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Post 40

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 2:37pmSanction this postReply
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"Right. I understand that your premise claims a potential is an actual, but my problem is that this premise isn't true, and you haven't offered any proof that it is."

No. A potential is not an actual. I never claimed that it was. Rather, the potential is what gives meaning to the actual. Large difference.

"The argument that sexual intercourse demands your idea of desired ends is also false. Conception happens automatically and non-volitional."

Conception happens as a result of actions that one chose to perform. Just as death is likely to result from the pulling of a trigger on a 1911 that you are holding to your head, conception is likely to result from reproductive activity.

"There's no magic in it, no inherent or intrinsic value, and no guarantee that intercourse will always result in conception."

Yes, this is true. But, if one does conceive even in the midst of contraceptives and/or birth control, one should not be permitted to kill the offspring of their actions.

Abstinence is the best method of preventing unwanted pregnancy. This prevents us from ever having the need to sacrifice innocent human life upon the altar of pleasure.

"Sex and conception are not mutually inclusive. People who have no capacity to conceive still enjoy sexual relationships. Intercourse isn't even required for conception anymore."

Yes, this is true. One is capable of preventing conception through birth control. I have no problem with that. I also have no problem with people enjoying sex for pleasure. But, one must realize that sex's primary function evolved by nature is reproduction. Thus, one should not engage in sex unless one is prepared to reproduce.

"And sometimes couples don't choose to make one. Like I said, conception is an automatic, non-volitional process."

Conception is an automatic process that is the direct result of completely voluntary actions.

"I've also shown why sex and conception are not mutually inclusive. Your argument is against sexual relationships, not for life."

My argument is not against sexual relationships. I don't care when, why, how, where, or with whom anyone has sex. In fact, sex is healthy for a person. As long as one does not use their personal pleasure as an excuse to kill an innocent human being, I have no problem with people having sex.

My argument is based on the fact that all human beings have inalienable Rights, these being Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. It isn't against sex, it is against murder.

"I submit that your argument isn't really about valuing the life of a fertilized egg, but more about disdain for sexual relationships among people who choose not to have children."

And why is that? What evidence do you have that I have disdain for sexual relationships among people who choose not to have children? I am in full support of the right to perform birth control, contraceptives, and any steps that one may take to prevent themselves from conceiving so that they may enjoy their sexual relationship without having any kids.

The only thing that I disdain is when people are willing to kill innocent life for their personal pleasure.

"Correct me if you think pregnancy free sexual relationships among healthy, fertile couples is perfectly okay."

Pregnancy free sexual relationships is perfectly okay. One must make sure that one does not become pregnant though.

Oh, and presenting a picture of a blastocyst and telling me that isn't a baby doesn't help your argument as I never claimed that it was a baby. I claimed that it was a human being and deserving of human rights and dignity.

What he/she looks like does not change what or who he/she is.



Post 41

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 2:48pmSanction this postReply
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Okay -

Rather, the potential is what gives meaning to the actual. Large difference.
 
How? What does that mean, exactly? 

But, if one does conceive even in the midst of contraceptives and/or birth control, one should not be permitted to kill the offspring of their actions.


And:

Abstinence is the best method of preventing unwanted pregnancy. This prevents us from ever having the need to sacrifice innocent human life upon the altar of pleasure.

So, John, you actually do think children are a penalty and punishment for sexual relationships, don't you? That's exactly how you're treating them with this.  How disgusting.

I'm done with this discussion.  




Post 42

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 2:46pmSanction this postReply
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"Further, should 'mother nature' decide to abort [called miscarriage], how then to apply so-called morals to the woman - 'aiding and abetting' nature? how to prove? and, btw, this is not hypothetical, as there are legislations to accuse the woman of just this should there be a miscarriage!"

A miscarriage is an unfortunate reality of nature. Of course the mother is not responsible for that. Any such legislation that would indict a mother for miscarriage is tyrannical and unjust.



