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Abortion, Souls, and the Atheist Conundrum

Fetus

In a recent post here, I asked, “Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong?” I was prompted by two things: on the one hand, a series of articles defending the idea that we can be moral without God; and on the other, articles like this one, suggesting that opposition to abortion can only be “because God.” Those two positions don't work together. As I explained in the post,

The pro-life argument is simple: (1) human beings are alive from the moment of fertilization, and (2) it is morally wrong (and ought to be illegal) to intentionally kill innocent human beings. The first point is a scientific one. The second is a moral and legal one, one that science can’t answer. You don’t find human rights under a microscope, and there’s no experiment capable of proving that murder is wrong.

Since the scientific point is clear-cut and settled (it's inescapable that unique human beings are created at the moment of fertilization), everything turns on point (2). But the intentional killing of innocent human beings is what the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe calls the “hard core” of the definition of murder. So to frame the question slightly differently, to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay, and that (b) abortion falls within this class of exceptions.

This has sparked a lively debate, as well as a rebuttal from Steven Dillon. I want to address the kind of arguments being raised generally first, and then look at what makes Steven's position frightening.

I. Do we need to believe in God to know that all murder is wrong?

Broadly speaking, there are four major types of responses to this question:

  1. Only Theists Can be Anti-Murder: If you argue that abortion is wrong because unborn children have souls, or if you argue that abortion is okay (at least up to a certain point) because they don't, you're making arguments that are inaccessible to atheists. In either case, you're acting as if opposition to murder can only be predicated on the presence of the human soul. If killing someone is only wrong if we're sure they have a soul, why aren't atheists pro-murder?
  2. Murder isn't Always Wrong: If you argue that abortion is okay because killing one life can sometimes save two, or because our being pro-abortion is necessary for us to justify euthanasia and organ harvesting, then we've got a slightly different issue. In these case, you don't believe that murder is always wrong. You might have personally-convincing reasons for your views, like utilitarianism or a rejection of impaired human life, but at least own your own convictions. If you don't – if you insist on paying lip service to being uniformly opposed to murder, while holding to these positions – your advocacy will necessarily be incoherent, because you're arguing for two irreconcilable positions.
  3. It's Okay to Kill Fetuses: If you argue that abortion is okay because unborn children don't meet the requirements to be protected human life, you're not showing that unborn children aren't scientifically and materially human beings. Instead, you're either saying that they're not really humans, for some immaterial and non-scientific reason (like the first group), or that they are a group of humans that it's okay to intentionally kill (like the second). Here, the clearest way forward would be for you to spell out your presumptions and beliefs: e.g., “I think that murder is only wrong when your victim can feel pain at the time of death.”
  4. Abortion is Always Wrong: this fourth group includes those, including both religious pro-lifers and nonreligious pro-lifers like Secular Alliance for Life, who treat the prohibition against murder as absolute. This opposition (most clearly in the case of secular pro-lifers) is not based upon their recognition of a human soul. If you reject the existence of the soul and reject all forms of murder, this is the only camp to which you can rationally adhere.

All of Steven's arguments seem to fall within the first category. He doesn't dispute the biological evidence. Instead, he assumes (but stops short of acknowledging) that abortion is wrong only if the fetus has a human soul. If he's right, and you don't believe that anyone has a human soul, then you've got a problem rationally holding to the prohibition against murder.

II. Do We Need Metaphysics to Settle the Abortion Debate?

In his response, Steven takes issue with my twofold formulation. Specifically, he accuses me of conflating terms, between biological humans in (1) and metaphysical humans in (2). I'm actually doing no such thing: I mean human in the same sense in both (1) and (2), and reject the whole idea of humans who are biological-but-not-metaphysical (or vice versa). It's immoral, and ought to be illegal, to murder those that we recognize, scientifically, as human beings. Furthermore, any sort of metaphysical definition of “human” that fails to capture the entire set of all humans is a bad definition.

If Steven wants to hold that you need metaphysics to know that killing innocent human beings is wrong, or if he wants to carve out an exception to the prohibition against murder for those that (according to a metaphysics of his own making) he considers biologically-but-not-metaphysically human, he's free to make those arguments. But recognize that in each of these cases, he's the one shifting the conversation into metaphysics, and the one creating two classes of human beings.

I mention all of this for a simple reason. The rest of this article will be getting into specific metaphysical questions involving the soul. It would be easy, especially for an atheist or someone who thinks that only the natural sciences produce factual knowledge, to write off this whole inquiry as bunk. I certainly understand. But if you're going to do that, recognize that what you're rejecting is not my original argument, but Steven's attempt to carve out a metaphysical exception to the prohibition against murder.

With that in mind, let's dive into the metaphysics directly.

III. Is the Fetus Metaphysically Human?

This is the meat of Steven's argument. He asks, but doesn't answer, an important question: “What gets aborted?” To the extent that he gives any sort of answer, it's by negation. He denies that the fetus is human or even an animal. Based on his trifold distinction, the answer to his questions seems to be that fetuses are now a type of plant, but (likely, for obvious reasons) he doesn't spell out this conclusion.

He is led to this conclusion by two arguments, one good and one bad. The good argument is that there is a threefold distinction between plants (which have metabolism), animals (which can sense), and humans (who can reason). The bad argument is in how he understands this distinction. When Aristotle first proposed this distinction (In Book II, Chapter III of De Anima), he was looking at types of things. That is, a plant is the type of creature that can metabolize, an animal is the type of creature that can move and sense, and humans are the type of creature that can reason. In each case, the higher creatures also have the powers of the lower ones. By this standard, you're a human even when you're not reasoning, even when you're incapable of reasoning, as long as you're the type of creature that's capable of reasoning (which, of course, you are).

When Steven applies this distinction, in contrast, he's looking at whether you can currently employ these powers. That is, an animal is only an animal if it can sense right now. By this definition, you can't let sleeping dogs lie. Having fallen asleep (temporarily losing control over their powers of sensation), they cease to be animals, and thus cease to be dogs. You, too, lose your humanity every night when you fall asleep, by this analysis. You also cease to be a human if you fall into a coma (either permanently or temporarily), enter a sensory deprivation chamber, or get so drunk that your reason is completely impaired. If you go blind or become infertile, you similarly become less human, because you're less capable of employing your sensory or reproductive powers.

It takes very little to see the problems with such a position. After all, if someone slips Rohypnol into your drink and you pass out, are you still a human being with rights that should be protected? If Steven is right that human rights turn on whether you can currently reason or sense, the answer would seem to be no.

IV. What Is the Soul?

This, I think, suffices to answer his arguments, but there's an additional point worth clearing up. We often think of the soul as a sort of “ghost in the machine,” but that's not a good understanding of the soul. The Latin term for soul is “anima,” because it's the immaterial animating principle of the body. This can be shown easily enough, quite apart from Scripture or even philosophy. Simply envision two identical twins, one of whom suddenly dies. On the level of the matter, they are still identical. The same particles are swirling around, as before, and the dead twin has the same body that existed while he was alive, moments ago.

So whatever distinguishes them, whatever separates living things from dead ones, can't be a material difference... even though we can observe its effects on a material level. This principle of animation, separating the living from the dead, is what we call the anima or the soul. It's the organizational principle of the body, the body's “form.” And this is true whether we're talking about humans, or (to use Kreeft's example) cows, or ferns.

In contrast, Steven's inquiry imagines that you can have an animated human being, growing and developing in the womb of her mother, and that at some point, a soul suddenly enters her body. Not so. If you've got a living human, you've got an ensouled human. So the whole thrust of Steven's investigation is founded upon misunderstanding the soul.

So if the question of abortion boils down to a philosophical inquiry into whether or not the fetus has a human soul, very well: he does. But this still leaves me with my original question: does the question of abortion, or murder more broadly, boil down to whether or not the victim is ensouled? If so, where does that leave atheists?
 
 
(Image credit: India Times)

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • Steven Dillon

    The argument that Joe responds to is not one that I’ve given.

    My suggestion was not that “an animal is only an animal if it can sense right now”, but that “what is distinctive of the animal form of life is the power of sensation.” Powers can of course be inactive or dormant.

    Moreover, I defended the “delayed ensoulment” thesis which was endorsed by Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle: hardly a “ghost in the machine” theory. So, I was surprised to find Joe saying that the metaphysics I employ is one of my “own making”, or implying that it’s embarrassing to classify zygotes as a vegetative form of life: the conclusions I defend are precisely those of Aquinas and Aristotle (albeit from different premises).

    Joe says I assume “that abortion is wrong only if fetus has a human soul.” But, there are other natural law grounds for thinking that abortion is wrong: it's not like Aquinas thought aborting fetus’ was okay because they didn't have souls.

    Finally, Joe says he rejects “the whole idea of humans who are biological-but-not-metaphysical (or vice versa)”, but with that Joe rejects the difference between biology and metaphysics for the reasons I laid out.

    As things stand, I think we should agree that whether or not abortion is immoral, this particular argument against abortion is unsound: if it’s not committing equivocation and non-sequitur, it’s collapsing biology into metaphysics.

    For what it’s worth, my 2 cents on Joe’s original topic is that while it is true that one must ultimately acknowledge God in order to rationally believe in the soul (or anything at all for that matter), one may deduce the existence of the human soul without any mention of God whatsoever (Aristotle showed us that). So, whatever role the soul plays in deliberating about abortion, it’s not one that should divide theists and atheists.

    • materetmagistra

      @Steve Dillon: "Finally, Joe says he rejects 'the whole idea of humans who are biological-but-not-metaphysical (or vice versa)', but with that Joe rejects the difference between biology and metaphysics for the reasons I laid out."

      No, I don't see Joe actually doing what you claim. What he seems to be claiming is that biological and metaphysical human beings are necessarily the same set.

      • Steven Dillon

        Could be. But, when someone says they reject the whole idea of something, I take them to mean more than just that it's false or necessarily so: they seem to mean that it doesn't even make sense; that it's a confusion of some sort.

        • materetmagistra

          Is that it, then? Do you believe biological human beings and metaphysical human beings are NOT necessarily the same set?

          • Steven Dillon

            One of the arguments I gave in my piece was that while the zygote may be human by biological standards, it is not by metaphysical standards: what biologists mean by "human" is not identical to what metaphysicians do, even if there is significant overlap.

            Zygotes have all the physical features required to fit into the biological category of "human", but they lack the metaphysical features required to fit into the metaphysical category of "human", such as the power of sensation.

          • materetmagistra

            All that aside, do you think it OK, or morally permissible, to intentionally kill an innocent biological human being ?

          • Steven Dillon

            I think it can be, yes.

          • materetmagistra

            "Morally permissible" to kill which biological human beings?

          • Kraker Jak

            How about the scenario where a child exploited by terrorists to carry a bomb into a busy market place and security had little or no doubt about what was taking place?

          • materetmagistra

            @Steve Dillon: ".. it is not by metaphysical standards..."

            But, therein lies your problem. You cannot prove that claim.

          • "One of the arguments I gave in my piece was that while the zygote may be human by biological standards, it is not by metaphysical standards: what biologists mean by "human" is not identical to what metaphysicians do, even if there is significant overlap."

            But which definition of "human" should the civil law use? Certainly the law is neutral on questions about ensoulment. It can't presume to adjudicate on metaphysical questions such as when a soul enters a human person (nor does the law even admit the existence of souls.) The only thing the law concerns is whether a human organism is alive or dead.

