells into complex life-forms don’t NEED to be any more soul-possessing than individual cells. Make no mistake: Life can be beautiful and wondrous (and so can a machine that is ahead of its time, such as Babbage’s “Difference Engine” .youtube.com/watch?v=BlbQsKpq3Ak –prepend the http and www), but don’t read any more into it than is actually there!

  6. AYN: There is an additional fact about Birth that perhaps you should be more-aware of, involving the “placenta”. When a blastocyst implants into a womb, it divides into two major (but connected) components, one of which becomes the embryo/fetus, and the other of which becomes the placenta. The placenta is an ORGAN just like the heart or a lung is an organ, and the unborn human cannot survive without THAT PART OF ITSELF. When abortion opponents talk about the strong resemblance of unborn humans to born humans, they NEGLECT to mention that the placenta is a vital part of every unborn human –they are focusing on the similarities only, and not that huge/important Difference between it and a born human. Sure, we all know that the placenta is disposed-of during the overall sequence of birth-events. But that doesn’t change the fundamental Fact that an unborn human is NOT equivalent to a born human, even minutes before birth, because the unborn human needs its placenta to keep stealing oxygen from its mother during the birth-event.

    TG: I did not know the placenta was actually part of the fetus. But then, I never had to make explicit mention of the placenta in any of my arguments. Birth is the game changer because the infant is no longer dependent on the specific body of the mother. Why and how that dependency occurred just isn’t part of the calculation.

    AYN: Moving on, are you perhaps thinking of various Religion-based notions regarding unborn humans and personhood? It is easy to show that those are no more valid than Secular notions on the topic. The first piece of evidence against their arguments is that they have CHANGED. Centuries ago an unborn human wasn’t even considered to be “alive” before it began to “kick” in the womb. If Religions want to claim they have the Truth, then why did they change their claims on that subject after Science made various discoveries about “life”???

    TG: Oh, I wouldn’t consider the fact that their claims have changed in light of new knowledge to be a point against Religion. It is actually more a point in their favor. After all, you are essentially berating abortion opponents for NOT changing their views in light of relevant facts.

    You should also keep in mind that claiming to have the Truth does not equate to having omniscient knowledge. The Christian discussion about when an unborn human was “alive” was more about establishing at what point abortion came to be considered murder. In other words, abortion had always been considered a sin, it was just a matter of whether it was a venial or mortal one. And originally, those claims were based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Science gave them additional knowledge on the subject, and so the Catholic Church in particular adjusted accordingly.

    AYN: The most logical answer is: “They changed their tune for HUMAN reasons, not because of Godly reasons.” That is, if you read all the Biblical strictures against ALL forms of sexual behavior EXCEPT those that lead to reproduction, it becomes obvious that the preachers who wrote the Bible, and created a Theocracy with themselves on top, simply wanted more and more people/tithers under their control (who could become Holy Warriors, conquer additional lands, and bring even more people/tithers under their control). Obviously opposing abortion would be part of such a policy for any LIVING unborn human. So, if Science shows that the unborn are alive from conception, making a policy-change directly benefits the greedy preachers….

    TG: Or simply that most people in the socio-cultural setting of that time viscerally considered most non-reproductive sexual behavior gross. And actually, the Bible does not have strictures against ALL forms of non-reproductive sex. Oral sex, for example, is not mentioned at all. Even more remarkably, the Bible says absolutely nothing about abortion, even though the surrounding cultures did have laws about it, pro or con. That is why you see a diversity of stances among religions using the Bible as their base text.

    AYN: Next item. Science has discovered that ANYTHING that can begin to exist as a result of some purely physical process can also be destroyed by some other purely physical process. So, if a “soul” is claimed to be immortal, immune to mere physical harm, it CANNOT begin to exist as a result of the purely-physical/biological process of egg-fertilization. That means it can only begin to exist as a result of some other Event, perhaps an “Act of God”. WHEN would God do that? Is anyone idiotic enough to think that God MUST create a soul JUST because a human ovum got fertilized? How do you know that God didn’t create a zillion souls fourteen billion years ago, and the Universe was Created as a playground for them? (Such a possibility would lead us to “reincarnation” philosophy –most believers in that philosophy think a soul joins a human body at/after birth, not before birth. There also appears to be more Scientific evidence in favor of reincarnation than the notion that souls are created at conception. Try Googling for the phrase “twenty cases sugges” —Google will offer to fill in the rest.)

    TG: That is not really a problem in my religion, which teaches that “souls” are eternal and uncreated. Effectively, it does teach there were a zillion souls for whom God created the universe as a playground. In any case, no religion that I know of teaches that God MUST create soul just because a human ovum got fertilized. At most, they would argue that God CHOOSES to do so at that point. There might be some wrangling about divine foreknowledge and whatnot, but they would never argue that God must create a soul for each fertilized egg.

    AYN: Next argument: Consider the claim, “the body is a vehicle for the soul” –human engineers are smart enough to NOT install a driver of a vehicle before it is ready to be driven. Religionists apparently want us to think that God is more stupid than mere human engineers.

    TG: That argument would only apply to those who contend the soul is created at conception.

    AYN: Next argument: Look up “sensory deprivation experiments”. Science has discovered that just about any ordinary person deprived of sensory experiences can begin to go insane after about a week. Well, for most of a pregnancy, an unborn human is EXACTLY a sensory-deprivation environment; the physical senses haven’t GROWN into existence yet. Would a Loving God deliberately subject innocent souls to MONTHS of sensory deprivation?

    TG: At first glance, I would say that you are now making the mistake of comparing apples to oranges. As you admit, during most of pregnancy, the physical senses haven’t grown into existence yet. And so far as I know most or all sensory deprivation experiments are done on “ordinary persons,” i.e., people who have been born and live in a psycho-social environment. Sensory deprivation causes insanity precisely because their brains were wired in a way that an unborn human is not. Are you trying to argue the soul has the wiring to suffer from the effects of sensory deprivation? If so, I know of no religions that make that assertion.

    AYN: Next argument: A soul is supposed to be the source of a human’s Free Will. What can it DO during nine months of pregnancy? The entire growth process is controlled by DNA and the Law of Cause and Effect! AND that growth process Naturally fails to succeed about 1/7 to 1/6 of the time, mostly due to defective DNA. Is God ignorant of the DNA code, and unable to know which conceptions have no chance of succeeding, while our own genetics experts, using early-pregnancy amniocentesis samples, can determine exactly that thing? AGAIN Religionists want us to think that God is less capable than mere humans, and that God would install a zygote with a soul regardless of such Knowledge!

    TG: That is not really a problem in my religion, where Free Will is a property of a soul, rather than the soul being the source of Free Will. Nevertheless, this is generally a good argument that ensoulment does not take place at conception. At the very least, it muddies the waters for those who are absolutely certain ensoulment occurs at conception.

    You should be aware, however, that basing the argument on Free Will itself asserts a rather simplistic notion that many, if not most, of its advocates do not accept. There aren’t too many Free Will advocates that will say that free will can violate the law of cause and effect. Be careful that you are not setting up a strawman when you make this argument.

    AYN: Next argument: Start with the claims that God is Omniscient and Loving. That means that God knows, just as soon as any woman becomes pregnant, the exact probability that she would seek an abortion. God also knows that to kill a soul-possessing entity is to commit murder. So, would a Loving God install a soul into a zygote JUST so that the woman can be condemned later, a participant in a murder?

    TG: Again, not a problem in my religion, where God’s omniscience is limited by the individual’s free will. Also, knowing a probability is not the same thing as knowing with certainty. So, God could install a soul into a zygote knowing the probability the woman will have abortion without detracting from his omnibenevolence. He would not be doing it JUST so the woman can be condemned, though her condemnation would still be just. This kind of argument can only work against those who believe God’s omniscience is certain rather than merely probablistic.

    AYN: Like I said, it is easy to show that Religion-based opposition to abortion is just as nonsensical/irrational as Secular-based opposition. Enjoy!

    TG: It depends on the religion, and what, exactly, that religion is arguing. My religion, for example, is almost completely immune from all of the arguments you present because it makes no definitive statement of when ensoulment/personhood begins. Certainly individuals have their own opinions, but none of them are considered binding. And in regard to other religions, most of these arguments are very likely pounding on stawmen.

    • AYN: There is an additional fact about Birth that perhaps you should be more-aware of, involving the “placenta”. When a blastocyst implants into a womb, it divides into two major (but connected) components, one of which becomes the embryo/fetus, and the other of which becomes the placenta. The placenta is an ORGAN just like the heart or a lung is an organ, and the unborn human cannot survive without THAT PART OF ITSELF. When abortion opponents talk about the strong resemblance of unborn humans to born humans, they NEGLECT to mention that the placenta is a vital part of every unborn human –they are focusing on the similarities only, and not that huge/important Difference between it and a born human. Sure, we all know that the placenta is disposed-of during the overall sequence of birth-events. But that doesn’t change the fundamental Fact that an unborn human is NOT equivalent to a born human, even minutes before birth, because the unborn human needs its placenta to keep stealing oxygen from its mother during the birth-event.

      TG: I did not know the placenta was actually part of the fetus. But then, I never had to make explicit mention of the placenta in any of my arguments. Birth is the game changer because the infant is no longer dependent on the specific body of the mother. Why and how that dependency occurred just isn’t part of the calculation.
      ————————–
      The whole point of the placenta being physically separate (except for umbilicus) from the embryo/fetus is to make final separation easy, after the placenta is no longer needed. As an analogy, consider a snail with its two eye-stalks. Just because the eyes are some distance away from the main body of the snail, that does not mean they are not part of the main body.
      =================

      AYN: Moving on, are you perhaps thinking of various Religion-based notions regarding unborn humans and personhood? It is easy to show that those are no more valid than Secular notions on the topic. The first piece of evidence against their arguments is that they have CHANGED. Centuries ago an unborn human wasn’t even considered to be “alive” before it began to “kick” in the womb. If Religions want to claim they have the Truth, then why did they change their claims on that subject after Science made various discoveries about “life”???

      TG: Oh, I wouldn’t consider the fact that their claims have changed in light of new knowledge to be a point against Religion. It is actually more a point in their favor. After all, you are essentially berating abortion opponents for NOT changing their views in light of relevant facts.
      ———————–
      They think they can pick and choose, and THAT is their fundamental error. Science relentlessly produces facts, and none of those facts care about human opinions. ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.
      ===============

      You should also keep in mind that claiming to have the Truth does not equate to having omniscient knowledge. The Christian discussion about when an unborn human was “alive” was more about establishing at what point abortion came to be considered murder. In other words, abortion had always been considered a sin, it was just a matter of whether it was a venial or mortal one. And originally, those claims were based on a mistranslation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. Science gave them additional knowledge on the subject, and so the Catholic Church in particular adjusted accordingly.
      ————————-
      It depends on the Religion; it is my understanding that the Jews never considered abortion to be particularly sinful. There are some well-argued-about verses in Exodus (21: 22-23) in which ONE interpretation can be: The father can assign an ARBITRARY value to an unborn human, including a value of Zero.

      One additiona Fact needs to be mentioned: Sperm cells and ova are alive, too! So, if souls have to be always associated with living things, then the conception process leaves the Catholic Church with a huge problem –where does the soul of one of those cells go, when conception takes place (and, almost as serious, what of the 100-million-plus souls of all the sperm that didn’t join with an ovum in conception)? Basically, arguing an association between souls and living things, per “vitalism”, leads to absurdities.
      ================

      AYN: The most logical answer is: “They changed their tune for HUMAN reasons, not because of Godly reasons.” That is, if you read all the Biblical strictures against ALL forms of sexual behavior EXCEPT those that lead to reproduction, it becomes obvious that the preachers who wrote the Bible, and created a Theocracy with themselves on top, simply wanted more and more people/tithers under their control (who could become Holy Warriors, conquer additional lands, and bring even more people/tithers under their control). Obviously opposing abortion would be part of such a policy for any LIVING unborn human. So, if Science shows that the unborn are alive from conception, making a policy-change directly benefits the greedy preachers….

      TG: Or simply that most people in the socio-cultural setting of that time viscerally considered most non-reproductive sexual behavior gross. And actually, the Bible does not have strictures against ALL forms of non-reproductive sex. Oral sex, for example, is not mentioned at all. Even more remarkably, the Bible says absolutely nothing about abortion, even though the surrounding cultures did have laws about it, pro or con. That is why you see a diversity of stances among religions using the Bible as their base text.
      —————
      The Facts of History clearly show Relgions battling each other for control over the masses, and they didn’t stop until the notion of “separation of Church and State” became a formal political policy (sometime after the 30 Years War devastated Europe in the early-to-middle 1600s). I stand by what I wrote about greedy preachers, therefore. That is, they had no reason to think that unborn humans were alive, AND had souls, before they began to move about inside wombs –until Science came along. They ARBITRARILY decided to ignore the motion-as-beginning-soul-association thing, and changed their tune to claim that souls had to begin association with conception (“vitalism” again), even though they knew full well that other religions, like Hinduism, didn’t associate souls with humans until birth. All so they could insist that more future tithers be born!
      ==============

      AYN: Next item. Science has discovered that ANYTHING that can begin to exist as a result of some purely physical process can also be destroyed by some other purely physical process. So, if a “soul” is claimed to be immortal, immune to mere physical harm, it CANNOT begin to exist as a result of the purely-physical/biological process of egg-fertilization. That means it can only begin to exist as a result of some other Event, perhaps an “Act of God”. WHEN would God do that? Is anyone idiotic enough to think that God MUST create a soul JUST because a human ovum got fertilized? How do you know that God didn’t create a zillion souls fourteen billion years ago, and the Universe was Created as a playground for them? (Such a possibility would lead us to “reincarnation” philosophy –most believers in that philosophy think a soul joins a human body at/after birth, not before birth. There also appears to be more Scientific evidence in favor of reincarnation than the notion that souls are created at conception. Try Googling for the phrase “twenty cases sugges” —Google will offer to fill in the rest.)

      TG: That is not really a problem in my religion, which teaches that “souls” are eternal and uncreated. Effectively, it does teach there were a zillion souls for whom God created the universe as a playground. In any case, no religion that I know of teaches that God MUST create soul just because a human ovum got fertilized. At most, they would argue that God CHOOSES to do so at that point. There might be some wrangling about divine foreknowledge and whatnot, but they would never argue that God must create a soul for each fertilized egg.
      ——————–
      Nevertheless, the so-called “logic” of many abortion opponents, when claiming that unborn humans have souls, involves the insisting that ALL of them do, and therefore killing any of them would be murder. And that can ONLY be true if God acts like some kind of automaton thereby violating OTHER claims that Religious-minded abortion opponents make. It is the dichotomy that exposes their nonsense!
      ===============

      AYN: Next argument: Consider the claim, “the body is a vehicle for the soul” –human engineers are smart enough to NOT install a driver of a vehicle before it is ready to be driven. Religionists apparently want us to think that God is more stupid than mere human engineers.

      TG: That argument would only apply to those who contend the soul is created at conception.
      ——————-
      And, again, that is exactly what many Religious-minded abortion opponents want us to believe.
      ============

      AYN: Next argument: Look up “sensory deprivation experiments”. Science has discovered that just about any ordinary person deprived of sensory experiences can begin to go insane after about a week. Well, for most of a pregnancy, an unborn human is EXACTLY a sensory-deprivation environment; the physical senses haven’t GROWN into existence yet. Would a Loving God deliberately subject innocent souls to MONTHS of sensory deprivation?

      TG: At first glance, I would say that you are now making the mistake of comparing apples to oranges. As you admit, during most of pregnancy, the physical senses haven’t grown into existence yet. And so far as I know most or all sensory deprivation experiments are done on “ordinary persons,” i.e., people who have been born and live in a psycho-social environment. Sensory deprivation causes insanity precisely because their brains were wired in a way that an unborn human is not. Are you trying to argue the soul has the wiring to suffer from the effects of sensory deprivation? If so, I know of no religions that make that assertion.
      ——————
      There is a semi-standard description in which the occupying of a physical body somehow “blinds” a soul to easy interactions with other souls (the blinders come off at death, or sometimes get loosened when the brain is influenced by various drugs). I’m not aware that many Religions claim a soul “grows basic capabilities” the way the physical body does. So, that semi-standard description is telling us that a soul does have some sort of sensory-input capabilites –and when we add in the facts about the growth of physical senses, it quite-logically follows that for most of a pregnancy, a soul initially locked into a zygote is going to be sensory-deprived. And if a soul-possessing adult can go insane from the experience, why not a soul-possessing unborn human?
      ==============

      AYN: Next argument: A soul is supposed to be the source of a human’s Free Will. What can it DO during nine months of pregnancy? The entire growth process is controlled by DNA and the Law of Cause and Effect! AND that growth process Naturally fails to succeed about 1/7 to 1/6 of the time, mostly due to defective DNA. Is God ignorant of the DNA code, and unable to know which conceptions have no chance of succeeding, while our own genetics experts, using early-pregnancy amniocentesis samples, can determine exactly that thing? AGAIN Religionists want us to think that God is less capable than mere humans, and that God would install a zygote with a soul regardless of such Knowledge!

      TG: That is not really a problem in my religion, where Free Will is a property of a soul, rather than the soul being the source of Free Will. Nevertheless, this is generally a good argument that ensoulment does not take place at conception. At the very least, it muddies the waters for those who are absolutely certain ensoulment occurs at conception.
      ——————
      You may have misinterpreted part of what I wrote. The generic claim is that humans can only exercise Free Will because they have souls that give them that capability. The description “Free will is a property of a soul” or the description “soul is the source of Free Will” makes no difference to a human life. An unborn human simply doesn’t need it for anything, regardless.
      ============

      You should be aware, however, that basing the argument on Free Will itself asserts a rather simplistic notion that many, if not most, of its advocates do not accept. There aren’t too many Free Will advocates that will say that free will can violate the law of cause and effect. Be careful that you are not setting up a strawman when you make this argument.
      ——————–
      I’m quite sure of certain relevant Facts about Free Will, such that souls are not necessarily required for humans to have it. Here’s some text originally posted (the 3 parts below came from different places in one very long page) at that prolifehumanists.org site:
      ++++++++++++
      In closing I’ll mention something about Free Will. Science has proved it is able to exist, that the notion of “determinism” does not apply. The proof comes from Quantum Mechanics, and the studies of its “foundations”.

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

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

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

      Free Will is basically the ability to choose to do something totally at random. So, all we need do is ensure that our human-brain-equivalent computer has an equivalent ability to tap into Quantum Randomness, and it, too, will have the potential to exhibit Free Will.
      —————–
      Let us consider a somewhat classic scenario in which Person A starts the process of challenging Person B to a duel, by slapping the face of B with a glove. Depending on various things, B might immediately react (like a mere stimulus-response machine, not exhibiting free will), or B might pause and consider. What if B knows their relative duelling capabilities, and that A is basically about to commit suicide?

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

      THAT is where random nerve-firings become relevant –they can lead to random thoughts –and the longer that B delays responding to that original slap in the face, the more random thoughts B can consider, before choosing one.
      —————-
      Here is the relevant data, starting with some background. The Law of Cause and Effect (“Causality”) basically states that every event is the result of some prior event, and you can in theory trace any present event, such as a Decision that you THINK involves free will, backward to the Big Bang.

      However, as previously stated, experiments in Quantum Mechanics have proved that Pure and Utter Randomness is to be found underlying the “regular” workings of the Universe. Well, in order for any event to be truly Random, it CANNOT be caused by some prior event.

      The experiments have been performed multiple times and in multiple ways. Basically, if Quantum Randomness did not actually exist, then all the observed APPARENT randomness in Quantum Mechanics would be the result of the existence of something that had been called (by Einstein) “hidden variables”. However, a physicist named John Stewart Bell showed that if ACTUAL Quantum Randomness existed, a detectable difference could be found, between the predictions of a hidden-variable theory and a pure-randomness theory.

      In EVERY test ever performed, the data conclusively supports the existence of pure randomness in Quantum Mechanics. Therefore, to whatever extent a human Decision can be associated with Quantum Randomness, there is a BREAK in the chain of Causality and Classic Determinism.

      THAT is where those fine neural structures that I previously mentioned come into play, which can be directly influenced by Quantum Randomness. I pointed out how Evolution could give a survival advantage to organisms that made use of Quantum Randomness. Since it is well known that Evolution tends to build-upon already-existing stuff, when the next descendant species comes along, it logically follows that human brains should be able to access Quantum Randomness also –and be able to use it for MORE than merely escaping a predator….
      ++++++++++++
      A plausible explanation does not necessarily equal an accurate explanation, of course, and so it remains possible that souls are involved in human Free Will. Perhaps it is the souls that actually work with Quantum Randomness….
      ============

      AYN: Next argument: Start with the claims that God is Omniscient and Loving. That means that God knows, just as soon as any woman becomes pregnant, the exact probability that she would seek an abortion. God also knows that to kill a soul-possessing entity is to commit murder. So, would a Loving God install a soul into a zygote JUST so that the woman can be condemned later, a participant in a murder?

      TG: Again, not a problem in my religion, where God’s omniscience is limited by the individual’s free will. Also, knowing a probability is not the same thing as knowing with certainty. So, God could install a soul into a zygote knowing the probability the woman will have abortion without detracting from his omnibenevolence. He would not be doing it JUST so the woman can be condemned, though her condemnation would still be just. This kind of argument can only work against those who believe God’s omniscience is certain rather than merely probablistic.
      —————–
      I will agree that some of the arguments are weaker than others, but, TAKEN TOGETHER, they add up to something that should give pause to many abortion opponents arguing for ensoulment-at-conception on Religious grounds. For example, WHY does God need to give ANY unborn human a soul? So far as I know, NO Religion has an Answer to that Question, in this era where “vitalism” is known to be False!
      ===========

      AYN: Like I said, it is easy to show that Religion-based opposition to abortion is just as nonsensical/irrational as Secular-based opposition. Enjoy!

      TG: It depends on the religion, and what, exactly, that religion is arguing. My religion, for example, is almost completely immune from all of the arguments you present because it makes no definitive statement of when ensoulment/personhood begins. Certainly individuals have their own opinions, but none of them are considered binding. And in regard to other religions, most of these arguments are very likely pounding on stawmen.
      —————–
      Logically, your religion, based on what you wrote, should have little opposition to abortion, then, and that would quite-suffice to exempt it from all ensoulment-at-conception arguments. If your religion can offer some OTHER anti-abortion argument, I’d like to see it, because I’m certain it can be demolished, also.

      • ============================================
        AYN: Moving on, are you perhaps thinking of various Religion-based notions regarding unborn humans and personhood? It is easy to show that those are no more valid than Secular notions on the topic. The first piece of evidence against their arguments is that they have CHANGED. Centuries ago an unborn human wasn’t even considered to be “alive” before it began to “kick” in the womb. If Religions want to claim they have the Truth, then why did they change their claims on that subject after Science made various discoveries about “life”???

        TG: Oh, I wouldn’t consider the fact that their claims have changed in light of new knowledge to be a point against Religion. It is actually more a point in their favor. After all, you are essentially berating abortion opponents for NOT changing their views in light of relevant facts.
        ———————–
        [AYN:] They think they can pick and choose, and THAT is their fundamental error. Science relentlessly produces facts, and none of those facts care about human opinions. ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.
        ===============================================

        I still owe considerable replies to each of you in the conversations I’m having with each of you respectively, so maybe it’s bad form for me to jump into this without dealing with the backlog. But just a quick note: It seems to me you are each addressing a different implication of the adaptability, to new knowledge, of religious persons. AYN seemed in the first excerpt of his above to be saying that that adaptability casts doubt on the idea that the original scripture/doctrine was a certain, revealed truth in the first place. TG seems to be saying that that adaptability shows the rationality of the persons who have some basic allegiance to the scripture/doctrine. Then AYN, replying to the rationality topic, said that that rationality wasn’t consistent enough. Hope I haven’t misunderstood anybody.

        • It seems to me you are each addressing a different implication of the adaptability, to new knowledge, of religious persons. AYN seemed in the first excerpt of his above to be saying that that adaptability casts doubt on the idea that the original scripture/doctrine was a certain, revealed truth in the first place. TG seems to be saying that that adaptability shows the rationality of the persons who have some basic allegiance to the scripture/doctrine. Then AYN, replying to the rationality topic, said that that rationality wasn’t consistent enough.
          ——————-
          This may be somewhat repetitious, but it is my understanding that Western Churches were not opposed to abortion prior to the unborn human beginning to “kick”, because, originally, that is when they considered it to be alive AND ensouled.

          I’m almost certain the notion of “vitalism” (see my Dec 11 post at 7:48pm) made it SEEM rational to assume that ensoulment happened at conception, when Science discovered more about the Facts of Life. However, I’m equally certain that greed was a factor, too, related to such things as insisting that masturbation was more sinful than using a whore with the associated risk of reproduction. For Churches, the more tithers born, the better. Vitalism simply offered a way for the Churches to mask their greed.

          The supporting evidence for my argument comes from the failure of Churches to DIS-embrace vitalism after 1828 and the increasing discoveries that organic compounds were not inherently different from other chemical compounds (bigger and more complicated, yes, but fundamentally different, NO).

          I’m aware that PART of the problem was the fact that at least the Catholic Church had claimed its teachings to be infallible –despite being proved wrong by Galileo (discovered that Earth was NOT the center of creation) and Ben Franklin (inventor of the lightning rod; God does NOT need to directly be involved in common day-to-day events). The Protestant Reformation was a different sort of backlash about the infallibility of the Catholic Church –but in order to compete, the Protestants essentially had to claim THEY were correct, instead… and so ALL Western Churches were slow in embracing relevant-but-disagreeable Facts –especially about vitalism, but today we also have other Facts from completely related areas.

          A quick review of some of those other Facts: (1) The event that yields identical twins or triplets takes place 3 or 4 days AFTER conception; where do the extra souls come from? (2) “Chimerism” allows 2 separate conceptions to yield 1 human body –and NEITHER of the original organisms dies in the process, so where does the 2nd soul go? (3) Souls CANNOT begin to exist as a result of any purely physical process and also be immortal. (4) DNA, not God, is in charge of forming bodies in wombs; Religions should be GLAD that God no longer need take the blame for fatal mistakes that lead to Natural Miscarriages –but it also means God has a reason to NOT crank out souls like a mindless machine, just because human conceptions have occurred. (5) A true “feral child” exhibits ONLY the traits of a clever animal. Where is the soul that would give it more capabilities than that? (6) Sensory deprivation causes insanity. (7) Free Will can apparently exist independently of souls; the long-term consequences of THAT, for Religions, remains to be determined….

          Today, the various Churches that have still failed to embrace the Facts have basically “set themselves up for a fall”, and the Abortion Debate allows ALL the relevant Facts to push them towards that well-deserved “fall” (they DON’T actually know what they are talking about!).

          • AYN: This may be somewhat repetitious, but it is my understanding that Western Churches were not opposed to abortion prior to the unborn human beginning to “kick”, because, originally, that is when they considered it to be alive AND ensouled.

            TG: Your understanding is wrong. Abortion has traditionally been considered a sin in Western Churches since at least the second century C.E. There were debates about whether and when abortion constituted murder, and about what extenuating circumstances might apply. There was probably more variation among the Protestant sects, which may explain why even most conservatives were neutral or pro-choice in the wake of liberalizing abortion laws. Abortion became “murder” after the quickening, but it would be wrong to say the Western Churches were unopposed to abortion prior to it.

        • typo correction: “Facts, from completely related areas” should have been “Facts, from initially unrelated areas, which turned out to be Relevant.”

          Also note that while I listed 7 such items, I said they were “some” of the relevant facts, leaving open the possibility of others….

        • NTwR:I still owe considerable replies to each of you in the conversations I’m having with each of you respectively, so maybe it’s bad form for me to jump into this without dealing with the backlog. But just a quick note: It seems to me you are each addressing a different implication of the adaptability, to new knowledge, of religious persons. AYN seemed in the first excerpt of his above to be saying that that adaptability casts doubt on the idea that the original scripture/doctrine was a certain, revealed truth in the first place. TG seems to be saying that that adaptability shows the rationality of the persons who have some basic allegiance to the scripture/doctrine. Then AYN, replying to the rationality topic, said that that rationality wasn’t consistent enough. Hope I haven’t misunderstood anybody.

          TG: Anon Y Mous has already spoken for himself. I’ve now added another response, too. It should now be clear that I tend to agree with AYN that religionists rationality isn’t consistent enough, but that only makes them as human as the rest of us.

      • AYN: They think they can pick and choose, and THAT is their fundamental error. Science relentlessly produces facts, and none of those facts care about human opinions. ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.

        TG: Yes, and they also focus on anomalies and they also impute too much importance to certain facts that actually have little relevancy, and they also rely too much on anecdotal evidence as opposed to empirical evidence and they also…. Basically, they do the exact same things every other human being does, religious or secular. They change, they grow, they learn, they adapt.

        Don’t get me wrong here. I agree with you that all relevant facts need to be accepted. But facts are inert. We still have to decide what facts are relevant to a given situation. And of the relevant facts, we still have to determine how much weight should be given to each given piece of evidence. Religion has to do this no less than science does, so (getting back to the original argument) the fact that religion has changed its claims should come as no surprise. Change, in and of itself, is no more an argument against Religion than it is of Science.

        AYN: It depends on the Religion; it is my understanding that the Jews never considered abortion to be particularly sinful. There are some well-argued-about verses in Exodus (21: 22-23) in which ONE interpretation can be: The father can assign an ARBITRARY value to an unborn human, including a value of Zero.

        TG: Traditionally, Rabbinic Judaism’s stance on abortion does not equate to abortion on demand, but the primary consideration is given to the mother, mostly because the mother is a person and the fetus is not. Exodus 21:22-25 is the ground of no small contention in the abortion debate among Christians. The big problem for Christians who equate abortion with murder is the disparity of the punishment for causing the miscarriage and the punishment when the mother is harmed further. Lex talionis (i.e., the “eye for an eye”) is applied to the mother but not the fetus. Anti-abortion Christians have tried to make the passage mean inducing premature labor, with lex talionis applying if the result is a miscarriage. But that fails to deal with the relevant facts that all immature labor will result in a miscarriage before the thirty-fourth week without extraordinary medical intervention and that even with medical intervention, a blow sufficient enough to cause labor still results in the death of the fetus about one-third of the time even when it is otherwise viable. But note the interpretation of this passage is only relevant in dealing with sola scriptura Christian traditions. It is not so much of a problem for, among other groups, Catholics and the Orthodox.

        AYN: One additiona Fact needs to be mentioned: Sperm cells and ova are alive, too! So, if souls have to be always associated with living things, then the conception process leaves the Catholic Church with a huge problem –where does the soul of one of those cells go, when conception takes place (and, almost as serious, what of the 100-million-plus souls of all the sperm that didn’t join with an ovum in conception)? Basically, arguing an association between souls and living things, per “vitalism”, leads to absurdities.

        TG: This is not going to be so much of a problem for the Catholic Church or any other Christian denomination teaching ensoulment occurs at conception. Individual cells don’t have souls; people do. The contention is that a new person is created when sperm meets ovum, which, for such Christians, is when the soul is created and infused. As you pointed out, this causes problems of its own, but the non-existent souls of sperm cells and ova is not one of them.

        AYN: The Facts of History clearly show Relgions battling each other for control over the masses, and they didn’t stop until the notion of “separation of Church and State” became a formal political policy (sometime after the 30 Years War devastated Europe in the early-to-middle 1600s). I stand by what I wrote about greedy preachers, therefore. That is, they had no reason to think that unborn humans were alive, AND had souls, before they began to move about inside wombs –until Science came along. They ARBITRARILY decided to ignore the motion-as-beginning-soul-association thing, and changed their tune to claim that souls had to begin association with conception (“vitalism” again), even though they knew full well that other religions, like Hinduism, didn’t associate souls with humans until birth. All so they could insist that more future tithers be born!

        TG: Greedy preachers or not, you have shown that the decision itself is not arbitrary. As you said, “they had no reason to think that unborn humans were alive, AND had souls, before they began to move about inside wombs -until Science came along.” They may have, as you say, used Science to insist more future tithers be born, but that was hardly arbitrary.

        More seriously, I’m not saying that there aren’t greedy preachers or that the potential for future tithers never entered anyone’s calculus. I’m just saying it was much more complex than your conspiracy theory allows. Abortion had always been considered a sin in Catholicism, the debates were about whether and when abortion constituted murder, and/or what extenuating circumstances might apply. They didn’t need to move ensoulment back to conception in order to insure more future tithers were born; the pre-existing prohibition of abortion already took care of that. Protestants initially followed the Catholic line, but when abortion laws were liberalized and in the wake or Roe v. Wade, even many fundamentalists were neutral or pro-choice (largely based on Exodus 21:22-25), despite the potential loss of future tithers. As you said, ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.

        AYN: Nevertheless, the so-called “logic” of many abortion opponents, when claiming that unborn humans have souls, involves the insisting that ALL of them do, and therefore killing any of them would be murder. And that can ONLY be true if God acts like some kind of automaton thereby violating OTHER claims that Religious-minded abortion opponents make. It is the dichotomy that exposes their nonsense!

        TG: That is a better way of making your argument. As you put it previously, “Is anyone idiotic enough to think that God MUST create a soul JUST because a human ovum got fertilized?” The answer to that is no, and no religion actually teaches that. Posing such a argumentum ad absurdum (“that can only be true if God acts like some kind of automaton”) both avoids the strawmen and may just give them a reason to rethink their position. Of course, those who have already thought it through may be prepared to answer it.

        However, except as part of a religious freedom argument, the fact their stance conflicts with other religious-minded people is basically irrelevant. There is simply no reason for them to be bound by what other religions think about the point of ensoulment.

        AYN: And, again, that is exactly what many Religious-minded abortion opponents want us to believe.

        TG: Many, but hardly all. Just be careful that you are directing the right argument to the right target.

        AYN: There is a semi-standard description in which the occupying of a physical body somehow “blinds” a soul to easy interactions with other souls (the blinders come off at death, or sometimes get loosened when the brain is influenced by various drugs). I’m not aware that many Religions claim a soul “grows basic capabilities” the way the physical body does. So, that semi-standard description is telling us that a soul does have some sort of sensory-input capabilites –and when we add in the facts about the growth of physical senses, it quite-logically follows that for most of a pregnancy, a soul initially locked into a zygote is going to be sensory-deprived. And if a soul-possessing adult can go insane from the experience, why not a soul-possessing unborn human?

        TG: That is a question that has to be posed to someone able to offer (more or less) authoritative answers for their individual traditions. Since my tradition does not offer any authoritative answer to when ensoulment occurs, sensory-deprivation-induced insanity may not even be applicable. It does claim that a soul goes through different stages, which could be interpreted as growing basic capabilities analogous to a physical body. It’s a question I should bring up with my co-religionists who do believe the soul enters the body at conception.

        While a religion may not make a positive claim that a soul grows basic capabilities, they would claim there are certain things you do get to take with you after death–things that could only be acquired after ensoulment began. Logically, this indicates that the soul does grow in some sense, even if it isn’t fully analogous with physical growth. Another plausible answer may be the soul, though present before birth, is in a state of unconsciousness during the fetal period. That is, the senses are there, but they are just not turned on yet. Finally, even if the soul has sensory-input capabilities from the beginning, it may not necessarily follow that pregnancy results in sensory deprivation for the fetus. It is also commonly believed (though probably not an official article of faith) that children have an easier time interacting with other souls, i.e., the blinders that come with a physical body come later. Projecting backwards, the soul is interacting with other souls and is thus not being sensory deprived during pregnancy.

        Take all of that with a grain of salt, though. They are simply guesses about how those traditions MIGHT answer such questions.

        AYN: You may have misinterpreted part of what I wrote. The generic claim is that humans can only exercise Free Will because they have souls that give them that capability. The description “Free will is a property of a soul” or the description “soul is the source of Free Will” makes no difference to a human life. An unborn human simply doesn’t need it for anything, regardless.

        TG: Well, it makes a big difference to me, since it is one of the points of radical departure between my tradition and mainstream Christianity. I suppose looking at it from the outside it is a distinction without a difference. With or without Free Will, however, the general argument is still a good one: An intelligent God would not likely install a soul into a conceptus he knows is going to fail. At that’s before we add in the problems of spontaneous cloning and chimerism.

        AYN: Logically, your religion, based on what you wrote, should have little opposition to abortion, then, and that would quite-suffice to exempt it from all ensoulment-at-conception arguments. If your religion can offer some OTHER anti-abortion argument, I’d like to see it, because I’m certain it can be demolished, also.

        TG: In case you haven’t noticed, I am politically pro-choice based on a combination of my religious beliefs, science, and my support of human rights. Since some of my co-religionists do believe in ensoulment at conception, I now have some additional ammo to use my arguments with them. Thank you for that.

        • AYN: They think they can pick and choose, and THAT is their fundamental error. Science relentlessly produces facts, and none of those facts care about human opinions. ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.

          TG: Yes, and they also focus on anomalies and they also impute too much importance to certain facts that actually have little relevancy, and they also rely too much on anecdotal evidence as opposed to empirical evidence and they also…. Basically, they do the exact same things every other human being does, religious or secular. They change, they grow, they learn, they adapt.
          —————-
          Not quite –especially when they claim to be Right and Infallable. After making such a claim, ANY change proves them to be liars, twice.
          ============

          Don’t get me wrong here. I agree with you that all relevant facts need to be accepted. But facts are inert. We still have to decide what facts are relevant to a given situation. And of the relevant facts, we still have to determine how much weight should be given to each given piece of evidence. Religion has to do this no less than science does, so (getting back to the original argument) the fact that religion has changed its claims should come as no surprise. Change, in and of itself, is no more an argument against Religion than it is of Science.
          ———————
          Science doesn’t claim to be infallible; it knows that its descriptions of the physical world have long been “a series of improving approximations”. Today’s versions of those approximations are often highly accurate, but the door is left open for even-better improvements. Religions DON’T follow that model! For them the situation is practically the opposite; the word “heresy” is all about refusal to accept a proposed change. Change has to be rammed down their throats, more often than not. Google for [christian churches vs the lightning rod] (pretend the brackets represent the search box) for a specific example.
          ===============

          AYN: It depends on the Religion; it is my understanding that the Jews never considered abortion to be particularly sinful. There are some well-argued-about verses in Exodus (21: 22-23) in which ONE interpretation can be: The father can assign an ARBITRARY value to an unborn human, including a value of Zero.

          TG: Traditionally, Rabbinic Judaism’s stance on abortion does not equate to abortion on demand, but the primary consideration is given to the mother, mostly because the mother is a person and the fetus is not. Exodus 21:22-25 is the ground of no small contention in the abortion debate among Christians. The big problem for Christians who equate abortion with murder is the disparity of the punishment for causing the miscarriage and the punishment when the mother is harmed further.
          ————-
          Earlier on this page I wrote “God also knows that to kill a soul-possessing entity is to commit murder” (thereby encompassing intelligent extraterrestrial non-humans and even complex-enough robots). The CLAIM that unborn humans have souls would obviously associate abortion with murder –but the mere unsupported claim is, by itself, worthless. Since souls are (so far) generally outside the realm of Science, the claim cannot be proved using the tools of Science. But Logic is another matter; the claim cannot be true if it does not make logical sense (because Truth ALWAYS makes logical sense). To the extent that I have employed Science-type data in my arguments regarding souls, it is because the overall claim involves TWO things, the soul and a physical body–and Science has a LOT to say about physical bodies!
          ===========

          Lex talionis (i.e., the “eye for an eye”) is applied to the mother but not the fetus. Anti-abortion Christians have tried to make the passage mean inducing premature labor, with lex talionis applying if the result is a miscarriage.
          —————-
          And all such arguings ultimately derive from the CLAIM that unborn humans have souls. The more the data and Logic indicates they are wrong about that claim, the more all derived arguments are GIGO (garbage-in, garbage-out).
          ============

          But that fails to deal with the relevant facts that all immature labor will result in a miscarriage before the thirty-fourth week without extraordinary medical intervention and that even with medical intervention, a blow sufficient enough to cause labor still results in the death of the fetus about one-third of the time even when it is otherwise viable. But note the interpretation of this passage is only relevant in dealing with sola scriptura Christian traditions. It is not so much of a problem for, among other groups, Catholics and the Orthodox.
          ——————–
          I think I’m not properly understanding that. Unless you are referencing the notion that New Testament teachings are suppose to supersede various/limited Old Testament teachings? (For example, the description of God as being “loving” is not part of the O.T.)
          ================

          AYN: One additional Fact needs to be mentioned: Sperm cells and ova are alive, too! So, if souls have to be always associated with living things, then the conception process leaves the Catholic Church with a huge problem –where does the soul of one of those cells go, when conception takes place (and, almost as serious, what of the 100-million-plus souls of all the sperm that didn’t join with an ovum in conception)? Basically, arguing an association between souls and living things, per “vitalism”, leads to absurdities.

          TG: This is not going to be so much of a problem for the Catholic Church or any other Christian denomination teaching ensoulment occurs at conception. Individual cells don’t have souls; people do. The contention is that a new person is created when sperm meets ovum, which, for such Christians, is when the soul is created and infused. As you pointed out, this causes problems of its own, but the non-existent souls of sperm cells and ova is not one of them.
          ———————–
          Perhaps I should have been more clear. The notion of vitalism can be tied to another notion, “life force”. Believers in vitalism might state that life force is the essence of a soul. Well, since souls are claimed to be immortal, then they can hardly be ignored when they would exist as commonly as bacteria, and are loosed from the “physical plane” by the trillion as bodies die. THAT is what I was referencing.

          Human souls are considered special because they are associated with Free Will in addition to life force. Meanwhile, of course, Science came along and showed that the notion of life force is no more special than a charged battery, making it unnecessary to generically associate souls with living things. But I brought up the topic because THEY, the Religionists embracing vitalism, aren’t thinking about the Logical Consequences!
          ================

          AYN: The Facts of History clearly show Religions battling each other for control over the masses, and they didn’t stop until the notion of “separation of Church and State” became a formal political policy (sometime after the 30 Years War devastated Europe in the early-to-middle 1600s). I stand by what I wrote about greedy preachers, therefore. That is, they had no reason to think that unborn humans were alive, AND had souls, before they began to move about inside wombs –until Science came along. They ARBITRARILY decided to ignore the motion-as-beginning-soul-association thing, and changed their tune to claim that souls had to begin association with conception (“vitalism” again), even though they knew full well that other religions, like Hinduism, didn’t associate souls with humans until birth. All so they could insist that more future tithers be born!

          TG: Greedy preachers or not, you have shown that the decision itself is not arbitrary. As you said, “they had no reason to think that unborn humans were alive, AND had souls, before they began to move about inside wombs -until Science came along.” They may have, as you say, used Science to insist more future tithers be born, but that was hardly arbitrary.
          —————–
          It is possible that I could have better-stated my case here. Consider that the point in pregnancy when a fetus begins to kick is different for each fetus –somewhat arbitrary, therefore. To say ensoulment happens at that time is therefore also arbitrary –especially since those making the claims (A) can’t prove that souls exist at all, and (B) can’t prove they themselves have souls. So, personally, I don’t see much difference between an original arbitrary claim and an alternate claim, when the fundamental notion (that souls exist) is dispute-able –and when the Evidence is that biological organisms simply don’t need souls in order to survive. That is, ANY claim regarding ensoulment qualifies as “arbitrary”. Which leads us back to Logical Sense: which arbitrary point, for ensoulment, makes the most sense? Not conception, that’s for sure!
          =================

          More seriously, I’m not saying that there aren’t greedy preachers or that the potential for future tithers never entered anyone’s calculus. I’m just saying it was much more complex than your conspiracy theory allows. Abortion had always been considered a sin in Catholicism, the debates were about whether and when abortion constituted murder, and/or what extenuating circumstances might apply. They didn’t need to move ensoulment back to conception in order to insure more future tithers were born; the pre-existing prohibition of abortion already took care of that. Protestants initially followed the Catholic line, but when abortion laws were liberalized and in the wake or Roe v. Wade, even many fundamentalists were neutral or pro-choice (largely based on Exodus 21:22-25), despite the potential loss of future tithers. As you said, ALL relevant facts need to be accepted.
          ——————-
          The “greedy preachers” notion completely explains why abortion has always been a sin in Catholicism. Just think of the early years, when Christians were generically persecuted. They needed their numbers to grow as rapidly as possible! By the way, not all nations embrace the separation of Church and State. Thus we can expect a nuclear war between Israel and Iran in the not-too-distant future…because, if greedy preachers can’t control some batch of unbelievers, killing the unbelievers frees up the territory they occupy, so that the expanding population that IS under the control of the greedy preachers has more room in which to keep expanding.
          ============

          AYN: Nevertheless, the so-called “logic” of many abortion opponents, when claiming that unborn humans have souls, involves the insisting that ALL of them do, and therefore killing any of them would be murder. And that can ONLY be true if God acts like some kind of automaton thereby violating OTHER claims that Religious-minded abortion opponents make. It is the dichotomy that exposes their nonsense!

          TG: That is a better way of making your argument. As you put it previously, “Is anyone idiotic enough to think that God MUST create a soul JUST because a human ovum got fertilized?” The answer to that is no, and no religion actually teaches that. Posing such a argumentum ad absurdum (“that can only be true if God acts like some kind of automaton”) both avoids the strawmen and may just give them a reason to rethink their position. Of course, those who have already thought it through may be prepared to answer it.

          However, except as part of a religious freedom argument, the fact their stance conflicts with other religious-minded people is basically irrelevant. There is simply no reason for them to be bound by what other religions think about the point of ensoulment.
          —————–
          You appear to be mistaking something. the “OTHER claims” about which I referred are “other claims about God”. ALL Religionists claim that God is smart, and has complete data available –and so to describe God as acting like a mindless automaton, ignoring data about defective DNA, and ignoring the data that living things don’t NEED souls, is to conflict with the other claims, see? Also, there are some other statistics besides the natural miscarriage rate. Overall (because of several possible failure modes), about 50% of all conceptions fail to result in “confirmed pregnancies” –and God would know all about that, of course, which is even more reason to think God acts differently than an automaton. (It is the confirmed pregnancies that “only” have a 1/6 or 1/7 miscarriage rate.)

          By the way, there is another way that a pregnancy can end, different from miscarriage. It is known as “fetal resorption”. Near the beginning of a pregnancy it is possible (though rare) for the womb to sort-of work in reverse, sucking the biomass and the life out of the unborn. For some animals, when there is scarcity in the Environment, it is NORMAL for fetal resorption to happen –it is simply Nature’s way of not wasting biological resources on creating offspring that would not be able to survive in that Environment of scarcity. So, look at the average woman seeking an abortion; how often might this next statement be applicable? “My environment is not suitable for raising offspring.” Her desire to kill the unborn is PERFECTLY in tune with what Nature does! (And while the average abortion opponent won’t know the details of the woman’s situation, God certainly WILL, and therefore could have reason to not associate that unborn human with a soul!)
          ===============

          AYN: And, again, that is exactly what many Religious-minded abortion opponents want us to believe.

          TG: Many, but hardly all. Just be careful that you are directing the right argument to the right target.
          —————–
          The “right target” is any Religionist who opposes abortion using the “unborn have souls” claim. Those who subscribe to beliefs different enough to not oppose abortion are very likely not accepting that claim.
          ================

          AYN: There is a semi-standard description in which the occupying of a physical body somehow “blinds” a soul to easy interactions with other souls (the blinders come off at death, or sometimes get loosened when the brain is influenced by various drugs). I’m not aware that many Religions claim a soul “grows basic capabilities” the way the physical body does. So, that semi-standard description is telling us that a soul does have some sort of sensory-input capabilities –and when we add in the facts about the growth of physical senses, it quite-logically follows that for most of a pregnancy, a soul initially locked into a zygote is going to be sensory-deprived. And if a soul-possessing adult can go insane from the experience, why not a soul-possessing unborn human?