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Post 43

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 3:53pmSanction this postReply
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John-Evert,

You said, "...she already chose for the fetus to be in her body by engaging in reproduction..."

That is wrong in several ways.
1) You presume to know her intention. Maybe she was had faulty contraceptives and her intention was specifically NOT to reproduce.
2) Even if she was intending to reproduce, you have not shown any logic that compells her to not change her mind. If you intend to drive to the grocery store, does that mean you are never permited to change your mind? Of course not. (and your answer that changing her mind on the grocery store doesn't kill anyone is an example of the begging the question fallacy).
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You said, "For her to kill her offspring after deciding to create him/her seems cruel and inhuman as the fetus/embryo had no say as to whether or not he/she would be within her body."

If it is not a human then she did not "kill her offspring" - that is, it would not be logical to say a person is killing their offspring when they 'spill their seed on the ground' as it is phrased biblically. And a fetus/embryo cannot have a say... Human beings are capable of 'having a say' but fingernails, an appendix, or other organic pieces of a human that cannot exercise choice can not be a consenting party to a contract - written or implied.
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You keep using words like "fair" "him" "her" "will" and "human being" when referring to the embryo/fetus - all of which do not apply. Logically you are begging the question - assuming the conclusion which is currently being argued.
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The mother does not create a "person" - she creates an embryo/fetus. Abortion doesn't apply after birth.
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You wrote, "They have separate and individual genetic codes that define them as people. Thus, the fetus is not simply "part of the mother," as physical contact has nothing to do with whether or not one is an individual. An individual is defined by their respective traits, which are defined by their genetic makeup."

DNA can exist in a skin cell left on a door knob - that doesn't make the skin cell or the door knob a person. You use the phrase "physical contact" but that is misleading. If I give my girlfriend a hug, that is physical contact. But my big toe is a part of me - it is connected - it feeds off of the same supply of blood that I oxygenate. And my big toe has participated in my development from the time an embryo formed in my mother till now. If it were to become separate and live on its own, then the issue of rights MIGHT come up. And if you are going to say that it would have identical DNA, I'd say so what? All identical twins have identical DNA. DNA isn't what defines us as individual human beings anymore than a map is the territory or H2O defines a fish pond.
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You wrote, 'So, it seems that you are arguing that a human being must have a rational capacity in order to have rights."

Nope. A given entity can only exist as a concrete - of some kind, and the process goes like this: We percieve a concrete which is then identified, in this case as a "human being" and when that is done we are able to recognize that this entity will in principle possess those things that go with all human beings. What is in human nature is a rational faculty. We, as individuals, may choose to exercise our rational faculty or not. As individuals our rational faculty might be impaired such that we cannot use it - but we are still human beings. When someone goes into a coma they don't cease to be a human. And someone who is mentally challenged to the point where they can't be rational is also a human and the person in the coma and person with mental developmental problems still have rights. It is in the nature of rights that they don't come into existence till the fetus becomes a child - till the cells become an independent human being - till birth.

You asked whether a person who has been in a coma for a year has a right to live. Yes, but not the right to have others forced to provide for that life. So, in this case, one hopes that someone will take up the role of a guardian and see that the person is cared for till they come out of the coma. It would be slavery for the medical profession, or the taxpayer, of a family member to be forced to carry that burden against their will. If the person can be medically certified as brain dead, then that becomes the equivalent of just plain dead. And even then, they don't kill the person - e.g., inject some killing agent, instead they turn off life support and if the person can exist INDEPENDENTLY then they do.
-----------------------

You wrote, "... we have a difference of opinion as to what an individual is. You argue that in order to be an individual, one must be of a certain stage of development, that is, of a certain stage of sophistication. I see an individual as being based on one's ability to live a sentient human life."

Yes we have a disagreement as to what an individual is. A blastocyte is not an individual human being.

You say I'm arguing that to be an individual one must be at a certain state of sophistication. Not exactly. I'm saying that to be an individual you have to be separate and a human being - not still part of the mother, and not something other than human (like a frog). A blastocyte is not separate and it is not an individual human being.