            And if it is alive, and innocent, the law maintains that it should never be directly and intentionally killed.

            This, presumably, would apply to unborn human beings unless good arguments are posed to the contrary, of which none have been given.

          • Steven Dillon

            Ideally, the state should root itself deeply in metaphysics so that its legislation directs us to a true common good: positive law should take natural law for granted. But, we live in a state that is far from ideal, and as such a host of principles come into play concerning tolerating incorrect views for the greater good. I wouldn't know where to begin, and I don't envy those who are responsible for doing so.

            However, a good argument has been given to doubt that unborn humans are "innocent" at every stage of pregnancy, because only persons can be innocent, and zygotes are not persons.

          • Aquinasbot

            What makes human zygotes not "persons"?

          • Steven Dillon

            A human person is an animal with rational powers. But, zygotes aren't animals. A fortiori, they're not animals with rational powers.

            Zygotes are not animals because they have no power to sense, and this power is essential to being an animal.

            They have no power to sense because nothing has the power to do what it has no means to do, and zygotes have no means to sense.

            Zygotes have no means to sense because they have no sense organs, and sense organs are the means of sensation.

            Why think they "inherently possess the power to reason"?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I have sympathy with this position, but I think you are wrong to say that zygotes are not persons due to some metaphysical scruple you have. Isn't the concept zygote a metaphysical term, since it is describing in individual thing according to the form it shares with every other human zygote?

            I like George & Tollefsen's argument that this discrimination against zygotes and embryos is the grossest form of discrimination because it is based solely on the way someone looks.

          • "However, a good argument has been given to doubt that unborn humans are "innocent" at every stage of pregnancy, because only persons can be innocent, and zygotes are not persons."

            This presumes that unborn humans are not persons, which is to again beg the questions: that's precisely what's under discussion. You've given no good reason to suppose, from a non-religious perspective, why this is true.

            (Also, as an aside, your above statement would not be true even if you were correct about personhood. Innocence is simply defined as being free from evil or guilt, which means it does not require personhood. An animal, plant, or rock can all be innocent.)

          • Steven Dillon

            You might think I didn't give a good reason to believe that zygotes are not animals, but my argument is definitely not question begging: every Aristotelian agrees that the power to sense is essential to animality, and that zygotes have no means to exercise such a power. The only premise an Aristotelian can question is that nothing can have the power to do what it has no way of doing; but, it's not question begging.

            And any definition of innocence which applies to things like rocks is not one that's relevant to law: the state governs people, and non-people only insofar as they relate to the common good of the people. So when the state legislates on innocence, it's dealing with a freedom from evil or guilt that one is capable of having, not with a freedom that anything whatsoever can vacuously have.

          • Doug Shaver

            The only thing the law concerns is whether a human organism is alive or dead.

            No, it doesn't. The law concerns itself with human beings, not human organisms. You may perceive no difference between a being and an organism, but lawyers make tons of money maintaining distinctions of that sort.

          • "No, it doesn't. The law concerns itself with human beings, not human organisms. You may perceive no difference between a being and an organism, but lawyers make tons of money maintaining distinctions of that sort."

            Of course, that's not an argument. I don't care how much money lawyers make. I care about the truth.

            I used the word "organism" to side-skirt the metaphysical question of being, which the law is not capable of (or interested in) adjudicating. It's simply interested in protecting the rights of all humans.

            From the perspective of civil law, every human organism should be considered a human person. Neither you nor Steven have provided good reasons to think otherwise.

          • David Nickol

            From the perspective of civil law, every human organism should be considered a human person. Neither you nor Steven have provided good reasons to think otherwise.

            But as I have said a number of times, this is not true of the civil law we have now or have had during the past several hundred years. And it is almost certain to be the case that American law will never consider human personhood to begin at conception.

            First, it would be very difficult to make abortion murder and hold women who procure abortions blameless victims. And it is a rare pro-life advocate who wants to see a woman punished for procuring an abortion.

            Second, declaring legal personhood to begin at conception would either require prohibiting all abortions, including those for rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother, or it would have to provide a rationale for "murder" under those circumstances.

            Third, many of the most widely used methods of contraception would at minimum be put under a cloud, because many pro-life advocates consider them "abortifacients." How politically popular would it be to outlaw abortion in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother and to take "the pill" and IUDs off the market?

            Fourth, fertility treatments and IVF would almost certainly have to be banned, or at least strictly regulated to one embryo per attempted pregnancy. And something would have to be done about the legal status of the estimated 600,000 frozen embryos now in storage.

            Fifth, declaring an unborn child to be fully human would infringe on the religious freedom of Jews, who consider birth to be the beginning of a fully human life, and who require abortion in some cases (to save the life of the mother). As I said above, how do you declare personhood to begin at conception and then allow a Jewish woman to have a life-saving abortion approved by her religion and her rabbi. You can say (direct) abortion is murder in some cases and not in others.

            I think it is not for nothing that our legal system considers person to mean "walking around person" (as Scalia once famously put it).

          • "But as I have said a number of times, this is not true of the civil law we have now or have had during the past several hundred years. And it is almost certain to be the case that American law will never consider human personhood to begin at conception."

            I answered this elsewhere in this thread. Stating the current law is no argument for its veracity, and the reasons you give to support your "almost certain" prediction come up short, as shown below:

            "First, it would be very difficult to make abortion murder and hold women who procure abortions blameless victims. And it is a rare pro-life advocate who wants to see a woman punished for procuring an abortion."

            I don't see why your first sentence presents a problem. Whether abortion constituted murders is independent of whether the women who procure them are victims or criminals. A crime is independent of whether a particular person actually committed the crime or, if they did, their level of culpability.

            That said, nobody wants to see a woman punished, and I personally think most women who procure abortions due so out of ignorance (they aren't aware, or aren't convinced, that their fetus is an unborn child.) But if the law changed to recognize the personhood of unborn children, it would be much more difficult to maintain such ignorance.

            "Second, declaring legal personhood to begin at conception would either require prohibiting all abortions, including those for rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother, or it would have to provide a rationale for "murder" under those circumstances."

            You're precisely right. As with murder, abortion is either always wrong or completely permissible. There is no principled reason to accept it in some cases but not others.

            "Third, many of the most widely used methods of contraception would at minimum be put under a cloud, because many pro-life advocates consider them "abortifacients." How politically popular would it be to outlaw abortion in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the life of the mother and to take "the pill" and IUDs off the market?"

            The moral value of a law can't be judged by its popularity, a fact that "same-sex marriage" activists passionately agree to.

            "Fourth, fertility treatments and IVF would almost certainly have to be banned, or at least strictly regulated to one embryo per attempted pregnancy. And something would have to be done about the legal status of the estimated 600,000 frozen embryos now in storage."

            Would that it was banned!

            "Fifth, declaring an unborn child to be fully human would infringe on the religious freedom of Jews, who consider birth to be the beginning of a fully human life, and who require abortion in some cases (to save the life of the mother). As I said above, how do you declare personhood to begin at conception and then allow a Jewish woman to have a life-saving abortion approved by her religion and her rabbi. You can say (direct) abortion is murder in some cases and not in others."

            This gets into the question of religious liberty and balancing the government's compelling interest (protecting innocent life) with religious freedom. In this particular case, the innocent life trumps the religious claim.

            "I think it is not for nothing that our legal system considers person to mean "walking around person" (as Scalia once famously put it)."

            Which of course puts paralyzed men, women, and children in an extremely perilous situation...

          • David Nickol

            Which of course puts paralyzed men, women, and children in an extremely perilous situation...

            Only if you are so literal minded that you can't figure out what Scalia actually meant.

          • David Nickol

            You and a handful of others may want to see personhood defined as beginning at conception, and you may want to see abortion treated as murder, but for the reasons I outlined above, it will never happen. That doesn't necessarily mean it shouldn't happen, but it is about as likely to happen as Catholicism is likely to be declared the state religion of the United States.

            Very few politicians, even the ones who call themselves pro-life, would touch most of your positions above with a ten-foot pole. Banning contraception, IVF, and abortions in the "hard cases" would torpedo the candidacy of any politician at the national level, and probably almost any candidate for the House or Senate.

            By the way, even the Catholic Church does not prohibit all abortions. There are direct and indirect abortions, and sometimes it is either difficult to tell the difference or even Catholic bioethicists disagree about specific cases.

          • Bill

            Other than to save the life of the mother, when else would the Church permit an abortion? Never, I believe.

          • David Nickol

            Other than to save the life of the mother, when else would the Church permit an abortion? Never, I believe.

            The Church does not permit abortion even to save the life of the mother. The Church may permit a procedure to save the life of the mother that results, as a foreseen but unintended side effect, the death of the unborn baby (an "indirect abortion"). But if it is necessary to kill the unborn baby to save the life of the mother ("direct abortion"), then both must be allowed to die.

            There is not always unanimity among Catholic authorities (moral theologians and bioethicists) on whether a particular procedure in a particular case is a direct or indirect abortion.

          • VicqRuiz

            Brandon, a hypothetical for your consideration:

            If yours was the deciding vote upon a Constitutional amendment which would criminalize all abortions except those which occur as a result of rape or when the mother's physical survival is seriously at risk...

            ...would you vote yes or no?

            Bearing in mind that a yes vote would criminalize 99%+ of all current abortions, and a no vote would leave the current abortion rate undiminished....

          • David Nickol

            I trust Brandon will correct me if I am wrong, but I think if it were in his power, he would outlaw all direct abortions including "hard cases" (rape, incest, life of the mother), and he would ban contraceptives and in vitro fertilization (and artificial insemination) and voluntary surgical sterilization such as vasectomy.

          • Vicq Ruiz

            Actually, what I am asking Brandon is this: Would he save 99.9% of aborted babies if that meant letting 0.1% be aborted, or would he hold out for all or nothing?

            Because I agree with you that if he holds out for all or nothing, nothing is what he'll get.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            Let's clarify that, according to evidence, a yes vote would also leave the current abortion rate undiminished. It would only reduce the number of women who survive having aborted.

          • David Nickol

            I just thought of another ramification of treating abortion as murder:

            Sixth, granting the "right to life" at conception would criminalize the increasingly common treatment for ectopic pregnancy (use of methotrexate), requiring women to have surgery instead.

          • Doug Shaver

            From the perspective of civil law, every human organism should be considered a human person. Neither you nor Steven have provided good reasons to think otherwise.

            Perhaps it should be, but right now it isn't, and as a political conservative, I believe that the burden of proof is on those who say it ought be changed.

            If I must offer a reason for maintaining the status quo, I can do that. Whether it counts as a good reason, you and I may disagree, though we both be reasonable people. Whatever, here is my reason.

            Our civil law is small-r republican. It is, ultimately, what we the people decide it will be, but our government is not purely democratic. Our founders understood the hazards, not to mention the sheer impracticality, of governing by continual plebiscite. Thus we have government by elected representatives, partly to avert the dangers of mob rule.

            We also have an enumeration of rights, in which the government's power is restricted by stipulating certain kinds of laws that may not be enacted even if a majority of the people should support those laws. The supreme law of the United States is not the will of the people. It is the Constitution. The will of the people is supreme only insofar as the people can change the constitution if enough of them wish to, but "enough of them" is far more than a simple majority, and the process is long and complicated even if a sufficient number favor it.