          TG: That is a question that has to be posed to someone able to offer (more or less) authoritative answers for their individual traditions. Since my tradition does not offer any authoritative answer to when ensoulment occurs, sensory-deprivation-induced insanity may not even be applicable. It does claim that a soul goes through different stages, which could be interpreted as growing basic capabilities analogous to a physical body. It’s a question I should bring up with my co-religionists who do believe the soul enters the body at conception.
          ———————
          OK, but keep in mind that since a soul cannot begin to exist as a result of the purely physical conception process (and ALSO be immortal, immune from any other physical event), it must begin to exist per some other means, such as an Act of God. Any Religion claiming a soul “grows” the equivalent of physical capabilities (different from growing more knowledgeable, or experienced, or insightful, etc) would need to explain why God doesn’t bother to create fully-grown souls (not counting knowledge, experience, etc). Especially when Religions were (at least originally) perfectly willing to accept God creating fully-grown human bodies (Adam and Eve, who also didn’t have much knowledge, experience, etc).
          ============

          While a religion may not make a positive claim that a soul grows basic capabilities, they would claim there are certain things you do get to take with you after death–things that could only be acquired after ensoulment began. Logically, this indicates that the soul does grow in some sense, even if it isn’t fully analogous with physical growth. Another plausible answer may be the soul, though present before birth, is in a state of unconsciousness during the fetal period. That is, the senses are there, but they are just not turned on yet. Finally, even if the soul has sensory-input capabilities from the beginning, it may not necessarily follow that pregnancy results in sensory deprivation for the fetus. It is also commonly believed (though probably not an official article of faith) that children have an easier time interacting with other souls, i.e., the blinders that come with a physical body come later. Projecting backwards, the soul is interacting with other souls and is thus not being sensory deprived during pregnancy.

          Take all of that with a grain of salt, though. They are simply guesses about how those traditions MIGHT answer such questions.
          ————————
          Yes, those are mostly reasonable suggestions. I might point out that in the “reincarnation” philosophy, we would definitely be talking about fully-developed souls getting involved all over again with newly-available human bodies. It wouldn’t make any sense at all for them to jump into a body that hadn’t developed the physical senses yet.

          There is another point though, that I should have mentioned earlier, a “guilt by association” thing. Unborn humans act worse than parasites, committing “assault” three different ways upon their hosts (by stealing nutrients, dumping toxic wastes, and infusing addictive hormones). Any adult doing any such thing to the body of another adult could CERTAINLY be accused of assault! If a soul becomes associated with a human at conception, then it is also automatically associated with bad behavior all through pregnancy. So why would a smart/knowledgeable God start such an association at conception, especially when 1/6 or 1/7 of pregnancies naturally miscarry, and those souls lose any chance to redeem themselves? Meanwhile, at birth a human begins qualifying as “innocent” in its behavior, so THAT is the logical time for soul-association to begin.

          And there is an additional aspect that could heap even more guilt upon souls associated with the unborn. In some respects souls should be considered to be fairly powerful entities (offspring of GOD, and what do offspring generally/eventually become…?) Suppose that SOME miscarriages happen not because of defective DNA, but because of something entirely different: A soul might be so aghast at what its associated unborn body is doing to its mother that the soul refuses to go along with it, and causes a miscarriage! IF SO, then any soul that accepts the assault of the unborn is obviously also accepting a “bad record” in terms of Judgment…. Still, any variation of that scenario can be avoided most simply if ensoulment happens after birth. (By the way, there is a variation on the soul-power thing just mentioned. I’ve read that one of the proposed explanations of “crib death” is that the soul changes its mind about wanting to be incarnated. However, this notion obviously depends on the notion that a soul chooses to become associated in the first place, no direct involvement by God needed –nor is association-at-conception essential, either. But the point about a soul having some Power, over the life of the body it occupies, remains consistent.)
          =================

          AYN: You may have misinterpreted part of what I wrote. The generic claim is that humans can only exercise Free Will because they have souls that give them that capability. The description “Free will is a property of a soul” or the description “soul is the source of Free Will” makes no difference to a human life. An unborn human simply doesn’t need it for anything, regardless.

          TG: Well, it makes a big difference to me, since it is one of the points of radical departure between my tradition and mainstream Christianity. I suppose looking at it from the outside it is a distinction without a difference. With or without Free Will, however, the general argument is still a good one: An intelligent God would not likely install a soul into a conceptus he knows is going to fail. At that’s before we add in the problems of spontaneous cloning and chimerism.
          —————
          OK. But one of the items you just stated appears to be inaccurate. If you are calling the process that yields identical twins or triplets “spontaneous cloning”, then you are somewhat mistaken. What happens is pretty simple, but some background info is needed. First, the ovum actually possesses a sort of “shell” (the “zona pallucida”), and the ova of older women tend to have thicker/tougher shells than the ova of younger women. Second, as soon as the zygote starts dividing, it is no longer worthy of the label “zygote”. The correct label is “morula”. Third, the ovum includes a fair amount of nutrients (not unlike a chicken egg), and those nutrients provide for several rounds of cell-division. Fourth, after about 4 days of cell-divisions, the morula has used up the nutrients and needs to crack the shell and escape, to obtain more nutrients. By exiting it becomes a “blastocyst”. But in the process of squeezing through the cracked shell, the organism can break apart (especially if the shell is thicker/tougher), and basically yield more than one blastocyst. (Those thicker/tougher shells tend to make older women somewhat less fertile than younger women –not every morula succeeds in cracking the shell– and also explains the greater prevalence of identical siblings among their offspring.) Since cell-differentiation has not yet begun, each of the blastocysts can separately implant in the womb and become a complete human body –with identical twins being the most common result (and identical triplets being rare, and identical quadruplets almost never happening –too few cells, from the original morula, per blastocyst, see?). Here is a picture of the blastocyst coming out of the shell (prepend the http, but not a www):
          images.usatoday.com/news/science/wonderquest/photos/2001-april-june/2001-05-09-twins-trigger.jpg

          The question for Religionist abortion opponents remains, though, of where the extra soul or souls come from, since no “conception event” is involved here.
          =========

          AYN: Logically, your religion, based on what you wrote, should have little opposition to abortion, then, and that would quite-suffice to exempt it from all ensoulment-at-conception arguments. If your religion can offer some OTHER anti-abortion argument, I’d like to see it, because I’m certain it can be demolished, also.

          TG: In case you haven’t noticed, I am politically pro-choice based on a combination of my religious beliefs, science, and my support of human rights. Since some of my co-religionists do believe in ensoulment at conception, I now have some additional ammo to use my arguments with them. Thank you for that.
          —————-
          You are welcome!

          • Anon Y Mous, I think you’re aware that TG has indicated his own religion to be one of those in which changes of doctrine have been made. Let’s criticize the beliefs of others without using harsh language.

          • Is not “harsh” in the eye of the beholder? Look at the Bible, where the Hebrews invaded Canaan, and see what sort of language the Hebrew preachers used when talking about the Canaanites.

            Then think about something from another religious philosophy altogether: “bad karma”, and flash-forward your thoughts to the 1940s and the harsh language that preceded the Holocaust….

            Has my language truly been THAT harsh, in attempting to present Facts without sugar-coating them?

          • AYN: Not quite –especially when they claim to be Right and Infallable. After making such a claim, ANY change proves them to be liars, twice.

            TG: No, it doesn’t. Despite popular misconceptions, the claim to infallibility is limited for most churches. What it applies to varies with the denomination, and most emphatically does NOT apply to mere interpretations. Outside the realm of what is infallible, pretty much anything can go. So when Science informs them more correctly about a matter, adapting to the new knowledge does not constitute a strike to their infallibility. To you and me, this can sound pretty much like splitting hairs, but the abortion debate is not going to get anywhere if everyone insists on putting words in each others mouths.

            AYN: Science doesn’t claim to be infallible; it knows that its descriptions of the physical world have long been “a series of improving approximations”. Today’s versions of those approximations are often highly accurate, but the door is left open for even-better improvements. Religions DON’T follow that model! For them the situation is practically the opposite; the word “heresy” is all about refusal to accept a proposed change. Change has to be rammed down their throats, more often than not. Google for [christian churches vs the lightning rod] (pretend the brackets represent the search box) for a specific example.

            TG: Science is hardly exempt from the need to have change rammed down their throats. Look at how long it took for Copernican theory to be fully accepted among scientists. Science initially rejected the Big Bang theory in part because it was proposed by a Catholic priest. No, Science doesn’t follow the same model as Religion. But then, Religion is not Science, so there is no reason to expect it to.

            AYN: And all such arguings ultimately derive from the CLAIM that unborn humans have souls. The more the data and Logic indicates they are wrong about that claim, the more all derived arguments are GIGO (garbage-in, garbage-out).

            TG: Which is why, in matters of public policy, religion is forced to move toward secular arguments. And they are not much better. “Personhood” has replaced “ensoulment” as the buzzword, but the claims are still pretty much the same. That’s probably why most anti-abortion proponents rely on highly charged emotional language.

            AYN: I think I’m not properly understanding that. Unless you are referencing the notion that New Testament teachings are suppose to supersede various/limited Old Testament teachings? (For example, the description of God as being “loving” is not part of the O.T.)

            TG: No, I’m referencing one of the big differences between Catholic/Orthodox traditions and Protestant traditions. By and large, Protestants say the Bible alone (sola scriptura) is the only authoritative guide in matters of faith and practice. So for conservative Protestants, Exodus 21:22-25 is a problem when it comes to equating abortion with murder (not to mention the fact that the Bible says absolutely nothing about induced abortion, for or against). They actually have to change what the Bible actually says in order to get to their position. This is not so much a problem for Catholics and the Orthodox, because their sources of religious authority is not limited to the Bible.

            AYN: Perhaps I should have been more clear. The notion of vitalism can be tied to another notion, “life force”. Believers in vitalism might state that life force is the essence of a soul. Well, since souls are claimed to be immortal, then they can hardly be ignored when they would exist as commonly as bacteria, and are loosed from the “physical plane” by the trillion as bodies die. THAT is what I was referencing.

            Human souls are considered special because they are associated with Free Will in addition to life force. Meanwhile, of course, Science came along and showed that the notion of life force is no more special than a charged battery, making it unnecessary to generically associate souls with living things. But I brought up the topic because THEY, the Religionists embracing vitalism, aren’t thinking about the Logical Consequences!

            TG: Okay, I think I see what you are saying. It is the same lack of thinking about logical consequences that causes me to bring up the subject of identical twins/triplets and chimerism. I don’t know how many modern Christians would connect souls with the “life force” of vitalism, so this argument probably won’t get you very far.

            AYN: It is possible that I could have better-stated my case here. Consider that the point in pregnancy when a fetus begins to kick is different for each fetus –somewhat arbitrary, therefore. To say ensoulment happens at that time is therefore also arbitrary –especially since those making the claims (A) can’t prove that souls exist at all, and (B) can’t prove they themselves have souls. So, personally, I don’t see much difference between an original arbitrary claim and an alternate claim, when the fundamental notion (that souls exist) is dispute-able –and when the Evidence is that biological organisms simply don’t need souls in order to survive. That is, ANY claim regarding ensoulment qualifies as “arbitrary”. Which leads us back to Logical Sense: which arbitrary point, for ensoulment, makes the most sense? Not conception, that’s for sure!

            TG: Pretty much any point one says ensoulment takes place or when personhood begins is going to be arbitrary. I think that a certain amount of arbitrariness will just have to be accepted when it comes to public policy. Conception is a practical point, but as you said, does not make the most logical sense. Birth is more practical for the simple fact one can point at a baby whereas one cannot point at a fetus.

            AYN: The “greedy preachers” notion completely explains why abortion has always been a sin in Catholicism. Just think of the early years, when Christians were generically persecuted. They needed their numbers to grow as rapidly as possible! By the way, not all nations embrace the separation of Church and State. Thus we can expect a nuclear war between Israel and Iran in the not-too-distant future…because, if greedy preachers can’t control some batch of unbelievers, killing the unbelievers frees up the territory they occupy, so that the expanding population that IS under the control of the greedy preachers has more room in which to keep expanding.

            TG: Except that during the early years they were expecting the parousia literally at any time. Marriage (and procreation) was seen as an accommodation to prevent greater sins, not as a means of growing their numbers. Much of the history of Catholocism is characterized as seeing marriage, sex, and procreation as an inferior way of (godly) life. Celibacy was held as the ideal, and that doesn’t do much to produce more tithers. Again, the greedy preachers notion does very little to explain why abortion has always been a sin in Catholocism. There is some continuity with certain strands of Jewish thought (that didn’t develop into Rabbinic Judaism), and that may explain some of it. There is also the principal Greek translation of Exodus 21:22-25, in conjunction with Luke 1:41-44, that helped give rise to the idea that ensoulment happened at the quickening. The passage in Luke alone could explain why early Christians prohibited abortion.

            AYN: You appear to be mistaking something. the “OTHER claims” about which I referred are “other claims about God”. ALL Religionists claim that God is smart, and has complete data available –and so to describe God as acting like a mindless automaton, ignoring data about defective DNA, and ignoring the data that living things don’t NEED souls, is to conflict with the other claims, see?

            TG: Not yet. Are you saying they are being self-contradictory, or that their claims conflict with the claims of other religions?

            AYN: Also, there are some other statistics besides the natural miscarriage rate. Overall (because of several possible failure modes), about 50% of all conceptions fail to result in “confirmed pregnancies” –and God would know all about that, of course, which is even more reason to think God acts differently than an automaton. (It is the confirmed pregnancies that “only” have a 1/6 or 1/7 miscarriage rate.)

            TG: Does that 50% figure include the use of certain forms of birth control that makes it difficult if not impossible for the conceptus to implant?

            AYN: By the way, there is another way that a pregnancy can end, different from miscarriage. It is known as “fetal resorption”. Near the beginning of a pregnancy it is possible (though rare) for the womb to sort-of work in reverse, sucking the biomass and the life out of the unborn. For some animals, when there is scarcity in the Environment, it is NORMAL for fetal resorption to happen –it is simply Nature’s way of not wasting biological resources on creating offspring that would not be able to survive in that Environment of scarcity. So, look at the average woman seeking an abortion; how often might this next statement be applicable? “My environment is not suitable for raising offspring.” Her desire to kill the unborn is PERFECTLY in tune with what Nature does! (And while the average abortion opponent won’t know the details of the woman’s situation, God certainly WILL, and therefore could have reason to not associate that unborn human with a soul!)

            TG: This I knew something about. I previously speculated in this thread that abortion may have begun as a survival strategy when resources were scarce. I was going to mention the phenomenon of fetal resorption, but I probably would have (mis)characterized it as a spontaneous abortion.

            AYN: The “right target” is any Religionist who opposes abortion using the “unborn have souls” claim. Those who subscribe to beliefs different enough to not oppose abortion are very likely not accepting that claim.

            TG: But it would be a misfire against a religionist who opposes abortion on other grounds. A belief that human life in itself is sacred would probably still hold regardless of when ensoulment occurs or when personhood begins. The unborn may only be a potential person, but that potential must be allowed to develop. To do anything less would be inhumane, they might say. Again, my caution is about making sure you are addressing the right person in your arguments.

            AYN: OK, but keep in mind that since a soul cannot begin to exist as a result of the purely physical conception process (and ALSO be immortal, immune from any other physical event), it must begin to exist per some other means, such as an Act of God. Any Religion claiming a soul “grows” the equivalent of physical capabilities (different from growing more knowledgeable, or experienced, or insightful, etc) would need to explain why God doesn’t bother to create fully-grown souls (not counting knowledge, experience, etc). Especially when Religions were (at least originally) perfectly willing to accept God creating fully-grown human bodies (Adam and Eve, who also didn’t have much knowledge, experience, etc).

            TG: Actually, no, it does not have to begin to exist per some other means. In my religion, the existence of souls is a brute fact. They exist eternally; God does not create them. They go through different stages that might be considered analogous (not equivalent) to physical growth. When they become infused into physical bodies is an open question, but
            occupying a physical body is one stage of that growth. Neither is there any such thing as a fully-grown soul; God himself is still growing.

            AYN: Yes, those are mostly reasonable suggestions. I might point out that in the “reincarnation” philosophy, we would definitely be talking about fully-developed souls getting involved all over again with newly-available human bodies. It wouldn’t make any sense at all for them to jump into a body that hadn’t developed the physical senses yet.

            TG: That would be true of my tradition as well, except the fully-developed soul part. A somewhat developed, definitely conscious soul does make the jump into a human body at some point. Like I said, I’ll have to talk to my co-religionists who believe the jump is made at conception. I suspect the answer is going to be something like, “They still have contact with the spirit world, therefore they do not suffer from sensory deprivation.” It still wouldn’t make that much more sense for them to jump into bodies that don’t have physical senses, but it would help resolve some of the difficulties.

            AYN: There is another point though, that I should have mentioned earlier, a “guilt by association” thing. Unborn humans act worse than parasites, committing “assault” three different ways upon their hosts (by stealing nutrients, dumping toxic wastes, and infusing addictive hormones). Any adult doing any such thing to the body of another adult could CERTAINLY be accused of assault! If a soul becomes associated with a human at conception, then it is also automatically associated with bad behavior all through pregnancy. So why would a smart/knowledgeable God start such an association at conception, especially when 1/6 or 1/7 of pregnancies naturally miscarry, and those souls lose any chance to redeem themselves? Meanwhile, at birth a human begins qualifying as “innocent” in its behavior, so THAT is the logical time for soul-association to begin.

            TG: In most cases, guilt isn’t imputed until someone has achieved the age of accountability (this varies with the religion, denomination, and sect). Yes, an adult deliberately doing these sorts of things would certainly be guilty of assault. But for a fetus, these are just normal bodily functions with neutral moral value. Those believing in ensoulment at conception would still be able to maintain the innocence of the fetus’ behavior.

            AYN: And there is an additional aspect that could heap even more guilt upon souls associated with the unborn. In some respects souls should be considered to be fairly powerful entities (offspring of GOD, and what do offspring generally/eventually become…?) Suppose that SOME miscarriages happen not because of defective DNA, but because of something entirely different: A soul might be so aghast at what its associated unborn body is doing to its mother that the soul refuses to go along with it, and causes a miscarriage! IF SO, then any soul that accepts the assault of the unborn is obviously also accepting a “bad record” in terms of Judgment…. Still, any variation of that scenario can be avoided most simply if ensoulment happens after birth. (By the way, there is a variation on the soul-power thing just mentioned. I’ve read that one of the proposed explanations of “crib death” is that the soul changes its mind about wanting to be incarnated. However, this notion obviously depends on the notion that a soul chooses to become associated in the first place, no direct involvement by God needed –nor is association-at-conception essential, either. But the point about a soul having some Power, over the life of the body it occupies, remains consistent.)

            TG: That is an interesting thought. It is also consistent with the idea that a person may feel guilt over something even though they haven’t committed an imputed sin, thus the actual innocence of the fetus may be maintained. The variation usually found in my tradition is that the spirit is sufficiently advanced that it doesn’t need to be incarnated for very long.

            AYN: OK. But one of the items you just stated appears to be inaccurate. If you are calling the process that yields identical twins or triplets “spontaneous cloning”, then you are somewhat mistaken.

            The question for Religionist abortion opponents remains, though, of where the extra soul or souls come from, since no “conception event” is involved here.

            TG: Thanks for the correction. Even in terms of “secular” personhood, identical twins or triplets remain a problem. Since there was only one conception event, are the twins/triplets one person or two/three people? The common intuition is that they are separate people, but this doesn’t jell with the idea that personhood begins with conception.

          • AYN: Not quite –especially when they claim to be Right and Infallible. After making such a claim, ANY change proves them to be liars, twice.

            TG: No, it doesn’t. Despite popular misconceptions, the claim to infallibility is limited for most churches. What it applies to varies with the denomination, and most emphatically does NOT apply to mere interpretations. Outside the realm of what is infallible, pretty much anything can go. So when Science informs them more correctly about a matter, adapting to the new knowledge does not constitute a strike to their infallibility. To you and me, this can sound pretty much like splitting hairs, but the abortion debate is not going to get anywhere if everyone insists on putting words in each others mouths.
            ——————————
            I’m not the one who claimed to be “infallible”, and I do know that the dictionary definition doesn’t place limits upon it. If the Churches actually do place limits on their infallibility, I’ve never seen a list, like “These are the things about which our teachings are correct/infallible.” Nope, not ever have I seen anything like that. Can you provide a link?

            And so what I wrote was simply the logical consequence of that: If they make a Policy Change, after declaring themselves to be Right and Infallible, then they have proved themselves to be liars, twice (once about being Right, and once about being Infallible).
            ===================

            AYN: Science doesn’t claim to be infallible; it knows that its descriptions of the physical world have long been “a series of improving approximations”. Today’s versions of those approximations are often highly accurate, but the door is left open for even-better improvements. Religions DON’T follow that model! For them the situation is practically the opposite; the word “heresy” is all about refusal to accept a proposed change. Change has to be rammed down their throats, more often than not. Google for [christian churches vs the lightning rod] (pretend the brackets represent the search box) for a specific example.

            TG: Science is hardly exempt from the need to have change rammed down their throats. Look at how long it took for Copernican theory to be fully accepted among scientists. Science initially rejected the Big Bang theory in part because it was proposed by a Catholic priest. No, Science doesn’t follow the same model as Religion. But then, Religion is not Science, so there is no reason to expect it to.
            ————————–
            Science has had its equivalent of greedy preachers, certainly. However, unlike Religions, when some well-respected but faulty scientist dies, the fault tends to get corrected. Famous quote: “Science progresses funeral by funeral.” Those impatient smart-aleck youngsters may want Science to progress more rapidly than it already does, but at least it actually does eventually progress as a result of the work they do.

            Oh, one other thing: “preponderance of the evidence”. Any wild new hypothesis needs supporting evidence, and the more the hypothesis conflicts with already-gathered evidence, the more resistance there will be to accepting the hypothesis. Another quote: “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.” The Ptolemaic theory was quite adequate for making astronomical predictions about where/when to look in the skies to see things like Jupiter. The Copernican theory was simpler but did not offer BETTER predictions –at least not until Tycho Brahe made superb/accurate eyeball observations of Mars, after which Johannes Kepler showed that the “best fit” for the new data was an ellipse, not a Ptolemaic circle/cycle –and incidentally showing that Copernicus wasn’t completely right, either (he also assumed circular orbits).

            The Big Bang theory is much older than any Catholic priest. The descriptions of the cosmos in ancient Hindu writings can be interpreted as an “oscillating universe” hypothesis, with Big Bangs followed by Big Crunches, with lots of billions of years (I don’t recall off-hand how many) in-between each event. While at this time we have no data suggesting that a Big Crunch lies in our own (distant) future, we accept the Big Bang because it left a kind of “echo” that can still be “heard” (first detected about 1966). (Note distinction in Science between “hypothesis” and “theory” –the former is a guess awaiting supporting evidence; the latter is a guess that generally has a lot of supporting evidence. It is CORRECT for Science to mostly-ignore hypotheses that lack supporting evidence.)
            ======================

            AYN: And all such arguings ultimately derive from the CLAIM that unborn humans have souls. The more the data and Logic indicates they are wrong about that claim, the more all derived arguments are GIGO (garbage-in, garbage-out).

            TG: Which is why, in matters of public policy, religion is forced to move toward secular arguments. And they are not much better. “Personhood” has replaced “ensoulment” as the buzzword, but the claims are still pretty much the same. That’s probably why most anti-abortion proponents rely on highly charged emotional language.
            ———————-
            And that’s why I find myself talking about “mis-use of the language”. Here, feel free to copy/repost this anywhere you like:
            +++++++++++++++++++
            I really wish you deluded folks would stop spouting nonsense, and stop abusing the English language.

            Let’s start with the dictionary –do you know how the editors of a dictionary decide what words mean? They basically ONLY “record common usage”. They do not create word-definitions out of nothing. As a result, though, the meanings of common words tends to mutate as the generations go by. There are some exceptions, though, mostly because of Science. The word “arsenic” used to refer to a particular poison, but now that definition takes second-place after Chemical Element #33 (the actual poison is a chemical compound that contains arsenic). The primary definition of “arsenic” is not likely to ever change in the future.

            So, let’s talk about the word “baby”. You folks mis-use it from the get-go, THINKING that the dictionary will always support your “popular” usage of it (the notion that an “living unborn human organism” = “baby”). Hah! Even just before birth, there is a HUGE difference between the unborn and the born, and that difference is called “the placenta”. It is PART of the unborn life; it is an “organ” as important as the heart or the lungs –MORE important than the lungs, since the unborn survives without using its lungs but needs its placenta! Just because that organ is separated from the fetus by the umbilicus makes no difference; both started out existing from the same fertilized ovum. To deny that the placenta is part of the unborn is equivalent to denying that the eye (another type of body-organ) at the end of the eye-stalk of a snail is part of the snail.

            So, in the long run, when this distinction between the born and the unborn widely enters the popular consciousness, it is logical to expect that people will have to stop calling an unborn human a “baby”, because an ACTUAL baby does not include/need a placenta! All your propagandistic pictures of fetuses that DON’T include placentas are LIES! –because they don’t tell the Whole Truth about unborn humans! (One of the well-recognized ways to tell a lie is to only tell part of the truth, and let the other person jump to a wrong conclusion.) The dictionaries, however, can be expected to eventually be updated with the Actual Truth, the Scientific Facts about the difference between an unborn human and a baby.

            Another pair of facts can even make it ethically WRONG to arbitrarily call an unborn human a “baby”. The first fact is the Natural Miscarriage Rate; about 1/7 to 1/6 of confirmed pregnancies fail to reach term. The second relates to complex systems of every type and Murphy’s Law: “Anything that can go wrong, will.” The growth process, from a single undifferentiated cell to trillions of specialized cells, is very complex; it would be technically very accurate to call an unborn human a “baby under construction”. When the construction process finishes successfully, a live birth can happen –and when it fails, a miscarriage or still-birth happens. To call the unborn a “baby” instead of “baby under construction” is to imply that success has already happened. That is a LIE, and it “sets people up for an emotional fall” whenever a miscarriage happens, because there is a large psychological difference between the descriptions “she was aware the whole time that the construction project she hosted was subject to Murphy’s Law and might fail” and “she lost the baby”. Your deliberate MIS-use of the word “baby”, during pregnancy, just to score political points, causes huge emotional trauma whenever a miscarriage or still-birth happens! HOW DARE YOU BE THAT HEINOUSLY UNETHICAL!

            The next word you folks commonly mis-use is “person”. Sure, the dictionaries currently reflect the common usage, which equates that word with “human”. However, anyone who has ever enjoyed Science Fiction, such as “Star Trek” or “Star Wars” (most of the human race by now, what with re-runs), KNOWS that the concept of “person” is separate and distinct from the concept of “human”. One does not have to be human in order to be a person! AND THEREFORE it does not logically follow that just because some living organism happens to be human, it must also be a person. Just look at the average “white blood cell” for proof. It is alive and has human DNA and is able to reproduce –but it is just a cell, not a person. So, why should a just-fertilized human ovum, a zygote, be called a person? It also is just a cell! (BEWARE of invoking the word “potential”! Modern “stem cell research” has proved that ANY DNA-possessing cell has the same potential as a zygote! Thus if a zygote is a person, so also is a white-blood cell –and anyone who cuts self while shaving, and bleeds a little, becomes guilty of multiple homicides!) Therefore you can expect the dictionaries to eventually reflect the data about “person”, just like they will eventually reflect the data about “baby”.

            The last piece of English mis-usage that I want to discuss is “human being”, a phrase more-so than a single word. Of the two, the word “being” is more relevant. It has several definitions, and those definitions can be “conflated”, which leads to nonsense. For proof, consider this comparison: “Being” can mean “exists”, so if a human exists it can be called a “human being” –but ALSO if a rock exists it can be called a “rock being”! But why is the phrase “rock being” not frequently used in casual conversations??? Answer: One of the OTHER definitions of “being” is “person” –and no rock (that we know of) qualifies as a person! WELL, go back to the previous paragraph! What of the phrases “white blood cell being” or “zygote being”? Since NEITHER of them also appear in casual conversations, doesn’t it logically follow that a zygote is NOT a person?! (Meanwhile, people DO use phrases such as “intelligent being” or “alien being” or “extraterrestrial being”, because in those cases they ARE talking about persons!) So, it is the “conflation” of “exists” and “being” that leads to CLAIMS that unborn humans qualify as persons. Duh, would you try to prove that a horse is a person just by CALLING it a “horse being”? No? What about the fictional TV character “Mr. Ed”? If HE qualifies as a person, then, logically, there must exist some differentiating criteria that separates ordinary horses (mere animals) from person-class horses. Well, it THAT can be true for horses, then why not also for humans? That is, to just CALL a human fetus a “human being” is NOT to prove it is a person! (Especially when you go back to the third paragraph and note the difference that the placenta makes.)

            In closing I will point out that Science has discovered some interesting fundamental facts about the concept of “personhood”. It is an ACQUIRED characteristic of humans; it is NOT an innate characteristic. The proof relates to the existence of otherwise-ordinary children who fail to exhibit behavior different from the “clever animal” level; the circumstances in which they grew up prevented them from acquiring personhood. For more details, look up “feral child” –and also look up “Koko the gorilla” (a non-human can exhibit more characteristics of personhood than a human!).
            +++++++++++++++++++

            Also, with respect to the US Constitution, that document REQUIRES, every ten years, a Census of all Persons be done. In NO Census has the unborn EVER been counted as Persons! (prepend http and www to this link: .census.gov/history/www/through_the_decades/index_of_questions/ ) The Founding Fathers were right there in 1790 to specify how the very first Census was to be done; they were not stupid enough to count chickens before they hatched, and they were not stupid enough to count Persons before they were born –unlike today’s abortion opponents, especially those who THINK they know what the Founding Fathers would have done about the personhood controversy –we actually do know what they actually DID do about it!
            ======================

            AYN: I think I’m not properly understanding that. Unless you are referencing the notion that New Testament teachings are suppose to supersede various/limited Old Testament teachings? (For example, the description of God as being “loving” is not part of the O.T.)

            TG: No, I’m referencing one of the big differences between Catholic/Orthodox traditions and Protestant traditions. By and large, Protestants say the Bible alone (sola scriptura) is the only authoritative guide in matters of faith and practice. So for conservative Protestants, Exodus 21:22-25 is a problem when it comes to equating abortion with murder (not to mention the fact that the Bible says absolutely nothing about induced abortion, for or against). They actually have to change what the Bible actually says in order to get to their position. This is not so much a problem for Catholics and the Orthodox, because their sources of religious authority is not limited to the Bible.
            ————————
            Thank you! (And, obviously, if Protestants have to change the Bible to make it consistent with their other blatherings, they might as well throw out the Bible entirely –either it is entirely sacred, or not.)
            ===================

            AYN: Perhaps I should have been more clear. The notion of vitalism can be tied to another notion, “life force”. Believers in vitalism might state that life force is the essence of a soul. Well, since souls are claimed to be immortal, then they can hardly be ignored when they would exist as commonly as bacteria, and are loosed from the “physical plane” by the trillion as bodies die. THAT is what I was referencing.

            Human souls are considered special because they are associated with Free Will in addition to life force. Meanwhile, of course, Science came along and showed that the notion of life force is no more special than a charged battery, making it unnecessary to generically associate souls with living things. But I brought up the topic because THEY, the Religionists embracing vitalism, aren’t thinking about the Logical Consequences!

            TG: Okay, I think I see what you are saying. It is the same lack of thinking about logical consequences that causes me to bring up the subject of identical twins/triplets and chimerism. I don’t know how many modern Christians would connect souls with the “life force” of vitalism, so this argument probably won’t get you very far.
            ——————
            My goal is not so much as to present a particular argument as to show how the opponent’s argument is nonsense. Everything is connected, so any argument needs to be consistent with ALL the connected data. In this case you would have to ask those modern Christians about the degree to which they think living things are fundamentally different from non-living things, and if they even have heard of the word “vitalism” before. Heh!
            ==================

            AYN: It is possible that I could have better-stated my case here. Consider that the point in pregnancy when a fetus begins to kick is different for each fetus –somewhat arbitrary, therefore. To say ensoulment happens at that time is therefore also arbitrary –especially since those making the claims (A) can’t prove that souls exist at all, and (B) can’t prove they themselves have souls. So, personally, I don’t see much difference between an original arbitrary claim and an alternate claim, when the fundamental notion (that souls exist) is dispute-able –and when the Evidence is that biological organisms simply don’t need souls in order to survive. That is, ANY claim regarding ensoulment qualifies as “arbitrary”. Which leads us back to Logical Sense: which arbitrary point, for ensoulment, makes the most sense? Not conception, that’s for sure!

            TG: Pretty much any point one says ensoulment takes place or when personhood begins is going to be arbitrary. I think that a certain amount of arbitrariness will just have to be accepted when it comes to public policy. Conception is a practical point, but as you said, does not make the most logical sense. Birth is more practical for the simple fact one can point at a baby whereas one cannot point at a fetus.
            —————————————
            First, see above what I presented about “personhood”. There is more data and less arbitrariness than you might think. And here is one of the other key data items (prepend the http and www): .csub.edu/~mault/symbols.htm

            Basically Science has discovered that personhood doesn’t begin to exist until significantly after birth. Meanwhile, the Law assigns personhood at birth. In Theory the Law might be modified to become MORE consistent with Science –but very few people seek to do that! Meanwhile, abortion opponents want to make the Law more INconsistent with Science. (My favorite interpretation: Their denial of Facts shows a lack of intelligence by abortion opponents, such that perhaps they themselves fail to qualify for Personhood status under Science…. :)
            ====================

            AYN: The “greedy preachers” notion completely explains why abortion has always been a sin in Catholicism. Just think of the early years, when Christians were generically persecuted. They needed their numbers to grow as rapidly as possible! By the way, not all nations embrace the separation of Church and State. Thus we can expect a nuclear war between Israel and Iran in the not-too-distant future…because, if greedy preachers can’t control some batch of unbelievers, killing the unbelievers frees up the territory they occupy, so that the expanding population that IS under the control of the greedy preachers has more room in which to keep expanding.

            TG: Except that during the early years they were expecting the parousia literally at any time. Marriage (and procreation) was seen as an accommodation to prevent greater sins, not as a means of growing their numbers. Much of the history of Catholocism is characterized as seeing marriage, sex, and procreation as an inferior way of (godly) life. Celibacy was held as the ideal, and that doesn’t do much to produce more tithers. Again, the greedy preachers notion does very little to explain why abortion has always been a sin in Catholocism. There is some continuity with certain strands of Jewish thought (that didn’t develop into Rabbinic Judaism), and that may explain some of it. There is also the principal Greek translation of Exodus 21:22-25, in conjunction with Luke 1:41-44, that helped give rise to the idea that ensoulment happened at the quickening. The passage in Luke alone could explain why early Christians prohibited abortion.
            ———————————–
            Who defines “greater sins”??? The preachers! Remember that the entire Old Testament was written by preachers, who created a Theocracy and set themselves at the top of the social heap. The New Testament is not much better, because the decision to include/exclude various writings was made by preachers who VOTED on it (the first ecumenical council in 325AD), even if not all the writers were preachers. Were they likely to vote for anything that might diminish their Authority or their treasury? Hah!

            The other day I saw a documentary that indicated the earliest Christian leaders (disciples, Paul, a few others) were convinced that more than “parousia” was due in their near future –they were expecting something rather apocalyptic. Meanwhile, here is something from the “Aquarian Gospel”, chapter 17, verses 2-7:
            ++++
            2) One morning after service in the synagogue the rabbi said to Jesus as he sat in
            silent thought,
            Which is the greatest of the Ten Commands?
            3) And Jesus said,
            I do not see a greatest of the Ten Commands. I see a golden cord that runs
            through all the Ten Commands that binds them fast and makes them one.
            4) This cord is love, and it belongs to every word of all the Ten Commands.
            5) If one is full of love he can do nothing else than worship God; for God is love.
            6) If one is full of love, he cannot kill; he cannot falsely testify; he cannot covet;
            can do naught but honor God and man.
            7) If one is full of love he does not need commands of any kind.
            ++++
            Abortion involves killing, of course. Perhaps no more than this is needed to explain an early opposition to abortion.
            ==================

            AYN: You appear to be mistaking something. the “OTHER claims” about which I referred are “other claims about God”. ALL Religionists claim that God is smart, and has complete data available –and so to describe God as acting like a mindless automaton, ignoring data about defective DNA, and ignoring the data that living things don’t NEED souls, is to conflict with the other claims, see?

            TG: Not yet. Are you saying they are being self-contradictory, or that their claims conflict with the claims of other religions?
            —————–
            I’m saying that to describe God as possessing certain characteristics, and then to claim certain things are Acts of God in spite of those other claims, is inherently inconsistent. That is, if God really possessed the specified characteristics (smart, loving, etc.) then God would not Act to do things that reveal stupidity (ignoring Facts about flaws in DNA, and creating souls despite inevitable miscarriages/stillbirths) or spite (creating a soul while knowing it will be aborted, JUST so the pregnant woman can be condemned for murder).
            =================

            AYN: Also, there are some other statistics besides the natural miscarriage rate. Overall (because of several possible failure modes), about 50% of all conceptions fail to result in “confirmed pregnancies” –and God would know all about that, of course, which is even more reason to think God acts differently than an automaton. (It is the confirmed pregnancies that “only” have a 1/6 or 1/7 miscarriage rate.)

            TG: Does that 50% figure include the use of certain forms of birth control that makes it difficult if not impossible for the conceptus to implant?
            ———————
            Nope. Here are some of the possible failure modes between conception and a “confirmed pregnancy”:
            1. The zygote might fail to start dividing (defective DNA), and so eventually die.
            2. The morula might fail to crack open the zona pallucida, and so eventually die.
            3. The morula might break into multiple blastocysts while escaping the shell, each of which have too few cells to carry on (and so they all eventually die). It is my understanding that after 4 days of cell-divisions, at about once per day, the morula consists of only about 32 cells (1->2->4->8->16->32). Some googling indicates that identical quadruplets can happen (implying 8 cells per blastocyst), and that even identical quintuplets are possible (6 or 7 cells per blastocyst), but it is uncertain that identical sextuplets have ever been born. Let us assume here that 5 or fewer cells per blastocyst qualify as “too few to carry on”. So, if the morula yields 7 blastocysts while escaping the shell (4 or 5 cells each), all of them would die.
            4. The womb naturally has a coating of mucus to protect it from bacteria. If a blastocyst cannot penetrate that mucus, it will exit the womb and die. (A too-thick mucus coating is a known cause of some infertility cases, and is treatable by the equivalent of a decongestant. :)
            5. Timing is a factor. The “normal” situation is for sperm to meet ovum shortly after it is released from an ovary. Those 4 days of cell-division are happening while the organism is travelling down the Fallopian tube; the blastocyst(s) escape(s) about the same time the womb is reached. Well, what if no sperm entered the system prior to ovulation (sperm can live for at most about 5 days while waiting for an egg to become available)? If sperm arrive “late”, the ovum will be partway down the Fallopian tube before fertilization happens –and the blastocyst might exit the shell right about the time the zona pallucida exits the womb!
            6 and 7. Even if a blastocyst works its way through the mucus to the wall of the uterus, it may fail to implant. The implantation process involves specific interactions with the cells of the womb, and DNA is in charge of that. If the appropriate section of DNA is defective, implantation will fail. Implantation can also fail if the type of womb-tissue encountered happens to be scar-tissue (say from a previous pregnancy); scar-tissue is not the right kind needed by the blastocyst for interaction. Either situation leads to the death of the blastocyst.
            8 and 9. The implantation process is more complex than just the initial stages of connecting to womb-tissue. The organism has to start chemically signally the host that it is THERE, in such a way as to prevent alien-tissue-rejection, and also to prevent the next menstruation event. Faulty DNA again can produce the wrong chemical signals and lead to either of those events, after which the organism dies.
            10. Despite the best (or even perfect) efforts on the part of the newly-implanted embryo (implantation marks the distinguishing between that and a blastocyst), the body-chemistry of the woman might be “off” in such a way that fetal resorption occurs. In most animals it is triggered by a dietary deficiency related to an environment of scarcity, but I’m not so sure about the cause in humans (it is pretty rare!).
            ==================

            AYN: By the way, there is another way that a pregnancy can end, different from miscarriage. It is known as “fetal resorption”. Near the beginning of a pregnancy it is possible (though rare) for the womb to sort-of work in reverse, sucking the biomass and the life out of the unborn. For some animals, when there is scarcity in the Environment, it is NORMAL for fetal resorption to happen –it is simply Nature’s way of not wasting biological resources on creating offspring that would not be able to survive in that Environment of scarcity. So, look at the average woman seeking an abortion; how often might this next statement be applicable? “My environment is not suitable for raising offspring.” Her desire to kill the unborn is PERFECTLY in tune with what Nature does! (And while the average abortion opponent won’t know the details of the woman’s situation, God certainly WILL, and therefore could have reason to not associate that unborn human with a soul!)

            TG: This I knew something about. I previously speculated in this thread that abortion may have begun as a survival strategy when resources were scarce. I was going to mention the phenomenon of fetal resorption, but I probably would have (mis)characterized it as a spontaneous abortion.
            ————
            Glad to provide a bit more info about the subject.
            ============

            AYN: The “right target” is any Religionist who opposes abortion using the “unborn have souls” claim. Those who subscribe to beliefs different enough to not oppose abortion are very likely not accepting that claim.

            TG: But it would be a misfire against a religionist who opposes abortion on other grounds. A belief that human life in itself is sacred would probably still hold regardless of when ensoulment occurs or when personhood begins. The unborn may only be a potential person, but that potential must be allowed to develop. To do anything less would be inhumane, they might say. Again, my caution is about making sure you are addressing the right person in your arguments.
            ———————-
            I agree that each anti-abortion argument needs to be individually addressed, but it doesn’t matter what basis a Religionist uses; ALL are fundamentally flawed. The “human life is sacred” notion is basically a LIE, since Nature doesn’t agree with it in the slightest (else no earthquake or flood or plague or other event would kill humans, see?). More, if you want to blame God for various natural disasters, then you are saying that God doesn’t care about human life, either (nothing new there, of course; see the story of the Flood). Then there is the Law of Supply and Demand, which has significantly influenced human cultures regarding “value of human life”. Places like China that have been heavily populated for thousands of years have a pretty low cultural value on human life. Other places, where humans were scarce for a long time, gave it a higher value. The FACT is, humans find it useful to value humans for human purposes, and to different degrees, period. Religions can blather all they want, but in the end it is sheer pragmatism that prevailed. (And note that India, strongly associated with a kind of pro-life Religion, also has a significant abortion rate, because that Religion associates souls with bodies after birth, and so does NOT especially value soul-less life, such as that of the unborn.)

            With respect to “potential”, different ways of phrasing the argument can be worthy of different responses. The particular way you phrased it can be directly linked to human egotism and prejudice –why can’t the potential of a deer be allowed to be fulfilled, instead of killing it for venison, for example? What about the potential of each seed of corn that we might eat? Obviously humans can’t survive without being prejudiced and selfish over the concept of “potential”!

            Alternately, it could be pointed out that Science has proved that every cell in the body that possesses complete human DNA has the potential to become a “totipotent stem cell”. A zygote IS a totipotent stem cell. So, to PROPERLY fulfill “human potential”, it is now necessary to take each human body and chop it into bits, about 100 trillion individual living cells, and provide means for them to grow into 100 trillion whole human bodies. And obviously the first candidates for chopping should be those who insist that “human potential must be fulfilled!”, right? Unless they change their minds regarding the nonsense they spout, of course!
            ==============

            AYN: OK, but keep in mind that since a soul cannot begin to exist as a result of the purely physical conception process (and ALSO be immortal, immune from any other physical event), it must begin to exist per some other means, such as an Act of God. Any Religion claiming a soul “grows” the equivalent of physical capabilities (different from growing more knowledgeable, or experienced, or insightful, etc) would need to explain why God doesn’t bother to create fully-grown souls (not counting knowledge, experience, etc). Especially when Religions were (at least originally) perfectly willing to accept God creating fully-grown human bodies (Adam and Eve, who also didn’t have much knowledge, experience, etc).

            TG: Actually, no, it does not have to begin to exist per some other means. In my religion, the existence of souls is a brute fact. They exist eternally; God does not create them. They go through different stages that might be considered analogous (not equivalent) to physical growth. When they become infused into physical bodies is an open question, but
            occupying a physical body is one stage of that growth. Neither is there any such thing as a fully-grown soul; God himself is still growing.
            ———————-
            Logically, I must disagree. It is logically impossible for anything to grow perpetually without having an origin. Growth is a “change” and “change” requires SOME version of the concept of “Time”. So, if Time can encompass growth, then just follow that Time backward, and watch “shrink”. “Shrink” cannot occur endlessly; and therefore An Origin Is Required For Any Entity That Grows. Including God.

            By the way, the notion that God had an Origin does not automatically mean that God was Created by some other Entity. We know about Evolution, remember? No matter what are the properties of the “spiritual essence” of souls or God, if Change can happen in that realm, then Evolution can also happen there. That’s one of my favorite ways to point out the nonsense of various Religionists –not only is Evolution real here on Earth, it can explain how God exists, too!
            ==============

            AYN: Yes, those are mostly reasonable suggestions. I might point out that in the “reincarnation” philosophy, we would definitely be talking about fully-developed souls getting involved all over again with newly-available human bodies. It wouldn’t make any sense at all for them to jump into a body that hadn’t developed the physical senses yet.

            TG: That would be true of my tradition as well, except the fully-developed soul part. A somewhat developed, definitely conscious soul does make the jump into a human body at some point. Like I said, I’ll have to talk to my co-religionists who believe the jump is made at conception. I suspect the answer is going to be something like, “They still have contact with the spirit world, therefore they do not suffer from sensory deprivation.” It still wouldn’t make that much more sense for them to jump into bodies that don’t have physical senses, but it would help resolve some of the difficulties.
            —————–
            I’m distinguishing “equivalent of physical development” from “intellectual or emotional or social development”. Do you know of any reason why the former should occur endlessly? It is THAT sort of “fully developed” soul that would be involved in REincarnation, since presumably the very first incarnation could have encompassed equivalent-to-physical soul-growth (which MUST be the case in any Religious philosophy that does not include reincarnation, since then souls would only ever get one body to grow-along with).

            Whether or not sensory deprivation is an issue for a soul becoming associated with a body, there remains another point made: What is a soul going to DO during pregnancy? An organism growing under automatic control per DNA certainly doesn’t need Free Will for anything! Let’s analogize it to “being in jail”. Who volunteers for 9 months of jail time, not allowed to accomplish any physical goal, even if one did have good communications with the Outside? (And if we go back to the soul-creation at conception notion, why would God want to put a new/innocent soul in jail?)
            ==================

            AYN: There is another point though, that I should have mentioned earlier, a “guilt by association” thing. Unborn humans act worse than parasites, committing “assault” three different ways upon their hosts (by stealing nutrients, dumping toxic wastes, and infusing addictive hormones). Any adult doing any such thing to the body of another adult could CERTAINLY be accused of assault! If a soul becomes associated with a human at conception, then it is also automatically associated with bad behavior all through pregnancy. So why would a smart/knowledgeable God start such an association at conception, especially when 1/6 or 1/7 of pregnancies naturally miscarry, and those souls lose any chance to redeem themselves? Meanwhile, at birth a human begins qualifying as “innocent” in its behavior, so THAT is the logical time for soul-association to begin.

            TG: In most cases, guilt isn’t imputed until someone has achieved the age of accountability (this varies with the religion, denomination, and sect). Yes, an adult deliberately doing these sorts of things would certainly be guilty of assault. But for a fetus, these are just normal bodily functions with neutral moral value. Those believing in ensoulment at conception would still be able to maintain the innocence of the fetus’ behavior.
            ———————
            Bad Logic. Look up “involuntary manslaughter” –it is quite possible to be Guilty of some Act without having any intention of conducting doing that Act. Basically, “guilt” is about Actions DONE, regardless of intent. I can legitimately claim you are Guilty of breathing, for example –and you would not be able to deny it for more than a few minutes at a time.

            Now I am fully aware that “guilt” can encompass rather more than a mere physical action; it very often does have a psychological component, associated with “right” and “wrong” and “intent”. I’m just pointing out (previous paragraph) that the word’s definition does not REQUIRE the action to always be associated with Free Will.

            As a result, we now have more than one way to portray the “situation” of the unborn. First, ignoring the existence of souls, we have a purely animal organism acting in a manner for which toleration is NOT required; toleration is optional, and abortion is possible. After all, with respect to genuine parasites, we certainly feel no requirement to tolerate their actions. Why should it be different for unborn humans that act WORSE (because ordinary parasites don’t infuse addictive substances into their hosts)? Worthless/stupid/egotistical Prejudice about “human life”? Tsk, tsk!