There are no blastocytes that have the ability to live a sentient human life. Maybe, at the end of the pregnancy, following birth, they will have the ability to live a sentient human life. You don't admit to it, and maybe don't understand it, but are clearly not grasping that potential means not yet actual.

You won't have a strong grasp of rights till you understand that they arise out of the need for humans, as per human nature and what it requires of us for our survival, to make choices and act on those choices. This is the level of sophistication that separates us from frogs. We can make choices. We must make choices. That is our nature as humans. If it is right for us to live, then we have a right to make those choices and act upon them, or else we have no right to life. Rights can only arise in the context of society. There is no such thing as a right to violate a right - which is logically necessary to retain a concept that isn't meaningless. Rights tell us what others can not do to us - they don't apply to mother nature - I have no rights against hurricanes, for example, only against other humans. You seem to implicitly recognize that there can be no such thing as a right to violate a right, which forces you to imply some kind of contract that automatically comes into being the minute a male ejaculates into a female, regardless of her intention, and the contract is between her and a resulting blastocyte if one results, that requires she dedicate a significant part of her next 18 years of so. Blastocytes aren't competent to make such a contract.
-----------------

You need to reexamine your formulation because the ambiguity and lack of foundation in your approach will get you into conceptual trouble. A frog that someone cooks for a tasty dish of sauteed frog legs could have been that one frog on earth that would have mated with another specific frog to create the first sentient frog in existence (or what historically would have turned out to have been the evolutionary precurser to the first line of sentient amphibians). To claim that 'rights' flow from potential - and potential can only actualize in the future, which by its nature hasn't happend yet, and isn't fully knowable makes the present undefinable in terms of rights as you see them.
----------------

There are other issues with your approach. To derive 'ought' from 'is' is not a problem if you start with the premise that human nature has specific survival requirments. That man must choose those acts that will lead to survival. And that man can, and must, conceptualize his life as a whole and integrate the choices and acts of the moment into his full life. And that life that is proper to man is that life which provides man with life as man qua man - that best suits his nature - and from that a person can derive what is 'right.' Your system will never let you do that. Your system takes "potential" and makes that the good. And then derives 'rights' as the acts that honor those 'good' states/goals/etc. But your system doesn't allow for the fact that man has a potential good ending and a potential evil ending. Potential is variable and can't be the basis for rights. Instead you have to take rights as the guide to choose that converts your present acts into the potential future that is good.



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Post 44

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 3:58pmSanction this postReply
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One more item: You said, "A potential is not an actual. I never claimed that it was. Rather, the potential is what gives meaning to the actual. "

The potential can only give meaning to the actual by reference to a preexisting standard. You must already have a hierarchy of values and a code of ethics before you will be able to assign meaning to that actual in comparison to the potential.

It puts that cart before the horse to try to derive rights from the potential. You have to already know what is right to be able to evaluate a potential and then use that evaluated potential to judge an actual.



Post 45

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 2:49pmSanction this postReply
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"John is making the horrible,(but currently culturally fashionable,) assumption that children are, and worse, should be, the penalty and punishment for sexual relationships. I can't think of anything more immoral, or nihilistic, honestly. I certainly hope that isn't what he means."

I do not think that children are a penalty or a punishment. Children are a joy. The position that children are somehow a punishment seems to demean the value of human life.

Secondly, there is still an alternative to abortion. This is adoption. It doesn't kill anyone.





Post 46

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 3:02pmSanction this postReply
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"How? What does that mean, exactly?"

The reason why human life is of value is firstly because of its scarcity (we each only have one) and because of its potential. We human beings are capable of accomplishing so much more than any other species on this planet, we are rather amazing creatures. This underscores the intense value of our lives and the lives of those around us.

This is what I mean by, "the actual derives its meaning from its potential."

"So, John, you actually do think children are a penalty and punishment for sexual relationships, don't you? That's exactly how you're treating them with this. How disgusting.