            So, the civil law is what the people want it to be, but substantial changes require substantial support and substantial time. A transient passion for change will not suffice and should not suffice, particularly on issues as momentous as the extension of the law's protections and obligations to entities not previously thought to be governed by them.

            Political conservatism, as I understand it, is the notion that if a long-lived community has always done something a certain way, then there is probably a good reason for it. The "probably" must be emphasized. A rational conservatism must recognize that on certain issues and at certain times, the people's customary behavior has always been wrong. But the burden of proof is on whoever says that on this particular issue, the precedent has been unjustified. And on the instant issue, I have seen no such proof. Neither our society in general nor its laws have ever recognized a simple equivalence between biology and personhood, and without a compelling reason, it should not start now.

          • Ged Eduard Narvaez

            Steve:My suggestion was not that “an animal is only an animal if it can sense right now”, but that “what is distinctive of the animal form of life is the power of sensation.” Powers can of course be inactive or dormant.

            Joe is right:"you're a human even when you're not reasoning, even when you're incapable of reasoning, as long as you're the type of creature that's capable of reasoning (which, of course, you are)."

            Steve:One of the arguments I gave in my piece was that while the zygote may be human by biological standards, it is not by metaphysical standards: what biologists mean by "human" is not identical to what metaphysicians do, even if there is significant overlap.

            Steve:Zygotes have all the physical features required to fit into the biological category of "human", but they lack the metaphysical features required to fit into the metaphysical category of "human", such as the power of sensation.

            Steve what is really your stand? I think there is no confusion to the definition of human in terms of meaphysical but only to how we apply this definition.

            It boils down to the a question, Who is more human (e.g. A fetus or a writer)? is this correct Steve? Please respond if I get it wrongly. Thanks

          • I wrote the comment below with reference also to what I understand to be Brahmin within Hinduism, a philosophy which identifies Brahmin as life with the 'whole universe'. I have learned through the posts about Fr. Jaki that this is considered to be an animistic philosophy, Since Descartes and Kant we live in an idealistic/Copernican revolutionized world in which the standards particularly of science are mechanistic. I just wonder sometimes to what extent this still affects our conception of what constitutes life, and whether indeed if we survive into the distant future, whether we would still consider such a perspective as the superior model. Thank you..

          • How do you know if or if not even a flower has some power of 'sensation'. This after reading a scientific article to the effect that the differentiation between what constitutes life and what does not is 'fuzzy'. There is also the theory that consciousness itself is a 'form of life', and that all of nature is 'alive' in this sense.

        • "when someone says they reject the whole idea of something, I take them to mean...that it doesn't even make sense; that it's a confusion of some sort."

          I don't see why this would be the case. I reject the whole idea of lots of proposals, even ones that seem to make sense. Rejecting something doesn't mean you're confused about it.

          In fact, you can't truly reject something until you clearly understand it.

          I think Joe understood your disagreement clearly and yet rejected it.

          • You obviously will have taken note my capability of rejecting ideas, for instance, precisely because I cannot comprehend them. I have found within my experience that this is a most common attitude which may be the result of fear perhaps, unconscious associations, a multitude of possibilities, which may be generally categorized as 'not having an open mind'. 'Believe so that you may understand' may perhaps be countered with the values inherent within various degrees of skepticism. It is for instance unfortunate that Eve was motivated by belief rather than doubt, but I do wonder sometimes whether I might be in a similar situation. Is sanity truly the ability to distinguish right from wrong, in 'all cases'?.(It's OK - I admit of my 'insanity'!!) Edit: particularly with respect to understanding the motivations of 'others'.

      • William Davis

        What he seems to be claiming is that biological and metaphysical human beings are necessarily the same set.

        That's false. You can't prove anything in metaphysics, it is entirely an interpretive realm. It is my view that a human starts at conception, and develops into a full metaphysical human being at birth. You'll fall on your face trying to prove otherwise, because you just can't prove metaphysics ;)

        • materetmagistra

          No, you cannot prove. But you for sure will not violate anyone's rights if you set the bar at the lowest COMMON denominator.....biological human being.

          • William Davis

            Answer my question if you'd like to talk further.

          • materetmagistra

            What question?

          • William Davis

            Is it immoral to pull the plug (life support) on a brain dead person?

          • "Is it immoral to pull the plug (life support) on a brain dead person?"

            Depends what you mean by "the plug" or "life support." The short answer? If the only thing keeping someone alive is a ventilator, it is permissible to let life run its inevitable course. But you may not starve or dehydrate someone to death - food and water are ordinary means of support, and thus necessary.

            Catholic moral theology has a very nuanced understanding of what constitutes ordinary (i.e., necessary) and extraordinary support.

            For starters, if you're genuinely interested in the Catholic position, I suggest reading paragraphs 2278 and 2279 in the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

            2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of "over-zealous" treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one's inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

            2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

          • William Davis

            Thanks, that helps some.

            But you may not starve or dehydrate someone to death - food and water are ordinary means of support, and thus necessary.

            If they are brain dead they won't ask for food, and can't eat and drink. Would Catholic morality require the use of a feeding tube and IV to force nutrients into the body? Or is the fact that that the person won't eat on their own sufficient to allow nature to take it's course?
            I ask the question because very early abortion is very similar to pulling the plug on a brain dead person. The embryo has no brain, and left on it's own will die. The mother functions as life support in very much the same way. The primary difference is that the embryo will likely (assuming no miscarriage) develop a brain. It less likely that a brain dead person will reconstruct enough functionality to resume consciousness, but not impossible.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "The embryo has no brain, and left on it's own will die."

            Actually, the human embryo has an age-appropriate brain, does it not?

            And, if left where it is, the embryo continues functioning just fine.

          • William Davis

            Notice the difference between where it is, and on it's own. That makes huge difference to me. Catholics make a big deal about things I think are trivial. We look at the world in different ways :)

          • materetmagistra

            Infants and some children left on their own will die. Stephen Hawking left on his own will die, too.

            Unborn humans left alone in the environment they are in do just fine.

            Intentionally putting any human being in an environment not suited to maintain life, like dropping a man off on the moon with no oxygen, or dropping a human infant by the roadside in a blizzard, is wrong.

          • William Davis

            You never answered my question.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            No, but I will. Yes, Catholic morality requires the use of a feeding tube, IV, ventilator, etc. just the same as it requires that an infant be fed, or that a preemie be nurtured in an incubator, or that a quadriplegic be cared for. Any apparatus or service that merely provides to a helpless person some necessary thing that they are incapable of actively obtaining will be required.

            On the other hand, true "life support" like a heart-and-lung machine for someone who has no natural respiration or heartbeat is "extraordinary" and therefore not required (though permissible).

            So, removing a zygote from its "life support" (i.e. mother) would fall under the first category - the zygote is perfectly capable of absorbing nutrients as is biologically appropriate for a human of his or her age, but is simply incapable of actively obtaining those nutrients. And I say "zygote" rather than "embryo" because an embryo often will have a brain, albeit a scarcely-developed one.

          • David Nickol

            So, removing a zygote from its "life support" (i.e. mother) would fall
            under the first category - the zygote is perfectly capable of absorbing
            nutrients as is biologically appropriate for a human of his or her age,
            but is simply incapable of actively obtaining those nutrients.

            A zygote does not need the mother's body to live, otherwise in vitro fertilization and the freezing of embryos would be impossible.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            Three points:

            1) It is probably not a winning strategy to use one procedure the Church forbids in order to defend another procedure the Church forbids. IVF and embryo banking may be possible but the Church doesn't consider them permissible.

            2) Even if we take that into account, a zygote/embryo becomes dependent on its mother's body once it implants in the uterine wall.

            3) Even if we take both of the above into account, and assume we're talking only about pre-implantation abortions (i.e. abortifacient contraception), it would be disingenuous to justify abortion with the conceptual fiction that an aborting mother intends to remove and preserve the child, rather than killing it.

          • William Davis

            In the case of a brain dead person who is still breathing but requires a feeding tube and extensive care, does the Catholic church propose to pay to see it's morality fulfilled? I'm guessing it puts that burden upon the family. Since the family has to pay, doesn't it make more sense for them to be able to weigh their options (including the likelihood of recovery)? It's one thing to have a mandate. It's something else entirely to fund that mandate and/or make it feasible.

            I would like to point out that you are factually wrong according to what I've seen written by some Catholics, here is an example:

            Similarly, in medical ethics, “extraordinary” care indicates optional care—interventions that go beyond what the faithful can be required to do in order to be good stewards of their bodies. Traditionally, this has been judged to be the case if the intervention is too expensive, not likely to work, is associated with great suffering or might save the patient’s life at too great a psychological, spiritual or interpersonal cost.

            Under conditions like these, declining an intervention (whether surgery, medicine, or even food and water) was not considered suicide. Thus, Dominican friar Francisco de Vitoria (died 1560) wrote, “I would say that if the depression of spirit is so low and there is present such consternation in the appetitive power that only with the greatest of effort and as though by means of a certain torture can the sick man take food, right away that is reckoned a certain impossibility, and therefore he is excused...”

            http://www.americancatholic.org/Messenger/Jan2006/Feature1.asp

            Of course, I also find articles like this:

            http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-coombs-lee/catholic-bishops-lay-down_b_378495.html

            It seems Catholics aren't unified on this.

          • Anthony Zarrella

            In the case of a brain dead person who is still breathing but requires a feeding tube and extensive care, does the Catholic church propose to pay to see it's morality fulfilled? I'm guessing it puts that burden upon the family. Since the family has to pay, doesn't it make more sense for them to be able to weigh their options (including the likelihood of recovery)?

            Two points:

            1) Catholic morality is not a matter of policy, so what "makes more sense" as a practical option is irrelevant. Doing the right thing often requires a sacrifice that might (in a strictly secular ethics system) be seen as "unfair" to ask of the person. However...

            2) It is a principle pretty much as old as Catholic moral reasoning itself (and quite likely older) that "no one is obliged to do the impossible." So, of course, any means of care (even relatively ordinary ones) that the patient or the family simply cannot feasibly provide would not be required.

            I would like to point out that you are factually wrong according to what I've seen written by some Catholics, here is an example ... Traditionally, this has been judged to be the case if the intervention is too expensive, not likely to work, is associated with great suffering or might save the patient’s life at too great a psychological, spiritual or interpersonal cost.

            You're quite right - I was aiming for conciseness over precision, so I didn't get into the exceptions to the rule. Of course, the exceptions only truly apply if they are applied in good faith.

            For example, the "great suffering" must be caused by the treatment, and not merely by the continuation of life that the treatment provides (so being hooked up to a machine that operates in a very painful manner might count, but receiving intravenous hydration (itself nearly painless) to prolong life would not, even if that means living in pain from cancer.

            And "too expensive" would need to refer to an expense that would seriously impact the family's financial stability, not merely one that would force them to tighten their belts and live a more spartan lifestyle (e.g. forcing them to sell their house would count - forcing them to sell the second Porsche would not).

            Also, I'm not sure that the "psychological, spiritual, or interpersonal cost" bit has much real application. If applied loosely, it would essentially justify passive suicide anytime the patient considers life unbearable (which is exactly what the Church does not permit), or passive euthanasia anytime the patient's illness is putting too much strain on the family (also very clearly against Church teaching). But, if interpreted more strictly, then I find it hard to conceive of a situation in which it would apply. (And I have no clue what "spiritual cost" the quoted author could be imagining.)