            Second, if a soul is involved, then there are just two possibilities: either the soul is an innocent caught in the cross-fire, or it is a willing participant in the actions of the unborn –and those actions are still “assault” if performed by an adult, after all. In the latter case, then, abortion becomes exactly as optional as if the soul wasn’t present, because the soul IS psychologically as well as physically guilty in this case –and the ONLY way to make it stop NOW is to kill it!

            Which leaves us with the last possibility, an innocent soul jailed in a body that is committing assault. This is the kind of thing where we need to step back and ask, “What sort of God would think that situation to be right and proper?” It just doesn’t make sense! Not for God to Create a soul at conception, nor for a reincarnation to be associated with conception. ESPECIALLY when Science has shown that Biology works just fine without any need for a soul to be present!
            ======================

            AYN: And there is an additional aspect that could heap even more guilt upon souls associated with the unborn. In some respects souls should be considered to be fairly powerful entities (offspring of GOD, and what do offspring generally/eventually become…?) Suppose that SOME miscarriages happen not because of defective DNA, but because of something entirely different: A soul might be so aghast at what its associated unborn body is doing to its mother that the soul refuses to go along with it, and causes a miscarriage! IF SO, then any soul that accepts the assault of the unborn is obviously also accepting a “bad record” in terms of Judgment…. Still, any variation of that scenario can be avoided most simply if ensoulment happens after birth. (By the way, there is a variation on the soul-power thing just mentioned. I’ve read that one of the proposed explanations of “crib death” is that the soul changes its mind about wanting to be incarnated. However, this notion obviously depends on the notion that a soul chooses to become associated in the first place, no direct involvement by God needed –nor is association-at-conception essential, either. But the point about a soul having some Power, over the life of the body it occupies, remains consistent.)

            TG: That is an interesting thought. It is also consistent with the idea that a person may feel guilt over something even though they haven’t committed an imputed sin, thus the actual innocence of the fetus may be maintained. The variation usually found in my tradition is that the spirit is sufficiently advanced that it doesn’t need to be incarnated for very long.
            —————————-
            As explained above, NO fetus, a mere animal organism, is “innocent”. An associated soul MIGHT be innocent, but there is no logical rationale for why such MUST be present/associated. Not even is there a rationale for why a “sufficiently advanced” soul needs to be associated at all, with an unborn human.
            ================

            AYN: OK. But one of the items you just stated appears to be inaccurate. If you are calling the process that yields identical twins or triplets “spontaneous cloning”, then you are somewhat mistaken.

            The question for Religionist abortion opponents remains, though, of where the extra soul or souls come from, since no “conception event” is involved here.

            TG: Thanks for the correction. Even in terms of “secular” personhood, identical twins or triplets remain a problem. Since there was only one conception event, are the twins/triplets one person or two/three people? The common intuition is that they are separate people, but this doesn’t jell with the idea that personhood begins with conception.
            —————————
            In general, the main reason why Religionist arguments fail is because they made various Pronouncements regarding souls and early human life, before all the data was gathered regarding the fine details of early human life. If they had stuck with purely metaphysical/spiritual stuff, and left unborn human bodies out of their blatherings, they wouldn’t be spewing utter nonsense into the overall Abortion Debate.

          • Even in terms of “secular” personhood, identical twins or triplets remain a problem. Since there was only one conception event, are the twins/triplets one person or two/three people? The common intuition is that they are separate people, but this doesn’t jell with the idea that personhood begins with conception.
            ————
            Sorry, my original reply to that part of your comments was not “on topic”; somehow I didn’t notice the word “secular”. So….

            AGREED. Sometimes I wonder about the extent to which so-called “secular” anti-abortion arguments are truly independent of Religious notions.

            Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter, because Science has the Last Word about personhood in any purely-secular argument. And that Last Word is the Fact that personhood is an ACQUIRED not innate characteristic of humans (and acquired significantly after birth), as I’ve previously described.

          • To TG: If you can get the latest issue of Scientific American (cover article about the subconscious mind), there is an article about Copernicus and why it was difficult for the philosophers of the era to accept his hypothesis. There is much more than what I thought!

          • Re: acceptance of Copernicus. There are two data items that were not mentioned in the Scientific American article.

            First, Isaac Newton, about a century after Copernicus, made the first estimate of the mass of the Sun, using his new gravitational hypothesis, and (rather inaccurate) data available at that time about the distance to the Sun. Still he figured the Sun was more than 28,000 times the mass of the Earth.

            Well, if the Earth was supposedly “fixed in place” because of its large size and mass, what of something THAT much more massive? It made more sense to think the Earth went around the Sun than to think the Sun was somehow being made to move around the Earth.

            And when better data was used, regarding the distance to the Sun, the value of its mass went up to almost 170,000 times that of the Earth….

            Second, in the 1700s, about a century and a half after Copernicus published, a way was worked out to quite-accurately determine the distance to the Sun (by Edmond Halley, using transit-of-Venus data). From that it became possible to compute the SIZE of the Sun, which turned out to be over 100 times the size of the Earth.

            And its mass could now be computed to be over 330,000 times that of the Earth. The notion that the comparatively puny Earth was stationary simply began to look silly, in spite of the other objections regarding distant stars (mentioned in the Scientific American article).

  7. NTwR: Anon Y Mous, I think you’re aware that TG has indicated his own religion to be one of those in which changes of doctrine have been made. Let’s criticize the beliefs of others without using harsh language.

    TG: No worries there. Anon Y Mous is not criticizing my religion at all, let alone using harsh language to do so. The only harsh language he has used are his comments about “greedy preachers,” which I consider more of an oversimplification than an actual criticism. Much the way he is educating me about embryology, I am hoping to educate him about the actual stances he is criticizing.

    AYN: Has my language truly been THAT harsh, in attempting to present Facts without sugar-coating them?

    TG: With the possible exception of the “greedy preachers” characterizations, I don’t think your language has been that harsh. My only cautions are that you don’t create strawmen and avoid oversimplification.

    • TG: The only harsh language he has used are his comments about “greedy preachers,” which I consider more of an oversimplification than an actual criticism. Much the way he is educating me about embryology, I am hoping to educate him about the actual stances he is criticizing.
      —————-
      I’m aware that some of what I’ve written could be called “over-generalization”. I know they are not ALL greedy preachers. And wherever I have an actual Fact wrong, and you correct it, Thank You!
      ======================

      AYN: Has my language truly been THAT harsh, in attempting to present Facts without sugar-coating them?

      TG: With the possible exception of the “greedy preachers” characterizations, I don’t think your language has been that harsh. My only cautions are that you don’t create strawmen and avoid oversimplification.
      ————————————
      I think you will find there are gradations of preachers, from the devout to the sincere to the somewhat ambivalent to the con-artists. Even within some of those classifications there are differing degrees of knowledge about non-Scriptural things. Some of those pieces of knowledge are known to cause doubts –else the Catholic Church would NEVER have officially reversed itself regarding Galileo, and his discoveries that eventually proved that the Earth is not the center of Creation

      There is in my mind a fairly simple solution to certain Religious dilemmas, with respect to Scientific Fact: Basically, Religions must stop making any claims whatsoever about the nature of Physical Reality –and that includes “human life”. They can make all the claims they want about spiritual stuff, WHEN SUCH ARE OUTSIDE the present realms of Scientific investigations.

      But when there is overlap, such as the association of souls with human life, then Religions need to say things that make logical sense in the context of what Science has discovered/proved. Otherwise, in my mind, preachers who resist the Facts and continue to spout irrationalities are revealing themselves to be self-serving, a.k.a. “greedy”.
      ———————-
      P.S. my computer has been down for a couple days (had to replace motherboard). I only encountered your recent postings a short time ago, and am just now beginning on my response to your other/longer message above.

      • AYN: I’m not the one who claimed to be “infallible”, and I do know that the dictionary definition doesn’t place limits upon it. If the Churches actually do place limits on their infallibility, I’ve never seen a list, like “These are the things about which our teachings are correct/infallible.” Nope, not ever have I seen anything like that. Can you provide a link?

        TG: You’re not necessarily going to find lists like you describe. It is more a matter of self-definition. So, for example, you have the Catholic Church whose teaching magisterium is infallible, but only when it comes to matters of faith and morals (Lumen Gentium 25). For a decent overview of what the Catholic Church does and doesn’t mean by infallibility, see http://www.catholic.com/tracts/papal-infallibility. Then there is the evangelical movement in Protestantism, which assigns inerrancy to the Bible, but NOT to any particular interpretation thereof.

        AYN: And so what I wrote was simply the logical consequence of that: If they make a Policy Change, after declaring themselves to be Right and Infallible, then they have proved themselves to be liars, twice (once about being Right, and once about being Infallible).

        TG: Perhaps, but only if it can be shown that the previous policy came under the terms in which they claim rightness and infallibility. Even then, they might be wrong, but being wrong does not necessarily make one a liar, which requires a conscious and deliberate telling of an untruth.

        AYN: Science has had its equivalent of greedy preachers, certainly. However, unlike Religions, when some well-respected but faulty scientist dies, the fault tends to get corrected. Famous quote: “Science progresses funeral by funeral.” Those impatient smart-aleck youngsters may want Science to progress more rapidly than it already does, but at least it actually does eventually progress as a result of the work they do.

        TG: Much the same thing could be said of Religion. True, change usually comes slower in Religion, and often comes with plenty of kicking and screaming. Nevertheless, there have pretty much always been smart-aleck youngsters wanting Religion to progress more rapidly than it does, just as there is in Science. But like all organisms, religions will either adapt or become historical curiosities.

        AYN: Thank you! (And, obviously, if Protestants have to change the Bible to make it consistent with their other blatherings, they might as well throw out the Bible entirely –either it is entirely sacred, or not.)

        TG: Agreed. For all that is said about the interpretations not being inerrant, I often do find that, in practice, “Biblical inerrancy” often really does equate to “inerrancy of traditional interpretations.” (Though in the case of abortion, the changes are self-consciously political rather than an insistence of traditional interpretation.) The problem is the doctrine of biblical inerrancy–that’s what they need to set aside rather than throwing the Bible itself out entirely.

        AYN: First, see above what I presented about “personhood”. There is more data and less arbitrariness than you might think. And here is one of the other key data items (prepend the http and www): .csub.edu/~mault/symbols.htm

        Basically Science has discovered that personhood doesn’t begin to exist until significantly after birth. Meanwhile, the Law assigns personhood at birth. In Theory the Law might be modified to become MORE consistent with Science –but very few people seek to do that! Meanwhile, abortion opponents want to make the Law more INconsistent with Science. (My favorite interpretation: Their denial of Facts shows a lack of intelligence by abortion opponents, such that perhaps they themselves fail to qualify for Personhood status under Science…. :)

        TG: Again, I am saying that when it comes to matters of public policy, a certain amount of arbitrariness will just have to be accepted. For example, what is the fundamental difference between a person twenty years and three hundred sixty-four days old and a person that is twenty-one years old? None, yet in the United States, the former is committing an illegal act if they drink alcohol while the latter is not. There is nothing inherently different about a person that makes the legal conferment of certain rights and privileges at certain ages that didn’t exist the day before that birthday. Voting ages, drinking ages, consent to marry/have sexual relations, and all manner of other things are set arbitrarily to a given age. The best that can be argued is that MOST people of the given age are ready to handle the rights/privileges, whereas MOST people who are younger cannot. But age setting is ultimately and inherently arbitrary.

        We usually accept a certain amount of arbitrariness in public policy because they are practical guides that are easily applied to everyone. Either you have reached your twenty-first birthday, or you have not. The law sets personhood at birth because it is a practical point in which to do so. Saying personhood begins when it is actualized requires inventing and administering a number of physical and/or psycho-social tests that requires setting definitions, figuring out how to test whether someone meets the definition, cost investments, etc., that making such a definition legal becomes rather impractical.

        And while I agree that the Law should be informed by Science, I hardly think that the Law is required to be bound by it. Particularly when we are dealing with a matter that is fraught religious, ethical/moral, and legal implications as personhood. Seriously ask yourself if you really want to live in a society where you have to prove you are a person before you are allowed to benefit from it. Setting the kidding aside, your “favorite interpretation” is something I regard with outright horror. (Of course, this comes from someone who found Huxley more horrifying than Orwell.)

        AYN: Abortion involves killing, of course. Perhaps no more than this is needed to explain an early opposition to abortion.

        TG: Exactly! No need for a recourse to greedy preachers.

        AYN: I’m saying that to describe God as possessing certain characteristics, and then to claim certain things are Acts of God in spite of those other claims, is inherently inconsistent. That is, if God really possessed the specified characteristics (smart, loving, etc.) then God would not Act to do things that reveal stupidity (ignoring Facts about flaws in DNA, and creating souls despite inevitable miscarriages/stillbirths) or spite (creating a soul while knowing it will be aborted, JUST so the pregnant woman can be condemned for murder).

        TG: OK, then I am in basic agreement with your thought. It would indeed be inherently inconsistent to describe God as having possession of all or most of the data yet acting in ways that reveal stupidity or spite, especially if God is set up to be acting as an automaton.

        AYN: Nope. Here are some of the possible failure modes between conception and a “confirmed pregnancy”:

        TG: Thanks for the info.

        AYN: I agree that each anti-abortion argument needs to be individually addressed, but it doesn’t matter what basis a Religionist uses; ALL are fundamentally flawed. The “human life is sacred” notion is basically a LIE, since Nature doesn’t agree with it in the slightest (else no earthquake or flood or plague or other event would kill humans, see?). More, if you want to blame God for various natural disasters, then you are saying that God doesn’t care about human life, either (nothing new there, of course; see the story of the Flood). Then there is the Law of Supply and Demand, which has significantly influenced human cultures regarding “value of human life”. Places like China that have been heavily populated for thousands of years have a pretty low cultural value on human life. Other places, where humans were scarce for a long time, gave it a higher value. The FACT is, humans find it useful to value humans for human purposes, and to different degrees, period. Religions can blather all they want, but in the end it is sheer pragmatism that prevailed. (And note that India, strongly associated with a kind of pro-life Religion, also has a significant abortion rate, because that Religion associates souls with bodies after birth, and so does NOT especially value soul-less life, such as that of the unborn.)

        TG: It depends on how well-developed the particular argument is. I wasn’t particularly trying to develop the thoughts other religionists might come up with. Even now, it is not my intent to develop them. Presumably a person really intending to develop those lines of argument into a thorough anti-abortion argument would account for what you are describing as fundamental flaws. It would also depend on the religious tradition in question. My tradition, for example, places sharp limits on God’s power compared to the mainstream Christianity. Thus, your example of natural disasters killing people as an argument against “human life is sacred” is simply irrelevant.

        AYN: With respect to “potential”, different ways of phrasing the argument can be worthy of different responses. The particular way you phrased it can be directly linked to human egotism and prejudice –why can’t the potential of a deer be allowed to be fulfilled, instead of killing it for venison, for example? What about the potential of each seed of corn that we might eat? Obviously humans can’t survive without being prejudiced and selfish over the concept of “potential”!

        TG: Perhaps, but notably this is an argument that you already seem to acknowledge in principle. In one of your replies to Acyutananda discussing the concept of feral children, you said, “This way we can measure how much mental stimulation it takes to cause the brain to grow the part that processes abstractions. SOME of this can also be done with human babies, but it would be considered unethical to deny any of them the full treatment that yields ‘normal’ brain-development…. I might also note that with respect to what we know about ‘feral children’, it should be possible to stop stimulating a human for a year or so, and then start it up again and see the brain also start-again (or continue) its development of the abstraction-processing section. But this part of the overall experiment I expect some would perhaps-rightly call ‘ethically risky.’” Well, why would such experiments be considered unethical or ethically risky? A likely answer is precisely because it would be inhumane to deny a human individual the things it needs to develop its full potential. It wouldn’t take too much to extend such an argument to unborn humans.

        AYN: Alternately, it could be pointed out that Science has proved that every cell in the body that possesses complete human DNA has the potential to become a “totipotent stem cell”. A zygote IS a totipotent stem cell. So, to PROPERLY fulfill “human potential”, it is now necessary to take each human body and chop it into bits, about 100 trillion individual living cells, and provide means for them to grow into 100 trillion whole human bodies. And obviously the first candidates for chopping should be those who insist that “human potential must be fulfilled!”, right? Unless they change their minds regarding the nonsense they spout, of course!

        TG: Nonsense. They would simply respond that you are now the one who is confusing the potential for the actual. Of course you wouldn’t chop up an ACTUAL person to get to it’s POTENTIAL totipotent stem cells. What you do is allow/provide the necessities to allow an ACTUAL human totipotent stem cell to develop its POTENTIAL personhood. Yes, half or more of them will fail to implant, and 1/6th to 1/7th of those that do implant still won’t make it to birth. I would also suppose that even with proper mental stimulation, some humans still won’t become more than feral humans (one thinks of severely mentally disabled individuals, for example). Nevertheless, just as it would be inhumane to deny an infant the things it needs to develop its personhood, it would also be inhumane to deny the zygote what it needs to develop its personhood. At least, all other things being equal.

        It might also be helpful to outline what the potential person argument (PPA) can and cannot do. Because everything is not equal between the born and the unborn (we still have the ACTUAL person of the woman to consider), the PPA can NOT be used to argue for the (near) total ban on abortions that most “pro-lifers” want. The needs of the actual woman would still normally outweigh the needs of the potential person. While it is not murder, abortion is still a grave matter not to be undertaken lightly. To use Acyutanada’s words, the reasons had still better be good. Moving away from the purely moral into the legal realm, the most the PPA can do is get one to something like Acyutanada’s “life panels,” except that the woman is given the benefit of the doubt and an abortion could only be denied when her reasons are extremely trivial. Even then, there would still be other grave reservations that would have to be overcome.

        TG previous: In my religion, the existence of souls is a brute fact. They exist eternally; God does not create them. They go through different stages that might be considered analogous (not equivalent) to physical growth. When they become infused into physical bodies is an open question, but occupying a physical body is one stage of that growth. Neither is there any such thing as a fully-grown soul; God himself is still growing.

        AYN: Logically, I must disagree. It is logically impossible for anything to grow perpetually without having an origin. Growth is a “change” and “change” requires SOME version of the concept of “Time”. So, if Time can encompass growth, then just follow that Time backward, and watch “shrink”. “Shrink” cannot occur endlessly; and therefore An Origin Is Required For Any Entity That Grows. Including God.

        TG: Actually, if you accept the Big Bang Theory, the existence of something without having an origin is not only logical, it is a scientific fact. Depending on the particular cosmogony you accept, some, most, or all the matter in the universe has eternally existed as a brute fact without an origin. The shrink only ends because the Big Bang is the origin of time, but not because matter doesn’t exist endlessly. Though some questions still need to be answered, arguing for the eternal existence of souls as a brute fact is not a priori farfetched or illogical.

        AYN: By the way, the notion that God had an Origin does not automatically mean that God was Created by some other Entity. We know about Evolution, remember? No matter what are the properties of the “spiritual essence” of souls or God, if Change can happen in that realm, then Evolution can also happen there. That’s one of my favorite ways to point out the nonsense of various Religionists –not only is Evolution real here on Earth, it can explain how God exists, too!

        TG: You’re not far off from what I would argue to my coreligionists.

        AYN: I’m distinguishing “equivalent of physical development” from “intellectual or emotional or social development”. Do you know of any reason why the former should occur endlessly? It is THAT sort of “fully developed” soul that would be involved in REincarnation, since presumably the very first incarnation could have encompassed equivalent-to-physical soul-growth (which MUST be the case in any Religious philosophy that does not include reincarnation, since then souls would only ever get one body to grow-along with).

        TG: I’m not sure I fully understand what you are trying to say here. I’m distinguishing “equivalent of physical development” from “analogous to physical development.” The mythology of my tradition only goes so far, and the rest is necessarily guesswork. To even say the stages a soul goes through is analogous to physical growth is just that: a comparison with a familiar frame of reference that may have some truth in some respects, but probably doesn’t capture the actuality. To answer the question of why it should occur endlessly would probably veer off the track in which the analogy could go. In the mythology of my tradition, at some point in time, we chose to advance to the next stage and did the things necessary to get there. I can’t, and therefore won’t, try to answer for traditions that teach reincarnation.

        AYN: Whether or not sensory deprivation is an issue for a soul becoming associated with a body, there remains another point made: What is a soul going to DO during pregnancy? An organism growing under automatic control per DNA certainly doesn’t need Free Will for anything! Let’s analogize it to “being in jail”. Who volunteers for 9 months of jail time, not allowed to accomplish any physical goal, even if one did have good communications with the Outside? (And if we go back to the soul-creation at conception notion, why would God want to put a new/innocent soul in jail?)

        TG: Again, I would have to consult with my coreligionists who believe ensoulment occurs at conception. I’m guessing wildly here, so don’t take my word for it. But, going with your analogy, a person volunteers for nine months of jail time, even if they are not allowed to accomplish any physical goal, would do it for the experience itself. In my tradition, the point of incarnation is the experience of a physical body. So I suspect the answer is going to be something along the lines that there is something to be learned from having the experience of existing in an unborn human body, just as there could be something to be learned from nine months of jail time not being allowed to accomplish any physical goal. So I would say they would answer that what a soul does during pregnancy is learn. I’m not even going to hazard a guess about what, exactly, we are supposed to learn from the experience. Likewise, you’d have to consult someone who believes in the soul-creation at conception notion to find out why God would want to put a soul in jail for nine months.

        TG previous: In most cases, guilt isn’t imputed until someone has achieved the age of accountability (this varies with the religion, denomination, and sect). Yes, an adult deliberately doing these sorts of things would certainly be guilty of assault. But for a fetus, these are just normal bodily functions with neutral moral value. Those believing in ensoulment at conception would still be able to maintain the innocence of the fetus’ behavior.

        AYN: Bad Logic. Look up “involuntary manslaughter” –it is quite possible to be Guilty of some Act without having any intention of conducting doing that Act. Basically, “guilt” is about Actions DONE, regardless of intent. I can legitimately claim you are Guilty of breathing, for example –and you would not be able to deny it for more than a few minutes at a time.

        Now I am fully aware that “guilt” can encompass rather more than a mere physical action; it very often does have a psychological component, associated with “right” and “wrong” and “intent”. I’m just pointing out (previous paragraph) that the word’s definition does not REQUIRE the action to always be associated with Free Will.

        TG: And note I prefaced my remark with “in most cases.” But even in cases of involuntary manslaughter, the act that resulted in another person’s death is still a voluntary one. For example, the choice to drink and drive is voluntary, which is why a drunk driver would be found guilty of “involuntary manslaughter.” We are in nowise talking about normal bodily functions with neutral moral value. “Guilt” is about breaking some sort of moral/ethical/legal offense. I suppose it is conceivable that there are some moral/ethical/legal codes in which breathing is, in itself, an offense for which I could be found guilty. But in the real world I live in, breathing is simply a normal bodily function with neutral moral value. So I would in fact be able to deny being guilty of breathing.

        Back to our fetus then. If our soul is associated with a human at conception, would it be guilty of assault for the involuntary and normal bodily functions that it does to the pregnant woman? Not in terms of criminal law (there is no such thing as “involuntary assault”). And certainly not in the terms of the religionist you are trying to address this argument toward. My original point remains the same: Those believing in ensoulment at conception would still be able to maintain the innocence of the fetus’ behavior. Pressing the guilt by association argument on them would simply be pounding a strawman.

        AYN: As a result, we now have more than one way to portray the “situation” of the unborn. First, ignoring the existence of souls, we have a purely animal organism acting in a manner for which toleration is NOT required; toleration is optional, and abortion is possible. After all, with respect to genuine parasites, we certainly feel no requirement to tolerate their actions. Why should it be different for unborn humans that act WORSE (because ordinary parasites don’t infuse addictive substances into their hosts)? Worthless/stupid/egotistical Prejudice about “human life”? Tsk, tsk!

        Second, if a soul is involved, then there are just two possibilities: either the soul is an innocent caught in the cross-fire, or it is a willing participant in the actions of the unborn –and those actions are still “assault” if performed by an adult, after all. In the latter case, then, abortion becomes exactly as optional as if the soul wasn’t present, because the soul IS psychologically as well as physically guilty in this case –and the ONLY way to make it stop NOW is to kill it!

        Which leaves us with the last possibility, an innocent soul jailed in a body that is committing assault. This is the kind of thing where we need to step back and ask, “What sort of God would think that situation to be right and proper?” It just doesn’t make sense! Not for God to Create a soul at conception, nor for a reincarnation to be associated with conception. ESPECIALLY when Science has shown that Biology works just fine without any need for a soul to be present!

        TG: This is about where you need to be. An ensoulment-at-conception believer will not like any of these possibilities. The most palatable option is most likely the last possibility, in which case they will try to answer what sort of God would think such a situation is right and proper. It would be interesting to see how they try to do it. I wonder how many of them would be as honest as Calvin (who essentially admitted that his God was a monster).

        AYN: As explained above, NO fetus, a mere animal organism, is “innocent”. An associated soul MIGHT be innocent, but there is no logical rationale for why such MUST be present/associated. Not even is there a rationale for why a “sufficiently advanced” soul needs to be associated at all, with an unborn human.

        TG: Technically speaking, if a fetus is a mere animal organism, it can neither be guilty nor innocent of a crime or moral failing. We don’t impute guilt or innocence onto genuine parasites either.

        AYN: AGREED. Sometimes I wonder about the extent to which so-called “secular” anti-abortion arguments are truly independent of Religious notions.

        TG: As do I. Do you remember the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode “The Measure of a Man” where Captain Louvois bluntly said the issue everyone was dancing around was whether Data had a soul? The whole “secular” personhood argument seems to me like the proponent is trying to dance around the soul. But, of course, a soul is something that can’t be quantified or qualified in purely secular terms. “Personhood” is the secular stand-in for “ensoulment,” but the term still leaves a lot of unanswered questions, as your statements have shown.

        AYN: Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter, because Science has the Last Word about personhood in any purely-secular argument. And that Last Word is the Fact that personhood is an ACQUIRED not innate characteristic of humans (and acquired significantly after birth), as I’ve previously described.

        TG: Oh, I doubt that. I tend to agree with Acyutanada that defining personhood is in and of itself a problem. Unlike arsenic, personhood is not something that solely comes under the purview of science. Leaving aside religion, there are also philosophical, ethical, legal, and pragmatic aspects that must be considered besides the scientific discussion. To a certain extent, even in purely secular terms, “personhood” has a certain ineffable quality that can’t be captured by science. To quote Captain Louvois, the concept of personhood involves dealing with “questions best left to saints and philosophers.” Science surely has its say, but it won’t be the final word on the matter.

        AYN: There is in my mind a fairly simple solution to certain Religious dilemmas, with respect to Scientific Fact: Basically, Religions must stop making any claims whatsoever about the nature of Physical Reality –and that includes “human life”. They can make all the claims they want about spiritual stuff, WHEN SUCH ARE OUTSIDE the present realms of Scientific investigations.

        But when there is overlap, such as the association of souls with human life, then Religions need to say things that make logical sense in the context of what Science has discovered/proved. Otherwise, in my mind, preachers who resist the Facts and continue to spout irrationalities are revealing themselves to be self-serving, a.k.a. “greedy”.

        TG: In some respects, I agree, and in some respects, I disagree. I do agree that Religion does need to be informed by Science and that the things Religion says needs to make logical sense. But does it follow that Religion cannot make any claims about physical reality, especially concerning human life? That preachers who resist facts and continue to spout “irrationalities” are self-serving? That seems to me to require conferring a degree of infallibility on Science which it does not claim for itself. Consider that you yourself have discussed Hindu thoughts about the oscillating universe. Or for that matter, there is the Judeo-Christian “Let there be light.” Now remember that before the Big Bang theory, the prevailing scientific consensus was the Steady State theory, which posited the universe had no beginning and will have no end. No doubt preachers from Hindu, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions resisted what Science thought it had discovered/proved. And in this case, they were “right” to do so (make sure you note the quotation marks).

        Let’s also consider that part of the human condition is that we absorb knowledge from a number of different sources and try to integrate them into something that will help us guide our lives. For example, here is my description of myself: I am a white liberal Mormon intellectual American heterosexual male. Each element is not some hat I wear to be put on and taken off at will. They are each a very fundamental part of my very identity. Surely some of these elements have more prominence in some situations over others, but I never cease to be any of them at any time. I am all of them, all at once. Essentially, what this line of thought says to me is that at any given time, I can ONLY be white or liberal or Mormon or intellectual or American or heterosexual or male. But to do so would require me to deny my very identity as a person.

        As a side note, you realize you are setting up a Catch-22 just as surely as Acyutanada does with his thoughts about moral intuition, don’t you? First you say that Religion is wrong for making adjustments in line with Science, and then you say Religion must make their arguments in line with Science. Which is it?

        • “The whole ‘secular’ personhood argument seems to me like the proponent is trying to dance around the soul.”

          Suppose that instead of “personhood” I said “that reality of a human organism which reflects the fact that if it’s killed at any particular stage, it will never get to a later stage.” I’m not completely committing to that phraseology yet, but at this point I think that it would be a decent synonym for “personhood” as I use the word. And in that phraseology there is no soul or mystique of any kind, is there? Just biology?

          • I would say that you have moved to a position that is functionally the same as the potential personhood argument I outlined above. It would therefore be subject to the same weaknesses.

          • You seem to think that there is a difference between your PPA and my personhood argument. Well, there is at least one difference of terminology: what you call a “potential person,” I call a “small person.” And you give that entity less value than I do. Any other difference?

            It occurs to me that I should try to summarize my position in a few words, which I hadn’t done before:

            I think that whenever an abortion is proposed, the rights and responsibilities of every member of the human race are involved to one extent or other. Particularly at stake are:

            - the right to life and right to pursuit of happiness of the baby

            - the right to life, right to pursuit of happiness, right to freedom from bodily harm, and right to freedom from mental harm (including the mental harm caused by infringements on bodily integrity) of the mother

            - the responsibility of minimally decent Samaritanism, of the mother and others who do not want the baby

            - the responsibility of everybody in society to make a limited degree of effort and if necessary of sacrifice to protect any of its members who need protection from violence.

            The right to life is not absolute, but it outweighs any other.

            All these rights and responsibilities are designed to maximize life, and should be reflected in the law.

            In an unwanted pregnancy, the rights come into conflict. A panel with the authority of the law should take into account the mother’s potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof (considering her mental resilience or lack thereof, and her attitude toward the unborn child, among other things); and the unborn child’s potential remaining future life and the quality thereof; and the family members’ potential remaining future life and the quality thereof; and the support society can offer, and the impact on society; and make a decision aimed to maximize life. The panel might have some power to compensate the woman for her loss if the decision goes against her.

            I did not use the term “minimally decent Samaritanism” till you referred me to Thomson, but in my first post, for example, I said:

            “Civilized sensibilities require that person B be prepared to make some sacrifices for the sake of person A.”

            Any right of any kind (for example the right to control one’s own body) ends where another person’s rights begin. When there is an unwanted pregnancy, in theory the mother and the child should come to an amicable settlement either alone or with the help of a mediator, and if that does not work, there should be arbitration and a binding decision (a panel). In practice, however, the child cannot speak for itself, so a representative must speak for it whenever the mother herself does not adequately represent it.

            If all women were like one (assuming her words are sincere) who wrote to the president of Feminists for Life saying –

            “I am a prolife feminist. Abortion before 20 weeks is equally wrong. The founding feminists understood this truth. Women are strongest when they engage as warriors to protect the most vulnerable. What is more vulnerable than an unviable human being in development?”

            – then all the babies would be adequately represented by the mothers themselves, and no laws or arbitration would be necessary.

            And I think that in the future most women and most men will share her outlook, and that what we have lived through will seem like the dark ages.

            You had said earlier (also quoted in your January 8, 2014 at 3:55 am post above):

            TG previous: In my religion, the existence of souls is a brute fact. They exist eternally; God does not create them.

            NTwR: Would it be correct to say that your religion is monotheistic, but not monistic? If I understand correctly, there is only one God, but there are entities besides God in the universe, so there is dualism. For God and all the souls to exist in the same universe (not to mention no doubt interacting), isn’t some unifying principle needed? And if it is, wouldn’t that unifying principle operate at a higher level (= deeper level) than God?

            TG long ago: [the] goal is to become gods

            NTwR: “Goal” implies that this doesn’t just happen by itself. What is the process for attaining the goal?

  8. Everything you are fighting for in this blog seems to begin with the posit that the fertilized egg, the zygote, is a person. Your basis for this is “intuition”. Really, that’s all I found here, is that it is intuition. Fortunately, the rest of us do not use intuition as the basis for much of anything. The social contract by which we extend “rights” towards one another is based on cold, selfish reasoning. We want rights for ourselves, and agree to give same to others. This is the foundation of secular society. By trial and modification we have formulated these agreed-upon rights. We write them into the constitution, and create courts to determine whether laws follow the principles of these basic rights. Intuition doesn’t enter into it.

    So why have you selected the zygote as the starting point? Why don’t you give the same privilege to sperm, and declare masturbation and contraception inviolable sins for preventing its right to create a baby? Sperm are living homo sapiens too, you know. Why are you so squeamish about using development of the mind as the point to draw the line? Is it because it’s so difficult to pinpoint exactly when this occurs?

    • You may have noticed that this page has a LOT more stuff in it than just the “lead” article on Personhood (which has been dismantled thoroughly). Here I’d like to point out some OK and some incomplete and some not-so-OK things about your comment.

      While you are basically correct about selfishness and “rights”, there is a bit more to it that what you wrote. Organisms that generically are excluded from the social contract are those that are inherently unable to participate, because they don’t/CAN’T understand the concepts involved. Is it possible for a hungry tiger to accept a hypothetical claim, made by a deer, that it has a right to life? No! And therefore we don’t grant the tiger right-to-life, either. Ditto with spiders, snakes, mosquitoes, etc. AND unborn humans, of course!

      Next, sperm don’t count as homo sapiens because they only have half of a full set of human DNA (50%), not a full set. LOTS of mere animals (like lemurs) have more DNA in common with humans than do sperm! Chimps have perhaps 98% DNA in common with humans, remember?

      Finally, regarding “mind development”, it is indeed something that (1) cannot be pinpointed precisely, and (2) is different for each different human, because humans develop at different rates. However, what IS known is that humans don’t begin to exceed the mental capabilities of ordinary animals until well after birth (the very crucial ability to creatively and generically manipulate abstract symbols usually takes more than two years). THEREFORE, before birth, NO human qualifies as more than a mere animal organism, and to impute it is more than only a mere animal organism is Stupid (yes, with a capital “S”!).

      • AYM: You may have noticed that this page has a LOT more stuff in it than just the “lead” article on Personhood

        No Termination without Representation (Acyutananda): Thank you for encouraging JethroElfman not to miss the other posts.

        AYM: While you are basically correct about selfishness and “rights”, there is a bit more to it tha[n] what you wrote.

        NTwR: JE had written that rights exist only as a function of the social contract, so AYM apparently agrees with that (before going on to say “more”).

        AYM: Organisms that generically are excluded from the social contract are those that are inherently unable to participate, because they don’t/CAN’T understand the concepts involved.

        NTwR: After saying that rights exist only as a function of the social contract, JE had said: “We want rights for ourselves, and agree to give same to others.”

        So AYM is saying, “[we] exclude from the social contract those that are inherently unable to participate, because they don’t/CAN’T understand the concepts involved,” and JE is implicitly saying, “We will not give rights to others unless they can and will give them to us.”

        This discussion of rights arose in the context of my idea that a zygote has a right to life, so essentially, AYM is saying at least in part, “[we] exclude from a RIGHT TO LIFE those that are inherently unable to participate in the social contract, because they don’t/CAN’T understand the concepts involved,” and JE is implicitly saying at least in part, “We will not give a RIGHT TO LIFE to others unless they can and will give it to us.”

        AYM: Finally, regarding “mind development” [which JE had proposed as the criterion of personhood]. . . . humans don’t begin to exceed the mental capabilities of ordinary animals until well after birth (the very crucial ability to creatively and generically manipulate abstract symbols usually takes more than two years).

        NTwR: So AYM is apparently saying that personhood begins at 2 years +, but at that age can the person really understand the concepts involved in the social contract? If not, it is a person who has no right to life. Without that right, what is the advantage of being a person?

        And JE is saying that he will give a right to life only to those who can and will give it to him. Unlike AYM, he is not being seemingly-inconsistent with himself here, but “those who can and will give it to him” are of what age — at least teenagers? Before that, no right to life?

        NTwR: I hope to get back to JE more fully very soon.

        I hope to give some long-overdue replies to AYM soon also, but it will not be quite as soon as I had earlier indicated.

        And I would like to reply now to one point in JE’s December 28, 2013 at 9:28 pm post (I may bring this up again when I reply more fully to that post):

        JE: It might not even be within the woman’s body. I cannot fathom how you can attach equivalent significance to a born child as to the petri dish with its in vitro fertilized embryo.

        NTwR: Because I don’t see it as frozen in time; when I look at it, I can’t help but see it as part of a seamless process.

        Personally, I have an especially soft spot for my little in vitro sisters and brothers, because they seem so vulnerable and otherwise friendless. (I will make some qualification of this later.)

        JE, please confirm that you have seen this here as a reply to AYM.

        • To NTwR, you appear to have understood most of the points discussed, except for one little thing (not entirely your fault, though). There is the Science relating to personhood, and then there is the Law. It is ONLY the Science that would say that “full” personhood is not achieved for two years or more after birth. (And note that some aspects of personhood are achieved much sooner; many mere animals cannot recognize themselves in a mirror, including infant humans, but year-old humans mostly can.)

          Meanwhile, the Law arbitrarily grants personhood status at birth, PLUS right-to-life. In THAT context, the point you raised about a toddler is basically meaningless:

          “at that age can the person really understand the concepts involved in the social contract? If not, it is a person who has no right to life. Without that right, what is the advantage of being a person?”

          I may now reiterate that very few people are interested in changing the Law to more-closely match the Science (in which case the point you raised becomes worthy, and so that could be one reason why to not seek such a change). Meanwhile, abortion opponents still want to change the Law to make it LESS-closely match the Science (stupid!).

          Finally, I might mention that by the age of two, most youngsters are learning to talk. So, consider a “pinching lesson”, a relatively harmless thing that can involve some pain. Show the toddler how to pinch, and then show why it makes sense to NOT do it…. Then see about generalizing the lesson to all other sorts of pain (well-controlled slaps and punches could show that pinching isn’t the only way to cause pain).

          If the youngster can generalize, then it follows that he or she CAN understand the fundamentals of “right to life”. But in general we don’t need to bother, AT THAT AGE, because the Law has made the lessons unnecessary at that age. All I’m saying here is that the ability of youngsters to learn should not be underestimated.

          • AYM, Perhaps I can shortcut PART of the detailed replies I’ve been planning to send to other posts of yours, while at the same time addressing some of your post above:

            Without looking back just now over all that so-far unanswered text, it seems to me you never satisfactorily addressed my objection “. . . the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven . . .”

            When you say –

            “Science . . . would say that ‘full’ personhood is not achieved for two years or more after birth. . . . abortion opponents still want to change the Law [declaring a zygote to be a person] to make it LESS-closely match the Science (stupid!)”

            – it once again seems to me there’s a confusion between a scientific convention and a scientific fact. Scientists may choose to use some word in a certain way for their own purposes. They have every right to write the rules of their own club. But if you wanted to design an experiment, or carry out observations, to actually scientifically test and prove the theory “A person is a homo sapiens with a specific blah blah level of mental development,” how would you go about it?

            You would need a def. of “person” to START with. You would (and do) start your scientific research by adopting a def. of “person” that you have drafted or selected on a NON-scientific basis. (In fact a really scientific assessment of the word “person” would only describe how different groups of people happen to be using the word with different meanings.) And it would only be human nature for the def. that you draft or select to match the conclusion you already want to arrive at. Which, as I know, defines “person” in terms of the generic characteristics that distinguish the concerned human organism from ADULT animals — obviously stacking the deck. All that your research involves is identifying, and refining your understanding of, those characteristics, and finally coming to the “discovery” that pre-natal and post-natal human babies don’t have characteristics that distinguish them from adult animals.

            When JE says things to me such as “Why are you so squeamish about using development of the mind as the point to draw the line?,” it at least shows his recognition that any def. we come up with will ultimately be a man-made def. for our convenience (or, I would say, to match our intuition), not an objectively-proven fact.

          • AYM, Perhaps I can shortcut PART of the detailed replies I’ve been planning to send to other posts of yours, while at the same time addressing some of your post above:
            ————————
            That’s fine. I don’t expect you to be able to refute all the Facts I’ve presented, which destroy the arguments of abortion opponents.
            ==============

            Without looking back just now over all that so-far unanswered text, it seems to me you never satisfactorily addressed my objection “. . . the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven . . .”
            ——————–
            I may not have addressed this point to your satisfaction in one place, but I have certainly addressed parts of it in various places. For example, I specifically pointed at the word “arsenic” as being a word that used to have a definition that got usurped after certain Scientific discoveries. Its primary definition, TODAY, does indeed have undebate-able properties. Its original definition has become the second-place definition in the dictionary –and THAT has also become undebate-able, since we know exactly what chemical compound the definition referenced. Meanwhile other words, like “sodium” and “chloride”, ALSO have undebate-able defnitions today. All because of Science.

            I’ve also indicated that I’m not aware of Science-in-general offering a Formal Definition for “person”. Various individual scientists have offered possible definitions, such as one that can be found on this page (prepend both the http and the www): .ncte-india.org/pub/other/swami/role.htm –”Persons are individuals who transcend their organic individuality in conscious social participation.” (Sir Julian Huxley). Meanwhile, other researchers are working on individual pieces of the concept, such as one on this page (prepend both http and www): .csub.edu/~mault/symbols.htm –”What most distinguishes humans from other creatures is our ability to create and manipulate a wide variety of symbolic representations.”

            One of the problems that the “piecemeal” researchers have had is the fact that ordinary animals often possess SOME of the same mental abilities as humans. For example, the average dog can learn to distinguish and respond to a modest list of voice commands (“symbolic representations”). The average crow can count up to about five. Humans aren’t the only organisms with enough self-awareness to be able to recognize themselves in a mirror. The only trait I’ve read about, with the claim that humans possess it but no animal does (but I don’t know if/how any researchers have proved that claim), is the ability to mentally put oneself into the situation of another. This is a significant extension of the ability to do “empathy” –which in turn various animals DO exhibit (I distinctly recall seeing a pet cat approaching a very upset and noisy human, to offer its presence for petting/soothing/consoling).

            Humans simply have ALL of those characteristics (plus more that various animals have, not listed above), and humans tend to have those characteristics “in spades”. Or, rather, fully-developed humans have all those characteristics in spades. The unborn definitely don’t (as proved by experiments with infants); they only qualify as “mere animals”, in terms of their mental capabilities.
            =============

            When you say –

            “Science . . . would say that ‘full’ personhood is not achieved for two years or more after birth. . . . abortion opponents still want to change the Law [declaring a zygote to be a person] to make it LESS-closely match the Science (stupid!)”

            – it once again seems to me there’s a confusion between a scientific convention and a scientific fact. Scientists may choose to use some word in a certain way for their own purposes. They have every right to write the rules of their own club. But if you wanted to design an experiment, or carry out observations, to actually scientifically test and prove the theory “A person is a homo sapiens with a specific blah blah level of mental development,” how would you go about it?
            —————
            I would use a whole lot of baby gorillas, along with baby humans. The experiment I would do is a repeat of the way Koko the Gorilla was raised (with variations), and we would stop the training at different times for each gorilla in the experiment. This way we can measure how much mental stimulation it takes to cause the brain to grow the part that processes abstractions. SOME of this can also be done with human babies, but it would be considered unethical to deny any of them the full treatment that yields “normal” brain-development (even though the LACK of that treatment was “normal” for ALL humans 100,000 years ago!). Note that with modern non-invasive MRI technology for brain-scanning, we can certainly gather data on how both the human and the gorilla brains develop –the gorilla scans can tell us which parts STOP developing after we stop providing them with mental stimulation. (I might also note that with respect to what we know about “feral children”, it should be possible to stop stimulating a human for a year or so, and then start it up again and see the brain also start-again (or continue) its development of the abstraction-processing section. But this part of the overall experiment I expect some would perhaps-rightly call “ethically risky” –and we could certainly try it with gorillas, although we need to keep in mind that gorilla brains typically finish their major developmental stages much sooner than humans; a year-long gap might be too long.)

            The thing that the above experiment tries to “get at” is the origin of CONSCIOUS creativity. The entire field of “art” was originally all about manipulating abstractions in a conscious and creative way. Various nonhuman animals are willing to do things that we might call “art”, because the word has mutated to include messy splotches that can look interesting without actually meaning something (there is an actual book out there titled “Why Cats Paint”). But only humans (and Koko the Gorilla, if I recall right), so far as we know, include abstractions in their artistic endeavors (an item worthy of research in this category: the songs of humpback whales; it might prove they qualify as persons…).

            I’ve mentioned before that for most of humanity’s existence, we left no evidence that we were much more than merely “clever animals”. From our observations of other animals, we are aware that they occasionally stumble upon a useful technique for accomplishing something (a chimp will poke a stick into a termite mound, and the stick comes out covered with termites, which the chimp then licks off the stick and eats). We can be quite certain that humans discovered things, too (like how to safely contain fire). What our larger brains did for us, during the period of making discoveries, was make it easier to RECOGNIZE useful techniques. We did not necessarily INVENT very much of anything, do consciously creative acts, until the Late Stone Age began (which is when Art generically begins to appear in the archaeological/paleontological record). The major exception to the prior sentence is the stone-tipped wooden spear or axe. The ORIGINAL tool could well have been a rock wedged into a broken tree-branch during a landslide; the human who discovered its usefulness would very quickly desire a way to make the rock STAY wedged into the branch –and THAT would qualify as “inventing something”.
            ============

            You would need a def. of “person” to START with.
            —————–
            Note that the preceding segment sort-of indicates that the possession of conscious creativity is a good indicator of personhood. Learning language almost necessarily means learning how to manipulate words (abstractions) in a consciously creative way. Here is a CLASSIC description of youthful creativity (at the ripe old age of fifteen months, which perhaps is a bit of an exaggeration for comedic purposes) by Bill Cosby (prepend only the http): comedy-quotes.com/bill-cosby/children_are_truthful.html
            ===========

            You would (and do) start your scientific research by adopting a def. of “person” that you have drafted or selected on a NON-scientific basis. (In fact a really scientific assessment of the word “person” would only describe how different groups of people happen to be using the word with different meanings.)
            —————-
            I suspect you are mistaken in more than one way there (see what I wrote above?). One mistake relates to something I once read about, regarding anthropologists searching jungles for primitive tribes that never heard of civilization. The ones who survived the experience, when they got their data together, were able to conclude something like this: “Every tribe uses the word “people” (in its own language) to refer to itself, and outsiders are non-persons.” Well, we can trace THAT bit of Prejudice all through History, from the Hebrews invading Canaan to Nazi Germany (and even beyond if we consider “ethnic cleansing” in Bosnia and equivalent recent genocides in Africa). So, a Question, “The notion that dolphins might qualify as persons (prepend only the http– europeanlifenetwork.blogspot.com/2012/02/dolphins-are-persons-with-right-to-life.html ) has its opponents; what percentage of those opponents do you suppose are arguing from Prejudice?”
            ==========

            And it would only be human nature for the def. that you draft or select to match the conclusion you already want to arrive at. Which, as I know, defines “person” in terms of the generic characteristics that distinguish the concerned human organism from ADULT animals — obviously stacking the deck.
            ——————–
            FALSE. Because I’ve also talked about, in various places (although I must admit that at the moment I don’t recall doing it in these recent posts you’ve seen) about how do you tell whether or not an extraterrestrial organism qualifies as a person. (I do recall mentioning the fightforsense.wordpress.com blog where you should have seen it –prepend only the http to that link if you haven’t– and item #9 on the refutations list mentions a hypothetical alien.)