I'm done with this discussion."


Well, now that you are portraying me as some eeevil person who likes to deprive people of pleasure, I don't see any reason to continue this discussion either. As I clarified before, I don't think that children are a penalty or a punishment for sexual reproduction, children are a joy. And I am not mistreating anyone by protecting the innocent. I already see that you can't understand that, because in your mind I am immoral, disgusting, and I hate it when people are able to have pleasure.



Post 47

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 4:20pmSanction this postReply
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Secondly, there is still an alternative to abortion. This is adoption. It doesn't kill anyone.


Oh, sure. 1) Conception
               2) Birth

As if nothing happens in between.  How dishonest, John.  

...children are a joy.

I agree, but only if one actually values them, and a value for children can't be forced on anyone.  You're suggesting that sexual relationships among parties who don't wish to have children, or who don't value having children, should be forced to endure them anyway, which makes children a punishment and penalty, not a value.  It's sick, and you don't even see it!




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Post 48

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 4:56pmSanction this postReply
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John appears to believe that a blastocyte has the right to stay in the woman's body even if the woman doesn't want it there.

He seems to think that the woman made an implied contract of sorts with the blastocyte, just before it existed, by engaging in sex and that this contract made without her intending to, and without the blastocyte even exiting at the precise moment of the contract (just before conception - since after conception is a split second too late).

But then he also says that the blastocyte acquires rights, presumably even without a contract, by having a potential of becoming a sentient being. And if that is his position than he has posited a right to violate a right which makes his concept of rights meaningless. Since his position is that whatever rights the blastocyte has trump whatever rights the mother has, where do those extra rights go when the blastocyte, a few decades later, becomes a pregnant woman who becomes the victim of a blastocyte of her own?

This becomes a theory that makes reproduction the purpose of life and the individuals are just breeders that host the blastocytes.

Here is an example of using potential as a source of rights in the absence of any contract: From those according to their abilities and to those according to their needs - as long as you think that satisfying needs allows a person to fulfill their potential. I mean, there are children in Africa that are starving to death and will never be able to reach their potential if I don't send money. Do they have a 'right' to have me take care of them?



Post 49

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 5:35pmSanction this postReply
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Why can't these folks extend their ideas out to their obvious end?   John must think doctors should be required to report when a girl starts menstruating so the state can enforce monthly pregnancy testing on her in an effort to protect any and all unborn human beings. 

And then the state should require all pregnant women to behave and act as dictated by the "Board of Pre-born Citizens Safety Committee." 

What next?  A ban on shooting unicorns?




Post 50

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 5:48pmSanction this postReply
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It is also weird, that under John's theory, actually being a sentient being (which the woman is) leaves you with less rights that a blastocyte which won't be sentient for many months - as if potential has more power then actual!



Post 51

Thursday, September 1, 2011 - 6:17pmSanction this postReply
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That is weird.  And they never ever explain why that view is morally superior.   

I was really hoping he'd have something new and interesting to explore with this issue. I'm actually disappointed.   




Post 52

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 1:18pmSanction this postReply
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STEVE WOLFER SAID:  DNA can exist in a skin cell left on a door knob - that doesn't make the skin cell or the door knob a person. You use the phrase "physical contact" but that is misleading. If I give my girlfriend a hug, that is physical contact. But my big toe is a part of me - it is connected - it feeds off of the same supply of blood that I oxygenate. And my big toe has participated in my development from the time an embryo formed in my mother till now. If it were to become separate and live on its own, then the issue of rights MIGHT come up. And if you are going to say that it would have identical DNA, I'd say so what? All identical twins have identical DNA. DNA isn't what defines us as individual human beings anymore than a map is the territory or H2O defines a fish pond.