            The friar you quote has an interesting take, and one I'd agree with if the word "torture" is taken in its medieval/Renaissance sense (meaning truly severe physical agony - not just the indignity of a feeding tube), but whether or not I agree, he is not a Saint (or Blessed, or even Venerable), a Pope, a bishop, or a Doctor of the Church, so his opinion is only the opinion of one individual Catholic - not imbued with any authority at all.

            It seems Catholics aren't unified on this.

            True, and even in terms of Church authority, there is substantial room for interpretation. However, I should note (not that I assume this is your point) that where Church doctrine is clear, the presence of dissent (no matter how widespread) makes not one iota of difference.

          • materetmagistra

            What "plug?" And what are the circumstances?

    • William Davis

      Yeah, I thought he was arguing against a straw man. Biology is provable, metaphysics is completely an interpretive stance.

      • materetmagistra

        Well, exactly whose argument relies on metaphysical proofs?

        • William Davis

          Everyone's argument here relies on their metaphysical/philosophical stance with regard to personhood. I think you are so accustomed to looking at it one way that you can't see the possible perspectives, but you wouldn't be the only one. Plenty on the other side of the debate have the same problem :)
          I see both sides, and I'm personally anti-abortion, but politically pro-choice (it should be the conscience of the mother that makes the decision). Pretending science is on one side or the other is quite silly.

          • materetmagistra

            On the contrary. Joe's argument is that it is immoral to intentionally kill any innocent biological human being. And, it is quite provable with science whether you have a biological human being or a non-human being.

          • William Davis

            Is it immoral to pull life support from a brain dead person?

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Brandon already answered that question.

          • William Davis

            I'm slightly confused, why state the obvious (or am I missing something)?

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "Is it immoral to pull life support from a brain dead person?"

            What "plug?" And what are the circumstances?

          • William Davis

            Respirator, feeding tube and IV. Major brain damage, no responsiveness on reflex, been that way for 2 weeks. 60 years old.

          • materetmagistra

            William Davis, earlier you noted, "If they are brain dead they won't ask for food, and can't eat and drink..." But, how is that different than a newborn or infant? Certainly we know food and water are necessary to maintain life, and generally such care is not extraordinary care.

            In the situation you post, the feeding tube, the IV and the extent of brain damage are quite irrelevant. Whatever condition has necessitated a respirator will likely cause death once the respirator is removed. As such, it is not the removal of the respirator that has caused the death: Therefore, in and of itself, removing the respirator is not immoral.

            Trying to equate such a situation with the unborn child in the womb does not work. The umilical cord is not a piece of added technology: It is a normal and age-appropriate part of an unborn human's body.

          • William Davis

            Here is your problem. When you disconnect a brain dead person from life support, you never know for sure if you doing the right thing. It is somewhat rare, but sometimes these people recover. It could take week, months, or sometimes years. The problem is typically the cost of maintaining them. Pulling the plug really isn't all that different than pulling the plug on an 8 week old embryo. The probably that the embryo will develop a functional mind is likely greater than the probably that the brain dead person will recover (depending on the brain damage 85% likely hood for embryo, 15% likelihood for serious brain damage) but you are still calculating the odds and taking a life through a specific action, removing life support.

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "Pulling the plug really isn't all that different than pulling the plug on an 8 week old embryo."

            What "plug" on the embryo are you talking about?

            The umbilical cord?

            You do realize that this cord happens to be a natural and normal part of the unborn child's body, as opposed to being a man-made piece of machinery.

            "Pulling the plug [umbilicus] on an 8 week old embryo" is more akin to pulling the lungs out of someone.

          • William Davis

            You do realize that this cord happens to be a natural and normal part of the unborn child's body, as opposed to being a man-made piece of machinery.

            That's a distinction that matters more to you than it does to me. Unplugging an cord isn't like pulling the lungs out of someone to me. Beginning to see how we view the world in different ways?

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "That's a distinction that matters more to you than it does to me. "

            Yes, using strong vs. weak analogies is an important "distinction" when it comes to having a strong argument.

          • William Davis

            Like the very weak argument you have for abortion being completely illegal? Fair enough ;)

          • materetmagistra

            @William Davis: "Like the very weak argument you have for abortion being completely illegal?"

            Feel free to explain how the following is weak:

            We can for sure protect all human persons holding rights if we but protect all biological human beings. If there might be biological human beings who are not metaphysical human persons, we may have unnecessarily protected them.....but, the alternative is unconscionable - that because we cannot discern for sure, if we don't err on the side of the biological, we may unintentionally violate a metaphysical human person's rights.

          • Dan Quinn

            How can you be personally anti-abortion, but politically pro-choice? If you believe that the embryo is human then shouldn't it have the same rights as you and me. Then right to live trumps conscience.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because we recognize that our particular philosophies are not always right and are dependent on our experience. Thus we err on the side of liberty, allowing others with different philosophies and different experience greater latitude in making decisions. One can not demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that abortion is wrong or even usually wrong. Therefore we defer to individual conscience, which may be informed by experiences that we do not completely understand.

          • Dan Quinn

            Great response. I would argue that if you believe it is human then this a scientific question more than philosophical issue. Also, shouldn't we always err on the side of life? Liberty is null without life.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes, I think we should err on the side of life. In a perfect world, people only have kids when they are ready to have kids, they are in a good relationship with whomever they are having kids with, etc. However, we live in a less than perfect world. There are all sorts of complications that make having children far less than ideal.

            A few other considerations are that:

            1) I do not think that we can consider early fetuses to be metaphysically human, because they lack autonomy, sentience, free will, memories, and a personality. If you abort a 1st trimester fetus, you have only terminated a potential human. Indeed, nature aborts a significant portion of potential humans. I believe after implantation the rate is around 30%.

            Along with this, a 1st trimester fetus also lacks the ability to feel pain.

            I think in the first trimester, I fail to see how an abortion should be considered immoral by nearly any standard.

            2) Fetuses are completely reliant on the mother for nearly everything related to its survival. An infant could be cared for by many different adults. A Fetus relies completely on the mother. A mother is an autonomous being with free will and sentience, plus she has memories and the ability to feel pain. She is metaphysically human. Her well being takes precedence over the well-being of the fetus.

            3) When we err on the side of life, we should err on the side of actual life and not potential life.

          • materetmagistra

            But, it could be wrong? ....You do not know for sure.
            Why, then, does your unknowing not obligate you to not kill?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My unknowing obligates me to make the best moral decision that I can make and respect the moral decision of others. There are good moral reasons for allowing abortions.

            Your position is analogous to a conscientious objector saying that everyone should object to fighting a war, because it is possible that the war could be wrong.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "My unknowing obligates me to make the best moral decision that I can make and respect the moral decision of others."

            Do you really respect the moral decisions of those who choose to beat their wives and children, or rape women?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We know beyond a reasonable doubt that beating children and rape is wrong. Furthermore, children and women are metaphysical persons, so we protect their rights. That is the purpose of the social contract.

          • "Thus we err on the side of liberty, allowing others with different philosophies and different experience greater latitude in making decisions."

            So although you personally disagree with torturing children (I assume), what about others who have a different philosophy? Would you err on the side of liberty and let them live as they please?

            They may not constitute a huge swath of the population but shouldn't their "different philosophies and experiences" be respected through license?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Are there any philosophical arguments that are made for torturing children?

          • Ask ISIS.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And what is the argument?

          • Probably that infidels and even children of infidels deserve torture. I don't know - that's why you would need to ask them.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You are the one claiming that they think it is morally permissible. It is your obligation to tell us why.

            Torturing children deprives them of the liberty of choice that I mentioned earlier. If they are doing it because the children have the wrong philosophy, it would also be wrong of them to deprive the children of liberty by trying to force them into philosophical agreement with them.

          • I assume they think it is morally permissible because they do it. http://www.cbsnews.com/news/isis-is-killing-torturing-and-raping-children-in-iraq-u-n-says/ I don't know what their philosophical justification is for doing so. You would have to ask them.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            So people only do things that they think are morally permissible?

          • Do you think that ISIS opposes the torture of children but does it anyway?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I would assume that they oppose the torture of their own children. Many slave owners opposed the institution of slavery, yet they still had slaves. It seems to me that bring ISIS into a debate is the equivalent to making a Hitler comparison. We are talking about what reasonable people think about abortion or child torture.

            It is knowable, beyond a reasonable doubt, from multiple different ethical systems, that it is unjust to torture children. This sort of consensus does not exist for abortion.

          • "It is knowable, beyond a reasonable doubt, from multiple different ethical systems, that it is unjust to torture children."

            This is a breathtaking claim, coming from an atheist. If you know something to be unjust, I'm assuming you've moved beyond the realm of subjective belief to objective knowledge.

            But if I remember your position after dialoguing with you in the past, you don't hold that moral truths are objective (i.e., binding regardless of human opinion or belief.)

            So how can you know, beyond a reasonable doubt, that a particular action is unjust without objective moral truths?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            My point was that most (all?) ethical systems consider torturing children to be unjust. Whether one uses natural law, utilitarianism, hedonism, epicureanism, Christianity, Buddhism, or state consequentialism one will hold that torturing children is unjust. This consensus does not exist for abortion.

            If a group of people believed that it was wrong to kill animals for food, should they be allowed to impose their conscience on everyone else? Or should they be allowed to not eat meat, while the rest of us continue to eat as we see fit?

            I thin any discussion of ethics requires a great deal of background information. For instance, what does it mean for an ethical obligations to be binding?

            Personally, I don't have a complete ethical system worked out. I do think there are objective moral truths, but I do not think we can necessarily know what they are.

          • "Torturing children deprives them of the liberty of choice that I mentioned earlier."

            As does abortion. Abortion deprives unborn children of their liberty of choice.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            What can unborn children choose?

          • "Are there any philosophical arguments that are made for torturing children?"

            The volume or strength of philosophical support is irrelevant to the question of whether, per your stated position, you have any principled reason to distinguish between the case of torturing children and the case of abortion.

            If you allow abortionists to "experience greater latitude in making decisions" due to their "different philosophies and different experience," why not afford the same license to torturers?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            We can show beyond a reasonable doubt that torturing children is wrong. The same is not true of abortion. This is why we allow greater latitude in decision making. Governments should allow, so far as possible, individuals to make decisions according to their own conscience.

          • William Davis

            Wouldn't you agree that teaching children about hell could be considered a form of psychological child torture?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes. Absolutely. It is a form of child torture.

          • William Davis

            Some argue that a simple spanking is torturing children. Personally I believe teaching children hell is a form of psychological torture. I still think freedom of the individual trumps my personal views here, as long as the spanking doesn't leave serious marks.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            According to Steve, what is right in the case of abortion seems to be dependent not on our "experience", but upon when a biological human being is "ensouled".

            If you say we can determine whether murder is wrong only based on "experience" then we're going to have a problem creating laws against murder because many people have not experienced murder.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I don't believe in ensoulment, so I am not going to argue on that basis.
            I am making a point in political theory not ethical theory. We create laws against murder for numerous reasons. One of them is to preserve liberty.

          • "I don't believe in ensoulment, so I am not going to argue on that basis."