            The very notion that nonhuman persons might exist NECESSARILY means that the characteristics of personhood can be generically specified. It is THOSE generic characteristics, suitable for distinguishing mere animals from persons regardless of physical form (and remember that GOD is declared to be a person-class entity with NO physical form!), that can lead any human paying attention to the conclusion that unborn humans simply can’t qualify as persons –they are mere animals.
            =============

            All that your research involves is identifying, and refining your understanding of, those characteristics, and finally coming to the “discovery” that pre-natal and post-natal human babies don’t have characteristics that distinguish them from adult animals.
            ——————
            HAH! See the previous segment.
            ===========

            When JE says things to me such as “Why are you so squeamish about using development of the mind as the point to draw the line?,” it at least shows his recognition that any def. we come up with will ultimately be a man-made def. for our convenience (or, I would say, to match our intuition), not an objectively-proven fact.
            —————-
            I will invite you to re-view the movie “Independence Day”, and think about humans from the alien perspective. Does not their behavior indicate that they think humans don’t qualify as people (the outsiders relative to a socially primitive tribe)? MEANWHILE, the initial behavior of humans in that movie could mostly be called “welcoming”. Now think about WHY the humans in that movie were portrayed with that initial behavior.

            Let’s start with two classic phrases: “Art Imitates Life” and “Life Imitates Art” –we have reason to think that both phrases are, occasionally, accurate descriptions, even if hardly ever at the same time. So, human Art has included Science Fiction for well over a century (the first “officially-recognized-as-being-SF” novel is “Frankenstein”). A significant portion of that Art includes human interactions with nonhuman intelligences, sometimes bad (“War of the Worlds” and “The Thing”), sometimes neutral (“This Island Earth”), sometimes good (the battles of “Star Wars” had multiple species on both sides of an ideological divide; humans and aliens mostly get-along with each other fine), sometimes both bad and good (“Star Trek” and “Enemy Mine” and “Super 8″) –and sometimes just plain mysterious (“The UFO Incident” and “A Fire in the Sky”, although these movies are supposed to be based on true incidents, Art Imitating Life).

            The Art of “Independence Day” needed to portray humans who have a vast amount of OTHER Science Fiction in their social consciousness/background. Just about any human/alien interaction today could fall into the “Life Imitates Art” category, simply because there is such a huge repository of Art in that category. Nevertheless, the movie focused more on initial “welcoming” than on initial fear and and terror and hatred and suspicion (although of course those things were not entirely left out).

            Moving on, there is one final thing that I’m going to mention that I doubt you will like at all. I can’t say I like it, myself! There is a common thread in so-called “alien abduction” stories that I find quite interesting. The aliens are ALWAYS portrayed as being telepathic. Humans, of course, generally are not. What if THAT is the REAL distinguishing characteristic between “people” and “mere animals”??? Almost NONE of us would qualify! (And the aliens of “Independence Day”, also telepathic, would simply be using THAT definition!)

          • Here’s a better link for that Bill Cosby thing about a young child (prepend both the http and the www): .youtube.com/watch?v=4FTVn3QyrYo

          • I have added a sentence at the end of “Personhood,” and will do so for other posts: “Web links (http://. . .) included in a reply should not exceed three.”

            This is an anti-spam measure. Even with more than 3 links, a reply/comment will go through as soon as I approve it.

          • Once again I won’t be able to reply to your whole post right now at least, but I think I can reply to a lot of your post by just replying to this one point of yours:

            “I specifically pointed at the word ‘arsenic’ as being a word that used to have a definition that got usurped after certain Scientific discoveries. Its primary definition, TODAY, does indeed have undebate-able properties. Its original definition has become the second-place definition in the dictionary –and THAT has also become undebate-able, since we know exactly what chemical compound the definition referenced. Meanwhile other words, like ‘sodium’ and ‘chloride’, ALSO have undebate-able defnitions today. All because of Science.”

            This is a confusion between arsenic and the word “arsenic,” between sodium and the word “sodium,” etc.

            [Edit: You are trying to rebut my "A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven . . .”]

            But all that you may have shown about the word “arsenic,” for example, is that one particular def. has become a rigid scientific convention.

            [Edit: I will take your word for it that the properties of arsenic have now been proven after some uncertainty. This set the scene for the corresponding def. of the word becoming a rigid scientific convention, which is fine in the case of a chemical element. But that does not mean that that def. was proven through scientific observation of, and experimentation on, the word. Another dictionary might give the first def. of "arsenic" as "a Canadian rock band," while what an actual scientific study of the word "arsenic" would prove was that at least two meanings were in currency.]

            [Edit: And regarding the def. of "person": You and your team may succeed one day in making it a rigid scientific convention. But unlike in the case of arsenic (the element), other people and scientific teams will continue to disagree. So all that your def.'s presence in a dictionary will scientifically prove is that a certain team, or their logic, has prevailed on the editors of one particular dictionary. It will not prove that a zygote is not a person.]

          • Once again I won’t be able to reply to your whole post right now at least, but I think I can reply to a lot of your post by just replying to this one point:

            “I specifically pointed at the word ‘arsenic’ as being a word that used to have a definition that got usurped after certain Scientific discoveries. Its primary definition, TODAY, does indeed have undebateable properties. Its original definition has become the second-place definition in the dictionary –and THAT has also become undebateable, since we know exactly what chemical compound the definition referenced. Meanwhile other words, like ‘sodium’ and ‘chloride’, ALSO have undebate-able defnitions today. All because of Science.”

            This is a confusion between arsenic and the word “arsenic,” between sodium and the word “sodium,” etc.
            ————————–
            Only in YOUR mind. In my mind, there is an obvious lack-of-communications here. Perhaps this will help:

            Do you know how the editors of a dictionary decide what words mean? They basically ONLY “record common usage”. They do not create word-definitions out of nothing. As a result, though, the meanings of common words tends to mutate as the generations go by. However, the mere EXISTENCE of dictionaries has tended to “stabilize” languages. Word-spellings became standardized, for example. Old meanings tended to not disappear, BECAUSE the dictionary was there to remind current users of those old meanings. The net effect, in the long run, is that even though an existing word might acquire a new meaning, it becomes more difficult for that meaning to become the “top” meaning for the word. More likely, a new word will be created altogether (and if it happens to sound like an existing word, it will be spelled differently, such as happened with “phat”).

            There exceptions to what I’ve just described happen mostly because of Science. The word “arsenic” used to refer to a particular poison, but now that definition takes second-place after Chemical Element #33 (the actual poison is a chemical compound that contains arsenic). The primary definition of “arsenic” is not likely to ever change in the future, and I suspect THAT is why it is the primary definition!

            CAN you specify any logical reason why the word “arsenic” should ever again have its primary meaning changed? Because your text seems to indicate that such a change is inevitable, but you haven’t presented a rationale for that.
            ===============

            [Edit:: You are trying to rebut my "A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven . . .”]

            But all that you may have shown about the word “arsenic,” for example, is that one particular def. has become a rigid scientific convention.

            —————–
            Science is NOT in charge of the editors of typical dictionaries!
            ===========

            [Edit:: I will take your word for it that the properties of arsenic have now been proven after some uncertainty. This set the scene for the corresponding def. of the word becoming a rigid scientific convention, which is fine in the case of a chemical element. But that does not mean that that def. was proven through scientific observation of, and experimentation on, the word. Another dictionary might give the first def. of "arsenic" as "a Canadian rock band," while what an actual scientific study of the word "arsenic" would prove was that at least two meanings were in currency.]
            ——————
            Since you seem to be misunderstanding the process by which typical dictionaries are edited, you have reached a faulty conclusion. Here’s a phrase-definition that someone created as a joke. If the joke becomes popular and widely known, perhaps it will enter a dictionary someday…

            Mood Poodle:
            (1) A dog specially bred to respond to emotions (probably French).
            (2) A mispronunciation of “mud puddle” (probably French).
            ===========

            [Edit:: And regarding the def. of "person": You and your team may succeed one day in making it a rigid scientific convention. But unlike in the case of arsenic (the element), other people and scientific teams will continue to disagree.
            -------------------
            You are now ignoring the fact that different people are using different data to support their positions in the controversy. What if everyone became better-educated, such that all were working with the exact same set of data? A major purpose of that "Refutations" document at fightforsense.wordpress.com is to make available as complete a collection of relevant data as possible. Logically, if everyone has complete data, then everyone also has the exact same set of data. Another major purpose of that document is to show how certain data items, typically introduced into the Overall Abortion Debate, are fundamentally flawed and hence must be evicted from the Debate (examples: the notion that there exist such things as "intrinsic value" or "moral absolutes", or that "potential" equates with "actual"). "Complete" data needs to be 100% valid data, and must not include "garbage" notions (else a classic discovery of Computer Science, "Garbage In, Garbage Out", will be the inevitable Logical result).

            Now, how is it Logical to reach different Logical conclusions from the EXACT same set of data? One way might be for different people to give certain data items different "weights". BUT --weights are also data! If all have the exact same AND COMPLETE data, all will be using the same weights, too!
            =============

            So all that your def.'s presence in a dictionary will scientifically prove is that a certain team, or their logic, has prevailed on the editors of one particular dictionary. It will not prove that a zygote is not a person.]
            ——————
            Now you are neglecting the convention that the Burden Of Proof must be carried by those who make a “positive” claim, such as “a zygote is a person”. There is NO Scientific data supporting such a notion! There is only GIGO stuff, logic based on bad data (“every human is a person”), when even most abortion opponents have been exposed to data indicating that the concepts of “human” and “person” are two different things!

            Tell me, if we put you on a starship and gave you the job of inspecting alien organisms, to determine whether or not any of them qualified as persons, how would you go about it? More, let’s imagine you find a vaguely frog-shaped/sized organism, and studied it as best you can in the limited time available (because every world with Life will have a plethora of species to study). Without you telling me what Science-type tests you might apply to this frog-like organism (such as the “can it recognize itself in a mirror” test), let us Postulate that the organism fails all the tests. Do you declare it to be an ordinary animal, or a person?

            Remember that Science is all about being as Objective as possible, and Subjectivity is excluded as much as possible (sometimes it can’t, but USUALLY it can be excluded)
            .
            A month later your exploration team discovers a cave in which there are large organisms of an apparently related species, as large as humans (like humans are related to rather-smaller baboons, both being members of the “Great Apes” group). These larger organisms have some crude tools, but have not yet tamed fire, and DO pass your personhood tests.

            THEN you find out that the original smaller organism is one of half-a-million offspring released “into the wild” by the members of the large-organism group (something they do every breeding season). In a few more months perhaps 3 survivors out of that half-million, on the average, will trickle back to the cave site (because of pheromones) and join the community. (They never trickle back until after they grow the appropriate pheromone receptor.) If you decide you need to alter your original conclusion regarding the small organism that you first studied, what is your OBJECTIVE rationale for doing that?

            Also, NOW I want to know in detail what personhood tests you plan to employ. If you want me to believe that a human zygote qualifies as a person, you need to explain exactly how the zygote can pass one (or more) of your tests, and yet, per the description and Postulate here, your tests would fail to pass the small organism.

            Thanks in advance!

          • My next-to-last post had reiterated my contention that science cannot prove the correctness of any def. of a word, and had said of you that “you draft or select [a def.] to match the conclusion you already want to arrive at.”

            You replied implying (as the most tangible part of your rebuttal) that a particular def. of “arsenic” has been scientifically proved to be the correct def.

            Then in my last message I said, “This is a confusion between arsenic and the word ‘arsenic’ . . .” — in other words, a confusion between a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.

            Now you have replied (in this post of yours that I’m now replying to, and in your 2014/01/03 at 10:53 am follow-up), and here is the outline:

            1. “. . . there is an obvious lack-of-communications here” — clearly implying I’m wrong about your confusion, which in turn implies that the correctness of a def. CAN be scientifically proven. Presumably now you will demonstrate that in your following steps.

            2. Dictionaries put the best def. first (in relation to a reference I had made to dictionaries).

            3. Different people arrive at different defs. because at least one party is using incomplete data.

            4. If all people used complete data, their defs. would be the same (exs. given of how this applies to some words in the abortion debate, but not the word “person”).

            5. The burden of proof is on a positive claim; there is no proof that a zygote is a person.

            6. A rhetorical question to me: if a young alien organism failed all the tests of personhood such as “can it recognize itself in a mirror,” would I declare it to be an animal or a human? (Implying that I would declare it to be an animal.)

            7. A related question: if after it had grown up I (NTwR) declared it human, would I admit that to now call the young version human would not be objective of me? (Implying that my view of zygotes is based on a lack of objectivity.)

            8. Another related question: what would be MY (NTwR’s) criteria/tests of personhood such that a zygote could meet them, whereas it could not meet your criteria?

            9. (added in your follow-up message) Unless I (NTwR) want to say that alien organisms the equivalent of earthly worms, etc., are also persons, they must fail to meet my criteria/tests.

            Even if all this holds up, I’m not sure if it does what you set out to do in 1. But (if it holds up) it does help to some extent in demonstrating that your def. of “person” will likely be listed first in a dictionary, and also that that def. is correct. If it is correct, that shows that it is valid to call the def. of at least one noun in the world THE correct def., which helps in demonstrating that the def. of a noun can be proven scientifically and therefore that I was wrong when I said that in making that claim, you were confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.

            However, I don’t think it all does hold up, because proving that I was wrong stands or falls on, among other things, the belief that “can it recognize itself in a mirror” is a test of personhood.

            I don’t accept “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood.

            So I continue to think that you are confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.

            As mentioned, you have constructed your present argument in a way that depends on “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood. So we see that once again, as I wrote before, “the def. that you draft or select matches the conclusion you already want to arrive at.”

            And the fact that you didn’t feel a need to argue for “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood, but rather considered that as somehow self-obvious, shows that you may not be aware that a necessary premise your conclusion rests on is still, after several posts on this page and another, waiting to be proved.

            I’d be happy to state my tests/criteria, if I haven’t already, but let’s not complicate things now. First we should be clear about whether you are confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun. Because if I’m right that you are doing that, and you continue to do that, it’s likely to confuse any further discussion as well.

          • Sorry, I forgot to say something about the fact that your tests MUST fail every alien organism that is the equivalent of an Earthly worm or ant or spider or rat or …. –organisms that actually are “mere ordinary animals” must always fail your personhood-detection tests.

          • My next-to-last post had reiterated my contention that science cannot prove the correctness of any def. of a word, and had said of you that “you draft or select [a def.] to match the conclusion you already want to arrive at.”

            You replied implying (as the most tangible part of your rebuttal) that a particular def. of “arsenic” has been scientifically proved to be the correct def.
            ———————-
            Then you have misunderstood. I have NEVER claimed that any ordinary dictionary definition has an associated “scientific proof”. And you you seem to think such a situation should be true of ordinary dictionary definitions, perhaps you should explain why.
            ================

            Then in my last message I said, “This is a confusion between arsenic and the word ‘arsenic’ . . .” — in other words, a confusion between a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.

            Now you have replied (in this post of yours that I’m now replying to, and in your 2014/01/03 at 10:53 am follow-up), and here is the outline:

            1. “. . . there is an obvious lack-of-communications here” — clearly implying I’m wrong about your confusion, which in turn implies that the correctness of a def. CAN be scientifically proven. Presumably now you will demonstrate that in your following steps.
            —————————-
            NOT AT ALL. I am stating that dictionaries are assembled by editors who study how words are typically used in a language. Here are some details (prepend the http and www): .wikihow.com/Write-a-Dictionary-Definition –the second paragraph at the top is The Main Thing.

            As a result, “scientific proof” simply doesn’t have anything to do with most words in a dictionary. SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs (most likely candidates: specialty-subject technical-jargon words). If you looked up the phrase “Pythagorean Theorem” in a really good dictionary, a formal proof MIGHT be included with the definition.

            On the other hand, Science is a tremendous source of brand-new data. One way to simplify portions of data is to deliberately create or “coin” a word, and set its meaning to equal a block of data. Today “laser” is an ordinary word and refers to a physical device, but it started out as an acronym, meaning “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation” –referring to a PROCESS. The name of the device directly relates to a description of how it works!

            Still, there is NOTHING in the preceding that associates the concept of “scientific proof” with the meaning(s) of that particular word.
            ===============

            2. Dictionaries put the best def. first (in relation to a reference I had made to dictionaries).
            ————-
            The dictionary editors decide that. Obviously different dictionaries might have words with very similar definitions that happen to be arranged in different sequences.
            ===========

            3. Different people arrive at different defs. because at least one party is using incomplete data.

            4. If all people used complete data, their defs. would be the same (exs. given of how this applies to some words in the abortion debate, but not the word “person”).
            ——————-
            It is not impossible that a wide variety of dictionaries could end up with both similar and similarly-ordered definitions, if complete data was available to all the dictionary editors.

            The rest of the stuff below doesn’t seem to have anything to do with dictionaries.
            =============

            5. The burden of proof is on a positive claim; there is no proof that a zygote is a person.
            ————
            YUP.

            Below, I should apologize for some of that, since I was writing it off the top of my head and didn’t put a lot of organizational effort into it. I think I should try again (below).
            =========

            6. A rhetorical question to me: if a young alien organism failed all the tests of personhood such as “can it recognize itself in a mirror,” would I declare it to be an animal or a human? (Implying that I would declare it to be an animal.)

            7. A related question: if after it had grown up I (NTwR) declared it human, would I admit that to now call the young version human would not be objective of me? (Implying that my view of zygotes is based on a lack of objectivity.)

            8. Another related question: what would be MY (NTwR’s) criteria/tests of personhood such that a zygote could meet them, whereas it could not meet your criteria?

            9. (added in your follow-up message) Unless I (NTwR) want to say that alien organisms the equivalent of earthly worms, etc., are also persons, they must fail to meet my criteria/tests.
            ——————
            OK, first things first. The Scenario is that you are on a star-ship and tasked with studying alien life-forms, to determine which are persons and which are ordinary animals. Since the concept of “person” is distinct from the concept of “human”, you will need some sort of Generic Test Suite to do those determinations. Your tests must always correctly identify mere animals, and it must always correctly identify persons.

            IF you claim that a human zygote qualifies as a person, then at least one of your Tests must be able to identify it as such, in spite of all the existing data that indicates it is insignificantly different from an ordinary single-celled animal organism.

            IF you encounter an alien organism that happens to be a significantly undeveloped offspring of some person-class aliens, presumably the Test that works for a zygote will work on this undeveloped organism, also, to identify it as a person. But In the Scenario, you do NOT know in advance that the organism is such an offspring, at the time you conduct your Tests. That fact is only discovered later.

            I ask you to specify what sort of Tests could quickly identify a human zygote as a person, but an amoeba as a mere animal, and the alien-offspring as another person, but some other alien organism, not wildly different in body size or structure, would be correctly identified as another mere animal.

            MY goal here is basically related to the notion that it is impossible to devise the sort of Tests specified. The suite of traits that a person possesses, but an ordinary animal does not, is here on Earth observed to grow into existence –AND certain special circumstances are also required, during the growth process. Somehow your Tests must be able to identify a person even when it CAN’T exhibit any of the traits characteristic of persons! So, If such is actually possible, then you would have to do the Positive thing, and specify the Tests.
            ======================

            Even if all this holds up, I’m not sure if it does what you set out to do in 1. But (if it holds up) it does help to some extent in demonstrating that your def. of “person” will likely be listed first in a dictionary, and also that that def. is correct. If it is correct, that shows that it is valid to call the def. of at least one noun in the world THE correct def., which helps in demonstrating that the def. of a noun can be proven scientifically and therefore that I was wrong when I said that in making that claim, you were confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.
            ——————
            That seems to be a fair assessment regarding a generic definition for “person”. I doubt it is necessary to think that “scientific proof” is involved, though.
            ============

            However, I don’t think it all does hold up, because proving that I was wrong stands or falls on, among other things, the belief that “can it recognize itself in a mirror” is a test of personhood.

            I don’t accept “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood.

            So I continue to think that you are confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun.

            As mentioned, you have constructed your present argument in a way that depends on “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood. So we see that once again, as I wrote before, “the def. that you draft or select matches the conclusion you already want to arrive at.”

            And the fact that you didn’t feel a need to argue for “can it recognize itself in a mirror” as a test of personhood, but rather considered that as somehow self-obvious, shows that you may not be aware that a necessary premise your conclusion rests on is still, after several posts on this page and another, waiting to be proved.
            ———————
            MISINTERPRETATION. The mirror test is a test for self-awareness, which is considered by many folks to be ***ONE*** ASPECT of personhood. Note that the test has a particular inadequacy, in that it cannot be used to test a blind person. It can only be used on organisms that have a decent vision system.

            There are other aspects associated with personhood. There is the ability to creatively manipulate abstractions. There is the ability to contemplate the future. There is the ability to mentally put oneself into another entity’s situation. And I think there are others that I am not recalling at the moment.
            ===============

            I’d be happy to state my tests/criteria, if I haven’t already, but let’s not complicate things now. First we should be clear about whether you are confusing a noun as such with the thing named by the noun. Because if I’m right that you are doing that, and you continue to do that, it’s likely to confuse any further discussion as well.
            —————
            OK, what say you about that “misinterpretation” stuff just above?

          • AYM: Then you have misunderstood. I have NEVER claimed that any ordinary dictionary definition has an associated “scientific proof”. And you you seem to think such a situation should be true of ordinary dictionary definitions, perhaps you should explain why.

            NTwR: I’m replying assuming you mean “and yet you.”

            On the other page where we discussed, I once quoted from “Personhood” –

            “the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it. . . . it all comes down to intuition.”

            – and you replied:

            “You are certainly partly right, but keep in mind that Science Marches On. Pieces of the puzzle, regarding a Scientific Definition for personhood, DO exist. . .”

            Then you quoted some earlier words of yours on that page:

            “scientific qualifications for personhood … were semi-accidentally discovered . . .”

            And on this page, when I said you had “never satisfactorily addressed” my “A word does not have undebatable properties,” you replied:

            “I may not have addressed this point to your satisfaction in one place, but I have certainly addressed parts of it in various places. For example, I specifically pointed at the word ‘arsenic’ as being a word that used to have a definition that got usurped after certain Scientific discoveries. Its primary definition, TODAY, does indeed have undebate-able properties. Its original definition has become the second-place definition in the dictionary –and THAT has also become undebate-able, since we know exactly what chemical compound the definition referenced. Meanwhile other words, like ‘sodium’ and ‘chloride’, ALSO have undebate-able defnitions today. All because of Science.”

            If you say, for example, that a word has an undebatable definition because of science, aren’t you saying that the def. has been scientifically proven? Let’s leave dictionaries out of it. It’s not completely clear above what you mean by “ordinary dictionary” or “associated,” but we don’t need to sort all that out if we just leave dictionaries out of it. I’m sorry I ever mentioned dictionaries. The point is, you have been saying that the def. of a word can be scientifically proven, and I have been saying it can’t be.

            AYM: Then you have misunderstood. I have NEVER claimed that any ordinary dictionary definition has an associated “scientific proof”. And you you seem to think such a situation should be true of ordinary dictionary definitions, perhaps you should explain why.

            NTwR: Leaving dictionaries out of it, if you mean that I have been saying that the def. of a word can be scientifically proven, then no, I certainly didn’t intend to say that. You have been saying that, or at least I don’t know how else I could have understood the three quotes of yours above.

            AYM: I am stating that dictionaries are assembled by editors who study how words are typically used in a language.

            NTwR: That’s all that the editors can do, and in that sentence, and in your “I have NEVER claimed,” you would seem to agree that it’s all anybody can do. Right. No one can single out one of those word usages and say that it has been proven to be the correct one . . .

            AYM: As a result, “scientific proof” simply doesn’t have anything to do with most words in a dictionary. SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs (most likely candidates: specialty-subject technical-jargon words).

            NTwR: . . . but here again, how can I understand you except as saying that the defs. of “SOME words” can be scientifically proven?

            AYM: If you looked up the phrase “Pythagorean Theorem” in a really good dictionary, a formal proof MIGHT be included with the definition.

            NTwR: A proof of the theorem might be, because it is possible to prove the theorem. But it is not possible to prove the phrase, as you seem to be saying it is. And just before that you said, “SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs.” Proving a theorem is one thing, proving a word is another. Suppose that “Pythagorean Theorem” is sometimes, in usage, the name of a Greek rock band. There is no way to prove that “square of the hypotenuse, etc.” is the correct def. of “Pythagorean Theorem,” and “a Greek rock band” is incorrect.

            After another paragraph about the word “laser,” you say:

            “Still, there is NOTHING in the preceding that associates the concept of “scientific proof” with the meaning(s) of that particular word.”

            There was nothing in the para about “laser,” but in the para that preceded that, about “Pythagorean Theorem,” you said, “SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs.”

            AYM: But In the Scenario, you do NOT know in advance that the organism is such an offspring, at the time you conduct your Tests. That fact is only discovered later.

            I ask you to specify what sort of Tests could quickly identify a human zygote as a person, but an amoeba as a mere animal,

            NTwR: Maybe none could. So what? The method in your scenario is arbitrary. We do know that zygotes are offspring of adult persons, and why should we pretend that we don’t?

            AYM: MISINTERPRETATION. The mirror test is a test for self-awareness, which is considered by many folks to be ***ONE*** ASPECT of personhood. Note that the test has a particular inadequacy, in that it cannot be used to test a blind person. It can only be used on organisms that have a decent vision system.

            There are other aspects associated with personhood . . .

            NTwR old: I’d be happy to state my tests/criteria, if I haven’t already . . .

            AYM: OK, what say you about that “misinterpretation” stuff just above?

            NTwR (new, in real time): You seem to think that I misinterpreted your “such as the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test” in your earlier –

            “Without you telling me what Science-type tests you might apply to this frog-like organism (such as the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test), let us Postulate that the organism fails all the tests. Do you declare it to be an ordinary animal, or a person?”

            – as “NAMELY the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test.” I didn’t misinterpret it that way. I understood “such as,” meaning “for example.” I understood that in your thought experiment, there would be other tests as well.

            However, if, as I said, “I don’t accept ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ as a test of personhood,” AND that test is “such as” the other tests, meaning that the other tests are “such,” similar — i.e., if they are all tests of ADULT FUNCTIONALITY — then I don’t accept ANY such tests.

            I would like us to agree that 1) no word def. can be scientifically proven to be correct; and 2) tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.” Then we would be able to move on to what I would consider a more useful debate than we have had: what def. is best supported by philosophical argument that adduces all possible scientific data?

            Then we could start with “Tests of already-present adult functionality are the best way to define ‘person’” as a possibly-reasonable thesis — a thesis that would have to be defended. Or start with “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person” in the same way.

          • AYM: Then you have misunderstood. I have NEVER claimed that any ordinary dictionary definition has an associated “scientific proof”. And you you seem to think such a situation should be true of ordinary dictionary definitions, perhaps you should explain why.

            NTwR: I’m replying assuming you mean “and yet you.”
            ————-
            Yes, that was a typo.
            ==========

            On the other page where we discussed, I once quoted from “Personhood” –

            “the problem is that ‘personhood’ . . . is a word. A word does not have undebatable properties as does a molecule of sodium chloride. Scientists may agree, as a convention for their own use, on a definition of some word, but that does not mean that the definition is scientifically proven, or even that the editor of any dictionary is bound to include it. . . . it all comes down to intuition.”

            – and you replied:

            “You are certainly partly right, but keep in mind that Science Marches On. Pieces of the puzzle, regarding a Scientific Definition for personhood, DO exist. . .”

            Then you quoted some earlier words of yours on that page:

            “scientific qualifications for personhood … were semi-accidentally discovered . . .”

            And on this page, when I said you had “never satisfactorily addressed” my “A word does not have undebatable properties,” you replied:

            “I may not have addressed this point to your satisfaction in one place, but I have certainly addressed parts of it in various places. For example, I specifically pointed at the word ‘arsenic’ as being a word that used to have a definition that got usurped after certain Scientific discoveries. Its primary definition, TODAY, does indeed have undebate-able properties. Its original definition has become the second-place definition in the dictionary –and THAT has also become undebate-able, since we know exactly what chemical compound the definition referenced. Meanwhile other words, like ‘sodium’ and ‘chloride’, ALSO have undebate-able defnitions today. All because of Science.”

            If you say, for example, that a word has an undebatable definition because of science, aren’t you saying that the def. has been scientifically proven?
            —————–
            NO. I’m saying that Science has provided a definition that nobody has any reason to dispute. This is different from the subject of “proof”, because BEFORE you can have a proof, you first must have an “assumption”. With respect to “arsenic”, a particular scientific discovery was made (a substance that happened to be a new chemical element), but the chemist who made the discovery had a particuale rationale to NAME that substance “arsenic”. (Some folks became chemists just because they wanted to discover AND name new elements.) See this link (prepend both http and www): .chemistryexplained.com/elements/A-C/Arsenic.html –apparently the actual elemental substance may have been mixed with one (or more) of its compounds after relatively simple processing of the compounds (like heating), and been known for centuries, without being recognized. In a sense, the element already had the name “arsenic” for a long time. Science merely came along and tidied things up, because Precision Is Important.

            Now consider the element “sodium” for a minute. Its chemical symbol is “Na”, which tends to confuse students who see all those other elements, with symbols clearly related to their names (like “Mg” is for “magnesium”). The “Na” stands for “natrium” –it is a different language than English in which the symbol is clearly related to the name. But the DEFINITION of both “sodium” and “natrium” is the SAME” a particular chemical element. Some others come to us from Latin, because seven metallic elements were known in ancient times: Cu is cuprum (copper), Ag is argentum (silver), Au is aurum (gold), Sn, is stannum (tin), Pb is plumbum (lead), Hg is hydragyrum (mercury), and Fe is ferrum (iron). A couple other known ancient elements managed to come to us from Latin pretty directly: S is sulfur and C is carbon. And, finally, a few elements are “in the same boat” as sodium, discovered in recent centuries, but not by English-speakers: K is kallium (potassium), Sb is stibium (antimony), and W is wolfram (tungsten).
            ===============

            Let’s leave dictionaries out of it. It’s not completely clear above what you mean by “ordinary dictionary” or “associated,” but we don’t need to sort all that out if we just leave dictionaries out of it. I’m sorry I ever mentioned dictionaries.
            ———————-
            Technical specialties tend to have specialized jargon that doesn’t appear in ordinary dictionaries. Which obviously means that specialized dictionaries must exist. As for “associated”, since I took what YOU wrote to mean that YOU thought words could each have a scientific proof, it logically follows that each word would, in that case, have a particular/different proof associated with it.
            ================

            The point is, you have been saying that the def. of a word can be scientifically proven, and I have been saying it can’t be.

            AYM: Then you have misunderstood. I have NEVER claimed that any ordinary dictionary definition has an associated “scientific proof”. And you you seem to think such a situation should be true of ordinary dictionary definitions, perhaps you should explain why.

            NTwR: Leaving dictionaries out of it, if you mean that I have been saying that the def. of a word can be scientifically proven, then no, I certainly didn’t intend to say that. You have been saying that, or at least I don’t know how else I could have understood the three quotes of yours above.
            ——————-

            Consider the word “fireplace”. Humans didn’t invent fire, but they certainly invented ways to control it. As long as humans have discovered and invented things, they have needed a way to communicate those discoveries to the next generation. It is assumed that words (abstractions!) were invented for that purpose. And the trend continues even today, because new things keep being discovered/invented –and new words get invented or “coined”, too. Science has added a LOT of words to our vocabularies! And so THAT is where I was coming from, in talking about Science! No “proof” required! Just discovery/naming and inventing/naming, creating Precision for the most-accurate-possible communications.

            Well, one of the other things Science can do is take an existing thing and dissect it to see how it ticks and/or what it is made of, and so on –leading to new discoveries and new words. We have had, for a long time, the concepts of “person” and “animal”. What is the exact difference between those concepts? A SIMPLE way to specify that difference is to merely associate “person” with “human”, and “animal” with “nonhuman” –but Science has shown us that, considering the Huge Wide Universe, that particular association will turn out to be Stupidly Prejudiced in the long run. We Need Something Better –and Science is “on the case”, making discoveries such as were described in that “Mindful of Symbols” article (prepend the http and www): .csub.edu/~mault/symbols.htm
            ===============

            AYM: I am stating that dictionaries are assembled by editors who study how words are typically used in a language.

            NTwR: That’s all that the editors can do, and in that sentence, and in your “I have NEVER claimed,” you would seem to agree that it’s all anybody can do. Right. No one can single out one of those word usages and say that it has been proven to be the correct one . . .
            ——————–
            Then you are neglecting the invention/naming and discovering/naming thing. Why would some word mean something OTHER than what the person who coined it DECIDED it should mean???
            ==============

            AYM: As a result, “scientific proof” simply doesn’t have anything to do with most words in a dictionary. SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs (most likely candidates: specialty-subject technical-jargon words).

            NTwR: . . . but here again, how can I understand you except as saying that the defs. of “SOME words” can be scientifically proven?
            ——————–
            You are neglecting the invention/naming and discovering/naming thing. Why would some word mean something OTHER than what the person who coined it DECIDED it should mean???
            =============

            AYM: If you looked up the phrase “Pythagorean Theorem” in a really good dictionary, a formal proof MIGHT be included with the definition.

            NTwR: A proof of the theorem might be, because it is possible to prove the theorem. But it is not possible to prove the phrase, as you seem to be saying it is. And just before that you said, “SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs.” Proving a theorem is one thing, proving a word is another. Suppose that “Pythagorean Theorem” is sometimes, in usage, the name of a Greek rock band. There is no way to prove that “square of the hypotenuse, etc.” is the correct def. of “Pythagorean Theorem,” and “a Greek rock band” is incorrect.
            ———————–
            I specified “might”, and probably should have included the word “associated”.

            We both know full well that (A) words and phrases both tend to get borrowed for purposes other than their original use, and (B) dictionarys have multiple definitions partly as a CONSEQUENCE of (A).

            Consider the word “kiss”. It can refer to a particular activity, or it can refer to a rock band, or it can be an acronym (“Keep It Simple, Stupid”). Plus more (prepend only the http): en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiss_(disambiguation)

            AND there is another way in which a word in the dictionary can have multiple meanings. Two different languages might use the same sound for two completely different purposes. English, a glutton for words originated elsewhere, has plenty of examples, such as “die” (gambling device) and “die” (something stops living). Sometimes they come into English with different spellings (“homophones”). Overall, I suspect this lets us make puns in English more easily than it can be done in any other language. Ask a girl if you can pull on her pony-tail, and she might answer “Neigh!” :)

            As a result, the “bigger” problem is not to prove that a word means some particular thing, but to prove which definition deserves to take the #1 position in the dictionary. I’m pretty sure editiors use “popularity of usage” as the main criterion for that.

            MEANWHILE, just because a word might have multiple meanings, and even if all of them are in the dictionary, some of those meanings might be marked as being “substandard” or “obsolete”. Once upon a time I went looking to buy a paperback dictionary, and I bought the one that had the most definitions that I could find (80,000). It is copyright 1979, so doesn’t have words or definitions coined in more-recent decades, like “nuke” (slang for a nuclear power plant OR explosive device, or it could mean “to cook in a microwave oven”). Various “politically incorrect” words are also missing, such as “nigger” (slang for “Negro”). In this dictionary the word “ain’t” (contraction of “am not”) is marked as “substandard” –I seem to recall looking on the Internet one day for on-line dictionaries, and found one associated with a college English Department, that DIDN’T include “ain’t” (the word is so-much denounced by English teachers!).

            Science is a tool that gives us the means to declare that certain words or definitions SHOULD BE labeled “substandard” or “obsolete”. My dictionary does NOT include the word “vitalism”, a centuries-old concept that Science showed was nonsense.
            =================

            After another paragraph about the word “laser,” you say:

            “Still, there is NOTHING in the preceding that associates the concept of “scientific proof” with the meaning(s) of that particular word.”

            There was nothing in the para about “laser,” but in the para that preceded that, about “Pythagorean Theorem,” you said, “SOME words or phrases might have scientific proofs.”
            —————-
            Again, I specified “might”, and also should have specified “associated”. The whole point of the “laser” paragraph was the invention/naming or discovery/naming thing. Perhaps I have made myself more clear now?
            ====================

            AYM: But In the Scenario, you do NOT know in advance that the organism is such an offspring, at the time you conduct your Tests. That fact is only discovered later.

            I ask you to specify what sort of Tests could quickly identify a human zygote as a person, but an amoeba as a mere animal,

            NTwR: Maybe none could. So what? The method in your scenario is arbitrary.
            ———————
            NOT QUITE. If we ever encounter a world with person-class R-strategists, who simply haven’t yet invented things like fireplaces, we could very well discover their offspring roaming about, before we encountered any adults. Because the offspring would outnumber the adults by thousands-to-one, and would NOT be getting personal care from the adults (that’s how the R-strategy for reproduction is practically defined!). I DID say, in the original posting of the Scenario, something about the adult-alien group releasing a half-million offspring into the wild every breeding season….
            ===================

            We do know that zygotes are offspring of adult persons, and why should we pretend that we don’t?
            ——————
            Do not confuse what we know about humans with the order in which we might discover things about alien intelligences. There need be NO “pretending” in the Scenario I described.
            ===============

            AYM: MISINTERPRETATION. The mirror test is a test for self-awareness, which is considered by many folks to be ***ONE*** ASPECT of personhood. Note that the test has a particular inadequacy, in that it cannot be used to test a blind person. It can only be used on organisms that have a decent vision system.

            There are other aspects associated with personhood . . .

            NTwR old: I’d be happy to state my tests/criteria, if I haven’t already . . .

            AYM: OK, what say you about that “misinterpretation” stuff just above?

            NTwR (new, in real time): You seem to think that I misinterpreted your “such as the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test” in your earlier –

            “Without you telling me what Science-type tests you might apply to this frog-like organism (such as the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test), let us Postulate that the organism fails all the tests. Do you declare it to be an ordinary animal, or a person?”

            – as “NAMELY the ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ test.” I didn’t misinterpret it that way. I understood “such as,” meaning “for example.” I understood that in your thought experiment, there would be other tests as well.

            However, if, as I said, “I don’t accept ‘can it recognize itself in a mirror’ as a test of personhood,” AND that test is “such as” the other tests, meaning that the other tests are “such,” similar — i.e., if they are all tests of ADULT FUNCTIONALITY — then I don’t accept ANY such tests.
            ———————–
            THEN HOW DO YOU EXPECT TO IDENTIFY **ANY** ALIEN (or even Artificial) INTELLIGENCES AS PERSONS?
            ================

            I would like us to agree that 1) no word def. can be scientifically proven to be correct;
            ——————-
            Sorry, I can’t agree just yet, because I get the impression that you are intending to confuse “scientific definition” with “scientific proof of a definition”. That is, if the latter is invalidated, you would use that to invalidate the former. If YOU agree to not do any such thing, THEN I can agree with that point.
            ==========================

            and 2) tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.”
            ————————–
            And here I cannot agree because (A) you haven’t specified how you would go about identifying non-human persons as actually being persons, (B) it is obvious that any definition related to “human-ness” is Stupidly Prejudiced, and (C) even for humans, it is not necessary for them to become adults to exhibit the traits of personhood. Most human three-year-olds would manage just fine, to pass tests that mere animals can’t. Biological adulthood usually doesn’t happen for more than a decade after that.
            ============================

            Then we would be able to move on to what I would consider a more useful debate than we have had: what def. is best supported by philosophical argument that adduces all possible scientific data?
            ——————–
            This sounds like you plan on cherry-picking the data (“adduce” means “cite as pertinent). Not a hopeful sign, if one person can say a particular fact is relevant, while another might deny it.
            ===============

            Then we could start with “Tests of already-present adult functionality are the best way to define ‘person’” as a possibly-reasonable thesis — a thesis that would have to be defended.
            ——————–
            If you can find some other way to identify a person than by detecting functionality, let me know.
            ==============

            Or start with “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person” in the same way.
            —————-
            IRRATIONAL, two different ways. First is that you haven’t specified how you detect personhood. Any mention of “potential” is worthless until AFTER you can say, “This organism qualifies as a person NOW.” Because if you can’t say THAT, then you can’t say that a younger version of that organism has the potential to qualify!

            And, second, of course, as I’ve pointed out before, equating the potential with the actual is Stupid. Do you WANT to be taxed as if you had fulfilled your potential to win a multi-million-dollar lottery? Do you WANT your house demolished because it has the potential to become an unsafe structure? Do you WANT to be buried right now because you have the potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse? To say “No” to all of those, yet say “Yes” to granting person status to an unborn human JUST because of its potential to become a person, is, philosophically speaking, PURE HYPOCRISY.

          • NTwR old: aren’t you saying that the def. has been scientifically proven?

            AYM: NO. I’m saying that Science has provided a definition that nobody has any reason to dispute. This is different from the subject of “proof”

            NTwR: What you say now seems clear enough. You are not saying that the def. of “arsenic” or of “sodium” or of “chloride” has been scientifically proven to be correct. But then soon:

            NTwR old: No one can single out one of those word usages and say that it has been proven to be the correct one . . .

            AYM: Then you are neglecting the invention/naming and discovering/naming thing. Why would some word mean something OTHER than what the person who coined it DECIDED it should mean??? . . .

            NTwR: You are rebutting my “No one can . . . say that it has been PROVEN,” so you seem to mean that in the case of an invented word, the correctness of the inventor’s def. HAS BEEN proven.

            AYM: The whole point of the “laser” paragraph was the invention/naming or discovery/naming thing. Perhaps I have made myself more clear now?

            NTwR: If you do mean to say that invented words are an exception to not-proven, and that in the case of an invented word, the correctness of the inventor’s def. is proven, you might be nearly right, IF the word has JUST been invented.

            But as soon as someone starts a rock band called Laser, then the def. of “laser” becomes debatable.

            And anyway, “person” is not a word like “laser” (invented, and recently so). So even if invented words are an exception to the usual rule, apparently we both think that no def. of “person” can be scientifically proven to be correct.

            NTwR old: Maybe none could [no tests could quickly identify a human zygote as a person without knowing what it was an offspring of]. So what? The method in your scenario is arbitrary.

            AYM: NOT QUITE. If we ever encounter a world with person-class R-strategists, who simply haven’t yet invented things like fireplaces, we could very well discover their offspring roaming about, before we encountered any adults. Because the offspring would outnumber the adults by thousands-to-one, and would NOT be getting personal care from the adults (that’s how the R-strategy for reproduction is practically defined!). I DID say, in the original posting of the Scenario, something about the adult-alien group releasing a half-million offspring into the wild every breeding season….

            NTwR: I didn’t mean to say that the method of blindness-about-offspring in your scenario is arbitrary within your hypothetical scenario. I meant to say that it would be arbitrary to insist on the method with human zygotes, in our actual scenario.

            NTwR old: I would like us to agree that 1) no word def. can be scientifically proven to be correct;

            AYM: Sorry, I can’t agree just yet, because I get the impression that you are intending to confuse “scientific definition” with “scientific proof of a definition”. That is, if the latter is invalidated, you would use that to invalidate the former. If YOU agree to not do any such thing, THEN I can agree with that point.

            NTwR: I agree to not do any such thing, on condition that I am not bound to accept a def. as a scientific definition just because you or scientist X says it is.

            NTwR old: 2) tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.”

            AYM: And here I cannot agree because (A) you haven’t specified how you would go about identifying non-human persons as actually being persons, (B) it is obvious that any definition related to “human-ness” is Stupidly Prejudiced, and (C) even for humans, it is not necessary for them to become adults to exhibit the traits of personhood. Most human three-year-olds would manage just fine, to pass tests that mere animals can’t. Biological adulthood usually doesn’t happen for more than a decade after that.

            NTwR: You do not need to agree that any alternative def. of mine is plausible or even coherent, in order to agree that tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.” The emphasis is on “self-evidently.” I simply mean, as I said, that you would have to DEFEND “tests of adult functionality (or 3-yr.-old functionality, or whatever) are the best way to define ‘person.’”

            NTwR old: Then we would be able to move on to what I would consider a more useful debate than we have had: what def. is best supported by philosophical argument that adduces all possible scientific data?

            AYM: This sounds like you plan on cherry-picking the data (“adduce” means “cite as pertinent). Not a hopeful sign, if one person can say a particular fact is relevant, while another might deny it.

            NTwR: If I cherry-pick, then you are free to adduce whatever valid data you like, and I will have to accept it, because I said your argument can adduce “all possible scientific data.”

            NTwR old: Then we could start with “Tests of already-present adult functionality are the best way to define ‘person’” as a possibly-reasonable thesis — a thesis that would have to be defended.

            AYM: If you can find some other way to identify a person than by detecting functionality, let me know.

            NTwR: “X functionality or potential for X functionality.”

            NTwR old: “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person”

            AYM: IRRATIONAL, two different ways. First is that you haven’t specified how you detect personhood. Any mention of “potential” is worthless until AFTER you can say, “This organism qualifies as a person NOW.” Because if you can’t say THAT, then you can’t say that a younger version of that organism has the potential to qualify!

            NTwR: I didn’t need to specify it, because various of my replies indicated that I was accepting your definition. You haven’t given a FORMAL def., either, as I’ve pointed out, but you’ve indicated something like “showing functional characteristics typical of 3-yr.-old human” . . . and that would be fine with me. (And then I would go on to say, “a younger version of that organism also qualifies.”)

            AYM: And, second, of course, as I’ve pointed out before, equating the potential with the actual is Stupid. . . . Do you WANT to be buried right now because you have the potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse?

            NTwR: “Pointed out” is not the right word.

            1. Where you originally came in to the discussion on the other page, I had defined “person” as “any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. . . .”

            2. You then offered an argument, which I called your “Part One – Part Two argument” based on your same above weak “corpse” analogy.

            3. I demonstrated the weakness in that argument.

            4. Then you resorted to this: “it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you directly equate unborn humans with fully-developed humans [which my def. did not do], or if you instead value the potential of unborn humans equally with the actual abilities of fully-developed humans [which my def. did do] . . . . . And so my Part One – Part Two argument is still entirely a valid refutation of that ‘equating’, by making its irrationality absurdly obvious.”

            5. But your Part One – Part Two argument only worked if I were REALLY equating, not just valuing, so the only way I could understand your above para was that you must see valuing as the same as equating. Not only did it not MATTER to you which of the two I was doing, but also you apparently could not see or pretended not to see that there was any difference between the two. You, it seemed, must be pretending that I was equating — pretending that my def. claimed that a zygote ALREADY had brain function (a straw man which your Part One – Part Two argument could easily tear down).

            So I replied November 28, 2013 at 6:57 am –

            http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion/#comment-3980

            – paraphrasing your Part One – Part Two argument to make clear the straw-manning; and then I accepted that such an argument would work (i.e., your argument works only on the basis of a straw man — on the basis of a version of my def. containing an obvious fallacy not actually present therein).

            You never replied further about your Part One – Part Two argument (until now), so I thought you had seen the point.

          • NTwR old: aren’t you saying that the def. has been scientifically proven?

            AYM: NO. I’m saying that Science has provided a definition that nobody has any reason to dispute. This is different from the subject of “proof”

            NTwR: What you say now seems clear enough. You are not saying that the def. of “arsenic” or of “sodium” or of “chloride” has been scientifically proven to be correct. But then soon:

            NTwR old: No one can single out one of those word usages and say that it has been proven to be the correct one . . .

            AYM: Then you are neglecting the invention/naming and discovering/naming thing. Why would some word mean something OTHER than what the person who coined it DECIDED it should mean??? . . .

            NTwR: You are rebutting my “No one can . . . say that it has been PROVEN,” so you seem to mean that in the case of an invented word, the correctness of the inventor’s def. HAS BEEN proven.

            AYM: The whole point of the “laser” paragraph was the invention/naming or discovery/naming thing. Perhaps I have made myself more clear now?

            NTwR: If you do mean to say that invented words are an exception to not-proven, and that in the case of an invented word, the correctness of the inventor’s def. is proven, you might be nearly right, IF the word has JUST been invented.