In my opinion, this is the weakest of all arguments supporting abortion as an individual right.  Once fertilization occurs, a new organsim comes into existence.  No, it isn't magical.  It is a fact of reproduction.  Just as there is a point when life ends, there is a point when life begins.  That organsim, even in its most extreme early stage of development, is in fact an individual organism.  It is not a part of the "mother" in which it resides.  Yes, it is attached to her.  Yes, it takes its oxegen and sustenance from her.  Yes, it "enslaves" her as its means of survival.  No, it doesn't have thoughts or use reason.  Those are all separate (and important) issues. 

When a single-celled parasite takes residence in a person's body, does that make the parasite a part of the human's body?  When a tick attaches itself to your skin, does that make the tick a part of your human body, the same as one of your own skin cells?  Of course not.  The tick is a separate organism that happens to be using you for survival.  The tapeworm living in your gut is not a part of your body; it is a separate, individual organism.  Likewise, a fetus (as a generic word for any pre-birth stage of development) is not a part of its mother's body.  It is a separate organism living in her body.  The mother's big toe is incapable of independent life under any circumstances.  A healthy fetus, like a healthy tapeworm, IS living independently according to its own nature.  Can you see the distinction?  While the nature of a fetus' life is, admittedly, parasitic, a big toe has NO life of its own.  A big toe is a part of a complete organism.  A fetus, zygote, blastocyst, or any other stage of development which occurs after fertilization, IS a complete organism. 

Scientifically, if not philosophically, that fetus is a human being.  It obviously isn't a giraffe.  Our observations about reality inform us that giraffe fetuses do not grow in human women.  When a human female becomes pregnant, we can be confident that the developing organism that she and a male have conceived is a member of the species homo sapiens.

So far in this post, I have only argued that a mammalian embryo, from the time of fertilization, is an individual, independent organism of the same species as its mother.  The level of specialization of that organism's cells don't matter.  Whether the organism has more brainpower than a frog doesn't matter.  A is A folks.  When a woman gets pregnant, the organism that takes up residence in her womb is a homo sapiens.  It's not a frog.  It's not a giraffe.  It's not her skin cell or her big toe.  Scientifically it is, can only be, a human being. 

Arguments about when a member of the species homo sapiens  should be recognized philosophically as a human being are fine.  Exploring the relationship between that being's rights and his mother's rights are fine, but attempting to dodge the issue by relying on a flawed assertion that a homo sapiens is not a homo sapiens - that A is not A - only confuse the issue. 




Post 53

Wednesday, November 23, 2011 - 3:54pmSanction this postReply
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Exploring the relationship between that being's rights and his mother's rights are fine, but attempting to dodge the issue by relying on a flawed assertion that a homo sapiens is not a homo sapiens - that A is not A - only confuse the issue.
So do relativism, equivocation, and strawmen.




Post 54

Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 9:32amSanction this postReply
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SW: All identical twins have identical DNA.

More closely similar than any other, but not identical.  We used to think so, but knowledge has advanced.  Monozygotic twins show genetic differences.  In fact, I know of no mechanism that explains why "identical" twins have different fingerprints.  As fingerprints are not learned behavior, they must be "inherited."  I know of no catalogue that groups them by families.  Epigenetics may provide a key, as it does explain how "identical" twins can have different inherited behaviors.




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Post 55

Thursday, November 24, 2011 - 11:51amSanction this postReply
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From "Why It Matters that Life Begins at Birth Not Conception" by Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh, Ph.D.:

From the moment of fertilization to its implantation in the womb a few days later, the zygote consists of a few largely undifferentiated cells. It is invisible to the naked eye. It has no human organs, and no human form. It has no brain, and so no capacity for awareness or emotions. It is far more similar to a few skin cells than [to] an infant. Moreover, the zygote cannot develop into a baby on its own: its survival beyond a few days requires successful implantation in the lining of the woman's uterus. If it fails to do that, it will be flushed from her body without anyone ever knowing of its existence.

If the embryo matures normally after implanting into the lining of the uterus, it gradually develops primitive organs. Yet its form is not distinctively human in the early stages: it looks very similar to the embryo of other species. As it develops its distinctive human form, the fetus remains wholly dependent on the woman for its survival. . . . So before viability, the fetus is not capable of an existence independent of the pregnant woman.