            Perhaps you shared this elsewhere, so if I missed it, please forgive me. But if you don't believe in ensoulment, how would you distinguish between "biological" and "metaphysical" human beings, per Steven's proposal?

            Or to ask a similar question, when in your view does a non-human embryo become a human person?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Metaphysical human beings have free will and they are sentient. They also have memories, personality, and autonomy.

            I think any of these conditions alone are sufficient to bestow some right to life on a being.

            Or to ask a similar question, when in your view does a non-human embryo become a human person?

            Not sure. However, a fetus could still have the right to life without being a metaphysical person. Somewhere around week 26 I think abortion becomes a very serious moral choice.

            A human being probably does not become a full metaphysical person till some time after birth. However, at birth, the human being gains the full right to life even though he is not yet a moral agent.

          • The brandy isn't helping, I'm sure, but I'm thoroughly confused by this comment, which seems self-contradictory. You say that metaphysical beings have a) free will, b) sentience, c) memory, d) personality, and e) autonomy, but that "any of these conditions alone are sufficient to bestow some right to life on a being". Thus, (b) alone would be sufficient to bestow the right to life on some being. But you then state that a sentient fetus "could still" have the right to life, suggesting that the "right" is still not given even when (b) obtains. Going a step further, you say a newborn baby "gains the full right to life", implying once again that the right to life is not given (or not "full," whatever that means) a day before birth.

            But like the fetus, the newborn still isn't exercising (a), (d), or (e), and though it's made inchoate, instinctive use of (c) in utero, is still basically only in possession of (b). So when do we get our right to life (which is coextensive, I would presume, with "full" right - unless, as Joe points out, you think murder isn't always wrong), and why? It sounds to me like you're caught between thinking one of the five conditions is sufficient vs. thinking all of the five conditions are necessary. Peter Singer is willing to own up to the latter position, leading to the uncomfortable (but consistent) conclusion that a 4-month old baby is not a person, and that the right to life from birth on is a convenient legal fiction.

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me a newborn infant could certainly be thought of as exercising at least rudimentary forms of (a) through (e). I am not particularly interested in drawing lines, but a zygote could certainly not be thought of as exercising any of them.

            implying once again that the right to life is not given (or not "full," whatever that means) a day before birth.

            Certainly there must be some reason why our legal system (and, as far as I know, every legal system) recognizes birth as the beginning of life. Many in the pro-life movement seem to be positively incensed that the legal system does not recognize the right to life of a zygote or embryo, but no legal system ever has. Regarding personhood, Roe v Wade changed nothing. And, as I have noted in an exchange with Brandon, there is almost nobody (at least in the political arena) who wants to declare personhood begins at conception. Many prominent politicians who call themselves pro-life and even say the right to life begins at conception also support embryonic stem-cell research.

            Also, the Feast of the Annunciation (Incarnation) is not even a holy day of obligation, but Christmas certainly is. Now that I think of this, it strikes me as very odd. Certainly the Incarnation is more momentous than either Christmas or Easter.

            There is something very, very, very special about birth.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Hi Matthew,

            My intuition on the subject is that metaphysical persons are those that have those five attribute. They are necessary conditions to be a full metaphysical person. They are necessary to have moral agency. I agree that by my definition infants are not full metaphysical persons.

            I think most defenses of humans having a right to life will rely on some or all of the five traits that I have listed. If I asked, why do human beings have a right to life, the answer will either be that God gave it to use (which is unknowable), or that we have the right to life by virtue of being a moral agent. By going down the second route, we cannot just include no metaphysical persons with metaphysical persons. The argument would go, if being X is a metaphysical person, then they have a right to life. Fetuses and even infants are not included in that argument, so we have to consider them separately. This leaves us with the rights of those who are not metaphysical persons.

            My intuition is that infants and adults who are not metaphysical person also have a right to life. I would also argue that many animals have some right to life as well. At the same time, my intuition is that embryos do not have any claim on life. (This is one of the issues I have with Catholic teaching. I think on the embryo issue the Church is being unreasonable. In some aspects there are more reasons to reject that embryos have a right to life under Catholicism. This would be a massive digression, but if you are interested, I am willing to outline why I think this is so.)

            It seems to me then that any of the five attributes alone are sufficient to make a claim to have a right to life. Basically, the five attributes are necessary to be a full metaphysical person and a moral agent, but individually are sufficient to bestow some right to life on a being.

          • I saw that you said in another comment that, unlike humans, it's perfectly okay to kill pigs. But pigs are also sentient animals (and surprisingly intelligent ones at that). If mere sentience doesn't guarantee a harmless pig an inviolable right to life, why should mere sentience guarantee a three-hour old newborn that right if, say, one sees compelling personal, economic, or social reasons to kill it? Why does the pig's sentience not shield it while the newborn's sentience does? (Singer might say that this is just anthropocentrism shielded by the aura of self-justifying "intuition" - a "morally indefensible preference for members of our own species".) Put another way: what exactly is the "soft" right to life that you intuit the newborn to have, and how does it differ from the "hard" right to life that you or I (as metaphysical persons) have, and pigs (as "mere" animals) don't?

          • David Nickol

            An interesting question, which is rarely dealt with in these debates, is why is it wrong to kill a human being (or a person)? When, exactly, is it "murder" to kill a human being (or a person)?

            The NAB has this interesting note regarding "You shall not kill" [Exodus 20:13]:

            Kill: as frequent instances of killing in the context of war or certain crimes (see vv. 12–18) demonstrate in the Old Testament, not all killing comes within the scope of the commandment. For this reason, the Hebrew verb translated here as “kill” is often understood as “murder,” although it is in fact used in the Old Testament at times for unintentional acts of killing (e.g., Dt 4:41; Jos 20:3) and for legally sanctioned killing (Nm 35:30).The term may originally have designated any killing of another Israelite, including acts of manslaughter, for which the victim’s kin could exact vengeance. In the present context, it denotes the killing of one Israelite by another, motivated by hatred or the like (Nm 35:20; cf. Hos 6:9).

            So as originally understood, "You shall not kill" might not have prohibited what we would consider murder (as long as the victim was not an Israelite) and also might have prohibited acts that we would not consider murder (killing a fellow Israelite in a fight, say, in which there was enmity but no premeditation.

            Consequently, it is difficult to see the Old Testament prohibition against "killing" or "murder" as some kind of universal rule protecting all human life, or even all innocent human life, given that slaughter of innocents is sometimes commanded by God himself, as when a particular city or group is "put under the ban."

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Pigs was a poor example choice on my part. They do have some right to life. All animals do, but due to the structure of the natural world and our dietary requirements, it is difficult to avoid eating meat altogether. However, we do have certain responsibilities to animals. Many of our farming practices, I would argue, are immoral.

            I'm not sure anybody has an inviolable right to life. It does seem that as one moves along the continuum from sentient to sapient, the reasons for violating another's being right to life must be very grave. I am not aware of a circumstance, in which I would consider infanticide justifiable, unless the newborn was in intense pain and soon to die with no hope of recovery.

            As with most ethical problems, I think this becomes difficult at the boundaries. Adult humans have a right to life, but Zygotes do not. I do not think one can justify a Zygotes right to life without either asserting that God wants it (which is a very difficult claim to substantiate) or relying on properties of persons that Zygotes do not posses. Newborns are sapient and have a greater degree of autonomy than fetuses, and I think for this they deserve a greater degree of protection.

          • Thanks Ignatius - I think this was a really good back and forth. Rather than go point for point again on areas of disagreement, I'll highlight a major point of agreement: our responsibilities to animals. Pope Francis is releasing an encyclical on the environment soon and I hope that this theme is involved, especially given his namesake. And the Catechism is pretty clear on this: "It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly."

          • SattaMassagana

            I support organ donation, but I don't want a government to compel it

          • Dan Quinn

            If you believe that this is human, then this argument lacks strength. Then you can say, "I support not killing, but I don't want a government to compel it."

          • SattaMassagana

            There's our difference. I see bodily autonomy as the foundational principle; That grounds: being against forced organ donation, a right to life & a right to abortion.

          • Dan Quinn

            Point taken and then let me clarify. Human is human and deserve the right to live. Can you please define bodily autonomy.

          • William Davis

            Ignatius was right more or less. I don't think a zygote or a fetus is a full human being. It's a line that starts at conception, and ends a birth. For me, abortion becomes "more wrong" as the baby develops, becoming murder after birth. I'm for drawing the legal line at 20 weeks to err on the side of caution. The youngest premature baby ever was 21 weeks, and over 90% die when born at that age.
            While I'm anti-abortion there are clear cases where abortion would be right in my eyes. Rape and danger to the mother are clear cases to me. I think the situation is unclear enough where the mother should have the right to make the decision.
            A good comparison is pulling the plug on a brain dead person. A zygote is brain dead, and the mother is the "plug". Bodily autonomy comes into play (the mother is forced to donate her resources to build the new human) which pushes the issue more toward the pro-choice side. The fact that the zygote will likely NOT be brain dead in the future pushes the issue back in the direction of choosing life. Very complex moral issue, and it's no surprise it's still in debate :)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            89-92% of all legal abortions happen in the first trimester.

            For some reason disqus is not allowing me to link to the website, but a google search will verify. When abortion was illegal, abortions were most likely to happen later in the pregnancy.

            So, for those of us who believe that 1st trimester abortion is always just, but question the justness of third trimester abortions, legal abortion is the best way to achieve that goal.

          • Dan Quinn

            May I ask why against third trimester?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Ability to feel pain. Viability outside the womb. Brain development.

            I still think abortion should be legal in the third trimester, but I think one should have very good reasons for the abortion.

            Edit: I'm considering more as an ethical question rather than a legal question.

          • Dan Quinn

            Please google and watch, "The Silent Scream." There is reason to believe that even first trimester babies feel pain. BTW - I have yet found anyone willing to watch this video.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That video seems rather old. I doubt it represents our best knowledge that we have today. It is unlikely that fetuses feel pain before the third trimester.

            http://www.nbcnews.com/id/9053416/#.VV95ecLJDIU

          • Dan Quinn

            It takes character to watch that video. I would say that we do not yet fully know about the pain. Being pro-life and finding supporting evidence is tough because it come off as bias, but this is documented about baby feeling pain. http://www.abortionfacts.com/facts/13

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I've seen that website before. As I understand, they are confusing a reflex with actually feeling pain. Pain is in the brain and the brain at 8 weeks is not yet developed enough to feel pain.
            To a certain extent, focusing on things like pain, does concede the territory of the argument to those of us who make a distinction between metaphysical humans and biological humans. Abortion is morally questionable because it causes pain, not because the fetus happens to have DNA.

          • "Abortion is morally questionable because it causes pain, not because the fetus happens to have DNA."

            So would you be OK with killing people (either unborn or born) if it could be done so painlessly? For example, there are plenty of ways to sedate someone before killing them with lethal injection; they would experience no pain in death.

            If abortion is wrong merely because it causes pain, I don't see how you can principally object to painless murder.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Causing pain is a reason to object to abortion. It is not the only reason to object to something. I object to murder. because it ends the life of a metaphysical person. I object to hurting rabbits, because it causes pain. Different ethical questions raise different ethical issues.

          • David Nickol

            If abortion is immoral due to the fact that a fetus (allegedly) feels pain, then would anesthetizing the fetus render the abortion moral?