            But as soon as someone starts a rock band called Laser, then the def. of “laser” becomes debatable.
            —————-
            UTTERLY FALSE. The word simply acquires an additional meaning, and it is the responsibility of whoever uses the word to make clear which meaning is being employed. Very Simple! And, it is the FAILURE to do that, for certain words, PLUS the failure of those who hear the words to request the meanings intended, that causes much miscommunication in the world (almost as big a cause of problems as selfishness).
            =============

            And anyway, “person” is not a word like “laser” (invented, and recently so). So even if invented words are an exception to the usual rule, apparently we both think that no def. of “person” can be scientifically proven to be correct.
            ————–
            BUT –That Does NOT Mean There Cannot Exist An Accurate Scientific Definition (which, because it would be GENERIC, would be ethically superior to the current human-Prejudiced definition). Like I wrote toward the end of my last post, “I get the impression that you are intending to confuse “scientific definition” with “scientific proof of a definition”. That is, if the latter is invalidated, you would use that to invalidate the former.” But you cannot offer any worthy rationale for accomplishing such an invalidation.
            ===========

            NTwR old: Maybe none could [no tests could quickly identify a human zygote as a person without knowing what it was an offspring of]. So what? The method in your scenario is arbitrary.

            AYM: NOT QUITE. If we ever encounter a world with person-class R-strategists, who simply haven’t yet invented things like fireplaces, we could very well discover their offspring roaming about, before we encountered any adults. Because the offspring would outnumber the adults by thousands-to-one, and would NOT be getting personal care from the adults (that’s how the R-strategy for reproduction is practically defined!). I DID say, in the original posting of the Scenario, something about the adult-alien group releasing a half-million offspring into the wild every breeding season….

            NTwR: I didn’t mean to say that the method of blindness-about-offspring in your scenario is arbitrary within your hypothetical scenario. I meant to say that it would be arbitrary to insist on the method with human zygotes, in our actual scenario.
            —————–
            I also indicated that I could have better-described the proposed Scenario, and then did that. You seem to be focusing on the original flawed description of that aspect of the Scenario. The corrected version is, “IF you claim that a human zygote qualifies as a person, then at least one of your Tests must be able to identify it as such, in spite of all the existing data that indicates it is insignificantly different from an ordinary single-celled animal organism.”

            I ask you to keep in mind that your Tests are supposed to be Generic, such that if they can identify a human zygote as a person, then they can also identify the zygotes of alien-person species as persons, too. While also correctly identifying zygotes of mere-animal species as being mere animal organisms.
            =============

            NTwR old: I would like us to agree that 1) no word def. can be scientifically proven to be correct;

            AYM: Sorry, I can’t agree just yet, because I get the impression that you are intending to confuse “scientific definition” with “scientific proof of a definition”. That is, if the latter is invalidated, you would use that to invalidate the former. If YOU agree to not do any such thing, THEN I can agree with that point.

            NTwR: I agree to not do any such thing, on condition that I am not bound to accept a def. as a scientific definition just because you or scientist X says it is.
            ——————
            AHA! In other words, you are reserving the right to reject Science as a tool for gathering information about a topic? In essence, that is what you are talking about doing when someone (or some team) finally/first gathers up all the data, and consolidates it into a Generic Definition of “person”. There is a major “complexity” thing that would work against you in this case. Currently there are typical things that happen already, such as disputes over the methodologies used to obtain a particular type of data. Here, however, the data must necessarily cover a broad spectrum of person-class behaviors –no one experiment or methodology is going to be used to gather the data. This means that the data is likely to be independently verified BEFORE anyone does the consolidation thing. So, what basis can you imagine, for legitimately disputing the Scientific Definition of “person” that would result from the data-consolidation I’ve just described?
            ================

            NTwR old: 2) tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.”

            AYM: And here I cannot agree because (A) you haven’t specified how you would go about identifying non-human persons as actually being persons, (B) it is obvious that any definition related to “human-ness” is Stupidly Prejudiced, and (C) even for humans, it is not necessary for them to become adults to exhibit the traits of personhood. Most human three-year-olds would manage just fine, to pass tests that mere animals can’t. Biological adulthood usually doesn’t happen for more than a decade after that.

            NTwR: You do not need to agree that any alternative def. of mine is plausible or even coherent, in order to agree that tests of adult functionality are not self-evidently the best way to define “person.” The emphasis is on “self-evidently.” I simply mean, as I said, that you would have to DEFEND “tests of adult functionality (or 3-yr.-old functionality, or whatever) are the best way to define ‘person.’”
            —————
            NOT NECESSARILY. OK, I understand where you are coming from, but there are a couple things you seem to be missing. First, do you recall the criteria that humans ORIGINALLY used to declare that humans outside a tribe were freely available for mistreatment (search this page for “anthropologists”)? It should be obvious that such prejudice would work against nonhumans even more than against humans. But NOW, because of data gathered regarding dolphins that possibly qualify as persons, and Koko the gorilla who DOES qualify, we KNOW better than to focus on using “human” to define “person”. THEREFORE, right here on Earth, we need a better definition for distinguishing persons from mere animals. What do you propose to base that definition on, if not the observable characteristics of functioning persons, which mere animals demonstrably lack?

            Second, there is such a thing as a “passive defense”. An existing situation must be overcome before the defenders accept defeat. Basically, the defender says, “SHOW ME! –that my position is untenable”. So, in that sense I HAVE defended that position, by repeatedly asking the equivalent of this question, How ELSE can you identify a non-human person? IF you can provide an identification technique that (A) works reliably and (B) does not involve behaviorial tests, THEN you would have shown that my position is faulty.
            ============

            NTwR old: Then we would be able to move on to what I would consider a more useful debate than we have had: what def. is best supported by philosophical argument that adduces all possible scientific data?

            AYM: This sounds like you plan on cherry-picking the data (“adduce” means “cite as pertinent). Not a hopeful sign, if one person can say a particular fact is relevant, while another might deny it.

            NTwR: If I cherry-pick, then you are free to adduce whatever valid data you like, and I will have to accept it, because I said your argument can adduce “all possible scientific data.”
            ——————
            PERHAPS. Actually, you did not originally specify “your argument” (meaning AYM’s argument) when you originally used “adduce”. AND I don’t see how “I have to accept it” applies, when it is possible to, as I wrote “deny it” [deny that a particular fact is relevant/pertinent]. (I might mention that in direct human-life interactions, there is someone I know who almost automatically claims “That’s irrelevant!” when presented with a fact that weakens an argument being presented by that person. Logically, I can expect others to do that, too!)
            =============

            NTwR old: Then we could start with “Tests of already-present adult functionality are the best way to define ‘person’” as a possibly-reasonable thesis — a thesis that would have to be defended.

            AYM: If you can find some other way to identify a person than by detecting functionality, let me know.

            NTwR: “X functionality or potential for X functionality.”
            ——————–
            Ah, but EITHER way, that definition ultimately relies on “functionality” to distinguish persons from mere animals. And you have cast such doubt on that method, you lead me to expect something different. WELL???
            ===========

            NTwR old: “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person”

            AYM: IRRATIONAL, two different ways. First is that you haven’t specified how you detect personhood. Any mention of “potential” is worthless until AFTER you can say, “This organism qualifies as a person NOW.” Because if you can’t say THAT, then you can’t say that a younger version of that organism has the potential to qualify!

            NTwR: I didn’t need to specify it, because various of my replies indicated that I was accepting your definition. You haven’t given a FORMAL def., either, as I’ve pointed out, but you’ve indicated something like “showing functional characteristics typical of 3-yr.-old human” . . . and that would be fine with me. (And then I would go on to say, “a younger version of that organism also qualifies.”)
            ——————-
            The only reason I haven’t given a formal definition is because Science hasn’t yet acquired enough data to produce one. Nevertheless, it HAS acquired SOME relevant data on the subject –all of which is related to “functionality”.

            For now, OK, I will not dispute your acceptance of that, so long as one little detail/clarification is kept in mind. Per the Facts about “feral children”, personhood is NOT an innate characteristic of humans. It is an ACQUIRED characteristic, and circumstances exist in which it might fail to become acquired.
            ===============

            AYM: And, second, of course, as I’ve pointed out before, equating the potential with the actual is Stupid. . . . Do you WANT to be buried right now because you have the potential to exhibit all the characteristics of a corpse?

            NTwR: “Pointed out” is not the right word.

            1. Where you originally came in to the discussion on the other page, I had defined “person” as “any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. . . .”

            2. You then offered an argument, which I called your “Part One – Part Two argument” based on your same above weak “corpse” analogy.

            3. I demonstrated the weakness in that argument.
            ————–
            NOT THAT I EVER NOTICED. What I recall, without going back to review the posted text, was that you (in essence) invoked Prejudice, in which desirable outcomes were somehow to be considered Objectively Superior to undesirable outcomes. But The Universe Does Not Care About Human Opinions Regarding Possible Outcomes.
            ===========

            4. Then you resorted to this: “it doesn’t matter to me whether or not you directly equate unborn humans with fully-developed humans [which my def. did not do], or if you instead value the potential of unborn humans equally with the actual abilities of fully-developed humans [which my def. did do]. You are still exhibiting the irrationality of, in essence, equating “potential” and “actual”. And so my Part One – Part Two argument is still entirely a valid refutation of that ‘equating’, by making its irrationality absurdly obvious.”
            ————–
            It STILL is an entirely valid refutation. Not to mention, right here in this post I can copy from above:

            “NTwR old: “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person” ”

            There is no “equating of potential and actual value” in THAT; it is a direct equating of functionality with potential.
            =============

            5. But your Part One – Part Two argument only worked if I were REALLY equating, not just valuing,
            ————-
            Which you ARE doing, as just noted above!
            ==============

            so the only way I could understand your above para was that you must see valuing as the same as equating. Not only did it not MATTER to you which of the two I was doing, but also you apparently could not see or pretended not to see that there was any difference between the two.
            ———–
            An equating of two values IS “an equating”. Why should it matter how the equating is PHRASED? Here’s a sample: “I value the human zygote as much as I value an older human that is able to exhibit characteristics of persons, which mere animals cannot do.” That IS “equating two values”. However, a mere valuation is NOT a valid rationale for declaring that the zygote qualifies as a person!!! You might as well value a particular ruby as much as you value a particular sapphire, and then claim, on that basis, that the two stones are chemically identical. Logic Does Not Work That Way. (The Fact is, both stones are mostly crystalline aluminum oxide, but they have different trace-elements that cause them to have different colors.) OR (another way of exposing your fallacy): “Duh, because I value a shark as much as I value a barracuda, they must both be the same species.”

            Not to mention, just because YOU declare a particular pair of valuations to be equal, why should others agree with you? All Valuations Are Subjective, Not Objective, Because There Is No Such Thing As Intrinsic Value.
            ==========

            You, it seemed, must be pretending that I was equating — pretending that my def. claimed that a zygote ALREADY had brain function (a straw man which your Part One – Part Two argument could easily tear down).
            ————–
            When I pretend something, I’m honest enough to say I’m pretending something. (If I don’t actually always use the word “pretend”, I DO tend to use words like “imagine” or “scenario”.) And you were most definitely equating some aspect of a zygote with some aspect of a person. No pretense on my part was needed, at all!
            ============

            So I replied November 28, 2013 at 6:57 am –

            http://www.prolifehumanists.org/secular-case-against-abortion/#comment-3980

            – paraphrasing your Part One – Part Two argument to make clear the straw-manning; and then I accepted that such an argument would work (i.e., your argument works only on the basis of a straw man — on the basis of a version of my def. containing an obvious fallacy not actually present therein).

            You never replied further about your Part One – Part Two argument (until now), so I thought you had seen the point.
            —————
            In looking at that post at the other site, I’m not seeing anything in what you wrote that indicates that your def. did not contain the obvious fallacy which I exploded in the Part One-Part Two argument. Therefore I assumed you were dropping your definition.

            Obviously, this post reveals you didn’t drop it –but you STILL have an obvious fallacy in your definition (as exploded herein)!

          • NTwR old: I didn’t mean to say that the method of blindness-about-offspring in your scenario is arbitrary within your hypothetical scenario. I meant to say that it would be arbitrary to insist on the method with human zygotes, in our actual scenario.

            AYM: I also indicated that I could have better-described the proposed Scenario, and then did that. You seem to be focusing on the original flawed description of that aspect of the Scenario. The corrected version is, “IF you claim that a human zygote qualifies as a person, then at least one of your Tests must be able to identify it as such, in spite of all the existing data that indicates it is insignificantly different from an ordinary single-celled animal organism.”

            NTwR: One of my tests, though not generic, identifies it as such according my def. of “person”. That test is, Is it known to be the offspring of a fully-functional person? (see continuation)

            AYM: I ask you to keep in mind that your Tests are supposed to be Generic, such that if they can identify a human zygote as a person, then they can also identify the zygotes of alien-person species as persons, too. While also correctly identifying zygotes of mere-animal species as being mere animal organisms.

            NTwR’s continuation: Coming up with a generic test might be of interest at a sci-fi convention, but I am not obliged to tie my hands like that. If I have some scientific data at my disposal about human zygotes that I don’t have about alien zygotes, why shouldn’t I use it? You are the one who is trying to exclude some scientific data, not me.

            NTwR old: I agree to not do any such thing, on condition that I am not bound to accept a def. as a scientific definition just because you or scientist X says it is.

            AYM: AHA! In other words, you are reserving the right to reject Science as a tool for gathering information about a topic?

            NTwR: So you and/or scientist X = Science with a capital “S”? Aha!

            AYM: In essence, that is what you are talking about doing when someone (or some team) finally/first gathers up all the data, and consolidates it into a Generic Definition of “person”. There is a major “complexity” thing that would work against you in this case. Currently there are typical things that happen already, such as disputes over the methodologies used to obtain a particular type of data. Here, however, the data must necessarily cover a broad spectrum of person-class behaviors –no one experiment or methodology is going to be used to gather the data. This means that the data is likely to be independently verified BEFORE anyone does the consolidation thing. So, what basis can you imagine, for legitimately disputing the Scientific Definition of “person” that would result from the data-consolidation I’ve just described?

            NTwR: I would look at the def. and see if there is any basis. I would not be influenced by all these arguments by authority (appealing to a sacrosanct authority or sacrosanct process).

            AYM: THEREFORE, right here on Earth, we need a better definition for distinguishing persons from mere animals. What do you propose to base that definition on, if not the observable characteristics of functioning persons, which mere animals demonstrably lack? . . .

            How ELSE can you identify a non-human person? IF you can provide an identification technique that (A) works reliably and (B) does not involve behaviorial tests, THEN you would have shown that my position is faulty.

            NTwR: See below about “X functionality . . .”

            NTwR old: If I cherry-pick, then you are free to adduce whatever valid data you like, and I will have to accept it, because I said your argument can adduce “all possible scientific data.”

            AYM: PERHAPS. Actually, you did not originally specify “your argument” (meaning AYM’s argument) when you originally used “adduce”. AND I don’t see how “I have to accept it” applies, when it is possible to, as I wrote “deny it” [deny that a particular fact is relevant/pertinent] . . .

            NTwR: If you adduce valid data, I will have to accept it as valid data. Any attempt by me to cherry-pick only SOME valid data will fail. But at that point, certainly it next has to be considered whether a valid datum is relevant/pertinent.

            AYM old: If you can find some other way to identify a person than by detecting functionality, let me know.

            NTwR old: “X functionality or potential for X functionality.”

            AYM: Ah, but EITHER way, that definition ultimately relies on “functionality” to distinguish persons from mere animals. And you have cast such doubt on that method, you lead me to expect something different. WELL???

            NTwR: I don’t think I ever basically cast doubt on your functionality method that leads to the conclusion “3-yr.-old humans (or humans with a certain set of functions or whatever) have functionality superior to that of adult animals, and that qualifies them (3-yr.-olds or whatever) as humans.” I basically agree with all that. But “3-yr.-old humans . . . have functionality superior to that of adult animals, and that qualifies them as humans” is not an exclusive statement. What I would cast doubt on would be making it exclusive: “ONLY 3-yr.-old humans . . .” I have a philosophical argument that supports defining “person” so as to INCLUDE any organism with the potential to become a 3-yr.-old human. (And arguments for one def. over another must ultimately be philosophical, since, as we have agreed, no def. can be scientifically proved to be correct. Your talk about An Accurate Scientific Definition, for instance, refers to what is ultimately a philosophically-based def.)

            Why do I say “basically”? Here I have to quality my earlier “that would be fine with me.” I stick to my def. of “person” as “any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. . . .” Suppose a zygote genetically destined to have some mental deficiency will never reach the 3-yr.-old level (though I think that would be very rare). If it nevertheless belongs to the species Homo sapiens and will reach a >0-brain-function level, I call it a person.

            AYM: For now, OK, I will not dispute your acceptance of that, so long as one little detail/clarification is kept in mind. Per the Facts about “feral children”, personhood is NOT an innate characteristic of humans. It is an ACQUIRED characteristic, and circumstances exist in which it might fail to become acquired.

            NTwR: An unborn human and its mother might be killed by a tsunami, also, but that does not justify human agency in killing an unborn human.

            NTwR old: 3. I demonstrated the weakness in that argument.

            AYM: NOT THAT I EVER NOTICED. What I recall, without going back to review the posted text, was that you (in essence) invoked Prejudice, in which desirable outcomes were somehow to be considered Objectively Superior to undesirable outcomes. But The Universe Does Not Care About Human Opinions Regarding Possible Outcomes.

            NTwR: Adding to similar ethical expressions of yours, on the other page you just wrote, “It does something bad, that ordinary parasites don’t. It infuses its host with addictive substances. Post-partum depression is what happens when the infusions stop . . .” The universe does not care about this either. To the universe, nothing is bad. But many people who believe that the universe does not care, nevertheless find some meaning in ethical decisions, and that is what our whole discussion has been about, if it’s been about anything. I don’t think I ever expressed the idea of Objectively Superior. I would have said “subjectively superior,” because ethics is based on the subjective.

            Well, regarding your Part One – Part Two argument, I think that we have narrowed the gap of communication, but I’m also beginning to feel that we should close it now or never.

            “Narrowed” is reflected by the fact that everything in this post of yours related to that argument really boils down to one idea, repeated in a few different ways. The first occurrence of that idea is:

            NTwR old: “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person.”

            AYM: There is no “equating of potential and actual value” in THAT; it is a direct equating of functionality with potential. . . . you ARE [REALLY equating, not just valuing].

            NTwR: Please read it more carefully. It does not say a blanket “functionality = potential,” which you would be justified in calling fallacious. It says “Potential is as good as functionality when it comes to determining personhood” — which CANNOT be logically fallacious, because it’s a subjective judgement (there being no objective def. of “person,” as we have seen).

            Let me try one more time regarding your Part One – Part Two argument. If I say –

            “A young stalk of wheat has potential to become a mature stalk of wheat and therefore has whatever value a mature stalk of wheat has, so it should be considered to be a stalk of wheat, and, since a stalk of wheat has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up”

            – that does NOT mean I am bound to say –

            “A young Anocepheles mosquito has potential to become a mature Anocepheles mosquito and therefore has whatever value an Anocepheles mosquito has, so it should be considered to be an Anocepheles mosquito, and, since an Anocepheles mosquito has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up”

            Our whole discussion is about ethics, if it’s about anything.

            I may be bound to say “A young Anocepheles mosquito . . . should be considered to be an Anocepheles mosquito,” but I am not bound to continue from there, “since an Anocepheles mosquito has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up” — because it doesn’t have a positive value. “Value” and the consequent “should” are ethical terms, and ethics can be selective. Ethics is in the business of being selective.

          • NTwR old: I didn’t mean to say that the method of blindness-about-offspring in your scenario is arbitrary within your hypothetical scenario. I meant to say that it would be arbitrary to insist on the method with human zygotes, in our actual scenario.

            AYM: I also indicated that I could have better-described the proposed Scenario, and then did that. You seem to be focusing on the original flawed description of that aspect of the Scenario. The corrected version is, “IF you claim that a human zygote qualifies as a person, then at least one of your Tests must be able to identify it as such, in spite of all the existing data that indicates it is insignificantly different from an ordinary single-celled animal organism.”

            NTwR: One of my tests, though not generic, identifies it as such according my def. of “person”. That test is, Is it known to be the offspring of a fully-functional person? (see continuation)
            —————-
            Ah, but that makes your Test dependent upon Tests performed on OTHER organisms, than the current organism (ANY zygote/offspring of a species with members capable of acquiring personhood). That counts as a Critical Flaw. THINK about it. One reason to go explore the stars is to found colonies. Science has made discoveries indicating that DNA-based life might be widespread across the Galaxy (prepend the http to these links, and the www only to the 2nd and 3rd links):
            helix.northwestern.edu/article/origin-life-panspermia-theory
            .newscientist.com/blogs/shortsharpscience/2012/04/reverse-panspermia.html
            .technologyreview.com/view/513781/moores-law-and-the-origin-of-life/

            That means we could have reason to be able to safely EAT life-forms on alien planets. What if the offspring of an intelligent alien species qualify as “edible and nutritious” –but you don’t find out that the organisms you initially test are indeed the offspring of those intelligent beings? This Is Why You NEED Your Test To Stand Alone From Testing Other Organisms, And Be An Accurate Indicator Of Personhood!
            ==============

            AYM: I ask you to keep in mind that your Tests are supposed to be Generic, such that if they can identify a human zygote as a person, then they can also identify the zygotes of alien-person species as persons, too. While also correctly identifying zygotes of mere-animal species as being mere animal organisms.

            NTwR’s continuation: Coming up with a generic test might be of interest at a sci-fi convention, but I am not obliged to tie my hands like that. If I have some scientific data at my disposal about human zygotes that I don’t have about alien zygotes, why shouldn’t I use it? You are the one who is trying to exclude some scientific data, not me.
            —————
            NONSENSE. I do not deny in the least that human zygotes have potential, in Scientific Fact, to grow into organisms able to acquire personhood. I merely ALSO recognize that “potential abilities” and “actual abilities” are two different things that can be assigned different valuations –and so I do that. Allow me to now remind you of my last post on the “Too Young For Rights?” page. You haven’t responded to the point that white blood cells ACTUALLY HAVE EXACTLY the same potential as zygotes; they simply need more help than zygotes do, to fulfill their potential. And so YOU are valuing potential NOT in terms of the fact that it exists, but in terms of barriers to its fulfillment. WHY SHOULD THAT MAKE A DIFFERENCE (wanting to require that some barriers legally-must be overcome, but not others)? I pointed out that even a full-term human fetus needs help, in order for it to fulfill its potential. What if that help was refused, just like one might refuse to “activate” a white blood cell, and thereby deny the fulfillment of potential? There DO exist “muscle relaxant” drugs that might cause “labor” to not happen….
            =============

            NTwR old: I agree to not do any such thing, on condition that I am not bound to accept a def. as a scientific definition just because you or scientist X says it is.

            AYM: AHA! In other words, you are reserving the right to reject Science as a tool for gathering information about a topic?

            NTwR: So you and/or scientist X = Science with a capital “S”? Aha!
            —————–
            You might have noticed by now that I’ve been capitalizing that word a great deal. I distinguish “Science” from “science” this way: “Science” is the PROCESS, as in “scientific method”, while “science” is about the data that is gathered. See, for example, “science of aerodynamics”, or “nuclear science”.
            ==============

            AYM: In essence, that is what you are talking about doing when someone (or some team) finally/first gathers up all the data, and consolidates it into a Generic Definition of “person”. There is a major “complexity” thing that would work against you in this case. Currently there are typical things that happen already, such as disputes over the methodologies used to obtain a particular type of data. Here, however, the data must necessarily cover a broad spectrum of person-class behaviors –no one experiment or methodology is going to be used to gather the data. This means that the data is likely to be independently verified BEFORE anyone does the consolidation thing. So, what basis can you imagine, for legitimately disputing the Scientific Definition of “person” that would result from the data-consolidation I’ve just described?

            NTwR: I would look at the def. and see if there is any basis. I would not be influenced by all these arguments by authority (appealing to a sacrosanct authority or sacrosanct process).
            —————–
            Science is as very-much about “reproducibilty” of the data it gathers, as it is about hypothesis-generation. HOW does it make sense to claim that reproducible data, regarding the differences between persons and mere animals, has no basis? The Universe cares nothing about “sacroscant” –it offers up to ANYONE willing to do the Science, reproducible results! (This fact is a “bane” of organizations doing secret research. Once it is known that something CAN be done, others will eventually find out how to do it.)
            ==============

            AYM: THEREFORE, right here on Earth, we need a better definition for distinguishing persons from mere animals. What do you propose to base that definition on, if not the observable characteristics of functioning persons, which mere animals demonstrably lack? . . .

            How ELSE can you identify a non-human person? IF you can provide an identification technique that (A) works reliably and (B) does not involve behaviorial tests, THEN you would have shown that my position is faulty.

            NTwR: See below about “X functionality . . .”
            ————
            I’m not seeing anything significantly new, nor am I seeing any difference between “testing for X functionality” and “behaviorial tests” (phrased based on fact that persons can exhibit different behaviors than mere animals can exhibit –I’m simply using a synonym of “functionality”). I do see some extra text describing something that can only be verified if functionality/behaviors begin to exist (and obviously would be test-able).
            ===========

            NTwR old: If I cherry-pick, then you are free to adduce whatever valid data you like, and I will have to accept it, because I said your argument can adduce “all possible scientific data.”

            AYM: PERHAPS. Actually, you did not originally specify “your argument” (meaning AYM’s argument) when you originally used “adduce”. AND I don’t see how “I have to accept it” applies, when it is possible to, as I wrote “deny it” [deny that a particular fact is relevant/pertinent] . . .

            NTwR: If you adduce valid data, I will have to accept it as valid data. Any attempt by me to cherry-pick only SOME valid data will fail. But at that point, certainly it next has to be considered whether a valid datum is relevant/pertinent.
            ————
            Then you have mis-described what you are talking about. I specifically looked up the word “adduce” to be sure I would be understanding and using it correctly. So, “if I adduce valid data”, BY DEFINITION I have ALSO declared it to be pertinent/relevant! (The validity of the data is entirely independent of what “adduce” means.) Your words imply that data can be adduced AND have its pertinence disputed, in spite of the definition of the word!

            So let’s agree to not use that word, and then simply consider presenting data to each other, preferably valid, while we also discuss its relevance.
            ============

            AYM old: If you can find some other way to identify a person than by detecting functionality, let me know.

            NTwR old: “X functionality or potential for X functionality.”

            AYM: Ah, but EITHER way, that definition ultimately relies on “functionality” to distinguish persons from mere animals. And you have cast such doubt on that method, you lead me to expect something different. WELL???

            NTwR old: I don’t think I ever basically cast doubt on your functionality method that leads to the conclusion “3-yr.-old humans (or humans with a certain set of functions or whatever) have functionality superior to that of adult animals, and that qualifies them (3-yr.-olds or whatever) as humans.”
            —————-
            STOP RIGHT THERE. I have not said anything about tests for qualifying humans as humans! I have only talked about tests for qualifying humans (and other worthy organisms) as persons!
            ============

            I basically agree with all that. But “3-yr.-old humans . . . have functionality superior to that of adult animals, and that qualifies them as humans”
            ————–
            THERE YOU GO AGAIN! I just took a quick look at the earlier postings here, and NONE of them, referencing 3-year olds, mention qualifying them as humans. Did you REALLY think you could insert such a horrible distortion into my argument, and get away with it???
            =============

            is not an exclusive statement. What I would cast doubt on would be making it exclusive: “ONLY 3-yr.-old humans . . .” I have a philosophical argument for defining “person” to INCLUDE any organism with the potential to become a 3-yr.-old human.
            ————–
            I’m quite aware of that. Just as I’m aware your philosophy is inherently flawed, as I’ve pointed out numerous times.
            ============

            (And arguments for one def. over another must ultimately be philosophical, since, as we have agreed, no def. can be scientifically proved to be correct. Your talk about An Accurate Scientific Definition, for instance, refers to what is ultimately a philosophically-based def.)
            —————
            FALSE. We have not yet reached agreement regarding definitions. You did NOT respond to this part of my last post (starting with a quote of something you previously wrote):
            “But as soon as someone starts a rock band called Laser, then the def. of “laser” becomes debatable.
            —————-
            UTTERLY FALSE. The word simply acquires an additional meaning, and it is the responsibility of whoever uses the word to make clear which meaning is being employed. Very Simple! And, it is the FAILURE to do that, for certain words, PLUS the failure of those who hear the words to request the meanings intended, that causes much miscommunication in the world (almost as big a cause of problems as selfishness).”

            As a result, There Is No Need For Any Definition To Have An Associated Scientific Proof.
            ==========

            Why do I say “basically”? Here I have to quality my earlier “that would be fine with me.” I stick to my def. of “person” as “any organism that belongs to the species Homo sapiens and that contains or may possibly contain the full genetic information necessary to be or become a born Homo sapiens with >0 brain function. . . .” Suppose a zygote genetically destined to have some mental deficiency will never reach the 3-yr.-old level (though I think that would be very rare). If it nevertheless belongs to the species Homo sapiens and will reach a >0-brain-function level, I call it a person.
            ————–
            Yes, I’ve seen your definition before, along with at least some of that explanation. I have also pointed out the major philosophical flaw, in that most of the human cells in your body meet your definition (some don’t, like red blood cells, which have no DNA). All they need is appropriate help, just like a zygote, or even a full-term fetus, needs help. You have yet to explain why you want some help to become legally-must-be-provided, while other help can be refused. By the way, there is a more accurate number available, than the “about 100 trillion” that I previously mentioned. Prepend the http and www to this link: .ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23829164
            ============

            AYM: For now, OK, I will not dispute your acceptance of that, so long as one little detail/clarification is kept in mind. Per the Facts about “feral children”, personhood is NOT an innate characteristic of humans. It is an ACQUIRED characteristic, and circumstances exist in which it might fail to become acquired.

            NTwR: An unborn human and its mother might be killed by a tsunami, also, but that does not justify human agency in killing an unborn human.
            ————-
            TWO DIFFERENT THINGS. A human need not be killed to prevent it from acquiring personhood. Indeed, feral children have existed because NO actions by other humans were involved in their lives, for a long time. Remember, for over 100,000 years, ALL humans were “feral”, no more than just clever animals, and nonpersons.

            Meanwhile, the ONLY justification needed to allow the killing of an unborn human, by another human, is its horribly unethical behavior in the womb, stealing biological resources from, dumping toxic bio-wastes into, and infusing addictive substances into the body of a mostly-innocent woman (she did nothing that FORCED a blastocyst to implant into her womb! –any more than walking by a swamp forces mosquitoes to come out to suck your blood). The unborn human is operating under the “might makes right” Law of the Jungle, and per the Golden Rule, can deserve to be a victim of that same Law of the Jungle.
            ================

            NTwR old: 3. I demonstrated the weakness in that argument.

            AYM: NOT THAT I EVER NOTICED. What I recall, without going back to review the posted text, was that you (in essence) invoked Prejudice, in which desirable outcomes were somehow to be considered Objectively Superior to undesirable outcomes. But The Universe Does Not Care About Human Opinions Regarding Possible Outcomes.

            NTwR: Adding to similar ethical expressions of yours, on the other page you just wrote, “It does something bad, that ordinary parasites don’t. It infuses its host with addictive substances. Post-partum depression is what happens when the infusions stop . . .” The universe does not care about this either. To the universe, nothing is bad.
            ———
            AGREED, and you have made something of a Good Point. However, there is a “context” thing that you didn’t mention, and which is quite relevant. On that other page, the January 3 post by “DarkCougar555″ is what started the discussion that included the part you mentioned above. In that post is: “I caught someone’s comment said a fetus is “guilty” of acting ‘like a parasite,’ or something.”

            That relates to the generic claim, made by many abortion opponents, that an embryo or fetus is “innocent” –when in Fact its Actions are far from being anything that anyone would call “innocent”, if one adult inflicted those actions upon another, without consent. I was correct to refer to “bad” because of the context.
            ============

            But many people who believe that the universe does not care, nevertheless find some meaning in ethical decisions, and that is what our whole discussion has been about, if it’s been about anything. I don’t think I ever expressed the idea of Objectively Superior. I would have said “subjectively superior,” because ethics is based on the subjective.
            ——————–
            Which leads to ANOTHER Fundamental Flaw. WHOSE subjective opinions get to be declared superior to someone else’s subjective opinions??? Also, look again at your proposed definition of person, which focuses on homo sapiens, without allowing any consideration of the facts that Koko the Gorilla qualifies as a toddler-class person, that most dolphins may also qualify as persons, that computer scientists fully expect that one day Artificial Intelligences will qualify as persons, and that the Universe is plenty big enough for lots of totally alien organisms to qualify as persons. This Is Why Objectivity Is Essential Wherever Possible –YOU are only promoting narrow-minded Prejudice!

            By the way, ethics can be Objective, too. I think I have talked about the statement (where you would have encountered it) “Persons need to get along with each other.” as a possible foundation for a Universal system of ethics. Sure, “person” is not defined by that –but YOUR definition cannot work, even if you expanded it beyond homo sapiens –intelligent R-strategists will laugh at its idiocy, knowing that most of their offspring MUST die, despite their potential!
            ==============

            Well, regarding your Part One – Part Two argument, I think that we have narrowed the gap of communication, but I’m also beginning to feel that we should close it now or never.

            “Narrowed” is reflected by the fact that everything in this post of yours related to that argument really boils down to one idea, repeated in a few different ways. The first occurrence of that idea is:

            NTwR old: “If it has the potential for the adult functionality of a person, then it’s a person.”

            AYM: There is no “equating of potential and actual value” in THAT; it is a direct equating of functionality with potential. . . . you ARE [REALLY equating, not just valuing].

            NTwR: Please read it more carefully. It does not say a blanket “functionality = potential,” which you would be justified in calling fallacious. It says “Potential is as good as functionality when it comes to determining personhood” — which CANNOT be logically fallacious, because it’s a subjective judgement (there being no objective def. of “person,” as we have seen).
            —————–
            Sorry, I maintain my position, in which I have stripped out the fanciness you use to disguise the essence of what you have written. I will here start with a LIMITED sort of statement: (1) We agree that “if an organism can actually exhibit certain functionality, it qualifies as a person.” Note that this does not exclude what you desire, regarding potentials, and it applies widely –a person who is asleep or in a coma still HAS the abilities associated with that “certain functionality”, which merely are not getting used during unconsciousness. (But any person who becomes brain-dead, or even PERMANENTLY enters a “vegetative state”, will have has LOST that functionality, and so it could be declared that the PERSON has died, even if the body is not yet dead.)

            Statement (1) can now be rephrased, and here I will try to do it in a manner you can accept: (1a) “As a first approximation, a person is any organism actually able to exhibit certain functionality.” Obviously you desire to extend that to include organisms with certain potentials, but as (1a) currently stands, what you desire is not being excluded.

            Now let’s create the statement (2) “An organism with the potential to exhibit certain functionality qualifies as a person.” As you know, I disagree, and momentarily I hope to show precisely how I disagree.

            We can now combine (1a) and (2) to create (3) “As a second approximation, a person is any organism actually able to exhibit certain functionality, or any organism potentially able to exhibit certain functionality.”

            But now we reach the crux: “person” gets two definitions –and under the Law, different persons nevertheless receive “equality”. This means “actually able to exhibit certain functionality” becomes EQUATED to “potentially able to exhibit certain functionality”. And THAT Is False, Even Absurdly False. The potential and the actual are ALWAYS two different things!
            =============

            Let me try one more time regarding your Part One – Part Two argument. If I say –

            “A young stalk of wheat has potential to become a mature stalk of wheat and therefore has whatever value a mature stalk of wheat has, so it should be considered to be a stalk of wheat, and, since a stalk of wheat has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up”

            – that does NOT mean I am bound to say –

            “A young Anocepheles mosquito has potential to become a mature Anocepheles mosquito and therefore has whatever value an Anocepheles mosquito has, so it should be considered to be an Anocepheles mosquito, and, since an Anocepheles mosquito has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up”

            Our whole discussion is about ethics, if it’s about anything.

            I may be bound to say “A young Anocepheles mosquito . . . should be considered to be an Anocepheles mosquito,” but I am not bound to continue from there, “since an Anocepheles mosquito has a positive value, it should be allowed to grow up” — because it doesn’t have a positive value. “Value” and the consequent “should” are ethical terms, and ethics can be selective. Ethics is in the business of being selective.
            —————
            There is some debate regarding the value of mosquitoes. Here (prepend both http and www):
            .nature.com/news/2010/100721/full/466432a.html
            How prepared ARE you, to disrupt ecosystems all across the globe, as a consequence of assuming they have no value?

            I’ve previously indicated that “ethics” is basically about interactions between persons. It is obvious to me that if unborn humans qualified as persons, they would be able to interact ethically with other persons. LOGICALLY, since they DON’T/CAN’T interact in that manner, they also don’t qualify as persons. But you want to CLAIM they are persons, using a totally irrational argument that equates the potential with the actual, JUST so they can be treated like persons, regardless of how they themselves treat the persons with whom they most-closely interact. Tsk, tsk!

          • A little something that probably should have been part of my last post, regarding the equating of the potential with the actual.

            “If A=B and if B=C, then A=C”
            In this case I can assign “A=organism with actual abilities”, “B=person”, and “C=organism with potential abilities”.

            And THAT (the “A=C” conclusion) is, fundamentally, why your proposed definition doesn’t work.

          • =============================================
            “If A=B and if B=C, then A=C”
            In this case I can assign “A=organism with actual abilities”, “B=person”, and “C=organism with potential abilities”.

            And THAT (the “A=C” conclusion) is, fundamentally, why your proposed definition doesn’t work.
            ==================================================================

            A does not = B, A is one subset within the set B.

            You can work out the rest.

            I’m sorry to say that at this point I have to stop trying to disentangle some of your logic. I will be happy to reply to your relevant points, such as some in your 2014/01/08 at 9:18 am post. Whenever something does not seem relevant to me, I will try to explain why it does not if I can explain in a sentence or two, as above, but will not necessarily try in other cases.

          • “If A=B and if B=C, then A=C”
            In this case I can assign “A=organism with actual abilities”, “B=person”, and “C=organism with potential abilities”.

            And THAT (the “A=C” conclusion) is, fundamentally, why your proposed definition doesn’t work.
            ============================

            A does not = B, A is one subset within the set B.

            You can work out the rest.
            ———————-
            Yes, I see what you are trying to do, but it depends on an ASSUMPTION that you have made, regarding the definition of “person” –you are assuming that it is a set that can include different subsets. The Law, however, is supposed to treat all persons as being equal to each other. And that is why I presented that classic set of Logic statements –your assumption gets invalidated. Which takes us right back to the Science, in which persons can be recognized by their ACTUAL capabilities, and NOTHING else need be important.

            Sure, I know you and other abortion opponents WANT “potential capabilities” to be important, but that is just Stupid Prejudice influencing you-all. It is the species-ism I pointed out in one post (regarding differences in the outcomes when animals of the same OR different species fight each other), PLUS the K-strategy caring built into our reproductive biology, that I pointed out in another post. ONE thing that makes it STUPID Prejudice, as opposed to ordinary prejudice, is the fact that the world is overpopulated, and we are causing the greatest Mass Extinction of other species since the demise of the giant dinosaurs.

            HOW CAN THAT POSSIBLY BE CALLED “ethical”, WHEN WE KNOW THAT INTERACTIONS WITH OTHER LIFE-FORMS ON EARTH IS PSYCHOLOGICALLY HEALTHY FOR HUMANS?

            Another thing that makes it Stupid Prejudice relates to intelligent R-strategists, who will be absolutely certain that ALL undeveloped offspring, no matter what the species, qualify as mere animals. What makes your opinions superior to theirs? Especially when Science is on their side, regarding the Testable differences between persons and mere animals!

            I’m recalling something I asked you to do a while back. You never said anything about having done it. Go to my blog site (prepend only http) fightforsense.wordpress.com and do a page-search for the word “growing”. Wherever you see the word “machine” nearby (there are a bunch of such places), read the paragraph that contains those words (and possibly the preceding paragraph, too; you certainly need to read that previous paragraph for the first instance).

            Then come back here and let me know just how comfortable you really are, with respect to using “potential” to define a type of “person”.
            ================

            I’m sorry to say that at this point I have to stop trying to disentangle some of your logic. I will be happy to reply to your relevant points, such as some in your 2014/01/08 at 9:18 am post. Whenever something does not seem relevant to me, I will try to explain why it does not if I can explain in a sentence or two, as above, but will not necessarily try in other cases.
            —————
            My logic is not necessarily “entangled”, and your mere say-so does not make it so. It looks to me that you are desperately seeking an excuse to avoid admitting that my conclusions are irrefutably correct.

        • Yes, I spent a couple hours reading the balance of the blog posts, but then got lost in the commentary since it’s so much more detailed than the main posts. I congratulate Anon Y Mous for doing such a terrific job of tearing your position to shreds. I look forward to the post on Life Panels so that we can trash it for the utter absurdity that it is. Either abortions at whatever stage of gestation are permitted, or they are not. The idea that pregnant women should come before a committee to be judged is something out of a surreal science fiction novel of “the childless dystopia”. Things like “The Handmaid’s Tale”, or the inappropriately named “Children Of Men” or, “Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang”, as the ones I’ve seen or read. Rather than engage you in discussion over rights, it was my intention to bait you into bringing the conversation towards a spiritual basis. Your argument based on intuition isn’t going to get you anywhere. If that’s all you have, then there’s no reason for us a a society to regard your intuition with any more merit than anyone else’s. Particularly since your intuition is so poor. The woman’s body is quite ready to flush the zygote, and does so for plenty of them. Nature itself decries your intuition as poor. If the body isn’t structured to better save these things, then why should it make any difference whether we help that to happen? …but that’s not what this is about is it? You’re afraid that there’s an eternal spirit to be saved or lost within the zygote aren’t you?

          • “it was my intention to bait you into bringing the conversation towards a spiritual basis.”

            Oh. Well, for your efforts, you deserve a little something:

            I think that transcendent or “transcendent” experiences accessible through meditation-type practices are the greatest good available to human beings, but I don’t think that any such experiences I have ever had, nor the truths that I may have seemed to perceive through the experiences, necessarily proves that there is any non-material reality (such as a soul).

            “Transcendent” is defined as “transcending normal or physical human experience.” I’m talking about experiences that transcend normal human experience but are not proved to transcend physical human experience. It might all be neurological, which means physical.

            Neuroscientist and philosopher Sam Harris says that he has had some such experiences himself, and he has thought carefully about them. He is presently working on a book that will be significantly about them, but without waiting for its publication, I can refer you to the second half of a talk he gave to the Atheist Alliance in 2007. You can watch the lecture on YouTube at –

            Sam Harris on the “dangers” of “atheism”
            http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KG5s_-Khvg

            – and/or read a transcript at –

            http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/panelists/sam_harris/2007/10/the_problem_with_atheism.html

            The verbatim talk has been edited quite a bit in the transcript, maybe by Harris himself.

            Start with “First, let me describe the general phenomenon I’m referring to” at around the halfway point of the talk.

            I don’t agree with Harris on everything, but I agree with a lot, and he has expressed that “a lot” better than I could.

            Some SH quotes from elsewhere:

            “Our contemplative traditions (Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, etc.) also suggest, to varying degrees and with greater or lesser precision, that we live in the grip of a cognitive illusion. But the alternative to our captivity is almost always viewed through the lens of religious dogma. A Christian will recite the Lord’s Prayer continuously over a weekend, experience a profound sense of clarity and peace, and judge this mental state to be fully corroborative of the doctrine of Christianity; A Hindu will spend an evening singing devotional songs to Krishna, feel suddenly free of his conventional sense of self, and conclude that his chosen deity has showered him with grace; a Sufi will spend hours whirling in circles, pierce the veil of thought for a time, and believe that he has established a direct connection to Allah.

            “The universality of these phenomena refutes the sectarian claims of any one religion.”

             

            “Now, I want to take a brief moment to speak about these higher possibilities, because it’s often thought that nonbelievers like myself are closed to some remarkable experiences that religious people have. That’s not true; that’s not true. There’s nothing that prevents an atheist from experiencing self-transcending love and ecstasy, and rapture, and awe. There’s nothing that prevents an atheist from going into a cave for a year, like a proper mystic, and doing nothing but meditate on compassion. . . .

            “Now, the, the prospect of somebody becoming a true saint in life and, and inspiring people long after their deaths, is something that I take very seriously. I’ve, I’ve, I’ve spent a lot of time studying meditation with some very great wise old yogis and Tibetan lamas who’ve spent decades on retreat, I mean really remarkable people, ok. People who I actually consider to be spiritual geniuses, of a certain sort. And so I can well imagine that if Jesus was a spiritual genius, you know, a palpably non-neurotic, and charismatic and wise person, I can well imagine the experience of his disciples. I can well imagine the kind of influence he could have on their lives . . .”

            I would not want this blog to get sidetracked into a discussion of meditation or anything apart from abortion, so please do not reply to me here about the foregoing. If you would wish to communicate at all about the foregoing (or anything other than abortion), there is an email address on my About page. The time I could devote might be limited, and of course how much I could offer on any topic might be very limited.

            Getting back closer to the track, let me mention that Harris wrote a book called The Moral Landscape, and has presented his “argument in brief” as follows: “Morality and values depend on the existence of conscious minds — and specifically on the fact that such minds can experience various forms of well-being and suffering in this universe. Conscious minds and their states are natural phenomena, of course, fully constrained by the laws of Nature (whatever these turn out to be in the end). Therefore, there must be right and wrong answers to questions of morality and values that potentially fall within the purview of science. On this view, some people and cultures will be right (to a greater or lesser degree), and some will be wrong, with respect to what they deem important in life.”

            I have long been planning to reply to TG on a point of his which reminded me of that “brief argument”: “though moral judgments may ultimately be intuitively based, we can still appeal to more-or-less objective standards to test that intuition.” But I have not read The Moral Landscape, and since now someone has promised to give me a copy in two weeks, maybe I’ll wait till I’ve read it to reply to TG (on that topic).

            JE, the post of yours that I’m replying to seems to be the most categorical yet in its certainty that most of my ideas, if not all, are not worth considering further. I would not wish to reply to those of your points or questions (going back to your first post) that I haven’t already replied to, unless I have a little hope that you might be open to finding some trace of value in my replies. So if you would still like any further replies, please look over your previous questions, in particular, and identify any of them for me that it might be worth my replying to in these terms.

            Please do not identify anything and ask me to reply to it just out of curiosity to see what outrageous thing I might say next. Ask me only if you would be somewhat open to finding some value in my possible reply.

  9. NTwR: It won’t be easy for you to disentangle the sequence. But the sequence started with a comment I made addressed mainly to the blogger himself. In that comment I quoted a few of his statements from his video, and asked questions about them. For that post, search for “Do I respect someone else’s right to make that decision . . .” (now 19 days ago).

    That post and the SECOND reply to it are still the highest of that whole conversation on the page, but, for instance, the FIRST reply to that post is way down on the page . . . so good luck.

    TG: I’ve seen the blog post itself. I’ll be going through the comment section, and will participate if I think I have something to contribute.

    NTwR: My saying that A (the infringement on bodily autonomy in pregnancy) was an unimportant consideration compared to B (the overall degree of sacrifice) was something you might or might not agree with, but I thought it made clear that A had been disposed of, in my view — which was not diverting attention from A, but disposing of it. It seemed to me that if you wanted to argue that A was not so easily to be disposed of, the ball was in your court.

    You did object to the disabled-man comparison, and we started going back and forth, but even if you thought you had a strong argument about that (which I don’t think you did), it didn’t seem to explain your saying, before I could finish responding to your objection, that I was attempting to divert attention from the bodily integrity argument. I was at worst unsuccessful in disposing of it while directly addressing it.

    Am I missing something?

    TG: Yes, you were missing something. I can appreciate that you were trying to dispose of the argument, but I think that was the very problem. I certainly felt (and I’m sure your other interlocutors would agree) that you did NOT directly address it. And in trying to dispose of the argument, you wound up introducing what most pro-choicers would see as an entirely different situation. In my (their) view, you are not disposing the argument, you are dismissing it.

    So yes, what I (and I think others) are saying is that A is not so easily disposed of because B is a secondary consideration. It is only when you started saying things that directly addressed A (such as your thought that some people, under some circumstances, could be forced to donate blood) that I essentially said, “Yes, this is what you have to argue.” And THEN I started discussing the suffering and sacrifice (blood is one thing, organs are another).

    I believe this is why you perceive that A has been raised to a gold standard that cannot be violated at all. Mind you, this may actually be true with some of your interlocutors. But even someone like me, who doesn’t believe any right is sacrosanct, would feel like you were trying to divert attention away from A rather than dealing with it. To put it as simply as I can, it seemed like you were trying to dispose of A without dealing with A. It is only when A is dealt with that you can start dealing with B.