After 26 weeks, when a fetus would be viable outside the womb, its organs continue to mature in ways critical to its survival and well-being after birth. It is aware, but that awareness is limited to the world inside the womb. Most importantly, however, so long as the fetus remains within the woman, it is wholly dependent on her for its basic life-functions. It goes where she goes, eats what she eats, and breathes what she breathes. It lives as she lives, as an extension of her body. It does not interact with the outside world. It is wholly contained within and dependent on her for its survival. So if the woman dies, the fetus will die too unless delivered quickly. The same is true if the fetus's life-line to her body is disrupted, such as when the umbilical cord forms a tight knot. A fetus cannot act independently to sustain its life, not even on the basic biological level possible to a day-old infant. It is thoroughly and solely dependent on the woman in which it lives.

That situation changes radically at birth. A baby lives his own life, outside his mother. Although still very needy, he maintains his own biological functions. He breathes his own air, digests his own food, and moves on his own. He interacts with other people as a whole and distinct creature in his own right, not merely as a part of a pregnant woman. He can leave his mother, either temporarily or permanently, to be cared for by someone else.

These important differences between the mode of life of the zygote, embryo, and fetus on the one hand, and the born infant on the other, show that the former cannot be persons. Rights, in other words, cannot be applied until birth. Why not?

First, the utter biological dependence of the zygote, embryo, and fetus on the pregnant woman shows that, until birth, it is not yet living its own life, but rather partaking in the life of the woman. It exists as part of the pregnant woman, not as an individual in its own right. Yet rights pertain only to individuals, not parts thereof. Such is the case, even when the fetus would be viable outside the womb. Even then, it is only a potential individual, not an actual one. The fetus only becomes an actual individual when birth separates it from the woman's body. Until then, it cannot be a person with a right to life. The pregnant woman, in contrast, is always an individual with full rights.

Second, the zygote, embryo, or fetus does not exist in a social context until birth. Due to its enclosure within the body of the pregnant woman, the new life cannot interact with other people: it experiences only muffled sounds and indirect pressure through the woman. It cannot be touched or handled, nor can it even engage in the primitive communication possible to infants. Even the pregnant woman cannot directly interact with her fetus, as she will do with her newborn infant. Until birth, she can only act as a biological host to the life inside her, not as a mother. A woman, in contrast, lives in society whether pregnant or not--and her rights are therefore absolute and inalienable.

Given these facts, to ascribe any rights to the zygote, embryo, or fetus before birth is a profound error. It is not a person--or rather, it is only a potential person, not an actual person. To suppose that mere potentiality is sufficient is to commit the fallacy of the continuum. The fact that a zygote may develop into a born infant does not prove the zygote to be the same thing as a born infant--any more than an acorn is an oak tree and a caterpillar is a butterfly. As philosopher Leonard Peikoff observes, treating a zygote--a potential person--as though it were an actual person makes no more sense than treating an adult human--a potential corpse--as though he were an actual corpse.




Post 56

Friday, November 25, 2011 - 6:36amSanction this postReply
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All quotes are from Ari Armstrong and Diana Hsieh as quoted by William Dwyer. 

From the moment of fertilization to its implantation in the womb a few days later, the zygote consists of a few largely undifferentiated cells. It is invisible to the naked eye. It has no human organs, and no human form. It has no brain, and so no capacity for awareness or emotions. It is far more similar to a few skin cells than [to] an infant

It looks more like skin cells than an infant.  That is a fair enough observation.  However, if you get beyond the superficial and actually try to classify those cells according to what they are, you end up describing them exactly as you did:  "the zygote."  Describing the zygote's similarity to other types of cells or pointing out that it doesn't have a brain does not change the fact that it is, in fact, a zygote.  Moreover, if it's a zygote that was fertilized in a human woman's body by a human man's sperm and is on its way to implantation in the human woman's womb, then that zygote is undoubtedly a member of the species of homo sapiens.  What is is.  A human zygote IS a human zygote.  A human zygote is not a toe.  A particular zygote may have similarities to a skin cell.  It may be hard to distinguish from a skin cell.  In the end though, it CAN be distinguished from a skin cell.  It can be distinguished from ALL of its mother's cells and identified as a different organism than the mother.   