            Pain is not really the issue.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I was thinking along these lines as well. I believe the medical consensus for surgery is to not anesthesize the fetus till the 26th week.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Agreed. If it's okay to kill fetuses because they can't feel it, why isn't it okay to kill sleeping people?

            It's no use creating an artificial distinction in which there are biological-but-not-metaphysical humans (a made-up category that actually contradicts traditional metaphysics), or in which fetuses are human beings but not persons, or any other such.

            One problem with all of these rationalizations for abortion is that they always prove too much. Invariably, they would logically permit murdering other groups of people, too.

            Our opposition to murder is based on the idea that it's always and everywhere wrong to intentionally kill innocent people. If you start chipping away at that, the prohibition against murder unravels that much more.

          • David Nickol

            Our opposition to murder is based on the idea that it's always and
            everywhere wrong to intentionally kill innocent people. If you start
            chipping away at that, the prohibition against murder unravels that much
            more.

            As I have pointed out a number of times, in our system of law (and its British antecedent, abortion has never been classified as murder. The understanding we have about personhood under the law is exactly the understanding we had about personhood under the law all the way back to the founding of the United States and beyond that hundreds of years back under British law.

            It's no use creating an artificial distinction in which there are biological-but-not-metaphysical humans (a made-up category that actually contradicts traditional metaphysics), or in which fetuses are human beings but not persons, or any other such.

            To the extent that pro-life advocates want to grant legal personhood at the moment of conception, to that same extent they are the ones changing the centuries old understanding of personhood under the law. One of the reasons Roe v Wade was decided the way it was (7-2) was because there was no precedent in our law to recognize an unborn human being as a person.

            People don't seem to get this. Those who are pro-choice have not invented rationales about personhood in order to justify abortion. The unborn were never, ever considered persons under the law.

          • "As I have pointed out a number of times, in our system of law (and its British antecedent, abortion has never been classified as murder. The understanding we have about personhood under the law is exactly the understanding we had about personhood under the law all the way back to the founding of the United States and beyond that hundreds of years back under British law."

            This is precisely problem; the law is wrong. This is why reasonably-minded people want it changed to recognize the personhood of all people, regardless of size, level of development, or location.

            Just because the law holds something, it doesn't make it right (or true.)

            "People don't seem to get this. Those who are pro-choice have not invented rationales about personhood in order to justify abortion. The unborn were never, ever considered persons under the law."

            Nobody is ignoring your point, David. It's just that everyone does get this. They're not ignorant fools. Everyone on either side of the abortion issue already knows that the law fails to protect unborn children with the full rights of personhood. That's precisely why pro-life supporters advocate for changes to the law.

            So merely stating the law's position on the unborn is not to argue for its veracity.

            It would be like me in the mid 1800's claiming, "Slaves were never, ever considered persons under the law," a fact which is of course no justification for maintaining such an unjust position. If nothing else, it's an impetus for correction.

          • George

            We could throw reductions to absurdity back and forth all day. Do I have a right to my organs and blood?

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            George,

            It's not a reduction to absurdity. I asked: "if it's okay to kill fetuses because they can't feel it, why isn't it okay to kill sleeping people?" If there's no principled distinction between these two things, it's your proposed moral standard, not my example, that's absurd.

            Likewise, if you said that it was okay to kill fetuses because they're not old enough to feed themselves, and I pointed out that this reasoning would permit killing toddlers, that wouldn't be a reductio. It would just be drawing out the implications of your own position. The fact that your position might lead to absurd results doesn't make it a fallacy to point this out.

            "Do I have a right to my organs and blood?"

            Do you mean an absolute right? As in, if you're a conjoined twin, do you have a right to shoot your twin so that they stop stealing your nutrients?

          • David Nickol

            It takes character to watch that video.

            It takes "character" to watch open-heart surgery or an autopsy. That doesn't mean they are immoral.

            I think it is very difficult for any of us (even heartless atheists) to imagine what it would be like to be aborted. But of course we can't help imagining ourselves in place of the embryo or fetus. And to do so, especially for abortions at the earliest stages of pregnancy, is pure fantasy.

          • William Davis

            I've watched it. It's a great argument for the 20 week limit :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I tried to watch it once but it was impossible for me. I still have something of a heart.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            The trimester system is arbitrary, as the history of Roe v. Wade shows: it was chosen as a sort of compromise position to get a judicial majority, not because there's actually some major turning point that happens at the 90th day or 180th day of pregnancy.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Sure, but first trimester abortions are far before the 23rd week, which is about when I start having qualms about abortion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Dude, I'm 61 and I am not a full human being either.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You have free will, sentience, autonomy, and memories, so you are definitely a full human being. :-)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According to your definition.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            According to the Catholic Church, human beings are special because we have a rational soul and thus immortality, correct?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            According the the CC, human beings are special for a lot of reasons, including those two.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The metaphysical properties that I consider when I define a metaphysical human are equivalent to the properties of rational souls.

          • William Davis

            As your mind degrades, I'd agree. My poor grandmother made it to 91, but she her mind started to degrade starting into her mid 80s. She was not longer a person before she actually died, her mind was gone (repeated strokes) :(

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            "It's a line that starts at conception, and ends a birth."

            Why stop at birth?

            Princeton's Peter Singer has argued that it should be legal to kill handicapped infants, and his argument follows naturally upon the pro-choice position:

            "What do people think amniocentesis and the selective abortion of Down's Syndrome foetuses are? All I am saying is, why limit the killing to the womb? Nothing magical happens at birth."

            Biologically, he's right about birth not being a magical moment in which the child goes from being potentially-alive to alive. For that matter, why stop at infancy? Human development continues throughout childhood. The child's alive the whole time, from fertilization onwards.

            We're ultimately left with two possibilities: prohibiting the murder of all human beings, or trying to do some "line-drawing" over which lives are and aren't protected. But that line-drawing will always be arbitrary ... and that line can move.

          • William Davis

            We're ultimately left with two possibilities: prohibiting the murder of all human beings, or trying to do some "line-drawing" over which lives are and aren't protected. But that line-drawing will always be arbitrary ... and that line can move.

            You are drawing a line. You are drawing it a conception, the earliest feasible place to draw it. When Catholic moral theology draws a line to allow the removal of respirators, it is doing so with the knowledge that there is always the possibility, even slight of recovery of a brain dead person, but the extreme cost of maintaining life support makes it easier to draw the line in these cases, even though you are drawing a line that doesn't protect all possible human life.
            You are correct that line-drawing will always be arbitrary, but the line has been 27-28 weeks since Roe vs. Wade. A modern movement is to move that line back to 20 weeks. The slippery slope is moving the wrong way. I'd love to see a day when no one wants an abortion, but I stand by it being up to the mother conscience.
            Will we one day return to accepting infanticide? Possibly, and there isn't much you or I can do ahead of time to stop that. If we reach a point where there isn't enough food to feed the world, I have no doubt infanticide of handicapped infants may come back. The human body does a great job of aborting genetically defective embryo's by it's very design. God made natural selection to kill the weak and the handi-capped. I'm not saying we should operate based on God's rules, but we have moved past natural morality because of compassion. We are more merciful to handi-capped individuals of our own species than God designed nature to be. Note that 2/3 of all fertilized eggs never make it to birth. Abortion/miscarriage is a very common property of pregnancy. Most of these miscarriages happen before 12 weeks, pretty close to my 20 week line.
            I think I'm being very reasonable and thoughtful here, and I feel very good about my position on the subject.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            William,

            By your own admission, you've staked out a pretty arbitrary point. Why not 19 weeks, or 21?

            My point is that if we're talking about something as serious as saying that "murder is always wrong," we can't add a silly asterisk that says "unless it falls before this arbitrary point in time."

            I might as well say, "I'm against murder, other than Wednesdays from 7:30-7:45. I could have done Wednesdays from 6:00-8:00, so I think I'm being very reasonable and thoughtful here."

            The fact that you're blatantly playing God here is never clearer than your claim that this makes you more moral than God.

            And as for the idea that "abortion" (here, you're playing with words) is "a very common property of pregnancy," what's your point?

            You claim that 2/3rds of unborn children die before birth. Perhaps so. 3/3rds of people who make it to birth die. Does that make murder okay? It's a bizarre non sequitur to say that, because people sometimes die, it's okay to kill them.

          • William Davis

            We've been playing God for a while now. We use technology to extend life, farm fields, remove birth pain, ect. It's quite clear to me that God is indifferent to the plight of individual human, it's up to us to figure it out. I'm personally completely confident that there has never been any divine revelation, and that all religion is man-made (I figured that might be important background information)

            My point is that if we're talking about something as serious as saying that "murder is always wrong," we can't add a silly asterisk that says "unless it falls before this arbitrary point in time."

            You keep calling abortion murder, but I just don't think it is. To me, this is much like pulling the plug on a brain dead person who might have a slight chance to recover. You can continue to see the world in black and white, but you haven't even come close to an argument to convince me you are correct here. I'll stick with my opinion and vote with my conscience, and you'll do the same thing with yours. Like it or not, that's how this works :)

            In the end, I understand your point of view, but it really does make for bad government policy. Abortions happen when they are illegal, and they typically occurred later than legal abortions (making it much worse to me). There is also a strong link between crime rates and having abortion illegal. Dooming unwanted children to a miserable existence has to be included in a moral equation, at least in my view. I would love it if all people managed their reproductive systems well, but that isn't the world we seem to live in. The asterisk we are adding is far from silly, it is highly pragmatic. Look at nature, God is nothing if not pragmatic.

          • materetmagistra

            So, we can for sure protect all persons holding rights if we but protect all biological human beings. If there might be biological human beings who are not metaphysical human beings, we may have unnecessarily protected them.....but, the alternative is unconscionable - that because we cannot discern for sure, if we don't err on the side of the biological, we may unintentionally violate a metaphysical human being's rights.

          • Well said!

          • David Nickol

            How do we know the only persons are human persons? Many people have argued that dolphins should be considered persons. Is there any way to definitively prove dolphins are not persons? Should we err on the side of treating dolphins as persons even though they may not be? What about elephants, great apes, and whales? Can we be sure they are not persons?

          • materetmagistra

            @David Nickol: "How do we know the only persons are human persons?"

            Here, David, an easy fix ------->

            :So, we can for sure protect all human persons holding rights if we but protects all biological human beings.

          • Kraker Jak

            I generally agree with what you have said, but in some cases the pro choice situation boils down to birth control in the form of gender selection, something I do not agree with, especially among certain cultures, here in Toronto and other large Canadian cities.

            http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2012/09/27/sex_selection_abortion_played_a_role_in_supporting_prolife_motion_ambrose.html
            http://www.thestar.com/news/world/2011/04/22/genderselection_abortions_spreading_in_india.html

          • William Davis

            I agree, that pretty bad.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Why?

            I mean, I understand why it's unconscionable if abortion is murder. But if your position is that abortion doesn't kill anyone, and that these unborn girls are just "potential" humans, what's the basis for your objection?

          • William Davis

            A potential human is something much more than just a rock, but something less than an actual person. My moral calculus is analog, Christianity tries to force it to be binary (sin/not sin). I think that is a mistake, and it doesn't work inside my mind, or my conscience. At an alternate website I was recently attacked for wanted to draw the legal line at 20 weeks. It was said I was anti-abortion. I'm fine with that to. My opinion is what my conscience informs me it should be.
            With regards to my own children, I practice the same morality you are putting forward. I would only support an abortion in my family if rape or serious risk to the mother is involved. I think the situation is grey enough to allow the mothers conscience to reign until 20 weeks. I think there is something wrong with a mother who would use abortion for gender selection. IVF is definitely the way to go there.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            I'm saying that you either are or aren't a person (like a light switch being on or off) while it sounds like you're saying that some people are less people than other people (an "analog," like a dimmer switch). Is that right?