    NTwR: 2. I needed to get back to Thomson again, whether or not I enjoyed reading her exhaustive catalog of all the things one human being doesn’t have to do for another, or can avoid doing for another, or can arguably escape from doing for another.

    TG: I think you are in a better position to deal with Thomson than most anti-abortion advocates are. The problem with most anti-abortion advocates is that they are inconsistent. Basically they are saying that bodily autonomy can be violated ONLY for pregnancy and ONLY for the duration of pregnancy. Thomson was primarily dealing with the right to life argument, so of course it behooved her to explore what the right to life does and does not entail. You, however, already have a comparatively expanded set of circumstances for which abortion is permissible. Thomson herself concluded that abortion would not ALWAYS be permissible, but she did not explore that area. This is what you are trying to do. So far, you are concluding that what is impermissible extends to areas where Thomson says it is permissible. You might not exactly enjoy going through the catalog, but it may be useful just to figure out exactly where you are drawing your lines.

    NTwR: 3. I wanted to get back to the point where we started, the identification of moral absolutes by intuition or moral sensitivity, since perhaps my first priority now in this discussion would be to probe your idea that there could be any alternative to intuition.

    TG: I don’t think moral absolutes can be identified by intuition alone. Intuition is basically applying life experience X and worldview Y to situation Z. But very few people have the exact same combination of X and Y, so their intuition about Z is very likely not going to be the same. And let us add the truth that intuition can usually only be validated after the fact. Intuition might be good enough to get things started, but eventually any discussion of moral absolutes will still require an appeal to something outside intuition alone.

    NTwR: As I just wrote to Anon Y Mous, pro-life work on the ground has been taking up more of my time than before (which is basically good from my point of view). But I do hope to start addressing adequately at least whatever is most pertinent in all your points, in a few days. If you would like, I could notify you, when I do so, at the email address you have posted with. For that matter, I could also notify you when anyone else posts to you. One of these days I’ll get the plug-in that will do all that automatically for those who want.

    TG: I’m keeping at least one tab of my browser open to this site, so it isn’t necessary to send an e-mail. Once you do get the plug-in that does it automatically, then going the automatic route will be enough.

    TG previous: . . . I’m not saying that [bodily integrity is sacrosanct] either, so I think we can safely set that aside in our discussions. You do object that bodily autonomy has become the ‘gold standard’ for pro-choicers. I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but it does seem to me that pro-choicers are not making bodily autonomy a ‘gold’ standard.

    NTwR: You will see some examples if you spend some time at the above link.

    If by “general standard” you mean one standard among other standards, yes, I think it should be considered.

    TG: I’m sure I will. For any given position on any given topic, you’re going to find those who a) really do take an extreme position or b) haven’t really thought through their position. And now you don’t even need a link for that since JethroElfman’s comments does seem to be going to that extreme. But again, look at our dynamic. I seemed, in your eyes, to be pushing bodily integrity as a gold standard, going so far as to say your disabled man analogy demonstrated that you fundamentally did not get the argument. And you’re puzzled about why I think the analogy is a diversion.

    What I would say is that, like Anon Y Mous, you need to be sure you know who you are talking to. You hit gold when you talked about vaccinations that are required by the government. Here you have a boda fide, real-life violation of the right to bodily integrity. That’s even better than the abstract “under certain circumstances, one can be required to give blood” that you threw at me. Throw the vaccination argument out and you’ll be able to separate the JethroElfmans from those who SEEM to be pushing bodily integrity because they think you are dismissing it. The latter will probably respond something to the effect of, “That’s different because of reasons X, Y, and Z.”

    For example, contra JethroElfman, I agree that the government can require certain vaccinations (caveats apply, of course). Society does have a compelling interest in preventing the spread of deadly diseases. If the risks of the vaccine are minimal, the suffering caused by the disease vastly outweighs the suffering of the vaccination, the expense is minimal, and no other rights are violated by the vaccination requirement, then government may require everyone to have the vaccination. But the violations involved in prohibiting abortion are unjustified because…. You might in turn reply that the violation of bodily integrity involved in prohibiting abortions is justified because….

    The idea here is that you actually do get their concerns and that you are willing to directly address them. And be consistent. What you have to say about abortion must be equally applicable to, say, the plugged in violinist. I don’t promise you that you will convince anyone, but at least you can break the impasse.

    NTwR: Though I don’t know where our miscommunication and the source of my puzzlement lies, I have been wondering whether “bodily autonomy” has ever been defined carefully (carefully enough to be able to distinguish all cases of violation of same from cases that aren’t), and if so, whether you have been using an existing such definition. Thomson announces her purpose as the rejection of “a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body,” but I don’t think she elaborates enough to make clear for all situations whether they do or don’t constitute such impermissible “use of another person’s body.” (I still haven’t read every word of her article, but I’ll go out on a limb again, and will say this.) Your lines “The right to bodily integrity involves far more than just right to determine what your body (parts) are used for. They include, among other things, the right to be free from assault, kidnapping, enslavement, torture, and medical experimentation without informed consent” might be referring to some existing body of thought about the subject, and perhaps you could refer me to a source that merits your support.

    TG: The Wikipedia entry on bodily integrity (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bodily_integrity) is about as good a place as any to start. I’m hoping I’m at least a little clearer about where our miscommunication lies.

    You are right that Thomson does not elaborate all situations. That would actually be impossible anyway. Her primary onus was to rebut the argument that the right to life, in and of itself, is enough to overrule a woman’s right to bodily autonomy in case of pregnancy. She explicitly does not arrive at abortion on demand, and only outlines a couple cases where minimally decent Samaritanism might apply.

    I find that I can’t handle all particular cases, either, but I do have a general rule of thumb about when abortion is morally (as opposed to legally) permissible. Basically, you consider the total well being of the mother. This includes her physical, psychological, spiritual, social, and economic well being. If continuing the pregnancy poses a significant danger to her total well being, then an abortion is permissible. Obviously, this has to be determined on a case-by-case basis. Perhaps that general rule of thumb is enough to be getting on with for our discussion.

    NTwR: Most kinds of harm involve harm to one’s body which is consequently harm to one’s mind also. Iago’s concern about reputation (“good name”) relates to harm to the mind only. Theft of objects not needed for one’s bodily comfort is harm to the mind only.

    TG: I disagree that Iago’s concern about reputation relates to the mind only. (We are, of course, ignoring Iago’s pretense and taking the words for their own sake.) A destroyed reputation has an adverse affect on someone’s total well being. Yes, there is the mental and/or spiritual anguish involved. But there is also the social and economic impact to consider. Your friends and even your family can turn on you. It is more difficult to get a job. And of course, the reduced ability to make a living will have a direct impact on your physical health as well. This is why laws against slander/libel is usually seen as an acceptable limit on free speech/press. It is also why identity theft can be such a big problem for its victims. As Iago said, theft of reputation “makes me poor indeed.”

    NTwR: “All that humans are or have that can be harmed is their bodies and minds.” A violation cannot be harmless, so a violation of bodily autonomy must constitute either 1) harm to the body or 2) harm to the mind or 3) both.

    TG: I would include more things that can be harmed than just bodies and minds. I don’t hold that spirits are unaffected witnesses to events of the mind, so I can’t exclude the possibility that a violation of bodily autonomy could harm one’s spirit. But the existence of the spirit being a matter of faith, we can probably set that aside. However, a violation of bodily autonomy could certainly harm one’s social and/or economic well being. Usually, these are in addition to the harms caused to the mind and/or body.

    NTwR: An unborn child is inside the mother, and consumes some of the nutrients in its mother’s body. A clear violation of bodily autonomy, we might say. Whereas when an enemy army surrounds a city and cuts off its food supply, it deprives the inhabitants of nutrients without touching their bodies. So we might say that here we have discovered at least one “form of bodily harm that is NOT a violation of bodily autonomy.” But how useful is this distinction? It’s not. So it seems to me that in terms of BODILY harm, the concept of bodily autonomy doesn’t add anything, i.e., is not useful. When neo-bodily autonomy theory comes along, won’t scholars decide that besieging a city is also a violation of bodily autonomy?

    TG: Actually, since an army surrounding a city prevents its citizens from leaving, the army is in fact violating those citizens’ right to bodily autonomy. The right to bodily autonomy includes freedom of movement; this is why kidnapping is considered a crime against bodily autonomy. So scholars would likely conclude besieging a city does violate the right to bodily autonomy. Cutting off the food supply just makes it that much worse.

    NTwR: 2. But now let’s look at harm to the mind. Suppose you are in a foreign country and someone reaches out with a thumb and forefinger and feels a few strands of your hair, because he has never seen hair like yours before. Though he is “using your body,” to employ Thomson’s term, you are not harmed at all physically, nor harmed mentally APART from the violation of autonomy, but you are harmed a little mentally by the mere sense of being violated — you wish he wouldn’t do it. So now we are finally talking about the harm of a violation of bodily autonomy per se, without having to bring in forms of physical or mental suffering that may be related to, but are separable from, the violation of bodily autonomy. [Edit: I don't presently have a formal definition, in a few words, of "bodily autonomy" to offer, but a formal definition of the mental harm caused by a violation of bodily autonomy might be this: "a sense that someone has crossed my physical boundaries without my permission, either in an important way or in an unimportant way."] A violation of bodily autonomy genuinely IS mental harm. But how much suffering is involved? In this hair example, not much — the NATURE of the offense is a violation of bodily autonomy, but the suffering is of low DEGREE.

    TG: That depends on the person. As you may be aware, people have the psychological need for a certain amount of personal space even when they are in public. In my case, I am nearly as bad about strangers touching me as someone suffering from mysophobia. A stranger reaching out with his thumb and forefinger to feel a few strands of my hair would be lucky if he didn’t wind up with a broken wrist. Some years ago, I attended a party where I was given a name tag which I was deliberately hiding with my jacket (I dislike people knowing and using my name without permission). Some idiot tried to reach out and move my jacket to get to my name. I reacted just as defensively and with far more anger than if he had outright punched me. He didn’t even touch my body itself, and yet I felt violated (maybe not the same as rape, but certainly like unto it). And then when my now ex-wife tried to minimize my suffering, I really went ballistic (partly because she should have known better). I truly felt the nature of the offense was an important violation and the degree of suffering was high.

    NTwR: But as I have said, I think society should impose that degree of violation on anyone — man, unpregnant woman or pregnant woman — who represents the only chance for life of a helpless child. I believe you have said that US society presently does that (prosecutes child neglect) only if someone has taken legal responsibility for a post-natal child, but in other societies it may be different, and I don’t morally see the legal responsibility as an important factor if the fact is that a child will die without a defined degree of Samaritanism. (I would not demand an unlimited degree, such as requiring anyone to run a high risk of losing their life.)

    TG: As I said, here at least you are more consistent than many or other most pro-lifers. Out of curiosity, do you also support social programs for helping children as well? I’m sure you are also aware of the charge pro-choicers make about “pro-lifers” who would force women to carry their pregnancy to term, but does nothing for them once the child is born. For example, in the U.S., the same anti-abortion proponents would also cut funding to welfare programs, education, etc. I don’t really consider abortion opponents “pro-life” unless they take what happens after birth as seriously as they take what happens before birth. And note one of the reasons I am politically pro-choice is because it is a societal concession.

    I was indeed speaking in my familiar terms of U.S. society, but I doubt child abandonment is solely a U.S. phenomenon. There may also be some confounding of moral and legal roles here. As it is, I can’t really conceive of a case where I would hold someone morally (let alone legally) culpable for child neglect unless they had also voluntarily assumed direct responsibility for the child. Again, the assumption of responsibility may be implicit or explicit, but the obligation still has to be present. At least, in any non-emergency situation.

    So for example, a stranger could be held morally culpable (if not necessarily legally liable) in your example of keeping a child from running out onto a busy road. No, the stranger does not have direct responsibility for the child, but that would certainly be a violation of minimally decent Samaritanism (assuming of course, the stranger isn’t risking life or limb to pull the child back). But that is an emergency situation.

    The Cabin in the Woods thought experiment you pointed me to MAY serve as an example of a stranger being morally and/or legally culpable of child neglect in the manner in which you speak. Yet, in this case, FULL moral and legal responsibility is borne by the people who kidnapped both Mary and the child, regardless of what she does or doesn’t do. And I would hold Mary partially responsible for the death of the infant only in the formula case. And then ONLY if she decided not to exercise the option to simply leave (i.e., effectively assuming a degree of responsibility for the child). Once the no-formula versions are invoked (and the more onerous the requirements) the less I feel she has any moral culpability (and NO legal liability) for what happens to the infant.

    There might be a difference between how far we would define our degree of required Samaritanism. I think it is conceivable that persons of good will might argue the simple no-formula breastfeeding case should still be required of Mary. For me, it is a line, but not a bright and clear one. And the line is drawn not because it involves a more intimate body part, but because the sustenance comes directly from Mary’s body (i.e., meaning Mary becomes weakened as a result). When Mary starts having physical problems as a result of breastfeeding the strange child, the line becomes brighter and clearer for me that she has no obligation to it. The more they made it like pregnancy (chaining the child to Mary, extending the period to forty weeks, the thirty hours work digging her way out), the more it seemed to me that only a masochist would hold her morally (let alone legally) responsible for what happens to the child.

    Of course, even the Cabin in the Woods scenario is an admittedly extraordinary situation. I think I need a more “normal” situation where the same degree of violation can be imposed on anyone who represents the only chance for a helpless child even though they have no direct responsibility for the child. The only thing I can think of that comes even close is forcing organ donations, but for various reasons, I don’t think that is a justifiable requirement of someone who DOES have direct responsibility for the child, let alone a stranger. Admirable, yes; required, no.

    NTwR: It is the degree of suffering that matters, and therefore if society expects an unpregnant woman, or a man, to embrace suffering in order to help a child that will die without that help — a suffering equal in degree (the nature being irrelevant) to that which a pregnant woman must embrace to keep her child alive — then there is no injustice. Hence my thought experiment:

    Certainly the woman’s bodily autonomy, if the pregnancy is unwanted, is more infringed on than the man’s, and that mental distress is a real factor that should be weighed in the balance. But you agreed that overall, his suffering is greater. To say that a particular nature of suffering is a gold standard that outweighs the totality of the suffering, would be arbitrary.

    You objected that the man, unlike the woman, had at one point voluntary incurred his responsibility. I don’t know if he had or not, but anyway according to my intuition, that is not an important factor. It’s up to him now, and he’s got to take care of her. It’s up to the woman now, and (unless there are compelling circumstances), she’s got to take care of her child.

    TG: I think that part of your problem here is that society does not normally expect an unpregnant woman or man to do any such thing. Even most pro-lifers wouldn’t require the same kind of suffering in kind, let alone degree, which they require of pregnant women. Society does not require me to offer up my body (parts) with the heightened risks of death or disability that pro-lifers would require of pregnant women. Not in theory, and certainly not in practice. And mind you, we are not even starting to talk about the other factors (such as mental anguish) that play a role in a person’s total well being. In fact, you are the only pro-lifer who would do that even in theory, and you still haven’t spelled out the circumstances and limits under which you think it could be done.

    Now, I would argue that both the nature and the degree of the suffering are relevant. Take your example of vaccinations. All things being equal (and where they are not, we make exemptions), both the nature and the degree of suffering is basically equal for everyone. But because your poor disabled man’s suffering is not of the same nature as that of a healthy affluent woman, I don’t find it a to be a relevant comparison. Society does normally expect a person to follow through with obligations they voluntarily undertake, whereas it does not normally require a person to involuntarily give up their rights.

    NTwR: You’re saying like me that bodily autonomy is just one value among various, right? — of some relative importance (I’m not sure what you mean by “base standard”) — so you must mean that it is intuitively obvious that the life of the baby (“carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term”) is even less sacrosanct.

    TG: I am saying that bodily autonomy is one value among others, albeit a very important one. It does have a high value among the rights because it is the sine qua non of all other rights. So far, so good. But I am not saying that the life of the fetus is thereby less sacrosanct, let alone obviously so. I am only saying that the fetus’ right to life (if any), does not obligate the mother to give up her bodily autonomy.

    Look at it this way. You have the right to free speech. You can take your soapbox to the street corner, get up on it, and loose your opinion on the world to your heart’s content. However, this does not obligate me to listen to you. I am just as free to stop and listen or walk on by. Your freedom of speech does not extend to tying me down and forcing me to listen to you. In a similar manner, no one’s right to life obligates me to give up my bodily autonomy.

    NTwR: Well, that is not intuitively obvious to me, and regarding bodily autonomy, on the other hand, above I tried to show that even some fierce bodily-autonomy advocates didn’t seem to feel themselves that the per se bodily-autonomy violation in pregnancy was that great, when isolated from physical harm. Also, in an earlier post I cited a Guttmacher study in which none of the 1209 respondents seemed to have expressed a concern about pain as a reason for abortion. Similarly, none seem to have mentioned bodily autonomy. You may say that it is bodily autonomy which gave them a right to abort for their stated reasons, but if a violation of autonomy is not a great affliction in itself, such a statement would be to set up bodily autonomy as a value arbitrarily.

    TG: I wouldn’t expect bodily autonomy to be explicitly mentioned by women having an abortion, simply because they are talking about a concrete situation facing them in the present, not engaging in an abstract discussion. If asked why I hang out with friends, I would say it is because I enjoy their company and we have fun together. I wouldn’t engage in an abstract discussion about the freedom of peaceful assembly. Nevertheless, it is the freedom of peaceful assembly which gives me the right to hang out with them for the reasons I state.

    Be it as it may, though bodily autonomy is not explicitly mentioned, a number of the reasons cited for getting an abortion in the Guttmacher study are related to bodily autonomy. They include: Not ready for a(nother) child/timing is wrong, have completed my childbearing, don’t want to be a single mother, don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child/feel too young, would interfere with education or career plans, physical problem with my health, don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant, would have to find a new place to live, and husband or partner is abusive to me or my children. All of these reasons are direct or indirect assertions of a right to control what happens in and to their bodies. Additionally, citing pregnancy as a result of rape or incest is about reasserting control over their bodies. What does that make? Somewhere between a third and half the cited reasons? You tell those women that bodily autonomy has nothing to do with abortion, and see how far you get.

    I am going to discuss the harm of violating bodily autonomy as harm in itself, but I am basically feeling my way into this. That is, I am trying to make explicit my intuition on the matter. So definitely ask questions here.

    Basically, the violation of rights is a harm in itself; this is part of what I mean by saying rights are base standards. Suppose instead of just walking on by you on your soapbox, I pulled out a gun, pointed it at you and told you to shut up. Besides the harm I’ve done to you by threatening your life, I have also harmed you by violating your right to free speech. And that violation is separate from the threat to your life and regardless of your suffering. If I were to somehow violate your right to speech without causing any other harm, that violation would still be harm in and of itself. This doesn’t set up free speech as a value arbitrarily. It says, “This is the standard which you normally cannot cross.”

    Likewise, violating the right to bodily integrity is a harm in itself, regardless of how great the violation. Government required vaccinations are a violation of the right to bodily integrity and therefore I am harmed by them, whether or not I feel pain receiving the shot, whether or not I suffer any side effects. In saying this, I am not setting bodily autonomy as an arbitrary value, I am simply saying this is a line that you normally cannot cross. Likewise, regardless of how great an affliction pregnancy is, forbidding abortion violates the pregnant woman’s right to bodily integrity, thus causing harm in and of itself because you are crossing a line that you normally cannot cross.

    NTwR: In that earlier post I also mentioned the legions of women who have delivered babies, who feel passionately that abortion should be illegal, except in certain circumstances — which also helps put the importance of bodily autonomy in perspective.

    TG: Nonsense. There are likewise legions of women who have never had an abortion who feel passionately that abortion should be legal in most circumstances. That there are a substantial number of women who already have children when they have an abortion offers at least as much perspective on the importance of bodily autonomy. I have to say this is one of the worst invocations of false authority I have ever seen.

    NTwR: So it seems to me that I have put bodily autonomy in perspective, not arbitrarily, and according to my intuition the value of the life of the baby is very high.

    TG: Unless, of course, your intuition that the value of the life of the fetus is very high is itself arbitrary. But never mind that. The question is not whether YOU put bodily autonomy into perspective, it is about whether you have made a convincing case that you have. Speaking only for myself, the best I can say for you is that you have more consistency than other anti-abortion advocates, but that you mostly come across as trying to dismiss bodily autonomy rather than putting it into perspective.

    NTwR: The nature of the sacrifice is bodily autonomy, and I’ve said that in the case of rape the suffering of that nature must be huge, but in the case of pregnancy other things may justify abortion, but that bodily autonomy doesn’t seem to weigh so heavily and therefore normally wouldn’t. There may be a few rare cases — not so rare in cases of rape — where the mere idea of the baby’s presence inside is somehow intolerable, and in those cases bodily autonomy looms large and might justify abortion. But such cases seem to be fewer than 1 out of 1209.

    TG: Or not, as when 74% of the respondents cite “having a baby would dramatically change my life” as a reason for getting an abortion. Bodily autonomy doesn’t loom large only in theoretical cases where the baby’s presence is somehow intolerable. It actually looms large for almost three quarters of real women who get abortions.

    NTwR: Your 3 does represent my position, and I appreciate your taking the trouble to understand that (and to put it in the context of other alternatives). You probably understand that I think society has a right to enforce the minimally decent Samaritanism as well, at least to the extent of making it an offense to help a woman abort if her need to do so is not weighty. I would say that the main thing my 3 (as elaborated by my sentence before this one) addresses, is the question of individual rights versus the greater good: society can override what would normally be individual rights for what it considers a greater good.

    TG: I think we are basically agreed that society can enforce minimally decent Samaritanism, though of course the devil is in the details. I have to say your perspectives and positions are much more refreshing and interesting than what I normally encounter in the abortion debate.

    Balancing individual rights and the common good is indeed a perennial concern. However, I wince at a stark construction of individual rights VERSUS the common good. I see individual rights as one of the prerequisites of the common good. Thus, I would say overriding individual rights usually does a disservice to the common good.

    • TG: I’ve seen the blog post itself. I’ll be going through the comment section, and will participate if I think I have something to contribute.

      NTwR: Whoever you reply to will receive a copy in their email. But I don’t know if anybody else is still checking and reading anything.

      ASZ and FMD were abbreviations I used for two names. Haven’t heard from them for a while.

      If you read closely, you might find that in a couple of posts I mentioned the name marshmallow. She was the one who posted more than anyone except me. She is also the only person who I know still to be waiting for a reply from me. But just a couple of days ago, I saw that “marshmallow” at the top of all her posts had changed to “RonPaul2012″ (?).

      TG: . . . I have to say your perspectives and positions are much more refreshing and interesting than what I normally encounter in the abortion debate.

      Well, I would rather have a list of ten saved babies this week that I could point to, but at least perhaps my existence has not been as completely valueless as I had thought.

      More later.

    • First of all, I posted a reply to JE –

      http://www.noterminationwithoutrepresentation.org/personhood/#comment-119

      – some of which may be of interest to you also. Among other things I said:

      “I have long been planning to reply to TG on a point of his . . . “though moral judgments may ultimately be intuitively based, we can still appeal to more-or-less objective standards to test that intuition.” But . . . maybe I’ll wait till I’ve read [a certain book] to reply to TG (on that topic).”

      In your post that I’m now replying to, you say –

      “I don’t think moral absolutes can be identified by intuition alone. Intuition is basically applying life experience X and worldview Y to situation Z. But very few people have the exact same combination of X and Y, so their intuition about Z is very likely not going to be the same. And let us add the truth that intuition can usually only be validated after the fact. Intuition might be good enough to get things started, but eventually any discussion of moral absolutes will still require an appeal to something outside intuition alone”

      – and it occurs to me: even before I’m prepared for an intensive discussion of that matter, whenever that is, I can just ask you to provide a little more information to better frame that discussion — could you list a few things that you consider moral absolutes, or important positive values, and for at least one of them, tell me how you would go about appealing to more-or-less objective standards to test it, or otherwise appeal to something outside intuition alone?

      The rest of this post of mine will just involve replying to the things in your post that I can reply to quickly. This will mean that I don’t yet try to get completely to grips with the bodily-autonomy thing where it now stands, though I hope to later.

      “The idea here is that you actually do get [individual pro-choicers'] concerns and that you are willing to directly address them.”

      This is good advice, and though I’m not sure if by “their concerns” you include their perceptions of me, it just happened yesterday that I talked with one pro-choice woman (in person, not just on the internet), and afterwards I started thinking that it could help a lot if I were to take the initiative in proactively saying (which I didn’t in that meeting), “If I were a woman and saw a man trying to control my body, that would certainly seem oppressive, dogmatic, creepy, or whatever. I really do get that.” But then I would go on to say, “It would seem that way IF I thought of my unborn baby as a piece of tissue or a parasite or whatever. But if I saw it as a beautiful and valuable human being, I would also see the man and his motivations differently than I would otherwise.”

      TG: As I said, here at least you are more consistent than many or other most pro-lifers. Out of curiosity, do you also support social programs for helping children as well?

      NTwR: Yes, children and adults. Anyone who needs it. “We need to be clear: The quality of a civilization can be measured by the respect it has for its weakest members.” (Dr. Jerome Lejeune, “the father of modern genetics”)

      TG: I’m sure you are also aware of the charge pro-choicers make about “pro-lifers” who would force women to carry their pregnancy to term, but does nothing for them once the child is born. For example, in the U.S., the same anti-abortion proponents would also cut funding to welfare programs, education, etc. I don’t really consider abortion opponents “pro-life” unless they take what happens after birth as seriously as they take what happens before birth.

      The character of some pro-lifers does not help in selling the movement.

      TG: And note one of the reasons I am politically pro-choice is because it is a societal concession.

      NTwR: I don’t quite understand this. Does it stem from your foregoing lines?

      ===========================================
      NTwR old: It’s up to him now [a girl's life], and he’s got to take care of her. It’s up to the woman now [an unborn child's life], and (unless there are compelling circumstances), she’s got to take care of her child.

      TG: I think that part of your problem here is that society does not normally expect an unpregnant woman or man to do any such thing. Even most pro-lifers wouldn’t require the same kind of suffering in kind, let alone degree, which they require of pregnant women.
      ============================================================

      NTwR: First of all, as you’ve probably understood, my first priority is to find agreement (with whomever I’m talking to) on what ideal laws and policies would be, and I think that how to sell those laws and policies, once it’s clear what they are, is a bridge we can cross when we come to it. But I think that human beings have much potential to evolve in their worldviews.

      When the time does come to sell the proposal, then I would ask, is the idea of culpability for abandonment really so unheard of?

      ==============================================
      NTwR old: But as I have said, I think society should impose that degree of violation on anyone — man, unpregnant woman or pregnant woman — who represents the only chance for life of a helpless child. I believe you have said that US society presently does that (prosecutes child neglect) only if someone has taken legal responsibility for a post-natal child, but in other societies it may be different, and I don’t morally see the legal responsibility as an important factor if the fact is that a child will die without a defined degree of Samaritanism. (I would not demand an unlimited degree, such as requiring anyone to run a high risk of losing their life.)

      TG: . . . I was indeed speaking in my familiar terms of U.S. society, but I doubt child abandonment is solely a U.S. phenomenon.
      ===============================================

      NTwR: I don’t quite get your sentence. It’s certainly correct, but we were talking about culpability for abandonment.

      TG: There may also be some confounding of moral and legal roles here. As it is, I can’t really conceive of a case where I would hold someone morally (let alone legally) culpable for child neglect unless they had also voluntarily assumed direct responsibility for the child.

      NTwR: Well, if you would hold if they had assumed, then the idea of culpability for neglect/abandonment/endangerment is not really so unheard of. Neglect/abandonment/endangerment resulting in death is a form of homicide, isn’t it? — and I don’t think homicide is ever seen as defined partly by a breach of contract . . . I may be wrong about the law, but morally I don’t myself see much difference revolving around whether there was a contract. So maybe society could come to expect of others as I do.

      Though Roe v. Wade as such didn’t stand very long before court decisions became even more permissive, whatever it contains can’t be considered unheard of, either. Here I quote from the Wikipedia for convenience, but this matches what I’ve understood from other sources:

      “the Court ruled 7–2 that a right to privacy under the due process clause of the 14th Amendment extended to a woman’s decision to have an abortion, but that right must be balanced against the state’s two legitimate interests in regulating abortions: protecting prenatal life and protecting women’s health. Arguing that these state interests became stronger over the course of a pregnancy, the Court resolved this balancing test by tying state regulation of abortion to the trimester of pregnancy. . . . The Court explicitly rejected a fetal ‘right to life’ argument.”

      It seems to me there were three main principles involved — 1) the woman’s right to privacy, 2) a state’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal life and women’s health, and 3) the personhood and right to life of the unborn — and the Court got it right on two of them in the context of the 3rd trimester. It decided that a state’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal life and women’s health overrides the woman’s right to privacy (which is the same as bodily integrity, isn’t it?) in that trimester. I.e., certain legitimate interests of a state can override bodily integrity, protecting prenatal life (not even a person, just prenatal life) being a component of those interests. All that was lacking was to recognize the baby’s personhood starting from the single-cell stage, and the right to bodily integrity could have been overridden throughout the pregnancy (unless a strong argument had been made about a serious risk to the woman’s health that could not be assessed on a case-by-case basis).

      I doubt if a state’s right to prosecute child neglect/abandonment/endangerment when an adult HAS taken responsibility is explicitly based on “a state’s legitimate interest in protecting . . . life.” But if the state does have such a legitimate interest, it has to protect it through some effective legal mechanism.

      Getting back to “All that was lacking was to recognize the baby’s personhood starting from the single-cell stage”: Why didn’t they recognize it? Hard to say how they were able to make such a crucial distinction between a small unborn baby and a big unborn baby, but it seems to me that this kind of distinction is often just like the outlook of a child who thinks that “Oh wow, being big is everything.”

      “If a human being is a half-inch long, does she deserve respect? If she is 20 inches long, does she deserve 40 times more? People who use years and pounds to quantify the respect due to another human being are not [he said 'not well-intentioned,' but I would say 'not very thoughtful'.]” (Lejeune)

      “As feminists, we don’t believe in discrimination based on size, age or location. Do you believe that a child has less of a right to exist because he or she is small? Are large or tall people more valuable than small or short people? By that logic, most women would have fewer rights than men! For years, abortion advocates have been pitting women against their unborn children . . .” (president of Feminists for Life)

      TG: If I were to somehow violate your right to speech without causing any other harm, that violation would still be harm in and of itself. This doesn’t set up free speech as a value arbitrarily. It says, “This is the standard which you normally cannot cross.”

      NTwR: Let’s set aside for the moment the words “right” and “harm of violating the right.” If you were to stop me from speaking when I’m trying to organize a lynch mob, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. If you were to stop me from speaking when I’m trying to organize a kill-an-unborn-child mob (to extend the same example), I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. If you were to violate someone’s bodily autonomy WITHOUT CAUSING ANY OTHER HARM, and not actively violate it, but just do so in the sense of averting an abortion — when they’re trying to kill their unborn child — I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. Remember that I said, as you did, “without causing any other harm.” In such a case, you’re just acting as though bodily integrity per se were not as important as someone’s life.

      • TG previous: I’ve seen the blog post itself. I’ll be going through the comment section, and will participate if I think I have something to contribute.

        NTwR: Whoever you reply to will receive a copy in their email. But I don’t know if anybody else is still checking and reading anything.

        TG: After reading much of the discussion, I’ve decided not to participate in that discussion because I don’t think I have anything unique to contribute.

        NTwR: Well, I would rather have a list of ten saved babies this week that I could point to, but at least perhaps my existence has not been as completely valueless as I had thought.

        TG: Seriously, if you base the value of your existence solely on what happens in the abortion debate, something is wrong.

        NTwR: – and it occurs to me: even before I’m prepared for an intensive discussion of that matter, whenever that is, I can just ask you to provide a little more information to better frame that discussion — could you list a few things that you consider moral absolutes, or important positive values, and for at least one of them, tell me how you would go about appealing to more-or-less objective standards to test it, or otherwise appeal to something outside intuition alone?

        TG: Ah, now we are entering some choppy waters! You’ll remember that I said that believing that moral absolutes exist and figuring out what those absolutes are are two entirely different animals. Moral law isn’t something that can be discovered the way the laws of physics can. And humans are imperfect beings, so I suspect that using only human means, we can only approximate them. As it is, I am better at figuring out the characteristics of a moral absolute than I am in listing what, exactly, they are.

        Moral absolutes are, well, absolute. They are universal, omnitemporal, and all-inclusive. That is, they apply to everyone, everywhere, at any time. If there are intelligent extra-terrestrial species, or we manage to invent truly sentient machines, moral absolutes would apply to them. God cannot violate them.

        Moral absolutes are objective. This might seem to go with universality, omnitemporality, and all-inclusiveness, but what I mean to say here is that moral absolutes are not subject to individual conscience. Some people’s conscience won’t allow them to do certain things, but unless those things are themselves moral absolutes, no one else is bound by that individual’s conscience. Likewise, psychopaths are characterized by the lack of conscience, but it would still be wrong for them to break a moral absolute.

        Finally, breaking a moral absolute is malum in se, inherently wrong. Breaking them is wrong regardless of whether a governing authority prohibits them or punishes such violations. It might be fair to say that a moral absolute is a moral absolute because it is impossible to justify breaking it.

        I already demonstrated some ways that I would appeal to something outside intuition alone as a way of pointing to defining moral absolutes. Back in the first post of this thread, I said, “What Lanza did is clearly and so nearly universally accepted as morally wrong that anyone who says he was morally right would themselves be morally suspect…. The massacre was completely senseless and utterly lacking in justification….The massacre served no purpose, achieved no goal, fulfilled no duty and did nothing to maximalize happiness. I doubt even the most extreme hedonist would justify Lanza’s actions because self-gratification assumes life and Lanza committed suicide.”

        Basically, I pointed to a number of different systems proposed by ethicists over the years (the social contract, consequentialism, virtue, utilitarianism, pragmatism, hedonism), in order to demonstrate that Lamza’s actions were malum in se. I even went so far as to imply that what Lamza did was worse than Al Queda’s 9/11 attacks because what Lamza did was so utterly lacking in justification.

        The main takeaway here is that if an act violates a number of different standards (religious- and secular-based), then that points toward the violation of a moral absolute.

        NTwR: This is good advice, and though I’m not sure if by “their concerns” you include their perceptions of me, it just happened yesterday that I talked with one pro-choice woman (in person, not just on the internet), and afterwards I started thinking that it could help a lot if I were to take the initiative in proactively saying (which I didn’t in that meeting), “If I were a woman and saw a man trying to control my body, that would certainly seem oppressive, dogmatic, creepy, or whatever. I really do get that.” But then I would go on to say, “It would seem that way IF I thought of my unborn baby as a piece of tissue or a parasite or whatever. But if I saw it as a beautiful and valuable human being, I would also see the man and his motivations differently than I would otherwise.”

        TG: On a person-to-person level as simply moral argumentation, something like this would probably be helpful. As you said yourself, the character of some “pro-lifers” doesn’t help the movement. And all too many “pro-lifers” are really about controlling women. So, yes, on any level, “their concerns” would include how they perceive you personally. For example, I tend to give Catholics who press the rest of Catholic social justice teaching the benefit of the doubt more than I do the typical conservative Protestant who wouldn’t lift a finger to help woman and child once the child is born (and a goodly number of them don’t even really care to help during the prenatal period either). In fact, said Catholics are about the only ones I would grant the title pro-life to.

        On the level of arguing public policy, the other sides’ perception of you personally does count, but that isn’t the only thing. You not only have to come across as not simply being about controlling women, you have to give compelling reasons for prohibiting abortion in violation of other established rights in a way that is not arbitrary. That means your argument has to has to apply to potentially anyone, not just pregnant women.

        TG previous: And note one of the reasons I am politically pro-choice is because it is a societal concession.

        NTwR: I don’t quite understand this. Does it stem from your foregoing lines?

        TG: You’ll remember back when I was describing how my religious views influenced my stance on abortion, I said, “A Mormon’s duty is to build Zion (basically Utopia), but also has a pragmatic streak. For me, this means that until we do have a Zion society, there are simply going to be some regrettable things we have to tolerate, including permitting abortion.” This is basically what I mean when I say my political stance is partly a societal concession. As long as we live in a society where abortion is the rational or even the only real option, it should not be prohibited. Note, for example, how many of the reasons for women getting an abortion reported in the Guttmacher study are related to economics. It also hasn’t escaped my notice that since “welfare reform” in the United States, the number of women living in poverty getting abortions has increased, despite the fact there has been an overall decrease in total abortions. This is another reason I tend to give Catholics a pass, because Catholic social justice teaching, if fully implemented, would naturally help reduce the number of abortions. It is only when we do have a Zion society that we can even think about restricting abortions beyond the life/health of the mother or for rape/incest.

        NTwR old: It’s up to him now [a girl's life], and he’s got to take care of her. It’s up to the woman now [an unborn child's life], and (unless there are compelling circumstances), she’s got to take care of her child.

        TG previous: I think that part of your problem here is that society does not normally expect an unpregnant woman or man to do any such thing. Even most pro-lifers wouldn’t require the same kind of suffering in kind, let alone degree, which they require of pregnant women.

        NTwR: First of all, as you’ve probably understood, my first priority is to find agreement (with whomever I’m talking to) on what ideal laws and policies would be, and I think that how to sell those laws and policies, once it’s clear what they are, is a bridge we can cross when we come to it. But I think that human beings have much potential to evolve in their worldviews.

        When the time does come to sell the proposal, then I would ask, is the idea of culpability for abandonment really so unheard of?

        TG: Culpability for abandonment is not unheard of, but it typically only applies to people who have direct responsibility for the child and when said abandonment places the child in direct jeopardy. But again, such culpability only applies when a person voluntarily implicitly or explicitly undertakes such direct responsibility. In legal terms, they would have to have de jure guardianship in order for them to be considered culpable for abandonment. What you are trying to do is apply culpability for abandonment to de facto guardians or even complete strangers. At the expense of the de facto guardian or complete stranger’s human rights. For that, the reason has to be not good, it has to be damn good.

        NTwR: Well, if you would hold if they had assumed, then the idea of culpability for neglect/abandonment/endangerment is not really so unheard of. Neglect/abandonment/endangerment resulting in death is a form of homicide, isn’t it? — and I don’t think homicide is ever seen as defined partly by a breach of contract . . . I may be wrong about the law, but morally I don’t myself see much difference revolving around whether there was a contract. So maybe society could come to expect of others as I do.

        TG: Modify to directly resulting in death, and such neglect/abandonment/endangerment would be a form of homicide. With regard to relative strangers, sometimes a person can be held culpable for homicide in cases where the death was the result of “depraved indifference.” (For the purpose of this discussion, I’m excluding most forms of manslaughter, where the direct cause of death was basically accidental and not intended.) According to USLegal.com, depraved indifference requires that “the defendant’s conduct must be ‘so wanton, so deficient in a moral sense of concern, so lacking in regard for the life or lives of others, and so blameworthy as to warrant the same criminal liability as that which the law imposes upon a person who intentionally causes a crime.” Needless to say, this is an exceedingly difficult standard to prove, and basically requires an extraordinary situation.

        NTwR: Though Roe v. Wade as such didn’t stand very long before court decisions became even more permissive, whatever it contains can’t be considered unheard of, either. Here I quote from the Wikipedia for convenience, but this matches what I’ve understood from other sources:

        It seems to me there were three main principles involved — 1) the woman’s right to privacy, 2) a state’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal life and women’s health, and 3) the personhood and right to life of the unborn — and the Court got it right on two of them in the context of the 3rd trimester. It decided that a state’s legitimate interest in protecting prenatal life and women’s health overrides the woman’s right to privacy (which is the same as bodily integrity, isn’t it?) in that trimester. I.e., certain legitimate interests of a state can override bodily integrity, protecting prenatal life (not even a person, just prenatal life) being a component of those interests. All that was lacking was to recognize the baby’s personhood starting from the single-cell stage, and the right to bodily integrity could have been overridden throughout the pregnancy (unless a strong argument had been made about a serious risk to the woman’s health that could not be assessed on a case-by-case basis).

        TG: To discuss the decision made in Roe v. Wade, it is probably best to be referring to the court opinion itself. It can be found at http://www.law.cornell.edu/supremecourt/text/410/113#writing-USSC_CR_0410_0113_ZO. The Wikipedia entry is a good enough summation, but the opinion itself will help answer some of your questions.

        Strictly speaking, the case was not decided in terms of bodily autonomy, as would be the case of the later McFall v. Shrimp (not about abortion, but that decision certainly does have implications on the abortion debate). It was argued on the basis of the woman’s right to privacy, which had already been established in U.S. jurisprudence as a fundamental right which required strict scrutiny in order to infringe upon it. The right to privacy, strictly speaking, isn’t the same as bodily integrity, though in certain aspects they do overlap. Re-arguing the case as a matter of bodily integrity using McFall v. Shrimp as a precedent would probably yield an even more permissive result than what we have in Roe v Wade.

        In any case, strict scrutiny means that the government must have a compelling interest in order to infringe someone’s fundamental rights (you’ll notice I’ve used similar language in other posts). The court ruled the state does have a legitimate interest in protecting prenatal life, but that it does not become compelling until the third trimester. Personhood of the fetus was rejected because it had never been recognized in American jurisprudence except provisionally (i.e., pending birth). Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life.

        NTwR: I doubt if a state’s right to prosecute child neglect/abandonment/endangerment when an adult HAS taken responsibility is explicitly based on “a state’s legitimate interest in protecting . . . life.” But if the state does have such a legitimate interest, it has to protect it through some effective legal mechanism.

        TG: I don’t know if the state’s right to prosecute de jure guardians for neglect/abandonment/endangerment is explicitly based on it’s interest in protecting life, but it certainly is implicit. With de jure guardians, there is probably an interplay of different things going on. However, I am not a lawyer so I am certainly going outside my area of expertise here.

        NTwR: Getting back to “All that was lacking was to recognize the baby’s personhood starting from the single-cell stage”:

        Why didn’t they recognize it? Hard to say how they were able to make such a crucial distinction between a small unborn baby and a big unborn baby, but it seems to me that this kind of distinction is often just like the outlook of a child who thinks that “Oh wow, being big is everything.”

        TG: As explained above and in the court opinion itself, the reason for not recognizing the fetus’ personhood is that it is not recognized in any other area of American jurisprudence. Technically speaking, even after the state’s interest in protecting pre-natal life becomes “compelling,” the fetus is still not accorded personhood. According to the court, when personhood is considered, big is nothing, small is nothing, birth is everything.

        NTwR: Let’s set aside for the moment the words “right” and “harm of violating the right.” If you were to stop me from speaking when I’m trying to organize a lynch mob, I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. If you were to stop me from speaking when I’m trying to organize a kill-an-unborn-child mob (to extend the same example), I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. If you were to violate someone’s bodily autonomy WITHOUT CAUSING ANY OTHER HARM, and not actively violate it, but just do so in the sense of averting an abortion — when they’re trying to kill their unborn child — I don’t think there would be anything wrong with that. Remember that I said, as you did, “without causing any other harm.” In such a case, you’re just acting as though bodily integrity per se were not as important as someone’s life.

        TG: But in cases of organizing a lynch mob, by stopping you I would be preventing harm to a third party. Laws against inciting riots are already recognized as a legitimate limit to the right of free speech.

        There are two problems with what you are saying with regard to abortion. Prohibiting abortion does actively violate bodily autonomy, and it cannot be done without causing any other harm (at least, not in the present state of medical knowledge). It doesn’t just passively avert an abortion, it actively forces women to assume greater risks to her life and health against her will. As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it. This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.

        As a side note, I previously said that as a matter of policy, the law shouldn’t get involved until about thirty-four weeks. That was based on the notion that this was the earliest point where a fetus could survive outside the womb without extraordinary medical intervention. This posed the possibility of other alternatives, such as simply inducing labor, would now be available. I have since learned that even at this stage, other alternatives are still riskier than an abortion. Accordingly I have changed my stance and now find there is no compelling justification for legally prohibiting abortion at any stage of pregnancy.

        • This will not be a complete reply to your above January 12, 2014 at 2:50 pm post, nor will it completely clear the backlog of replies I should make to some points in your earlier posts. But I would like to try to summarize where our discussion stands at this point, and at least reply to a few of your Jan. 12 2:50 points that I can reply to quickly.

          I think that the differences between us now come down mostly to differing intuitions about the reality of and value of the early unborn, and differing intuitions about the relative values of human life and bodily integrity. I doubt that we differ much on the value of human life itself, and therefore I think that our differing intuitions about the relative values of human life and bodily integrity in turn come down to widely-differing intuitions about the value of bodily integrity, in turn traceable in part to differing psychological responses to infringements on bodily integrity. I think that differences in intuition between people are more intractable than differences in factual understanding and in logic, but that intuitions do change over time.

          (The doubts expressed by you and AYM and others about the whole concept of intuition or the feasibility of relying on it in philosophical discourse are of course part of the backlog that I have yet to reply to. I’m sure my replies, when they do come, will not completely satisfy you. The use of intuition in philosophy is inherently messy — which does not at all mean that it is invalid, or that it is not the most valid basis for moral philosophy.)

          You have said something to the effect (I don’t remember your exact words now) that differences in intuition stem from different life experiences. I think that they do not stem only from life experience. I think that intuition stems most importantly from one’s connectedness to one’s own deeper nature, and therefore that the quality of one’s intuition will depend on the degree of connectedness. I think that each person starts out in life with a different degree of connectedness, and that the connectedness normally improves throughout life, though it is possible for it to change negatively. I think that connectedness improves via certain kinds of experience (some examples given in “Personhood”) and via meditation. I also think that connectedness and the consequent intuition are not necessarily unitary, and that therefore it would even be possible, for instance, for one person to have a more accurate intuition about the value of the unborn, while another has a more accurate intuition about the value of adults.

          Now replying to a few of your Jan. 12 2:50 points that I can reply to quickly:

          TG: But in cases of organizing a lynch mob, by stopping you I would be preventing harm to a third party. Laws against inciting riots are already recognized as a legitimate limit to the right of free speech.

          NTwR: Exactly. And by stopping someone from performing an abortion, you would be preventing harm to a third party. Laws against killing should be recognized as a legitimate limit to the right of bodily autonomy. In my “lynch mob” paragraph I didn’t condone violating bodily autonomy without reason — I said it’s justified in order to save a life.

          TG: There are two problems with what you are saying with regard to abortion. Prohibiting abortion does actively violate bodily autonomy,

          NTwR: You can debate about the word “active,” but my point is that prohibiting abortion is not like the straw man of “forced birth,” which is non-existent in most societies of the world. Hardly any society is violating any woman’s bodily autonomy in terms of forcing her to conceive or by somehow contributing to the growth of the unborn. Once she has conceived, it is nature that does the forcing. This is what I mean by “not actively violating bodily autonomy.”

          TG: and it cannot be done without causing any other harm (at least, not in the present state of medical knowledge).

          NTwR: A bodily-autonomy argument always ends up having to adduce a certain degree of physical harm (in which case why not just say “bodily harm” in the first place), or having to adduce mental harm. In your previous post you made a strong case about mental harm, which affected me to some extent. Anyway, your present argument is clearly different from the one we departed from:

          TG old: If I were to somehow violate your right to speech without causing any other harm, that violation would still be harm in and of itself. This doesn’t set up free speech as a value arbitrarily. It says, “This is the standard which you normally cannot cross.”

          TG: As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it. This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.

          NTwR: Here you, like AYM, are trying to find inconsistency in my position.

          (AYM had said, for instance, “After all, with respect to genuine parasites, we certainly feel no requirement to tolerate their actions. Why should it be different for unborn humans that act WORSE [because ordinary parasites don’t infuse addictive substances into their hosts]?”)

          First of all, I don’t have to apologize, as you seem to suggest I should have to, for inconsistent treatment as between humans and non-humans. That is one of the more respectable philosophical positions.