Moreover, the zygote cannot develop into a baby on its own: its survival beyond a few days requires successful implantation in the lining of the woman's uterus. If it fails to do that, it will be flushed from her body without anyone ever knowing of its existence.
True enough.  A homo sapiens during the "zygote" stage of development requires a mother to act as its "host."  Like any other living thing, it may die of natural causes.  The body of the mother, without the mother's knowledge or volition, may reject even a healthy zygote, causing it to die.  The fact that nobody would notice the zygote's life and death do not negate the fact that the zygote had lived and died, nor the fact that while it was alive it was a zygote of the species homo sapiens.  The fact that a homo sapiens zygote can die of natural causes does not, by itself, negate the possibility of that zygote possessing the same right to live as an adult homo sapiens.  The fact that a mother's body, without her knowledge or volition, might naturally reject the zygote and kill it does not equate to a reasoned, volitional choice on the part of the mother to kill the zygote. 

If the embryo matures normally after implanting into the lining of the uterus, it gradually develops primitive organs. Yet its form is not distinctively human in the early stages: it looks very similar to the embryo of other species.
This is simply another superficial observation.  If a human woman is pregnant, then we can be reasonably certain that she is pregnant with a human zygote, embryo, fetus, etc.  Pointing out that it looks like a frog or some other ugly animal is simply smoke and mirrors. In a discussion of whether a homo sapiens embryo is cute and cuddly, comparing it to a frog or showing a microscope image of some cells would constitute valid arguments.  In a discussion of whether a homo sapiens embryo is an individual organism of the species homo sapiens those arguments have no place. 

As it develops its distinctive human form, the fetus remains wholly dependent on the woman for its survival. . . . So before viability, the fetus is not capable of an existence independent of the pregnant woman.

There are two subtly different meanings of the word "independent" that need to be understood as pertains to this subject.  In the sense that the fetus cannot survive without using the shelter of his mother's body and the oxygen and food from her body, it is absolutely true that the fetus is not independent.  However, the fetus IS independent in the sense that it is a distinctly different organism from his mother, living according to the nature of homo sapiens in certain stages of development.  Just to be clear, I am only claiming that the fetus, zygote, blastocyst, etc. is independent in the sense that it is NOT a "piece" of its mother.  It is independent of its mother in the same fashion that an amoeba or tapeworm is independent of its host.  It will die without its host, but it is not a part of its host. 

A fetus cannot act independently to sustain its life, not even on the basic biological level possible to a day-old infant. It is thoroughly and solely dependent on the woman in which it lives.
This is a very carefully crafted statement.  It's true that a fetus cannot sustain its life on the same level as a day-old infant.  However, that is not nearly the same thing as saying that it cannot sustain its life at all.  According to Ayn Rand's philosophy, even a tree sustains its own life by seeking values.  I'm not arguing (yet) that a human fetus has a right to live.  I'm simply arguing that, from the moment after fertilization, the zygote in a human woman is an individual of the human species.  It does sustain its life according to its own nature at its particular level of development. 