          • William Davis

            Correct.

    • Aquinasbot

      "My suggestion was not that “an animal is only an animal if it can sense right now”, but that “what is distinctive of the animal form of life is the power of sensation.” Powers can of course be inactive or dormant."

      I would say that what is distinctive of the human form of life is the power of reason, which the zygote or fetus possesses in the very least potentially but the power itself is currently dormant or inactive.

      • Steven Dillon

        What is it about zygotes that indicates they have the power to reason?

        • Aquinasbot

          Not that they currently have the ability to reason, but that they inherently possess the power to reason only humans (as far as we know) possess even if that power isn't fully functional.

      • David Nickol

        The argument here seems to be that if something has the potential for X, someone has X. If an acorn has a potential to be come an oak tree, it is an oak tree. Or if a newborn baby has the potential to become an adult, it already is an adult. If I had the potential to become a doctor when I was in school, I already was a doctor.

        • No, that's not the argument. We don’t become “more human” by developing further, we just develop more of the traits that humans possess. Similarly, we don’t become “more of a person” by developing further, we just develop the capacity to perform the functions that persons can perform.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          An acorn is an oak acorn. When it has been growing awhile we call it an oak sapling. After that we call it an oak tree. Similarly, we have a human zygote, and human embryo, a human fetus, a human baby, an inhuman teenager, and a human adult.

          Notice any patterns?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why should our biological classification and words used be of metaphysical importance?
            Biologically there are distinctions between a zygote and an infant.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            There are differences within the unity. Always an individual of the oak species. Always an individual of the human species.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But why are humans special and not oak trees?
            Why can we cut an oak tree down for building materials or fire, but it would be wrong to harvest humans?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Because of the kind of beings we are and the kind of beings they are. It is like the rational animals that eat bacon and eggs in Narnia. In Narnia there are animal animals and rational animals.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is the whole point. Fetuses do not posses rationality.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Sure they do. The possess it in potentiality because of the kind of beings they are, just like your grandchildren did when they were babies and young children.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Potentiality is not actuality. If X potentially possesses Y means that X actually has Y, I don't think Thomism can claim to be consistent.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Human fetuses are the kind of beings that possess the potentiality within them to be rational and volitional. You can say, so there, they are not yet persons. This is why all this talk about personhood is bogus. Personhood is being used as a weapon against human life. It is shameful.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why are potential persons deserving of protection, especially when that protection comes at other costs?

            If embryos are potential persons, does it matter that 60-80% spontaneously abort before implantation and that 20-32% of fetuses miscarry?

            Why is it incorrect to take the causal chain another step back? Every sperm could potentially unite with an egg? Once united this is potentially a rational being. Therefore a sperm could potentially become part of a potentially rational being.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Innocent and helpless human beings are deserving of protection for those two reasons.

            100% of human beings eventually die in about 75 years anyway.

            A sperm is not a human being. Neither is an ovum. But a zygote is.

          • Aquinasbot

            Yes but that is the point, as a matter of moral importance these distinctions do not make a difference as to whether or not it is okay to intentionally and directly killing an innocent human being.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Yes they do. It is why it is wrong to kill a human but not wrong to kill a pig.

          • Aquinasbot

            I think you confused to intention of my comment. My point was that the fact that it is human, regardless of the state of development, makes is morally wrong to kill it.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You may think so, but many others do not think it is morally wrong to terminate a pregnancy. We think that killing can only apply to those who are actually have free will, sentience, and autonomy.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            What do you mean by "autonomy"?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            self-determination

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Do born infants meet that standard of autonomy and self-determination?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            No, but sufficient conditions are not necessary conditions.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Infants do have some autonomy, while fetuses have none

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "Biologically there are distinctions between a zygote and an infant."

            Distinctions based in age, eh?

            They are not different in kind, though.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            An infant has lungs, a brain, and other sensory organs. These are biological differences.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "An infant has lungs, a brain, and other sensory organs. These are biological differences."

            How does that make them a different kind of thing, though? After all, one would not expect a human being at an early stage or age to have need of such organs yet. Not having developed lungs yet does not mean it is not a human being.

            How does a scientist divide that which is a human being - a member of Homo sapiens - from that which is not?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You asked me if they have any biological differences and I pointed to some. You are now shifting goalposts.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "You asked me if they have any biological differences and I pointed to some. You are now shifting goalposts."

            Interesting. No, I never asked you to provide "biological differences." You are the one who made a claim: "Biologically there are distinctions between a zygote and an infant." I pointed out that the differences you note are merely differences that indicate age differences, but not difference in kind. The differences you note have nothing to do with "biological classification."

            Again, how does a scientist divide that which is a human being - a member of Homo sapiens - from that which is not? After all, to determine which biological human beings are also metaphysical "human persons" you do need to begin with a biological human being!

          • Ignatius Reilly

            And I mentioned some of the biological differences. There are also biological differences in gender. I said nothing about species or kind(are you a creationist?).
            Please stop trying to change what I claim to suit your talking points.

          • materetmagistra

            And, these biological differences based on age or gender, of what importance are they in this discussion?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            They are part of the difference between a human organism and a human person.

          • materetmagistra

            But, aren't all human persons necessarily also human organisms ?

            You do need to be able to positively identify that which is a human organism prior to determining which of those human organisms happen to also be human persons.

            So, how does a scientist determine whether the beingnin question is an organism of the human species?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But, aren't all human persons necessarily also human organisms ?

            So what. To flip the implication is to commit the fallacy of converse.

            You do need to be able to positively identify that which is a human organism prior to determining which of those human organisms happen to also be human persons.

            No I don't. I only need to be able to identify things that are not persons.

          • materetmagistra

            @Ignatius Reilly: "No I don't. I only need to be able to identify things that are not persons."

            So, tell me, how do you identify things that are not "persons." What evidence do you use...what observable, objective evidence?

          • David Nickol

            Here is a dumbed down explanation of Aristotle and his ideas about change.

            Change is not a transition from non-being to being, but from potential being (potential form) to actual being (actual form)

            Example:
            • An acorn has both an actual form of being an acorn, and a potential form of being a sapling and an oak tree.
            • A sapling has both an actual form of being a sapling, and a potential form of being an oak tree.
            • When an acorn changes into a sapling, its potential form transitions into the actual form of a sapling.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I noticed you smuggled the term *person* into your exposition.

            A zygote is a human being when that being is only once cell. More potentialities of that human being will be actualized as time goes on.

          • David Nickol

            I noticed you smuggled the term *person* into your exposition.

            I didn't smuggle it in. It is a key concept in this entire discussion. It seems to me that the pro-life advocates must (and do) maintain that the zygote is a human person. It is the contention of many who are pro-choice that a zygote is a "human being" (in at least some sense of the words) but is not a person. Calling a zygote a "one-celled human being" is somewhat of a stretch, but I can live with it. But calling it a "one-celled person" makes no sense to me. That is, it makes no sense unless one believes that a rational, immortal, spiritual soul is infused at the time of conception. It seems to me that a "ghost" in the machine (even a one-celled machine) could make it a person, since the ghost/soul would have perfect continuity from beginning to all eternity. But that is a purely religious belief. In the United States, we don't base our laws on purely religious beliefs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You don't need to have a religious belief to be certain that human life begins at conception and deserves protection. Recall the lies of Planned Parenthood and NARAL: "It's just a blog of tissue!"

            I think about ten years ago, the abortion lobby gave up trying to argue that the unborn child is not a human being. But a justification is still necessary so it seems we are expect to shift to human person. You can kill a human life evidently but not a human person.

            I think this argument should be rejected. "Person" simply describes the kind of being who has the faculties of reason and free will, whether actualized (like you) or still in potential (like an unborn baby, newborn baby, or child) or even never potential (as in a severely mentally handicapped person).

        • Joseph Heschmeyer

          No, that's not the argument. From the post:

          " The bad argument is in how he understands this distinction. When Aristotle first proposed this distinction (In Book II, Chapter III of De Anima), he was looking at types of things. That is, a plant is the type of creature that can metabolize, an animal is the type of creature that can move and sense, and humans are the type of creature that can reason. In each case, the higher creatures also have the powers of the lower ones. By this standard, you're a human even when you're not reasoning, even when you're incapable of reasoning, as long as you're the type of creature that's capable of reasoning (which, of course, you are)."

          Human beings are the type of creatures that have the potential for rationality, as well as sensation, reproduction, metabolism, etc. Whether or not we ever actualize these potencies is irrelevant.

          Nothing in my argument turns on (a) treating a potential-X as X, or (b) accepting metaphysics in the first place. The unborn aren't potential human beings, they are currently human beings... just short ones.

          • David Nickol

            No, that's not the argument.

            I was responding to Aquinasbot, who said the following:

            I would say that what is distinctive of the human form of life is the power of reason, which the zygote or fetus possesses in the very least potentially but the power itself is currently dormant or inactive.

            You say

            Human beings are the type of creatures that have the potential for rationality, as well as sensation, reproduction, metabolism, etc. Whether or not we ever actualize these potencies is irrelevant.

            But is this the view of Aristotle? I am putting two long quotes at the end of this message for documentation, in case anyone wants to read what I am basing my own opinion on. Aristotle, it seems clear, not only approved of (early) abortion, but also of letting deformed newborns die of exposure. Also, although Aristotle had what strike us today as strange ideas about human reproduction (semen and menstrual blood combined to make a new human being), he certainly understood that there was continuity in human reproduction. He didn't understand about male sperm and female egg, but he did understand that prior to "animation," there something from a man and a woman came together to form a potential human being. I repeat, a potential human being, whom Aristotle considered should be aborted under certain circumstances. Even with his faulty knowledge of human reproduction and embryology, he was right that at least in the earliest stages of human reproduction (certainly at the zygote stage), there was no movement or sensation, and there were no recognizable human characteristics. Aristotle did not apply to abortion the same reasoning you apply here—that is, from conception onward, a zygote, to morula, to blastocyst, and so on, there existed the same type of thing, which had a right to life.