          And as regards humans, I don’t know how an innocent born person could get into the position of doing the same things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, while at the same time its life depends on its doing those things. (A certain violinist, assuming he was innocent — maybe in a coma the whole time — is the only one I can think of who ever came close, but he did MORE damage than in the average pregnancy.) However, IF some innocent human agency whose life depended on it did do the same things — let’s say to a man — that a fetus does to a woman in the case of relatively smooth pregnancies — and no worse — then I think the man should tolerate it. I’ve reiterated this a number of times with one example or other. So what inconsistency?

          TG: This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.

          NTwR: That’s your intuition about the situation, right? Not an unalterable premise of ethics?

          While I have not advocated any special rights for the unborn that should not be granted to other people, if the best moral intuitions of the human race were to grant them such rights, then I think they should have such rights, and that there would not be any philosophical flaw in that. If I believed that the best intuitions do in fact do that, I might or might not think it was good strategy to say so, considering that in my view the lives of the unborn can be protected on the basis of the same rights other people have or should have, without granting them special rights that might elicit less broad-based support.

          TG: “I have since learned that even at this stage, other alternatives are still riskier than an abortion.”

          NTwR: Where did you learn that?

          TG: Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life.

          NTwR: I would say, “Oddly enough, considering that the court opinion recognizes the state’s legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life, it explicitly rejected personhood and thus the fetus’s right to life.”

          TG old: . . . I have to say your perspectives and positions are much more refreshing and interesting than what I normally encounter in the abortion debate.

          NTwR old: Well, I would rather have a list of ten saved babies this week that I could point to, but at least perhaps my existence has not been as completely valueless as I had thought.

          TG: Seriously, if you base the value of your existence solely on what happens in the abortion debate, something is wrong.

          NTwR: Do you mean “If, seriously, you base . . . ,” or “Seriously, if you base . . .” — ? I wasn’t being serious. I was trying to say with humorous ruefulness that it looks like I’m not accomplishing much by blogging specifically. It’s nice to be interesting, but not only does that not save babies, it doesn’t even mean that I’ve made a difference in the abortion debate; just that it’s interesting to you to see me try. (I wanted to be humorous about it to show that I don’t blame you for paying a left-handed compliment — you probably didn’t consciously mean it that way.)

          Yesterday I was given a copy of The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Moral Values, and I expect to focus on that book for the moment, to see if it overturns my view that reliance on intuition is inescapable in ethics.

          • [Note: I'm combining both posts addressed to my comments and dated 15 January in this response.]

            NTwR: You seem to think that there is a difference between your PPA and my personhood argument. Well, there is at least one difference of terminology: what you call a “potential person,” I call a “small person.” And you give that entity less value than I do. Any other difference?

            TG: There is a big difference that can readily be seen in the terminology itself: the potential vs. the actual. The difference is between what *might* be and what *is.* It is not so much that I give that entity less value as much as I prioritize the actual over the potential. If there is a conflict, the rights and well-being of the actual person of the mother outweigh the rights and well-being of the potential person of the fetus. Absent the conflict, there is little question about the value of the potential person–it should be allowed to develop as it will.

            NTwR: It occurs to me that I should try to summarize my position in a few words, which I hadn’t done before:

            TG: It is nice to have good summary. I think I understood pretty well what you are trying to say.

            NTwR: In an unwanted pregnancy, the rights come into conflict. A panel with the authority of the law should take into account the mother’s potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof (considering her mental resilience or lack thereof, and her attitude toward the unborn child, among other things); and the unborn child’s potential remaining future life and the quality thereof; and the family members’ potential remaining future life and the quality thereof; and the support society can offer, and the impact on society; and make a decision aimed to maximize life. The panel might have some power to compensate the woman for her loss if the decision goes against her.

            TG: I did say something like these panels is about as far as the potential person argument (PPA) could be taken in the legal realm. I’ll take some time to highlight what I think would be major differences between how PPA and your actual personhood argument (APA) would affect the panel and state the grave reservations I would still have regardless of whether PPA or APA were accepted as the underlying justification for the panels.

            Under PPA, the mother is given the benefit of the doubt. An abortion would be denied only if the reason was extremely trivial–perhaps your example of having an abortion so the woman could attend a fun party, a reason I said I would find disturbing myself. Since the mother is being given the benefit of the doubt, having to face a panel probably would not be automatic, but would likely require a third party to bring suit. That third party would have to prove both that the mother is seeking an abortion for a given reason and that said reason was extremely trivial. Certain other problems would have to be worked out, like what to do with frivolous or vindictive suits.

            Now for the problems. I mentioned this earlier, but there is the problem of filling the panels. Presumably they would be filled by appointment, and that incurs the danger of court packing. This will result either in kangaroo courts where the woman would be denied an abortion regardless of her best interests, or rubber stamping where very few if any abortions are denied. That is exactly how court appointments are made today, and the abortion debate being what it is, I doubt it would be any different when making appointments for these life panels.

            Alternatively, the members might be impaneled on a case-by-case basis much the same way a jury is chosen for normal trials. This would be more acceptable under PPA than it would be under APA, but it will still be problematic for reasons I will outline below. A jury-type panel would theoretically be able to represent the community, so rendering a verdict of “extremely trivial” could be said to represent community standards. In other words, under PPA, the panel would not need to be experts. Considering everything an APA-based panel would have to consider, the members of the panel would have to be experts in the relevant fields.

            There is the problem of defining the standard itself. How does one go about taking into account “the potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof” of the parties involved? Those are questions about the future, and we are not able to read the future. The most we can do is use statistical methods, but trying to apply statistics to an individual usually results in an ecological fallacy. If we are going to start second-guessing anyone’s decisions, we need to be able to do better than that.

            How does one assess the impact on society? A fetus is both a potential Gandhi and a potential Hitler. Again, since we can’t read the future, it is impossible to say which it will turn out to be. By the numbers, the impact of any particular individual to the society as a whole is essentially null. Most of us simply live out our lives the best we can, having no particular impact on society for good or ill. If I had been aborted, no one would miss me. If I were to die today, it would impact perhaps a handful of people at most. As far as society as a whole is concerned, I’m simply a cog in the wheel, as easily replaced as I was used in the first place.

            Even under PPA, defining “extremely trivial” is problematic. As an example, of all the reasons listed in the 2004 Guttmacher survey, I found perhaps one or two of the reasons trivial, and none so extremely trivial that I would deny the abortion were I to serve on such a panel. (Note, however, this may be the impact of categorization rather than actual answers.) Moreover, the fact that the women surveyed usually gave two or more reasons for getting an abortion suggests that no one gets an abortion for one irreducible reason. It also suggests women really do give some thought to their decision to have an abortion. As applied to real life, the PPA is probably not a strong enough argument to justify making a woman face a life panel, the existence of which is precisely to second-guess her decision.

            Given the limited time frame of pregnancy, the life panel would by necessity be the first and final court. In most cases, there simply wouldn’t be time to go through an appeal process. The limited time frame of pregnancy also causes other problems. In the United States, there are approximately 1.3 million abortions performed every year, if memory serves. Mind you, this does not count the number of women who would get an abortion were it not for practical or legal impediments. Under APA, each and every one of these women would have to go to these panels; the number of women who would have to face them under PPA would be less, but if only 1% of them had to do it, we are still talking about more than 10,000 cases each year. In order to ensure these cases are handled in a timely manner, we are talking about a major investment of resources to implement and maintain the life panels. These are resources that necessarily would result in higher taxes, diversion of resources from other legitimate functions of government, or more likely, both. Such an investment *might* be arguably justified under APA (after all, “The right to life … outweighs any other [right]“); it would be extremely difficult to justify it under PPA.

            The law of unintended consequences is a big problem under APA, though it is not absent under PPA. The sheer complexity of the various elements that would have to be considered (mother, fetus, family, society, maximizing life) all but guarantees there will be unintended consequences. If the decision goes against the woman, she may simply resort to illegal and unsafe means to abort the pregnancy, possibly resulting in death for both mother and fetus. If the decision goes against her, the panel could in fact wind up causing the mother’s loss of “potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof,” indeed setting up a situation where if an abortion was not justified before, it would be now. Granting the panel power to compensate for losses, how do you compensate for permanent disability or death if something does go terribly wrong? What if the fetus does turn out to be the next Hitler? Instead of maximizing life, the life panels could wind up maximizing death and misery instead.

            Finally, the life panels would not only violate the rights of the mother if the decision goes against her. The very requirement to face them in itself violates her right to privacy. The fact is that we are not normally required to justify medical decisions made in consultation with a qualified physician to anyone (the exceptions are almost by definition extraordinary cases). Remember, Roe v. Wade was decided on the issue of the right to privacy and at what point the state’s interest in protecting pre-natal life became compelling enough to justify overruling it. By what means do we justify only one class of person be required to justify her medical decisions? (Note: Your life panels could potentially apply to others, which is why it really behooves you to develop your argument that others could be forced to give up their bodily autonomy even to absolute strangers.) Is the state’s interest in protecting pre-natal life compelling enough? Under APA, perhaps. Under PPA, the answer is clearly no.

            “Any right of any kind (for example the right to control one’s own body) ends where another person’s rights begin,” you say. I absolutely agree with that; our differences seem to stem from which party’s rights are being violated and therefore who must yield. If any kind of right ends where another person’s rights begin, then surely even the right to life ends where another person’s rights begin. So under APA, your premise is questionable even when other things are equal. Under PPA, the potential person must yield to the actual person, other things being equal.

            “The right to life is not absolute, but it outweighs any other,” you say. Fair enough. But it is also fair to question what the exact limits the right to life are and specifically what kinds of obligations the right to life entails on others. Usually, the obligations are about constraining actions, specifically the requirement to refrain from unjustly killing another person. More positively, our obligations would extend to paying taxes required to maintain the courts necessary to protect the right to life, to grant asylum to those whose lives are at risk from unjust persecution, and to maintain an adequate standard of living for everyone. These obligations seem reasonable enough, particularly since I benefit from them and any resulting curtailment of my rights is relatively minimal.

            It would also be fair to ask how many of my rights I must give up in order to maintain someone else’s right to life. Using the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the base standard, prohibiting abortion actually or potentially violates a woman’s rights under Articles 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 9, 12, 13, 16, 18 and 22. Perhaps the right to life does outweigh any other single right. But all of these rights collectively and perhaps concurrently? Under PPA, the answer again is clearly no. Under APA, the answer may well be yes, but the onus is on the proponent to make a clear and convincing argument.

            NTwR: Would it be correct to say that your religion is monotheistic, but not monistic? If I understand correctly, there is only one God, but there are entities besides God in the universe, so there is dualism. For God and all the souls to exist in the same universe (not to mention no doubt interacting), isn’t some unifying principle needed? And if it is, wouldn’t that unifying principle operate at a higher level (= deeper level) than God?

            TG: Technically speaking, my religion is henotheistic and pluralist. God isn’t the only god; in fact, in our mythology God had or has a God himself. It’s just that our God is the only one we worship. God and all the souls voluntarily work together toward an agreed upon purpose. However, given that all souls are free agents, this would not necessarily imply there is a unifying principle that operates on a higher level than God. Perhaps persuasion and reason could be considered such a unifying principle. Also keep in mind that the existence of spirits is not the only brute fact in Mormonism. Another brute fact is the existence of matter.

            NTwR: “Goal” implies that this doesn’t just happen by itself. What is the process for attaining the goal?

            TG: Agreement to and successfully carrying out one’s responsibilities toward attaining the goal.

            NTwR: I think that the differences between us now come down mostly to differing intuitions about the reality of and value of the early unborn, and differing intuitions about the relative values of human life and bodily integrity. I doubt that we differ much on the value of human life itself, and therefore I think that our differing intuitions about the relative values of human life and bodily integrity in turn come down to widely-differing intuitions about the value of bodily integrity, in turn traceable in part to differing psychological responses to infringements on bodily integrity. I think that differences in intuition between people are more intractable than differences in factual understanding and in logic, but that intuitions do change over time.

            TG: I think you are right that we probably don’t differ much on the value of human life itself. I think we are agreed that, other things being equal, a woman should not seek an abortion. We are also agreed that other things are not equal, and abortion can be justified on a case-by-case basis. Where we are parting company is the point where the moral SHOULD becomes a legal MUST. Partly this is because of our differences regarding the actual vs. the potential personhood of the fetus. Actual personhood would confer the right to life to the unborn from it’s earliest stage of existence, while the right to life of a potential person is, at best, provisional, and cannot be used to violate the rights of the actual person of the mother. And as Thomson pointed out, even if the fetus were a person with the right to life, it does not automatically mean abortion becomes impermissible. To quote Thomson slightly out-of-context, that step “is neither easy nor obvious.” More needs to be argued, if for no other reason than we are dealing with a conflict of rights.

            I suspect that the difference has little or nothing to do with relative weights of the fetus’ right to life vs. the mother’s right to decide what happens in and to her body per se. Consider my previous thought about inventing an artificial womb: “If an artificial womb were invented that posed no higher risk or inconvenience to a woman than unrestricted abortion, then Thompson’s Minimally Decent Samaritan concept would almost certainly apply. The woman can terminate the pregnancy and get on with her life, and the fetus is not killed and will develop as it will.” Legally mandating this would be acceptable under both APA and PPA.

            Even under the premise of the right to life, I think the main difference between us is whether the fetus’ right is being violated at all when a woman obtains an abortion. Under PPA, I would say no, because the actual rights of actual persons clearly outweigh the provisional rights of potential persons. APA does muddy the waters a bit further since it creates the conflict in the first place. But I don’t need to overly value bodily integrity in order to discern where we differ. Even agreeing with you in principle that “the responsibility of everybody in society to make a limited degree of effort and if necessary of sacrifice to protect any of its members who need protection from violence,” I would argue that prohibiting abortion involves too broad a degree of effort and too much sacrifice on the part of the mother in both kind and degree. The question is really more about how much we are willing to force women to do.

            NTwR: (The doubts expressed by you and AYM and others about the whole concept of intuition or the feasibility of relying on it in philosophical discourse are of course part of the backlog that I have yet to reply to. I’m sure my replies, when they do come, will not completely satisfy you. The use of intuition in philosophy is inherently messy — which does not at all mean that it is invalid, or that it is not the most valid basis for moral philosophy.)

            TG: My doubts aren’t really about whether the use of intuition in philosophy is inherently invalid. I would, however, question whether it is the most valid basis for moral philosophy. In other contexts, it is instinct or intuition that tells me something is wrong long before I can rationally articulate what is wrong and why. Specifically, my doubts are about whether intuition *alone* can serve as an adequate basis for moral philosophy.

            NTwR: I also think that connectedness and the consequent intuition are not necessarily unitary, and that therefore it would even be possible, for instance, for one person to have a more accurate intuition about the value of the unborn, while another has a more accurate intuition about the value of adults.

            TG: The problem, of course, comes in trying to prove who has the more accurate intuition about any given subject. That certainly requires a recourse to something outside intuition itself. Hence my doubts about intuition alone as an adequate basis for moral philosophy.

            NTwR: Exactly. And by stopping someone from performing an abortion, you would be preventing harm to a third party. Laws against killing should be recognized as a legitimate limit to the right of bodily autonomy. In my “lynch mob” paragraph I didn’t condone violating bodily autonomy without reason — I said it’s justified in order to save a life.

            TG: A lynch mob doesn’t just harm a third party physically, it also violates a number of other rights, most prominently due process. In stopping a lynch mob, I would not be merely saving to save a life, I would be saving a life that is unjustly threatened. However, laws against killing already recognize the right of bodily autonomy. This is why killing in self-defense is considered justifiable. And in most cases even remotely comparable to abortion, the right to bodily autonomy does have sway. So we could go at least two ways with this. An abortion is justifiable given a significant threat to the total well being of the mother, with the death of the fetus simply being the regrettable result. Or the right to bodily autonomy does have sway during pregnancy the same way the law cannot force a person to donate body parts, again with the death of the fetus simply being the regrettable result. Either way, the fetus’ life is not unjustly threatened, even assuming it does have a right to life to begin with.

            NTwR: You can debate about the word “active,” but my point is that prohibiting abortion is not like the straw man of “forced birth,” which is non-existent in most societies of the world. Hardly any society is violating any woman’s bodily autonomy in terms of forcing her to conceive or by somehow contributing to the growth of the unborn. Once she has conceived, it is nature that does the forcing. This is what I mean by “not actively violating bodily autonomy.”

            TG: I will try to avoid the straw man. However, as Anon Y Mous pointed out, nature doesn’t give a fig about human rights (at least, none that we are able to discern). What human beings can do is manipulate nature in such a way that we can have and enjoy mutually agreed upon rights, one of which is the right for individuals to decide what happens in and to their own bodies. If we prohibited cancer treatments, nature would take its course too. However, I have little doubt that we would both recognize such a prohibition as a violation of the cancer victim’s rights. I guess we *could* debate whether the violation is active/not active, but for all the hairsplitting, the result is still the same. [Note: I'm not trying to argue prohibiting abortion and prohibiting cancer treatments are the same thing either in kind or degree. I am saying that you can't escape the fact that prohibiting abortion violates the right to bodily integrity by arguing that you simply want to let nature to take it's course.]

            NTwR: A bodily-autonomy argument always ends up having to adduce a certain degree of physical harm (in which case why not just say “bodily harm” in the first place), or having to adduce mental harm. In your previous post you made a strong case about mental harm, which affected me to some extent. Anyway, your present argument is clearly different from the one we departed from:

            TG: I don’t perceive any inconsistency. “Prohibiting abortion does actively violate bodily autonomy [causing harm in itself], and it cannot be done without causing any other harm [whether physical or mental damage is done, it is harm in addition to the harm-in-itself caused by the violation to the right of bodily autonomy].” I’ve also said from the beginning that you can’t just focus on the degree of suffering, you have to address the kind of suffering (harm) as well in your arguments.

            TG previous: As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it. This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.

            NTwR: Here you, like AYM, are trying to find inconsistency in my position.

            TG: Sorry. It was most certainly NOT my intent to try to find inconsistency in your position. Having acknowledged your consistency with regard to the bodily autonomy argument several times already, it would be hypocritical to now say you are inconsistent. My intent was to be descriptive, rather than accusative. Please forgive me for any offense I inadvertently caused and allow me to spell things out a little more clearly.

            Let’s modify the sentence to say “if any creature (other than a fetus) were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question for most people, including most abortion opponents, about whether we would have to tolerate it.” I’ll do some more unpacking of my meaning below.

            NTwR: First of all, I don’t have to apologize, as you seem to suggest I should have to, for inconsistent treatment as between humans and non-humans. That is one of the more respectable philosophical positions.

            TG: No, I am not suggesting you have to apologize for inconsistent treatment between humans and non-humans. That idea never even entered my mind. I don’t apologize for having to eat even though my eating requires the death of another living thing. I can see how my use of the word “creature” could cause that idea. I was trying to find a word that would apply to both humans and non-humans. Perhaps “organism” or “living being” would have been a better choice to convey my meaning.

            NTwR: And as regards humans, I don’t know how an innocent born person could get into the position of doing the same things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, while at the same time its life depends on its doing those things. (A certain violinist, assuming he was innocent — maybe in a coma the whole time — is the only one I can think of who ever came close, but he did MORE damage than in the average pregnancy.) However, IF some innocent human agency whose life depended on it did do the same things — let’s say to a man — that a fetus does to a woman in the case of relatively smooth pregnancies — and no worse — then I think the man should tolerate it. I’ve reiterated this a number of times with one example or other. So what inconsistency?

            TG: My statement does not require that the creature be human or even a person. It does not require the act to be deliberate (the actor could in that sense be innocent). It does not matter how the creature got into the position of doing the same things a fetus does to a woman. It does not even matter whether its life depended on doing what it does. You might extend the same coverage to innocent human agency other than fetuses, but you are the exception to the rule, even among most “pro-lifers.”

            As a side note, I’m confused about the violinist reference. Are you talking about a real life case or Thomson’s plugged-in violinist?

            TG previous: This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.

            NTwR: That’s your intuition about the situation, right? Not an unalterable premise of ethics?

            TG: I don’t know which it would constitute under your terms. I’m going to put this in terms of self-defense to see if that helps answer your question. In terms of self-defense, it does not matter whether the attacker is human. We would be justified in defending ourselves whether the attacker was another human being or a tiger. A tiger is not a moral agent, so guilt cannot be imputed to it for attacking us. In fact, if a tiger is attacking us, it is likely the reason is that it is hungry, i.e., its life depends on us. Nevertheless, we are still justified in defending ourselves. This is something that you, me, and the vast majority of people would not question.

            Likewise, if a human being of completely sound mind deliberately attacked us, we would be justified in defending ourselves. This holds true even if the attacker is insane or otherwise not fully responsible for their actions (and thus innocent); we would still be justified in defending ourselves. Even if we were being attacked because the attacker’s life somehow depended on it, we would be justified in defending ourselves. Finally, even if the attacker were incapable of doing more than the equivalent damage a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, we would still be justified in defending ourselves.

            For the vast majority of people, all those statements are non-controversial. These statements would be even less controversial if we were talking about a genuine parasite like a tapeworm, which doesn’t act with the deliberation of even a tiger.

            I’m not (exactly) arguing here that abortion is the same as self-defense. But based on these statements, how would you answer your own questions when it comes to the question of self-defense qua self-defense?

            NTwR: While I have not advocated any special rights for the unborn that should not be granted to other people, if the best moral intuitions of the human race were to grant them such rights, then I think they should have such rights, and that there would not be any philosophical flaw in that. If I believed that the best intuitions do in fact do that, I might or might not think it was good strategy to say so, considering that in my view the lives of the unborn can be protected on the basis of the same rights other people have or should have, without granting them special rights that might elicit less broad-based support.

            [Edit: It might also possibly be morally valid, in every conflict situation, to show some degree of favoritism to the underdog. But I'm not trying to argue that.]

            TG: One of the problems with most of the anti-abortion movement is that they do effectively grant special rights to the unborn that they would not grant to other people. This makes you different, but I seriously doubt most “pro-lifers” are willing to go where you are. Hell, a goodly number of anti-abortion Catholics are not willing to go where the rest of Catholic social justice teaching leads.

            But no, it would not be a good strategy to argue special rights for the unborn, even if you thought they did have them. What you really need to do is show how the unborn can be protected on the basis of the same rights other people have. As I keep pressing you to do, you need to answer questions about the circumstances one person could be required to make sacrifices for another, the limits, who makes the decisions, and on what basis. Nobody can evaluate an argument that hasn’t been put forward. And unless you make that argument, your focus on abortion will come off as special pleading for the fetus.

            TG previous: “I have since learned that even at this stage, other alternatives are still riskier than an abortion.”

            NTwR: Where did you learn that?

            TG: It came up in the comment section of the blog entry you pointed me to.

            TG previous: Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life.

            NTwR: I would say, “Oddly enough, considering that the court opinion recognizes the state’s legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life, it explicitly rejected personhood and thus the fetus’s right to life.”

            TG: The way you would say it isn’t that odd, since the court opinion did specifically list the reasons for explicitly rejecting fetal personhood. But without fetal personhood, there is no obvious reason why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life. PPA could qualify, but it can’t hold the weight of compelling government interest required to pass the strict scrutiny requirement. An argument like “all human life is sacred” is specifically religious in nature and therefore prohibited by the First Amendment. I can’t think of what possibly could be left that would give the state any interest in protecting pre-natal life.

          • Thanks for another thoughtful post. As mentioned, I’m giving priority to studying The Moral Landscape right now, so it will be some time before I write any long posts. However, regarding the key idea underlying a large part of your post — the idea of a moral difference between potential and actual (and very specifically regarding your “The difference is between what *might* be and what *is*”) — I can refer you to something I already wrote.

            You have said: “of all the reasons listed in the 2004 Guttmacher survey, I found perhaps one or two of the reasons trivial, and none so extremely trivial that I would deny the abortion . . .” This means, just starting from the top of the survey results, that you would consider “Would interfere with education” to be justification for an abortion. And “I” here, you have made it clear, means you operating under your PPA — “The difference is between what *might* be and what *is.* . . . I prioritize the actual over the potential. If there is a conflict, the rights and well-being of the actual person of the mother outweigh the rights and well-being of the potential person of the fetus.”

            However, “Would interfere with education” is all about the mother as a potential person, not as an actual person. My post “Too Young for Rights?” is all about what I consider to be, morally, a false distinction. The post is framed in relation to the thinking of two pro-choicers, one of whom had written specifically: “It is an argument between what IS, and what MAY BE.”

          • TG: Likewise, if a human being of completely sound mind deliberately attacked us, we would be justified in defending ourselves. This holds true even if the attacker is insane or otherwise not fully responsible for their actions (and thus innocent); we would still be justified in defending ourselves. Even if we were being attacked because the attacker’s life somehow depended on it, we would be justified in defending ourselves. Finally, even if the attacker were incapable of doing more than the equivalent damage a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, we would still be justified in defending ourselves.

            NTwR: Could you give an example (doesn’t have to be realistic) of an innocent person whose life somehow depends on it doing the equivalent damage to you or me that a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, so that we can better see what would be justified and what wouldn’t?

            Also, you’re not allowed to load the thought experiment by calling the person an “attacker,” which would be a ridiculous thing to call a fetus.

            And your example would of course be a more relevant one if the person has as much of its life ahead of it as a fetus does, but I won’t demand that.

            TG previous: Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life.

            NTwR previous: I would say, “Oddly enough, considering that the court opinion recognizes the state’s legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life, it explicitly rejected personhood and thus the fetus’s right to life.”

            TG: The way you would say it isn’t that odd, since the court opinion did specifically list the reasons for explicitly rejecting fetal personhood. But without fetal personhood, there is no obvious reason why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life. PPA could qualify, but it can’t hold the weight of compelling government interest required to pass the strict scrutiny requirement. An argument like “all human life is sacred” is specifically religious in nature and therefore prohibited by the First Amendment. I can’t think of what possibly could be left that would give the state any interest in protecting pre-natal life.

            NTwR: In the interest of our both working on our clear-writing and verbal-comprehension skills (and not because the point is an especially material one), I’d like to look at what is going on here. The first question I ask myself is, would there have been any relevant difference in meaning if you had omitted “says why”; in other words, if you had written –

            “It is odd that the court says the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all, considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life”

            – instead of what you did write –

            “Oddly enough, the court opinion NEVER EXPLICITLY SAYS WHY the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering the explicit rejection of personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life.”

            Now, if you had written –

            “Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering THAT IT DOES SAY WHY IT IS rejecting personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life”

            – that would have had a different meaning than your actual sentence. It would have pointed to a contrast regarding “saying why.” But you didn’t write that, so I don’t think your “never says why” points to any contrast. The only contrast is between “the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life” and “rejection of . . . right to life.” (And only a contrast/inconsistency can justify saying “odd.”)

            To come to the conclusion of all this, the only relevant difference between your sentence and mine is that you have in effect made –

            “Oddly enough, the court says the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life”

            – your main clause, while I have made –

            “Oddly enough, the court rejected personhood”

            – my main clause.

            Given that the subordinate clauses are in fact present, there is no literal difference between your sentence and mine, but yours has the connotation of “protecting pre-natal life is odd,” while mine has the connotation of “rejecting personhood is odd.” (Thus I had offered my sentence to point out what seemed to be our different biases.)

            Now you say:

            “The way you would say it isn’t that odd, since the court opinion did specifically list the reasons for explicitly rejecting fetal personhood.”

            As I mentioned above, you did NOT say –

            “Oddly enough, the court opinion never explicitly says why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life at all considering THAT IT DOES SAY WHY IT IS rejecting personhood and thus the fetus’ right to life” (you did not at that time mention “did specifically list the reasons”)

            – so your “never explicitly says why” doesn’t contrast with anything, and therefore I think my sentence brings out the oddness (which stems from a contrast between differing opinions of the court, and not differing degrees of explanation of the opinions) as well as yours.

            The rest of what you say –

            “But without fetal personhood, there is no obvious reason why the state has a legitimate interest in protecting pre-natal life. PPA could qualify, but it can’t hold the weight of compelling government interest required to pass the strict scrutiny requirement. An argument like ‘all human life is sacred’ is specifically religious in nature and therefore prohibited by the First Amendment. I can’t think of what possibly could be left that would give the state any interest in protecting pre-natal life”

            – is just supporting evidence for my sentence as much as it is for yours. (Now Anon Y Mous has questioned the validity of that evidence, but hasn’t changed this evenness.)

            TG: Technically speaking, my religion is henotheistic and pluralist. God isn’t the only god; in fact, in our mythology God had or has a God himself. It’s just that our God is the only one we worship. God and all the souls voluntarily work together toward an agreed upon purpose. However, given that all souls are free agents, this would not necessarily imply there is a unifying principle that operates on a higher level than God. Perhaps persuasion and reason could be considered such a unifying principle. Also keep in mind that the existence of spirits is not the only brute fact in Mormonism. Another brute fact is the existence of matter.

            NTwR: Instead of “unifying principle,” let me say “design.” Among all the Gods and souls, none of them created any of the others, hence didn’t design them to interact with itself; and there was/is no overall design on a higher level; and yet they all just happen to be of such natures that they can closely interact with each other and agree on a purpose?

            NTwR old: “Goal” implies that this doesn’t just happen by itself. What is the process for attaining the goal?

            TG: Agreement to and successfully carrying out one’s responsibilities toward attaining the goal.

            NTwR: What are the responsibilities — adherence to a moral code, proselytizing, prayer, meditation?

            Actually, though I am interested in your beliefs in quite a broad way, I would not want on this blog to stray too far from the topic of abortion; but I have had at least a vague sense that my questions, so far, might help to clarify beliefs of yours that might have some influence on your abortion views.

             

            I was talking about Thomson’s violinist.

          • Regarding your criticisms of the life panels, let me just say for now that they are mostly if not all very pertinent, but you seem to be able to imagine only two possible disasters: harm to the woman, and large-scale consumption of society’s resources. To my mind, if any abortion proceeds, that is a disaster. So once there is an unwanted pregnancy, there is already a disaster. The only possible happy solution revolves around the word “want” — if the parents come to want the baby, or want the personal growth that they can achieve by sacrificing for the baby. With 40 million abortions a year, the world should long ago have been put on a disaster footing. OF COURSE big sacrifices will have to be made, if the “soul,” or let’s say the mental health, of humanity is to be saved.

          • The State has a very simple reason for wanting to protect pre-natal life, regardless of its personhood. It directly relates to “potential”, because each pre-natal human is a potential taxpayer, and the State cannot survive without taxpayers.

            Basically, therefore, the more the State wants to provide protections to unborn humans, the greedier the State is revealing itself to be.

  10. Richard Dawkins had an short essay published last weekend, in which he does away with all of our arguments with this snippet,


    At what moment during development does an embryo become a “person”? Only a mind infected with essentialism would ask such questions. An embryo develops gradually from single-celled zygote to newborn baby, and there’s no one instant when “personhood” should be deemed to have arrived. The world is divided into those who get this truth and those who wail: “But there has to be some moment when the foetus becomes human.” No, there really doesn’t, any more than there has to be a day when a middle-aged person becomes old.

    • Thanks, but either he really thinks that only top biologists like himself are privy to this simple understanding, or he is erecting a straw man here by willfully interpreting many people in an overly-literal way. When people say, “But there has to be some moment when the foetus becomes human,” they do not literally mean “scientifically has to be,” they mean “has to be for purposes of ethical and legal decision-making.” For instance, the US 14th Amendment protects “persons;” Roe v. Wade “had to” address this and did so, tragically, by saying that unborn children are “not persons;” and anyone who wants to support or contest the Roe v. Wade judgement “has to” define some “instant.” Dawkins would also have to if he entered into a legal arena. As I wrote, “it would be wonderful if we could abandon the semantic convolutions and simply get to the practical question” — but then I went on to explain why we can’t.

      However, I am glad that Dawkins excludes pre-zygote stages from consideration for personhood — I am glad because of a sophistical argument that pro-choicers sometimes make in order to try to show inconsistency in the pro-life position.

    • I think Dawkins could have phrased a couple things better, or more completely. “But there has to be some moment when the foetus becomes human” is not something I’d expect a top biologist to say, even if attempting to quote an abortion opponent. He should have used the word “person” instead of “human”, simply because he knows the organism is entirely human from the zygote stage. Also, “person” would be more consistent with the first sentence.

      The other thing that bothers me is something that appears to be an attempt to match Biology with the Law, which grants person status at birth. But Science, such as Biology, doesn’t care what Human Law says. The Fact is, the unborn human never becomes a person during pregnancy, and doesn’t even become a person for months after birth. During those months after birth, that is when personhood tends to gradually develop, and Biology is only partially involved (it is still causing brainpower to increase, for young humans). The way young humans are raised, Nurturing, is far more important.

  11. NTwR: You have said: “of all the reasons listed in the 2004 Guttmacher survey, I found perhaps one or two of the reasons trivial, and none so extremely trivial that I would deny the abortion . . .” This means, just starting from the top of the survey results, that you would consider “Would interfere with education” to be justification for an abortion. And “I” here, you have made it clear, means you operating under your PPA — “The difference is between what *might* be and what *is.* . . . I prioritize the actual over the potential. If there is a conflict, the rights and well-being of the actual person of the mother outweigh the rights and well-being of the potential person of the fetus.”

    However, “Would interfere with education” is all about the mother as a potential person, not as an actual person. My post “Too Young for Rights?” is all about what I consider to be, morally, a false distinction. The post is framed in relation to the thinking of two pro-choicers, one of whom had written specifically: “It is an argument between what IS, and what MAY BE.”

    TG: I would not consider “would interfere with education” to be trivial. Education is the foundation both for a woman’s total well-being and for laying the groundwork for successfully raising a family. In your terms, a woman finishing her education would not only maximize her “potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof,” it would also do the same for the children she has when she is ready for them. Society is also positively advanced by allowing her to finish her education before starting a family. In sum, life is maximized. In contrast, not finishing one’s education (particularly if we are talking about a teenager in high school) while having to support a child one is not ready for diminishes the “potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof” for both mother and fetus, while also having a negative impact on society. Even an APA-based life panel would arguably rule in her favor.

    For the record, of the reasons listed in Table 2 of the study, the only one I thought was trivial was “Don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant.” But given the state of society, particularly the tradition of slut shaming, I still wouldn’t consider it extremely trivial enough to force the woman to continue her pregnancy. I also thought “Would have to find a new place to live” a bit trivial, but I also know how hard it can actually be to find a decent place to live. Discrimination in housing on the basis of family composition is illegal in the United States, but I have no doubt it still happens. So that wouldn’t fall into the category of “extremely trivial” either.

    At first glance, “Too Young for Rights?” doesn’t really apply to the PPA I’ve constructed. Though I do agree with Ginsburg that reproductive rights (which are not as narrowly construed as you put it in the article) are essential if women in particular are to reach their full potential, my prioritization has little to do with the woman developing her potential per se. It is about the actual, here and now, person asserting her rights, here and now, regardless of the future.

    NTwR: Could you give an example (doesn’t have to be realistic) of an innocent person whose life somehow depends on it doing the equivalent damage to you or me that a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, so that we can better see what would be justified and what wouldn’t?

    Also, you’re not allowed to load the thought experiment by calling the person an “attacker,” which would be a ridiculous thing to call a fetus.

    And your example would of course be a more relevant one if the person has as much of its life ahead of it as a fetus does, but I won’t demand that.

    TG: I will try, though I can practically guarantee the thought experiment will be utterly unrealistic. I will avoid calling the person an attacker, but you should be aware that I mean nothing more by “attacker” than the simple definition of “one who attacks.” Since I have no more idea about how much life a fetus has ahead of them than I do how much life I have left, I won’t even try for that.

    A person is kidnapped and implanted with a device that, when activated, will kill him. The person is informed that if he does not inject you with a chemical the device will be activated. His time is limited, and he is being constantly monitored. He may or may not even know you, and certainly has no animus toward you. The effects of the chemical will last only nine months, but you also have an elevated risk of death or permanent disability for that time-frame. Meanwhile, the chemical will simultaneously keep your body from absorbing nutrients, cause your body to produce excessive amounts of toxic waste, and flood your brain with dopamine.

    Just so we have a lit bit of realism in this scenario, keep in mind you don’t know this person is innocent, and you don’t know what’s in that syringe. Are you justified for defending yourself?

    NTwR: In the interest of our both working on our clear-writing and verbal-comprehension skills (and not because the point is an especially material one), I’d like to look at what is going on here. The first question I ask myself is, would there have been any relevant difference in meaning if you had omitted “says why”; in other words, if you had written –

    TG: Point taken. The bottom line is that the court said the state has a legitimate interest in pre-natal life, but did not say what that interest is. It rejected the obvious reason–fetal personhood–causing me to ask myself, “What else is there?”

    NTwR: Instead of “unifying principle,” let me say “design.” Among all the Gods and souls, none of them created any of the others, hence didn’t design them to interact with itself; and there was/is no overall design on a higher level; and yet they all just happen to be of such natures that they can closely interact with each other and agree on a purpose?

    TG: As far as Mormon mythology goes, the answer is yes, they all just happen to be of such natures that they can interact and agree on a purpose. At least, we had achieved a point where we could do so when God approached us with his plan. There may be more to it than that, but Mormon mythology, like all mythologies, is human centric.

    NTwR: What are the responsibilities — adherence to a moral code, proselytizing, prayer, meditation?

    TG: Let’s boil it all down and say our responsibility is to perfect ourselves as much as possible during our period of mortality. Mormonism is basically about the quest for perfection.

    NTwR: Actually, though I am interested in your beliefs in a broad way, I would not want on this blog to stray too far from the topic of abortion; but I have had at least a vague sense that my questions, so far, might help to clarify beliefs of yours that might have some influence on your abortion views.

    TG: I doubt you are going to find much that is relevant to abortion in our mythology about the antemortal existence. There is a verse in Mormon scripture that says “Thou shalt not … kill [i.e., murder], nor do anything like unto it” (Doctrine and Covenants 59:6). Mormons, particularly of the LDS variety, apply the “anything like unto it” clause to abortion. What they never really consider is WHY abortion is like unto murder. After all, Mormonism has historically taken a pass on defining when personhood begins.

    When I proposed PPA during my conversation with Anon Y Mous, I specifically had in mind trying to explain the official positions of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Community of Christ on abortion. Neither attribute personhood to the fetus. While the LDS Church is more restrictive on what is permissible, the CoC’s position is not exactly abortion on demand either. The LDS explicitly takes no political position on the subject, and while the CoC says nothing about its political position, it’s position assumes the legality of abortion.

    I am inclined to agree that the “anything like unto it” clause does apply to abortion, even though I’m also inclined to believe ensoulment (and thus personhood) begins at birth. PPA resolves that discrepancy, while also suggesting a reason for the LDS Church’s studied neutrality in the political arena. PPA basically says abortion is wrong while allowing that there are exceptions. The exceptions can be narrowly construed, as in the LDS Church, or have a broader basis, as in the CofC or my personal position.

    • TG: I doubt you are going to find much that is relevant to abortion in our mythology about the antemortal existence.

      NTwR: “antemortal”? I don’t quite understand, but anyway, I’ll assume that this is a reply meaning “No, [Edit: they] won’t” to my “I have had . . . a sense that my questions . . . might help to clarify beliefs of yours that might have some influence on your abortion views.”

      Maureen Condic said, “A clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation from one kind of entity (two human cells) to another kind of entity (a distinct human organism) has occurred. . . .”

      TG: I doubt you are going to find much that is relevant to abortion in our mythology

      NTwR: But the very belief that Condic’s clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation requires a soul before it becomes a person, together with the belief that the arrival of the soul MAY be delinked from that transformation, certainly diminishes that transformation as a candidate for the beginning of personhood — compared to the power it would have, according to the reasoning of thinkers such as Dr. Condic, if you looked at the biological framework uninfluenced by the belief framework.

      • NTwR: “antemortal”? I don’t quite understand, but anyway, I’ll assume that this is a reply meaning “No, you won’t” to my “I have had . . . a sense that my questions . . . might help to clarify beliefs of yours that might have some influence on your abortion views.”

        TG: “Antemortal” = “premortal.” Your assumption is basically correct. At least, I doubt you’ll find anything relevant there. You’re welcome to try at least. Look especially at the Book of Abraham, chapter 3 (http://www.lds.org/scriptures/pgp/abr/3?lang=eng). There are other passages that could be referred to, but Abraham 3 brings out the most salient points in one place.

        TG previous: I doubt you are going to find much that is relevant to abortion in our mythology

        NTwR: But the very belief that Condic’s clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation requires a soul before it becomes a person, together with the belief that the arrival of the soul MAY be delinked from that transformation, certainly diminishes that transformation as a candidate for the beginning of personhood — compared to the power it would have, according to the reasoning of thinkers such as Dr. Condic, if you looked at the biological framework uninfluenced by the belief framework.

        TG: I don’t really understand exactly what it is you are trying to say here. I think you are saying that if ensoulment is required for personhood, and if ensoulment occurs at some point later than conception, then conception itself is not the likely beginning of personhood. The problem is that Mormonism doesn’t clearly define when ensoulment occurs. Mormon scripture only gives us certain hints. Two of these hints point to birth, and the third at most establishes the latest possible time of ensoulment. If it helps, here are the the relevant passages:

        Genesis 2:7 and parallels — Then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. [Technically, this verse isn't directly relevant to when ensoulment normally occurs, and it is not my intent to get into an extended exegesis. In modern terminology, it only establishes ensoulment is required for personhood. Before ensoulment Adam was merely a lump of clay; when Adam died his body returned to the dust.]

        Exodus 21:22-23 — When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life. [The fetus is treated as property here. If it were already ensouled, and thus a person, one would expect lex talionis would apply, as it does should harm come to the mother. This is essentially the basis of Judaism's relatively permissive stance on abortion.]

        Luke 1:41, 44 — When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb….For as soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. [Attributes consciousness to John the Baptist sometime around the sixth month after conception. Insofar as this implies John had a soul, and assuming all fetus' have are ensouled at roughly the same time, then the sixth month forms the terminus ante quem, the latest possible time, it happens.]

        The Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi 1:13 — … On this night shall the sign be given, on the morrow come I into the world…. [This is the pre-mortal Jesus speaking. The sign was to indicate Jesus' birth. This means when Jesus talked about coming into the world the next day, Mary was already pregnant with a fetus that did not have a soul. This implies that spirits take possession at birth, assuming Jesus' situation was the norm.]

        Finally, I already discussed Doctrine and Covenants 59:6 and its prohibition against “anything like unto” murder. While I am inclined to accept that abortion is “like unto” murder, it should be noted that the opposite conclusion could be argued. Murder assumes the personhood of the victim, so anything “like unto it” would also have to assume the personhood of the victim in order to remain consistent (one might argue). If the fetus isn’t a person, then it could be argued that abortion is not “like unto” murder, and therefore permissible. Potential personhood doesn’t count. I would be hard pressed to counter such an argument. So unless and until Mormonism definitively clarifies when personhood begins, this passage can’t settle the problem of abortion.

        • Some time back you wrote: “The whole ‘secular’ personhood argument seems to me like the proponent is trying to dance around the soul. But, of course, a soul is something that can’t be quantified or qualified in purely secular terms. ‘Personhood’ is the secular stand-in for ‘ensoulment,’ but the term still leaves a lot of unanswered questions,”

          I replied showing that I could argue for the right to life of the zygote using terms more foolproof than “personhood” against that accusation, just as well as I could using “personhood.” But I didn’t point out that your “but the term” clause raises unanswered questions for you.

          Now on another website you have elaborated on your “but the term” clause. I will paste here what I replied there:

          It seems that at one point [on that website] you raised a new question, and that the discussion about that question remained confined to a small part of the page. I’ll try phrasing the question as: “Is the concept of personhood meaningful or useful at all?” (as opposed, for instance, to the more common question “When does it begin?”).

          You argued in the negative, saying:

          “. . . talk about personhood is really a secular stand-in for ensoulment. We can’t quantify or qualify the soul in solely secular terms, so theologians had to find a way of getting personhood without a soul. The problem is that ‘personhood’ itself leaves a lot of unanswered questions as well.”

          “Something like that. [Something like 'What makes humans valuable is their inherent nature as rational agents.'] If the basis of personhood is special ensoulment, and ensoulment occurs at conception, it makes a certain amount of sense to argue against abortion. But what is personhood? Ask two people and you’re going to get three different opinions. And most of them are going to be dealing with questions that is the territory of philosophy and religion.”

          “I’m saying pro-lifers are religious. What is the real difference between talking about the sanctity of the soul at conception and the sanctity of human life at conception?”

          “I do not believe being PL has to be because of religion. . . . I do think that secular PL arguments have a quasi-religous feel to them, even when they aren’t cribbing from Christian arguments.”

          This seems to boil down to three arguments against the proposition that the concept of personhood is meaningful or useful:

          1. “It seems to me that often enough, talk about personhood is really a secular stand-in for ensoulment.” (Let’s call this an imputing-residual-superstitiousness argument.)

          2. “‘personhood’ itself leaves a lot of unanswered questions as well.” (An imprecision-of-definition argument.)

          3. “. . . what is personhood? Ask two people and you’re going to get three different opinions.” (A lack-of-consensus argument.)

          The only possible relevance, on this page, of the question “Is the concept of personhood meaningful or useful at all?” is that personhood is sometimes said to confer a moral or legal right not be killed, or not to be killed under many circumstances, and is sometimes said to confer such a right on unborn children. By seeking to show that personhood is not a meaningful or useful concept, your purpose (if you have a purpose relevant to the context) must be to undermine a particular argument that unborn children sometimes have a moral or legal right not to be killed.

          Regarding your 1: It doesn’t seem that way to me (and if it’s not that way, you’re erecting a straw man). And even if it did seem that way to me, I don’t see the importance of “often.” It seems like imputing guilt by association. All it takes is one argument that is not a stand-in for ensoulment, and you will be unable to shoot fish in a barrel just by pointing out that argument’s superstitious/irrational basis.

          Regarding your 1, 2 and 3: The most obvious problem is that these arguments, insofar as they hold up (I think that 1 doesn’t very well), lead not only to the conclusion that personhood is meaningless in the case of the unborn, but equally to the conclusion that personhood is meaningless in the case of 15-year-olds and 45-year-olds. And yet isn’t personhood (as a factor that, among other things, distinguishes 15-year-olds and 45-year-olds from chickens) an important part of the basis for granting 15-year-olds and 45-year-olds a moral right to life, that is, saying that it is morally wrong to kill them? And in the legal context, personhood, in some countries including the US (14th Amendment), is certainly the main basis on which 15-year-olds and 45-year-olds are given protection.

          So your position on personhood raises a number of questions, and maybe we could start with the US 14th Amendment: do you think that there is no need to protect the lives of 15-year-olds and 45-year-olds, or do you think that, in order to more clearly accomplish that, the 14 Amendment should be reworded, and if so, how?

          You might say, “Though it’s not clear what personhood is, it’s clear that we possess it by the Xth day of gestation” (leaving a convenient window for abortion). But in order to defend this, you would have to define personhood in a way that is meaningful after all, and once it is meaningful, you’ll quickly find that it becomes debatable as well.

          Above I said about your “It seems to me that often enough, talk about personhood is really a secular stand-in for ensoulment” that “It doesn’t seem that way to me.” It’s not intuitively obvious to me, and you don’t provide any evidence.

          You do say, “We can’t quantify or qualify the soul in solely secular terms, so theologians [?] had to find a way of getting personhood without a soul.” This may make plausible the possibility that personhood is really a secular stand-in for ensoulment, but it is not evidence, nor do you provide any other evidence, that this has actually happened.

    • TG: A person is kidnapped and implanted with a device that, when activated, will kill him. The person is informed that if he does not inject you with a chemical the device will be activated. His time is limited, and he is being constantly monitored. He may or may not even know you, and certainly has no animus toward you. The effects of the chemical will last only nine months, but you also have an elevated risk of death or permanent disability for that time-frame. Meanwhile, the chemical will simultaneously keep your body from absorbing nutrients, cause your body to produce excessive amounts of toxic waste, and flood your brain with dopamine.

      Just so we have a lit bit of realism in this scenario, keep in mind you don’t know this person is innocent, and you don’t know what’s in that syringe. Are you justified for defending yourself?

      NTwR: By “you don’t know this person is innocent,” I guess you intend an analogy with the fact that we don’t know whether an unborn baby will turn out good or bad. But that’s not what I meant when I said, “Could you give an example . . . of an innocent person . . .” I meant an example of a person who (like an unborn baby) doesn’t know that he may have an adverse effect on your body. Your example doesn’t fulfill that requirement, because the implanted person, even if he doesn’t know what he’s injecting you with, must at least know that some kinds of injections are harmful.