I am well aware of the arguments for abortion as a mother's individual right that focus on the fetus' "enslavement" of the mother and the mother's lack of an obligation to keep the fetus alive.  Those positions are actually more profitable to debate from a philosophical perspective than is the issue I'm tackling at the moment.  However, without the underlying scientific premise that the embryo is, in fact, an individual organism rather than a piece of the mother's body, all of those philosophical positions are superfluous.  I could concede that if a fetus were a piece of its mom it wouldn't have a right to live.  That would be a dishonest concession though, since I've already demonstrated that I don't believe in the stated condition.  Likewise, an abortion rights advocate arguing that even if a fetus weren't just a piece of its mother it wouldn't have rights is only engaging in extra rhetoric and arguing hypotheticals.  If a person really believes that a fetus is a piece of its mom, then there is no honest reason to carry the argument further.  In an abortion debate like ours, where all parties are in basic agreement about the nature of rights among humans, the question of whether a fetus is simply a piece of its mom must be answered before any other honest debate can ensue.   

(Edited by P M H on 11/25, 6:48am)




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Post 57

Friday, November 25, 2011 - 8:55amSanction this postReply
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So, PMH (why don't you use your real name?), you don't think that the fetus is biologically connected to the mother's body and is therefore biologically part of her body? You think instead that it's independent of her body? Seriously?



Post 58

Friday, November 25, 2011 - 3:06pmSanction this postReply
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Of course it is connected to her body.  It is also not the same organism that mom is.  Mom and fetus are two separate but connected organisms.  That a fetus is not a  piece of the mother seems self evident.  I carefully explained the limits I placed on the word "independent" as it pertains to a developing fetus.  To avoid confusion altogether, it may be simpler to use the word "individual."  A human fetus is an individual organism of the species homo sapiens undergoing an early stage of its development.  There isn't perfect scientific agreement about exactly what constitutes an organism, but by pretty much any definition a skin cell is not an organism.  A big toe is not an organism.  A cancer cell isn't an organism.  A zygote certainly is an organism - an individual organism.  In fact, a zygote possesses life according to Ayn Rand's own definition.  In Galt's speech, Ayn Rand says:

Only a living entity can have goals or can originate them. And it is only a living organism that has the capacity for self-generated, goal-directed action. On the physical level, the functions of all living organisms, from the simplest to the most complex—from the nutritive function in the single cell of an amoeba to the blood circulation in the body of a man—are actions generated by the organism itself and directed to a single goal: the maintenance of the organism’s life.

A healthy zygote undertakes self-generated, goal-directed action to at least the same extent as an amoeba.  Mom's skin cells divide and take on nutrition, but they are not directed to the single goal of their own life.  They are a functioning part of mom's body, not an organism.  A cancer cell is a malfunctioning part of mom's body, not an organism.  A zygote isn't a malfunction.  That mom's body contains a zygote would be an indication that at least part of mom's body is in perfect working order.  The zygote works exclusively toward the goal of its own life until such a time as it grows up and decides to become an altruist. It is an individual organism.   

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The reason I don't use my real name is because the names you use on this forum are searchable with any search engine.  In fact, I found this forum while doing a generic web search for an old RoR member.  I'm not looking for fame, so I have nothing to gain by increasing my "footprint" in any search engine.  Despite this one area of contention with what appears to be most of the active membership of RoR, I share a great deal of opinions with the membership here.   I would enjoy sharing my actual name with you since I understand that mutual trust on even the most basic level is hard to achieve when names are withheld.  If it were just the few regular posters I see here, I would be more than happy to use my real name, but since it's the entire web-surfing world, I prefer to value my anonymity. 




Post 59

Friday, November 25, 2011 - 3:56pmSanction this postReply
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Of course it is connected to her body. It is also not the same organism that mom is. Mom and fetus are two separate but connected organisms. That a fetus is not a piece of the mother seems self evident. I carefully explained the limits I placed on the word "independent" as it pertains to a developing fetus. To avoid confusion altogether, it may be simpler to use the word "individual." A human fetus is an individual organism of the species homo sapiens undergoing an early stage of its development.
PMH
So what?  Are trying to make the argument that an "independent" yet completely "dependent" entity attached to a woman's body isn't her property?  Are cancer cells the same organism as mom?  Again, I don't see the magic distinction between a clump of cancer cells that happen through one mechanism, and fertilization which happens through another, or why a woman's will isn't enough to make a claim on her own life in either case.    




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