      I don’t understand the point of “you don’t know what’s in that syringe,” because in the analogy, a woman does have some of idea of the range of possible effects of a pregnancy.

      Also, I don’t have much technical knowledge of the chemistry of pregnancy.

      I could take this example:

      A person is kidnapped and implanted with a device that, when activated, will kill him. The person’s friend is informed that if he (the friend) does not inject me with a chemical, the device will be activated. The person himself may or may not understand any of this, but even if he does understand, he and his friend are not able to communicate (so the person himself is innocent of whatever his friend does). The effects of the chemical will last only nine months, but I also will have the same elevated risk of death or permanent disability for that time-frame as in a relatively smooth pregnancy. Meanwhile, I will experience the side-effects of a relatively smooth pregnancy. I can protect myself without any harm to the friend (that is, if I protect myself, only the person him will die — two people will not be harmed). Am I justified in protecting myself?

      [Edit: I might reflect, "If I knew that person well enough, I would certainly feel his desire to live, and not to die; I would not feel only my own."]

      I would hope that I would have enough courage not to protect myself. How much courage would that take? In the US, is it 12 out of 100,000 that die in childbirth (and does that include dying any time during the pregnancy, if the cause is the pregnancy?) — ? But the odds will be considerably better for me, because I’ve excluded at least the most at-risk pregnancies (just as I would allow abortion in such cases). And I think the odds would be better in Europe.

      And if I didn’t have that much courage? Well, how could a morally-sensitive society abandon one of its family members to a sure death, when the life of another of its members, me, is very little at risk? I would hope they would compel me. Wouldn’t you?

      The situation might vary if the person were very old or if I had big responsibilities, that only I could fulfill, for the support of others (the latter would be an unusual situation, almost unheard of in a morally-sensitive society). I certainly wouldn’t discriminate against the person for being very young! (in a petri dish, say). To me that would be both illogical and counter-intuitive.

      But my intuition was different when I started out in life. It has had to develop.

      • NTwR: By “you don’t know this person is innocent,” I guess you intend an analogy with the fact that we don’t know whether an unborn baby will turn out good or bad. But that’s not what I meant when I said, “Could you give an example . . . of an innocent person . . .” I meant an example of a person who (like an unborn baby) doesn’t know that he may have an adverse effect on your body. Your example doesn’t fulfill that requirement, because the implanted person, even if he doesn’t know what he’s injecting you with, must at least know that some kinds of injections are harmful.

        I don’t understand the point of “you don’t know what’s in that syringe,” because in the analogy, a woman does have some of idea of the range of possible effects of a pregnancy.

        TG: No, I’m just trying to keep it within the realm of a “normal” self-defense situation, rather than making it a full analogy to abortion. Note I said previously that “I’m not (exactly) arguing here that abortion is the same as self-defense.” Yes, I hold that an abortion is justifiable given a significant threat to the total well-being of the mother, which makes an analogy to self-defense obvious. However, I still see a significant difference between a “normal” self-defense situation and abortion. If I wanted to make the thought experiment more precise, I would have to add that anything you do to defend yourself will result in the death of the person attacking you. But note I’m specifically asking if you would be justified in defending yourself, not whether you would be justified in killing the attacker.

        So I had no specific reference to whether we can know the fetus will turn out good or bad. It’s just that in a “normal” self-defense situation, you do not know whether the person is innocent. You just know you are being attacked. Since I wasn’t overly concerned with making the scenario a precise match to abortion, and since you didn’t specify that the person doesn’t so much as have a hint what he is doing is harmful, I’m not going to worry too much about that objection. You only asked for an example of an innocent person whose life depended on doing the equivalent damage to you.

        Indeed, it would be well nigh impossible to come up with a situation to come up with a situation where a person could attack you without any hint of what he is doing. That’s one of the differences between a fetus and a person who has developed intelligence and experience. A fetus is much more akin to the tiger or genuine parasite in what it does than a person who is a moral agent.

        NTwR: Also, I don’t have much technical knowledge of the chemistry of pregnancy.

        TG: Neither do I. I used Anon Y Mous’ discussion as a thumbnail in creating something that would be akin to it.

        NTwR: I would hope that I would have enough courage not to protect myself. How much courage would that take? In the US, is it 12 out of 100,000 that die in childbirth (and does that include dying any time during the pregnancy, if the cause is the pregnancy?) — ? But the odds will be considerably better for me, because I’ve excluded at least the most at-risk pregnancies (just as I would allow abortion in such cases). And I think the odds would be better in Europe.

        TG: I would hope that I would have enough courage not to protect myself (by using violence). My moral framework specifically prohibits the use of violence in self-defense. The question is not about what you would or wouldn’t do, or what you hope you would or wouldn’t do. The question is whether you would be justified in defending yourself. That is, even if you, personally, would not do so, would you consider it blameworthy if another person did?

        • Just one clarification for now:

          TG: That is, even if you, personally, would not do so, would you consider it blameworthy if another person did?

          NTwR: I had said: “Well, how could a morally-sensitive society abandon one of its family members to a sure death, when the life of another of its members, me, is very little at risk? I would hope they would compel me. Wouldn’t you?”

          By that I meant that if anyone who could save somebody by being injected (as I defined the injection) refused, society should restrain them and inject them. That procedure would have nothing to do with blame. It would just be “we can save A with only a little risk to B.” The members of the restrain-and-inject team might think no more about it afterwards. The job they did was not to punish anyone.

          But if you prod me enough to think about it, as someone who does occasionally take the time to worry about moral questions, I would think “B was ready to let A die. I’m disappointed with B.”

          • Your response assumes too much foreknowledge, which cannot be expected in a “normal” self-defense situation. At the point of an attack, you cannot know what the attacker’s motivation is, the risks of accepting the injection, or that he will surely die if he failed to inject you.

          • There may have been some miscommunication. When I wrote –

            “Could you give an example (doesn’t have to be realistic) of an innocent person whose life somehow depends on it doing the equivalent damage to you or me that a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, so that we can better see what would be justified and what wouldn’t?”

            – I was replying to your message which you had concluded with –

            “Likewise, if a human being of completely sound mind deliberately attacked us, we would be justified in defending ourselves. This holds true even if the attacker is insane or otherwise not fully responsible for their actions (and thus innocent); we would still be justified in defending ourselves. Even if we were being attacked because the attacker’s life somehow depended on it, we would be justified in defending ourselves. Finally, even if the attacker were incapable of doing more than the equivalent damage a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, we would still be justified in defending ourselves.

            “For the vast majority of people, all those statements are non-controversial. These statements would be even less controversial if we were talking about a genuine parasite like a tapeworm, which doesn’t act with the deliberation of even a tiger.

            “I’m not (exactly) arguing here that abortion is the same as self-defense. But based on these statements, how would you answer your own questions when it comes to the question of self-defense qua self-defense?”

            So then I asked “Could you give an example (doesn’t have to be realistic) of an innocent person whose life somehow depends on it doing the equivalent damage to you or me that a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy, so that we can better see what would be justified and what wouldn’t?” Your “Likewise” para above had been about a person who was innocent in your own words and, it seemed to me, in my sense (he doesn’t know that the injection might harm me — here I’m substituting “me” for “we”). In terms of that para, I clearly do know the limit of the damage that will be done to me (I “know what is in the syringe,” to use your later terms). In my mind, when I asked you to give an example, I was referring to that para (as I thought my word “justified” referring to your “justified” would make clear) and the terms of that para.

            But perhaps you thought I was replying to your last (“self-defense”) para. Maybe ever since your “I’m going to put this in terms of self-defense” post, you had wanted to “keep it within the realm of a ‘normal’ self-defense situation, rather than making it a full analogy to abortion . . . not (exactly) arguing that abortion is the same as self-defense.”

            If that’s what you had wanted and still want, then presumably you intend to tie it into abortion later after something has been established about normal self-defense (or if what gets established is to your satisfaction). So if I understand, you want to stick to your original thought experiment till it is answered –

            “A person is kidnapped and implanted with a device that, when activated, will kill him. The person is informed that if he does not inject you with a chemical the device will be activated. His time is limited, and he is being constantly monitored. He may or may not even know you, and certainly has no animus toward you. The effects of the chemical will last only nine months, but you also have an elevated risk of death or permanent disability for that time-frame. Meanwhile, the chemical will simultaneously keep your body from absorbing nutrients, cause your body to produce excessive amounts of toxic waste, and flood your brain with dopamine.

            “Just so we have a lit bit of realism in this scenario, keep in mind you don’t know this person is innocent, and you don’t know what’s in that syringe. Are you justified for defending yourself?”

            Well, unlike with my version, I definitely wouldn’t want society to make it compulsory to accept the injection. Maybe that’s enough for you to proceed with whatever next step in the argument you have in mind. As far as what I would do myself, I’m just now starting to think about it, and all I can say now is that I might go either way once actually facing the situation, depending on various perceptions I might have of the situation and consequent intuitions I might have. Definitely it would be hard not to feel selfish letting the person die unless I knew something very negative about him. I wouldn’t want to live with a sense that I had made a selfish choice. I’ll see if it’s possible for me to give a more definite answer.

  12. AYN: The State has a very simple reason for wanting to protect pre-natal life, regardless of its personhood. It directly relates to “potential”, because each pre-natal human is a potential taxpayer, and the State cannot survive without taxpayers.

    Basically, therefore, the more the State wants to provide protections to unborn humans, the greedier the State is revealing itself to be.

    TG: That actually works. It would even explain why the State’s interest becomes “compelling” at the point of viability. I wonder why the court didn’t just say so.

    • I did not say that education is trivial. Your “of all the reasons listed in the 2004 Guttmacher survey, I found perhaps one or two of the reasons trivial, and none so extremely trivial that I would deny the abortion . . .” means that to you, even the most trivial reason on the list would be justification for an abortion.

      That being the case, all the rest of the reasons would obviously be even better justification.

      So I was free to take any of the reasons on the list to use as an example of what you would consider justification; and I took the first.

    • It’s basically the same argument I’ve presented elsewhere, regarding “potential tithers” and “greedy preachers”.

      I’m going to post here something written quite a way down from here, regarding “ending up with a more hardened society”. A few centuries ago there was much more Religious influence in people’s lives than today. Death wasn’t worried-about so much, because of “heavenly reward” stuff. So, in that sense, that society was more hardened than ours, about death. Which can bring us back to the notion of “greedy preachers”. If only the soul matters, then why is it so important that unborn humans get born? Obvious answer: It matters to greedy preachers!

      Nowadays the State is having its “say” in as many ways as Religion did in the past. ONE important difference is that the State is willing to accept Facts that are discovered outside the system of the State. So, recently it was discovered by sociologists that unwanted children and the crime rate are closely linked. This means that to the extent the State wants to reduce the crime rate, it should be willing to allow abortions of unwanted pregnancies….

  13. [Sorry I missed this. I intended to once again respond to all your posts at once.]

    NTwR: Regarding your criticisms of the life panels, let me just say for now that they are mostly if not all very pertinent, but you seem to be able to imagine only two possible disasters: harm to the woman, and large-scale consumption of society’s resources. To my mind, if any abortion proceeds, that is a disaster. So once there is an unwanted pregnancy, there is already a disaster. The only possible happy solution revolves around the word “want” — if the parents come to want the baby, or want the personal growth that they can achieve by sacrificing for the baby. With 40 million abortions a year, the world should long ago have been put on a disaster footing. OF COURSE big sacrifices will have to be made, if the “soul,” or let’s say the mental health, of humanity is to be saved.

    TG: I’m not sure if you meant to say pertinent or impertinent. Are you saying my criticisms are legitimate concerns that need to be dealt with, or that they have no foundation? I can’t really answer your statement about imagining two possible disasters until I’m clear about this point.

    Certainly, in a perfect world parents will always want the baby. Unfortunately, we don’t live in that world. But may I point out that your life panels can never make the mother want the baby?

    • The short version of what I wrote is: Your criticisms are legitimate concerns that need to be dealt with, but one can feel the need for the heroic measures it will take to deal with those concerns, only if one sees the present abortion situation as a disaster.

    • “But may I point out that your life panels can never make the mother want the baby?”

      Nor did I suggest that the panels would have a role in any mother’s change of heart, and it would be a straw man to imply that the panels would have a “re-education camp” mentality.

      The purpose of the panels is to provide a balanced solution. But the main thing that would mean right now would be to redress the imbalance that presently prevails, in which the stronger parties have taken advantage of the helplessness of the weaker parties. I think that a lot of those weaker parties, later on, will be happy to be alive whether their mother wanted them or whether they eventually found someone else in life who wanted them.

      That having been said, “can never make” bears a little examination. Here –

      http://www.priestsforlife.org/brochures/ourmedia.html

      – there is “A Letter from a Grateful Mom.” She thanks the “sidewalk counselor” outside an abortion clinic who saved her from doing something she would have regretted. This particular letter is not well-documented as genuine, but “sidewalk counselors” do claim a certain success rate. They would not keep at it otherwise.

      There would be no harm if the panels tried to do something similar, especially if it’s a case where ultimately they would simply save the baby by exerting their authority.

      Back to your concerns about the panels: There’s no doubt that the logistics of implementing the panels would turn society upside down, but I think the result would be a less hardened and less self-centered [Edit: , and therefore a happier,] human race. Once a relatively restrictive pattern of precedents became known, I think they would not have to deal with a caseload of 1.3 million a year; many women would not apply. And the very existence of the panels would send a strong moral message that is lacking today. Look at the effect of permissive laws on one woman interviewed at an abortion clinic by the LA Times –

      http://www.truth-out.org/archive/item/58965:offering-abortion-rebirth

      – “‘It’s an everyday occurrence,’ she says as she waits for her 2:30 p.m. abortion. ‘It’s not like this is a rare thing.’

      “She regrets having to pay $750 for the abortion, but Amanda says she does not doubt her decision. ‘It’s not like it’s illegal. It’s not like I’m doing anything wrong,’ she says.”

      • NTwR: So I was free to take any of the reasons on the list to use as an example of what you would consider justification;
        and I took the first.

        TG: Okay. I thought you might be trying to accomplish something with responses I would actually considered trivial. But for the record, not “extremely trivial” enough to overrule a woman facing a PPA-based life panel does not necessarily equate to “justified morally” in my mind. I already spelled out what I would consider justifiable previously.

        NTwR: The short version of what I wrote is: Your criticisms are legitimate concerns that need to be dealt with, but one can feel the need for the heroic measures it will take to deal with those concerns, only if one sees the present abortion situation as a disaster.

        TG: Okay. I think I can go back and respond to what you said earlier. Thank you for the clarification.

        NTwR previous: but you seem to be able to imagine only two possible disasters: harm to the woman, and large-scale consumption of society’s resources. To my mind, if any abortion proceeds, that is a disaster.

        TG: Large-scale consumption of society’s resources may not be a disaster in and of itself. It would only be a disaster if the resources consumed make it too difficult for government to fulfill its other legitimate roles. Resources spent on life panels are resources that are not spent on police officers, firefighters, and teachers. They are not spent on establishing justice, not spent on insuring domestic tranquility, not spent providing for the common defense, not spent on promoting the general welfare of its people. If the resources become too scarce that government cannot fulfill its other legitimate functions, that would be a disaster.

        Nevertheless, that’s not the disaster I imagine when I think of societal disaster. I think of what would happen as a result of the law of unintended consequences, as previously outlined.

        I have also not forgotten what you seem to have: the fetus does not have an independent existence in itself. The fetus does not exist apart from the woman carrying it. Harm to the woman inevitably results in harm to the fetus. I’m neither an embryologist nor an obstetrician, but I can’t imagine a constant bath of stress hormones would be good for the fetus’ “potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof.” I do know a person with anorexia nervosa can keep their bodies from absorbing nutrients when force fed. I don’t think it is inconceivable that a woman being forced to carry a pregnancy could do all kinds of harm to a fetus without ever actually doing anything directly to it.

        As a side note, I find it a bit incongruous to talk about taking “heroric measures” to ensure “minimally decent Samaritanism.”

        TG previous: But may I point out that your life panels can never make the mother want the baby?

        NTwR: Nor did I suggest that the panels would have a role in any mother’s change of heart, and it would be a straw man to imply that the panels would have a “re-education camp” mentality.

        TG: I wasn’t suggesting that they would. But as you pointed out, the only the only possible happy solution does revolve around “want.” The life panels can only operate on the basis of force, regardless of want, something I will explicate a little further below.

        NTwR: That having been said, “can never make” bears a little examination. Here –

        – there is “A Letter from a Grateful Mom.” She thanks the “sidewalk counselor” outside an abortion clinic who saved her from doing something she would have regretted. This particular letter is not well-documented as genuine, but “sidewalk counselors” do claim a certain success rate. They would not keep at it otherwise.

        TG: I haven’t been able to do much more than scan the site as yet. Given that some states essentially force something like “sidewalk counseling” on women before getting an abortion–note the pamphlets Arkansas requires to be given out in the other link–without having a significant effect on the abortion rate, I suspect that the little success (they only claim hundreds of successes out of the thousands going to the Chicago abortion centers) they have are among the women who are already ambivalent about their decision.

        NTwR: There would be no harm if the panels tried to do something similar, especially if it’s a case where ultimately they would simply save the baby by exerting their authority.

        TG: Even if “sidewalk counseling” were totally non-coercive (and by their own admission they are not), the life panels would very existence would be coercive. It’s one thing to try to persuade you to give me your money, it’s another thing to make a persuasive appeal while I’m pointing a gun at you. The life panels would be about force, period. It doesn’t matter that the words they use would be the same as a “sidewalk counselor’s” relatively benevolent appeal.

        NTwR: Back to your concerns about the panels: There’s no doubt that the logistics of implementing the panels would turn society upside down, but I think the result would be a less hardened and less self-centered [Edit: , and therefore a happier,] human race. Once a relatively restrictive pattern of precedents became known, I think they would not have to deal with a caseload of 1.3 million a year; many women would not apply. And the very existence of the panels would send a strong moral message that is lacking today. Look at the effect of permissive laws on one woman interviewed at an abortion clinic by the LA Times –

        TG: First off, abortion laws in Arkansas are anything but permissive. The woman waiting for her appointment is there getting an abortion despite all the legal hurdles Arkansas threw at her. Her remarks have to be taken in that context. Indeed, her relatively hardened remarks may well be attributable to Arkansas’ laws.

        Be it as it may, I suspect you are right many women would not apply, but not for the reasons you give. Even before precedents are set, women are likely to just resort to the dangerously unsafe methods they resorted to before abortion became legal. This will be the case particularly if women perceive the life panels will just be kangaroo courts. I am certain this would be the case with my sisters. It’s probably what I would do.

        People simply don’t take kindly to having their decisions second-guessed, particularly in matters of determining the course of their own lives. I know in own case that people who’ve tried doing it to me simply hardened me in my course, particularly when they have the gall to think I haven’t thought about their objections already. And to then use outright coercion? I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t wind up with a more hardened society.

        • TG: I can’t imagine a constant bath of stress hormones would be good for the fetus’ “potential remaining future life and potential quality thereof.” . . . I don’t think it is inconceivable that a woman being forced to carry a pregnancy could do all kinds of harm to a fetus without ever actually doing anything directly to it.

          NTwR: I feel quite sure that it could, and feel that poor mental health on the part of the woman, that did not revolve around the baby, could harm it also. The panels should definitely try to take such things into account. You have understood that idea. Will write more later. Meanwhile, I once replied to somebody: “John Lennon, for instance. If I understand correctly, his parents didn’t want him, and that caused unhappiness for all of them; yet overall he was happy to be alive, and he made the world happy. Do you suggest that we should kill all such people in advance?”

          TG: People simply don’t take kindly to having their decisions second-guessed, particularly in matters of determining the course of their own lives.

          NTwR: I can’t address questions or comments about abortion that suggest that only one person or life is involved. If you could phrase the point differently, I could reply.

          Will reply about your “injection” thought experiment.

          A reply of mine to AYM under “Too Young for Rights?” also addresses your remarks about that post.

          • TG previous: People simply don’t take kindly to having their decisions second-guessed, particularly in matters of determining the course of their own lives.

            NTwR: I can’t address questions or comments about abortion that suggest that only one person or life is involved. If you could phrase the point differently, I could reply.

            TG: That was a general comment applicable to everyone. As specifically applied to abortion, once a woman has decided the best course of action for her is to have an abortion, she is not going to take kindly to having that decision second-guessed. And a life panel would exist for the specific purpose of second-guessing her. It says to her that we know better than you what is best for you, what you can handle, etc., because you are just too incompetent to determine the course of your own life for yourself. And then compels you to accept their second-guessing with the force of law.

          • As a general comment applicable to everyone, it would be all right. As specifically applied to abortion, you know more or less how I will reply to it, and you know how I will reply to your above defense of it. I don’t know if you’re pretending to be obtuse in order to bait me, or what.

            You’re saying exactly the same thing that Juliemeg said 2 months ago: “I believe each woman can best weigh the circumstances of her own life against her own beliefs and make her own decision. Beyond that, it’s really none of my business.” I replied to her, “If a neighbor woman kills her 2-year-old because of circumstances similar to those motivating abortion, would that be none of your business?” (Consciously ignoring the fact that the one baby complicates the life of the mother in a way that the other doesn’t, in order to determine first whether anything at all is everybody’s business.) You replied to that, and soon I was explicitly addressing that complication, while you were explicitly acknowledging that an embryo has some tiny value, and explicitly arguing “Even if it’s a person.”

            If you say what you’re now saying, I will of course reply, “If people simply don’t take kindly to having their decision to kill their 2-year-old second-guessed, or to being told they are incompetent to make such a decision, should we refrain from ruffling their feathers?” (Consciously ignoring the fact that the one baby complicates the life of the mother in a way that the other doesn’t, in order to determine first whether in ALL situations we should be swayed by what people take kindly and what they don’t.) Do I really have to determine that? I’m not willing to start all over again in that way. I expect you always to address, somehow, the fact that the courses of two lives are involved, and not pretend that one doesn’t exist.

            “kangaroo court”

            Well, you are expressly willing to tolerate abuses of rights to an extent that shocks me a bit. Since we’re talking in court terms, isn’t a situation where there is sometimes (not necessarily often) a kangaroo court leaning one way, and sometimes a kangaroo court leaning the other way, and sometimes justice, more fair than a situation where one of the two disputing parties is judge and jury and hires an executioner?

        • I’m going to try a thought experiment which will employ my 2-year-old again; but the experiment does not necessarily try to make an analogy, much less an exact one, between a 2-year-old and an unborn person. Its purpose is confined to an examination of whether what you say about “taking kindly” and “hardening” is a universal truth. (Then we can proceed to think about specific cases.) The thought experiment:

          “If a couple simply don’t take kindly to having their decision to kill their 2-year-old second-guessed, or to being told they are incompetent to make such a decision, and the neighbors therefore say to each other, ‘It looks like second-guessing the decision of that couple might risk hardening them, so if we don’t like it we better all go home and take Prozac,’ will that lead to a less hardened society?”

          I would say, “No, it won’t. It will lead to a more hardened society. And the moral is that it’s better to let some individuals get hardened if they think individual liberties are more important than human life, than for the whole society to get hardened.”

          While back on the subject of hardening again 2-1/2 months down the road: Julius Fogel is, or was throughout his life (if he’s no longer around), so far as I know, pro-choice and an obstetrician who according to a columnist who once interviewed him had already performed over 20,000 abortions. But he was also a psychiatrist. The columnist quotes him as saying:

          I’ve had patients who had abortions a year or two ago — women who did the best thing at the time for themselves — but it still bothers them. Many come in — some are just mute, some hostile, some burst out crying… Every woman — whatever her age, background or sexuality — has a trauma at destroying a pregnancy. A level of humanness is touched. This is a part of her own life. When she destroys a pregnancy, she is destroying herself. There is no way it can be innocuous. One is dealing with the life force. It is totally beside the point whether or not you think a life is there. You cannot deny that something is being created and that this creation is physically happening…. There is no question in my mind that we are disturbing a life process. The trauma may sink into the unconscious and never surface in the woman’s lifetime. But it is not as harmless and casual an event as many in the pro-abortion crowd insist. A psychological price is paid. It may be alienation, it may be pushing away from human warmth, perhaps a hardening of the maternal instinct. Something happens on the deeper levels of a woman’s consciousness when she destroys a pregnancy. I know that as a psychiatrist. (Coleman McCarthy, “The Real Anguish of Abortions,” The Washington Post, Feb. 5, 1989)

          TG: Let me turn the question back on you. How would you feel if the life panel were stacked in such a way that it merely rubber stamps approvals, stopping few, if any abortions?

          NTwR: Remembering the context of my question, “isn’t [an imperfect court system] more fair than a situation where one of the two disputing parties is judge and jury and hires an executioner?,” I would say, if the life panel even helps establish a mass perception that society has a legitimate concern for the unborn and that therefore the decision is society’s to make, not that of one person alone, that would be tremendous progress compared to what we’ve got now.

          As what appears to be an expression of the idea that what matters morally is potential versus the possible deprivation thereof, here’s an article by Don Marquis which I must admit I haven’t read much of yet, but which looks good:

          Why Abortion is Immoral
          http://faculty.polytechnic.org/gfeldmeth/45.marquis.pdf

          ============================================

  14. NTwR: As a general comment applicable to everyone, it would be all right. As specifically applied to abortion, you know more or less how I will reply to it, and you know how I will reply to your above defense of it. I don’t know if you’re pretending to be obtuse in order to bait me, or what.

    TG: I’m not trying to bait you. We’ve probably just come full circle in our arguments. Believe me there was a point where I really had to hold back my anger in responding to your 1546 20 January 2014 comment on the “Too Young for Rights” post.

    NTwR: If you say what you’re now saying, I will of course reply, “If people simply don’t take kindly to having their decision to kill their 2-year-old second-guessed, or to being told they are incompetent to make such a decision, should we refrain from ruffling their feathers?” (Consciously ignoring the fact that the one baby complicates the life of the mother in a way that the other doesn’t, in order to determine first whether in ALL situations we should be swayed by what people take kindly and what they don’t.) Do I really have to determine that?

    TG: I need to beg for some patience, because I’m going to start by doing precisely what you have indicated you don’t want to do. As I hope will become clear, I do have a point to make.

    As I am sure you would have predicted, I would again return to birth being a game changer. Doing something about killing a two-year-old child involves intervening on a decision she had no right to make to begin with. The reasons for that amount to the same ones we’ve already discussed so I won’t repeat myself any further.

    But I’m really just reaching back to my thoughts about when abortion is morally permissible. “If continuing the pregnancy poses a significant danger to her total well being, then an abortion is permissible.” And whether you like it or not, the woman is the first, best judge of what is in her own best interests. After all, she is the one who will be assuming the risks incurred by pregnancy. Not you. Not me. Not the life panel. And life panels, whether under APA or PPA, would exist for the very purpose second-guessing her. And the fact that people don’t take kindly to having their decisions second-guessed, especially decisions about the course of their own lives, is precisely why I wouldn’t be surprised if we wound up with a more hardened society. And mind you, this is the exact opposite goal you are trying to achieve.

    NTwR: I’m not willing to start all over again in that way. I expect you always to address, somehow, the fact that the courses of two lives are involved, and not pretend that one doesn’t exist.

    TG: By the same token, there are times that I wished you always, somehow, addressed the fact that the woman is a living, breathing, thinking, feeling person who has rights. You address that often enough that I try very hard to give you the benefit of the doubt, even if it seems like you are pretending she doesn’t exist. That is just the nature of this particular debate. For all intents, you are arguing the fetus’ case, and that sometimes means you’re going to come off as ignoring the woman. Meanwhile, for all intents, I am arguing the woman’s case, and that sometimes means I’m going to come off as ignoring the fetus. It doesn’t mean either one of us thinks even for a second that the other doesn’t exist; it just means we are both just trying to make the best possible case we can.

    NTwR: Well, you are expressly willing to tolerate abuses of rights to an extent that shocks me a bit. Since we’re talking in court terms, isn’t a situation where there is sometimes (not necessarily often) a kangaroo court leaning one way, and sometimes a kangaroo court leaning the other way, and sometimes justice, more fair than a situation where one of the two disputing parties is judge and jury and hires an executioner?

    TG: Ditto on the willingness to tolerate abuses of rights to a shocking extent.

    Let me turn the question back on you. How would you feel if the life panel were stacked in such a way that it merely rubber stamps approvals, stopping few, if any abortions?

    A court system depends on the perception of impartiality to maintain people’s faith in it. If people don’t think they are going to get a fair hearing, that the result is already going to be predetermined before the case is already argued, they will lose faith in the system. Once they’ve lost faith in the system, they may as well go ahead and start hiring executioners. With regard to the life panels, this means women will just go back to the methods they used before abortion became legal, with the result that no only fetuses, but more women will also die.

    • “Believe me there was a point where I really had to hold back my anger in responding to your 1546 20 January 2014 comment on the “Too Young for Rights” post.”

      If your anger was due to my misrepresenting you by saying (aimed partly at you), “. . . an abortion-rights advocate . . . essentially what they are saying is: . . . ‘it’s okay to kill an unborn child, because its potential should not be taken into account,’” then I apologize, because it’s true that that did misrepresent you.

      I would have thought that it didn’t misrepresent you much, but maybe it was more than I thought. I actually don’t have a clear memory at this moment whether, when I wrote that, I was completely forgetting your expressions granting some value to the unborn; or whether I felt like I was speaking only in the legal context, where in fact you don’t give them any value at all (as far as I can remember); or whether I thought that the value you grant them was so negligible that, in a remark including you with other abortion-rights advocates, it would be reasonable to keep things simple.

      I wouldn’t have guessed till now that there was any feeling behind your concern for the unborn. As I said under “Too Young for Rights?” on January 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm, I hadn’t been very impressed by the fact that you would consider it “disturbing” for someone to abort for the most trivial reason I could think of (in order to attend a fun party). But maybe there was more behind your position than I had thought.

      I actually have never felt complete conviction about my position that abortion should be “illegal except.” It may seem suprising that I say that, but it is surprising because it is my legal position that draws attention and opposition, to which I then respond. However, I would actually say that where I feel 100% conviction is about 1) the personhood of the unborn, and 2) the idea that we should all second-guess anyone who is committing an injustice against anyone else. I have never been more than about 55-45 in favor of illegalizing abortion.

      Some time before I started this blog, I wrote to someone:

      “. . . I might put the legalization issue in this context:

      “Laws are just one of the factors that contribute to the projection of a social attitude toward abortion. The only thing that is completely unacceptable to me is if a society, taking all factors together, institutionalizes the trivialization & sanitization of abortion.

      “I think American society does this now.

      “Certainly an obvious-seeming way to change this would be to make the laws stricter. But it might be possible to retain liberal laws if there could be a robust enough program of education, through art among other means, to raise consciousness about the unborn and bring out what I think is people’s unconscious protective instinct. It should be made completely clear to everyone that the liberal laws are a reluctant concession to realism totally antithetical to the true values of society.

      “Today we see the Democratic Party doing the opposite of this.”

      Before that person replied, I wrote again, quoting the above and adding:

      “Actually, as you can see, for all the thinking I’ve done about the unborn, it has mostly been in terms of consciousness about them, and not the institutional societal proposals that might follow from that consciousness. But in the light of this morning, I’m tending to backtrack even from the little openness to legalization that I expressed above.”

      And later I wrote to someone else:

      “When we see someone as human, we pass laws if necessary to protect them. So if we see the unborn as human, it would be difficult to really put our money where our mouth is in that regard without criminalizaton.”

      So it seems to me that if anyone sees some abortions as injustices against the baby, but for some reason supports making it safe and legal to commit those injustices, they would want to be active in a moral suasion approach, “raising consciousness about the unborn and bringing out people’s unconscious protective instinct.”

      • NTwR: If your anger was due to my misrepresenting you by saying (aimed partly at you), “. . . an abortion-rights advocate . . . essentially what they are saying is: . . . ‘it’s okay to kill an unborn child, because its potential should not be taken into account,’” then I apologize, because it’s true that that did misrepresent you.

        TG: Apology accepted. My anger wasn’t just about misrepresenting me, it was the feeling that you were accusing me of lying.

        NTwR: I would have thought that it didn’t misrepresent you much, but maybe it was more than I thought. I actually don’t have a clear memory at this moment whether, when I wrote that, I was completely forgetting your expressions granting some value to the unborn; or whether I felt like I was speaking only in the legal context, where in fact you don’t give them any value at all (as far as I can remember); or whether I thought that the value you grant them was so negligible that, in a remark including you with other abortion-rights advocates, it would be reasonable to keep things simple.

        TG: Do you remember when you thought I was trying to catch you in an inconsistency and I had to backtrack and clarify? Probably much the same thing is going on–I said something that included you with other abortion opponents, forgetting for the moment that your position was considerably more nuanced. It also doesn’t help that we tend to flit between moral and legal argumentation without always being clear which level we’re speaking on.

        In any case, on the legal level, I’m not sure whether the unborn have no value at all, or just can’t figure out a way to make what value they do have “stick.” Seriously, how does one translate the moral injunction “other things being equal, a woman should not seek an abortion” to the legal realm? In a world that is fundamentally, perhaps irretrievably unequal, other things will never be equal.

        NTwR: I wouldn’t have guessed till now that there was any feeling behind your concern for the unborn. As I said under “Too Young for Rights?” on January 23, 2014 at 3:27 pm, I hadn’t been very impressed by the fact that you would consider it “disturbing” for someone to abort for the most trivial reason I could think of (in order to attend a fun party). But maybe there was more behind your position than I had thought.

        TG: As I noted in the “Too Young for Rights?” thread, I’ve shifted my position on your hypothetical case. This discussion has made me think through some things I hadn’t really thought about before and to clarify my own thoughts on the subject. I probably wouldn’t have concerned myself too much about why I’m inclined to think abortion is “like unto” murder outside this discussion. Until you brought up the idea that potentially anyone could be required to give up their body parts for someone else, I probably wouldn’t consider Thomson’s minimally decent Samaritan as much more than a relatively abstract concept. There may not have been more behind my position originally, but there is now.

        NTwR: I actually have never felt complete conviction about my position that abortion should be “illegal except.” It may seem suprising that I say that, but it is surprising because it is my legal position that draws attention and opposition, to which I then respond. However, I would actually say that where I feel 100% conviction is about 1) the personhood of the unborn, and 2) the idea that we should all second-guess anyone who is committing an unjustice against anyone else. I have never been more than about 55-45 in favor of illegalizing abortion.

        TG: Actually, I don’t find it all that surprising that you’ve never felt complete conviction about your legal position. In debates, nuances tend to get lost, especially when the issue is as emotionally charged as abortion. As I pointed out in another comment, I always leaned pro-choice, but also accepted that the fetus had a right to life. I would say that before reading Thomson, I probably would have been about 55-45 in favor of keeping abortion legal. I could have flipped if I had been presented with an argument that was compelling enough. But Thomson is right that most “pro-lifers” haven’t thought their argument through. Most of the attempts to directly refute her that I have seen strike me as special pleading, and had the effect of convincing me she was on the right track. Now, I’m probably 95-5 in favor of keeping abortion legal.

        NTwR: “Laws are just one of the factors that contribute to the projection of a social attitude toward abortion. The only thing that is completely unacceptable to me is if a society, taking all factors together, institutionalizes the trivialization & sanitization of abortion.

        “I think American society does this now.

        TG: Oh, that isn’t the situation in American society. Certain European countries where abortion is fairly noncontroversial, perhaps, but not in America. In America, abortion is under constant legal siege, and that siege is spreading to other areas of women’s rights that were settled. And if a woman is able to get past the practical barriers and jump through the legal hoops, she then has to confront “pro-lifers” blocking clinics and harassing her. Clinics themselves have been bombed, and clinic workers assaulted, kidnapped, and murdered.

        NTwR: “Certainly an obvious-seeming way to change this would be to make the laws stricter. But it might be possible to retain liberal laws if there could be a robust enough program of education, through art among other means, to raise consciousness about the unborn and bring out what I think is people’s unconscious protective instinct. It should be made completely clear to everyone that the liberal laws are a reluctant concession to realism totally antithetical to the true values of society.

        TG: Now this is something I wouldn’t mind. You’ll remember I talked about television commercials that did this in the past. It is unclear to me what the law can make it clear that abortion laws are a reluctant concession to realism, particularly when “pro-lifers” contribute to the realism that makes liberal laws necessary. When they also consistently oppose programs and policies that are proven to reduce abortions, it makes you wonder what they think the true values of society are.

        NTwR: So it seems to me that if anyone sees some abortions as injustices against the baby, but for some reason supports making it safe and legal to commit those injustices, they would want to be active in a moral suasion approach, “raising consciousness about the unborn and bringing out people’s unconscious protective instinct.”

        TG: I think a moral persuasion approach is valid in and of itself, but I don’t think it is sufficient. If liberal abortion laws are a “reluctant concession to realism” even in part, that realism is in itself a barrier to that approach. A woman may be fully persuaded that she *should* not have an abortion, but that wouldn’t detract from the problem that she feels she *must* have one.

  15. NTwR: There may have been some miscommunication.

    TG: Most definitely. This whole sub-discussion completely sidetracked from what I was originally trying to do: obtain information from you about your thoughts of my thinking process.

    Way back when, I wrote, “As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it. This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it.”

    Specifically responding to the final sentence, you asked, “That’s your intuition about the situation, right? Not an unalterable premise of ethics?”

    I said I don’t know what it would be (intuition, unalterable premise), and hoped that placing the issue in terms of self-defense would help you answer that question. The question I wanted you to answer is whether my stance would be intuition or unalterable premise in your terms. I played out the scenario because I was hoping it would help you respond to that particular question, not because I necessarily had in mind a particular argument about abortion. That is why I wanted to keep the sub-discussion limited to a “normal” self-defense situation. For a more serious thought experiment tying self-defense to abortion, see http://philosotroll.com/2012/12/29/the-self-defense-argument-for-abortion-as-intuition-pump.aspx. (You might want to bookmark this one, because he does make a point I will want to revisit in the future, but which has nothing to do with self-defense qua self-defense.)

    NTwR: Well, unlike with my version, I definitely wouldn’t want society to make it compulsory to accept the injection. Maybe that’s enough for you to proceed with whatever next step in the argument you have in mind. As far as what I would do myself, I’m just now starting to think about it, and all I can say now is that I might go either way once actually facing the situation, depending on various perceptions I might have of the situation and consequent intuitions I might have. Definitely it would be hard not to feel selfish letting the person die unless I knew something very negative about him. I wouldn’t want to live with a sense that I had made a selfish choice. I’ll see if it’s possible for me to give a more definite answer.

    TG: The obvious step would be to say that you’ve just confirmed, however tentatively, the original statement that “if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it.” But since you have already objected that this terminology amounts to trying to catch you in an inconsistency, we can modify it appropriately.

    But in any case, what I really want is an answer to the question. In your terms, was my statement “This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it” my intuition or an unalterable premise of ethics?

    • TG: The obvious step would be to say that you’ve just confirmed, however tentatively, the original statement that “if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it.” But since you have already objected that this terminology amounts to trying to catch you in an inconsistency, we can modify it appropriately.

      NTwR: You’re free to try to catch me in an inconsistency, and if I’ve just confirmed “if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it,” then you’ve caught me in an inconsistency. But I don’t think I’ve confirmed it. My answer to your thought experiment, in effect, was “I think the implanted, syringe-wielding person need not be given all the consideration one would normally give a fetus, because, not knowing what’s in the syringe, it may do more harm than a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy.”

      (I had asked “Could you give an example [doesn't have to be realistic] of an innocent person whose life somehow depends on it doing the equivalent damage to you or me that a fetus does to a woman in a relatively smooth pregnancy . . .”)

      TG: But in any case, what I really want is an answer to the question. In your terms, was my statement “This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it” my intuition or an unalterable premise of ethics?

      NTwR: To me that was almost a rhetorical question in the first place, since almost the only answer I would believe would be “intuition.” I was trying to make the point that it was your intuition and that someone else’s intuition might be different. For instance, my intuition would lead me to give more consideration to an innocent person whose life depended on me than to a tiger who wanted to kill me for fun (house cats sometimes kill for fun).

      So my answer is, “It’s your intuition.” Does that give you something you need to spring some trap or otherwise take this to some next step?

      Just now I have looked again at your “As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it.” For short –

      “we would not tolerate any other creature”

      You followed that with “This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it” — which means, doesn’t it –

      “this is all the more true if it the fetus is a guiltless person” — ?

      So, “we would not tolerate any other creature, all the more true if the fetus is a guiltless person.”

      Why would we be less tolerant of a creature because of what a fetus is?

      But I’m not sure if this has any bearing on where we are now.

      • NTwR: To me that was almost a rhetorical question in the first place, since almost the only answer I would believe would be “intuition.” I was trying to make the point that it was your intuition and that someone else’s intuition might be different. For instance, my intuition would lead me to give more consideration to an innocent person whose life depended on me than to a tiger who wanted to kill me for fun (house cats sometimes kill for fun).

        So my answer is, “It’s your intuition.” Does that give you something you need to spring some trap or otherwise take this to some next step?

        TG: No, there is no trap. I was trying to get some insight into your thought process. In your thinking, do people have unalterable premises of ethics? If so, what would that look like?

        NTwR: Just now I have looked again at your “As Anon Y Mous pointed out previously, if any other creature were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question about whether we would have to tolerate it.” For short –

        “we would not tolerate any other creature”

        You followed that with “This holds true regardless of whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it” — which means, doesn’t it –

        “this is all the more true if it the fetus is a guiltless person” — ?

        So, “we would not tolerate any other creature, all the more true if the fetus is a guiltless person.”

        TG: No, it would be “all the more true” if the fetus is a guiltless person. I mean simply what I said, as modified in my 18 January 2014 post: “if any creature (other than a fetus) were to do the things a fetus does to a woman during pregnancy, there would be no question for most people, including most abortion opponents, about whether we would have to tolerate it.” It would be just as true (not more so) whether the fetus is a person or whether guilt can be imputed to it. There is no need to read anything more into it than that.

        What I’d like to get back to is your contention that people could be required to give a body part to keep someone else alive. What are the circumstances in which this would be allowed? What are the limits? Who makes the decisions, and on what basis?

        • I’m now relieved of one particular time pressure I was under (out of several). I had been reading The Moral Landscape, whose main thesis, as I had explained January 1, 2014 at 3:37 pm, is that science can determine human values. One of my reasons for reading it was to take part in an essay contest with a cash prize for the best rebutting essay. I submitted my entry a few days ago. I still haven’t read every word of the book, but hopefully I read enough to write my essay, and if I’m to finish reading the book, I can do so without time pressure.

          Since I think I’ve gotten all I can from the book that would help me to decide WHETHER science can determine human values (as opposed to interesting thoughts by the author about the difficulties of HOW), I also need not read it further before replying to your “Ah, now we are entering some choppy waters! . . . The main takeaway here is that if an act violates a number of different standards (religious- and secular-based), then that points toward the violation of a moral absolute.” So I hope to do that soon.

          My takeaway from The Moral Landscape, or what I came away with after my reading and after thinking about things, was a greater readiness to think that the best moral intuitions among our species (not that Harris himself would give those intuitions so much credit) aim simply at the greatest happiness for the greatest number, and that science (Harris would confine it to neuroscience) could possibly in future importantly understand that greatest happiness for greatest number. Harris argues that in theory science could understand everything about it, but I think that even in theory it would not be able to understand the greatest heights of happiness.

          Regarding my thinking that “science . . . could possibly in future importantly understand . . . ,” I believe that future definitely has not come yet.

          TG: In your thinking, do people have unalterable premises of ethics? If so, what would that look like?

          NTwR: As the most conspicuous example, there are many premises of ethics in scriptures, and many people take scriptures literally, as Anon Y Mous at first assumed you would do.

          TG: What I’d like to get back to is your contention that people could be required to give a body part to keep someone else alive. What are the circumstances in which this would be allowed? What are the limits? Who makes the decisions, and on what basis?

          NTwR: Let me recap (in order, but each quote not necessarily being a direct reply to the preceding quote) whatever has gone before on this (optional reading):

          =============================================
          T.G: However, at the end of the day, even IF the fetus is a person, I would still have to admit that in aborting the pregnancy to go to a party does not make her unjust. As I also said in another post [not to Acyutananda/NTwR], a person’s right to life does not give that person a claim on another person’s body (parts).

          NTwR: Normally no permanent damage is being done to the woman’s body parts. A baby being cared for by its father has a claim on the father’s arms and legs. If the father fails to use his arms and legs to go out for infant formula and feed the baby, he is morally culpable and legally indictable. I would support a law requiring people to give blood in certain circumstances. In a peaceful country beset by aggressors, I would see nothing wrong with compulsory military service; think of what the soldiers may have to give of their body parts.

          TG: If you want to get something closer to pregnancy and abortion, then you would have to argue that the father can be forced to donate his organs or otherwise be subjected to the direct use of his body. We don’t even require the mother to do that after birth!

          TG: That’s the reason I suggested developing her concept of the Minimally Decent Samaritan. How much is too much than can be reasonably expected? Previously you suggested that, in some circumstances, a person could legally be forced to donate blood. I agreed in principal, writing, “Depending on how it is done, a law requiring people to give blood may fit well with requiring minimally decent Samaritanism.” But I also added that a blood donation, which requires little time and poses few risks, “does not represent anything close to carrying a pregnancy through forty weeks along with its increased risk of death or disability.” If you were to say that I could be forced to donate a lung, a kidney, or my liver, then I would say you’ve gone far beyond the limits of requiring me to be a minimally decent Samaritan. Why? Because now we are talking about a much bigger investment in time, risk, and probably expense. Perhaps you can make that case, but unless and until you do, bodily rights are not just a sacred cow, they are fundamental to the question of abortion.

          TG: And he [disabled man] still not required to give up any of his body parts to the sick daughter, let alone be physically attached to her just to keep her alive.

          NTwR: My same currency analogy applies here. You’ve admitted that the man has to make a greater sacrifice. Here in India where I live, people sometimes sell their kidneys. They expect it to be a good deal for them, and sometimes it must be.

          TG: If you were to say that I could be forced to donate a lung, a kidney, or my liver, then I would say you’ve gone far beyond the limits of requiring me to be a minimally decent Samaritan. Why? Because now we are talking about a much bigger investment in time, risk, and probably expense. Perhaps you can make that case, but unless and until you do, bodily rights are not just a sacred cow, they are fundamental to the question of abortion.

          NTwR: Abortion-right advocates frequently make this body-parts analogy. I think we could make the case that in some circumstances people should be required to give a body part (let’s say on a lottery basis so that no one would be singled out), but it hardly seems necessary to make that case in the abortion debate, so it puzzles me why the analogy keeps coming up. Pregnant women do not normally lose any body part. [On the Friendly Atheist page I also said, "I'm not sure if the permanent loss of a kidney is . . . the same in degree. It may be greater in degree.]

          NTwR: In one psychology study, subjects were each given $100. Some were told to spend it on themselves, and some were told to spend it on others. At the end of the day, those who had spent on others were happier than those who had spent on themselves, as measured in part by greater activity in the altruism centers of the pre-frontal cortex, and higher dopamine levels. (Just a thought: Maybe if those subjects had given a kidney, they would have been even happier.)

          TG: Abortion-rights advocates make the body-parts analogy because that is the most comparable real-life example to what happens in pregnancy as it gets. No, pregnant women do not normally use a body part, but legally denying women access to abortion has the same effect as forcing someone to give up their body parts to someone else.

          You are a bit more consistent than most pro-lifers when it comes to arguing that potentially anyone can be required to give up their body parts for the sake of someone else. Fine and well. This is the case you should really be developing.
          ==============================================================

          NTwR (back in the present): So I already started disagreeing with the pregnancy-kidney analogy (“Pregnant women do not normally lose any body part” and “loss of a kidney. . . . may be greater in degree”), but also said (intending this to be unlinked to pregnancy), “I think we could make the case that in some circumstances people should be required to give a body part (let’s say on a lottery basis so that no one would be singled out).”

          I recognize that pregnancy is likely to do some degree of harm and carry some degree of risk, but my moral intuition about justice in how society uses its might ove