            Quotes:

            We see here with Hippocrates an idea that would get its classical formulation a century later in the writings of Aristotle, namely, that the fetus does not develop or receive a human soul until some time after conception. Since the Latin word for "soul" is anima, this theory came to be called the theory of delayed animation. The soul is, for Aristotle, "the cause of the living body as the original source of local movement." He thought that "[i]n the case of male children the first movements usually occurs on . . . about the fortieth day [of gestation], but if the child be a female then on . . . about the ninetieth day," and Aristotle took this as evidence that the soul was present in male fetuses at the fortieth day and in female fetuses at the ninetieth. In Aristotle's view, of equal importance with movement as an indicator of the presence of the soul is the fetus's taking on of human form, for Aristotle thought that all things are made of matter and form and that the form of a human being is its soul. So, for example, Aristotle commented that asking "whether the soul and body are one" is asking "whether the wax and its shape are one." At the same time that the fetus first moves, he thought, it also "begins to resolve into distinct parts, it having hitherto consisted of a fleshlike substance without distinction of parts." As a result of Aristotle's enormous influence, during antiquity and the middle ages, formation and movement—which came to be called in English law, quickening—were taken as indicators of the animation, or ensoulment, of the fetus. Thus, it was widely believed that the fetus received a human soul some substantial period of time after conception. [pp. 17-18, Abortion and the Ways we Value Human Life, by Jeffrey H. Reiman]

            As to exposing or rearing the children born, let
            there be a law that no deformed child shall be reared; but on the ground of number of children, if the regular customs hinder any of those born being exposed, there must be a limit fixed to the procreation of offspring, and if any people have a child as a result of intercourse in contravention of these regulations, abortion must be practised on it before it has developed sensation and life; for the line between lawful and unlawful abortion will be marked by the fact of having sensation and being alive. [Aristotle, Politics, Book 7]

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Aristotle's position on delayed ensoulment was a mixture of good metaphysics and bad biology.

            Good metaphysics, in that he believed that once the body was animated (once there's movement) you've certainly got a human soul. Bad biology, because they had no way of knowing when the embryo began to move. Modern biology shows that this happens immediately, weeks before the mother can feel anything.

            So you can't hold to the Aristotelian position on delayed ensoulment on Aristotelian grounds (since he was just objectively wrong about the medical facts). Steven's position is to try to get to this conclusion through better biology and worse metaphysics, but it doesn't work, for the reasons I discussed above.

            Finally, as you noted, Aristotle argued for the mandatory killing of both unborn and born disabled children. We can agree that this is awful, I think? In that case, I guess I'm not sure what you're doing with this argument. Aristotle thought infanticide was okay, so.... abortion is okay? Or Aristotle wasn't pro-life, so the unborn child isn't alive?

            Maybe I should clarify. I'm not saying that abortion is wrong because Aristotle says that the unborn child is alive, or because Aristotle says that abortion is wrong. I'm saying that abortion is wrong because the unborn child is alive, and intentionally killing innocent human beings is wrong. Steven tried to get out of this on a bad interpretation of Aristotle, which is why I showed the distinction between Aristotle's view and Steven's.

            So you can reject Aristotle completely, for all I care. As I said above, "It would be easy, especially for an atheist or someone who thinks that only the natural sciences produce factual knowledge, to write off this whole inquiry as bunk. I certainly understand. But if you're going to do that, recognize that what you're rejecting is not my original argument, but Steven's attempt to carve out a metaphysical exception to the prohibition against murder."

      • William Davis

        I would say that what is distinctive of the human form of life is the power of reason, which the zygote or fetus possesses in the very least potentially but the power itself is currently dormant or inactive.

        So you are saying a mentally handicapped person who can't reason doesn't posses the form of life?
        I'm sure you say they have the potential, but I don't think this is the case. Genetically caused mental deficiency is in alteration in the very form of the brain. A person with this flawed dna completely lacks the potential for reason, just like a dog. By the same token, there is not reason to think that at some point in the future we wouldn't be able to genetically alter a dog so they can reason. They already do it on a primitive level.

        • Aquinasbot

          I'm not really sure what you're disagreeing with. I would say that YES, a mentally handicapped person that can't reason DOES posses the form of life. So I think we agree.

    • Joseph Heschmeyer

      Steven,

      Your point about dormant powers concedes my entire argument. There are certain powers of the soul (e.g., reproduction) that are present from the moment of fertilization, but it still take years before the body develops to the point that these powers can be actualized. But we don't say the prepubescent children aren't fully human in the meantime.

      So unless you're going to say that kids aren't fully human because they can't reproduce, you can't logically argue that fetuses aren't fully human because they can't sense or reason. In both cases, the spiritual powers are present, but the body is still developing.

      You're right that, even if your position were right, it wouldn't make abortion okay, since there are natural law reasons to oppose abortion (and since the traditional opposition to abortion isn't based on the presence or absence of a soul). But if you weren't arguing that abortion is sometimes okay, how is your response even responsive?

      Finally, as the others have said, I don't reject the difference between metaphysics and biology, obviously. What I reject is that there are some people who are biologically human, but not metaphysically human. Likewise, I reject the idea that there are people who are biologically human, but not chemically human (while preserving the distinction between chemistry and biology).

      I.X.,

      Joe

      • Steven Dillon

        Thanks for the reply Joe. Thus far, you've said that zygotes have the power to reason, but you haven't yet given an argument for this. And I'm sure you're not interested in settling for the mere possibility that zygotes have this power: anything is possible, I suppose. But, do they actually have this power? I argued that they do not. It's not that the lack of sense organs means they have the power to sense, but that it's temporarily inactive: it means they don't have the power at all. Otherwise, we're capable of doing things we have no way of doing, and all sorts of absurdities follow from that. e.g. Ought wouldn't imply can, and we'd be morally accountable for doing things we have no way of doing!

        My response was only to the particular argument: it afforded me an opportunity to address what many think is a good reason to oppose abortion.

        Finally, given that there is a difference between biology and metaphysics, we can't just assume that what is biologically x is metaphysically x: we need a reason to make this judgment. But, as I've argued, the zygote is not human by (Aristotelian) metaphysical standards.

        • Joseph Heschmeyer

          Steven,

          "Thus far, you've said that zygotes have the power to reason, but you haven't yet given an argument for this."

          Sorry, I'm using "power" in a technical Aristotelian sense there, and so my point wasn't clear. Let me back up a step or two.

          1. All natural objects in the world consist of form and matter.

          2. In the case of living things, we refer to their forms as "souls." This is true even in the case of animals and vegetables. We're not saying that they have subsistent or immortal souls, just that there's an immaterial animating principle of their matter: the organizing force separating a 500 lb. cow from 500 lb. of fresh beef is the cow's "anima" or "soul."

          3. Different types of organisms have different forms. A cow has the form of a cow, etc. Difference in form is what distinguishes species of creatures. And each of these forms is unique.

          4. At the most basic level, we can distinguish three types of forms: vegetative (metabolism, reproduction), animal/sensitive (sensation, locomotion), and human/rational (reason).

          None of this analysis turns upon a particular member of the species having the ability to actualize their spiritual powers right now. So, for example, humans are the type of creatures that have the power to reproduce. But prepubescent children can't reproduce. That doesn't make them unhuman.

          It's actually the presence of this formal or spiritual power that gives rise to the eventual physical reality. That is, if we didn't have the human form, we would never develop human brains or human reproductive systems or whatnot. So the spiritual "power" precedes the actualization of that potency.

          Another way of thinking about it: the difference between butterfly caterpillars and moth caterpillars is that the former have the "power" to become butterflies, while the latter have the power to become moths. But this distinction in powers exists even when they're in the larval stage, before they pupate. That is, you wouldn't say that a moth caterpillar isn't a moth caterpillar until it becomes a moth.

          Finally, if you still think that you're right in your read of Aristotle, can you find me an expert who agrees with you that Aristotle distinguished between biology and metaphysical humans, etc.?

          His own position on delayed ensoulment was based on his (scientifically-false) belief that the fetus wasn't biologically human. As I said above, he had good philosophy and bad science. You seem to be trying to defend your (not-actually-identical) position using good science and bad philosophy.

          • Steven Dillon

            We seem to be almost entirely in agreement. But, there are some important distinctions we're not on the same page about.

            Crucial here is the difference between having no means to exercise a power, and having obstructed or temporarily inaccessible means to exercise a power.

            Zygotes don't have obstructed or temporarily inaccessible means to sense: they just don't have them at all. What they do have is the potential to develop those means, and they regularly do so because the final cause of their gestation is the form of (rational) animality.

            But, just because the form of (rational) animality governs their gestation doesn't mean zygotes are actually rational animals: acorns are not oak trees just because the form of the latter is the final cause of the former's growth. Acorns are potential oak trees just as zygotes are potential rational animals.

            As far as the (at least conceptual) distinction between the biological and metaphysical species of human, I don't think Aristotle ever explicitly recognized it. But, it's something his metaphysics commits us to.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Steve,

            What's the principled distinction between "having no means to exercise a power, and having obstructed or temporarily inaccessible means to exercise a power," other than that it produces the outcomes that you desire? Why should we treat one case differently than the other? And why "temporarily" inaccessible? Are comatose patients humans? Does it depend upon whether or not the coma is irreversible?

            As for oak trees, that's true if you understand "tree" to refer to the adult form. It's an oak acorn, then an oak sapling, then an oak tree, just as you were a human fetus, then a human infant, then a human man, etc. So if your position is that fetuses and babies aren't adults, we fully agree. But if your position is that fetuses (or fetuses and babies) aren't humans, we don't.

            And you're not just arguing that there's a "conceptual" distinction. Of course there's a conceptual distinction, just as there is a conceptual distinction between chemistry and biology, but that doesn't mean that chemical-me and biological-me are different people, even potentially. The same is true of the relationship between those two and metaphysical-me. The differences are only conceptual, not real.

            Your attempt to make them into real distinctions is what I'm saying is contrary to what Aristotle teaches, and is an unworkable metaphysics.

          • Steven Dillon

            How can the distinction be objected to? A means to an end either exists or it does not. If it does, it's either pursuable or inaccessible. It's just the difference between a road not existing at all and a road existing, but being blockaded or some such.

            The zygote either has the means to sense or it doesn't. If it does, these means can be pursuable or inaccessible. But, if it doesn't have the means, they're just not there. You seem to want to say that zygotes do have the means to sense, they're just not actualized yet, and thus temporarily inaccessible. But, a road that isn't actually there isn't a road, let alone one that's temporarily inaccessible.

            As far as the acorn/zygote analogy, oak trees are substantially different from acorns: trees and nuts have different substantial forms.

            The reason I'm saying the biological and metaphysical species of human are not really identical is because the zygote belongs to one and not the other.

            Even if it's mistaken, it's not a bad reading of Aristotle, it'd just rely on a false premise: nothing has the power to do what it has no way of doing, not even an obstructed or inaccessible way.

  • George

    "On the level of matter they are still identical."

    Are they really though? At ALL levels? Cellular to molecular?

    • Joseph Heschmeyer

      The pieces are the same at first (prior to decomposition), but the arrangement doesn't function properly in the case of the dead.

      Obviously, cause of death makes a difference, but I'm speaking generally.

  • David Nickol

    But the intentional killing of innocent human beings is what the
    philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe calls the “hard core” of the definition
    of murder. So to frame the question slightly differently, to say that
    abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes
    okay, and that (b) abortion falls within this class of exceptions.

    A little googling may be a dangerous thing, but I found this (from the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy) to be of interest:

    Anscombe was a devout Catholic. She opposed abortion, contraception,
    gay sex, and gay marriage. Her view of abortion was not that it was
    murder but that it was either murder or something very nearly as bad as
    murder.
    (Whether it actually is murder depends on whether a fetus is a
    person or has a soul and, if so, at what stage, which Anscombe regarded
    as a technical question of little but academic interest.) It is, she
    believed, the deliberate destruction of the beginning of a human life.

    So Anscombe herself, did not say that abortion was murder.

    Murder isn't Always Wrong

    If there are any cases in which abortion is not wrong, then in those cases it is not murder. It is begging the question to declare abortion murder and then challenge people to argue that murder is not always wrong. Murder is wrong by definition! The question is whether abortion always meets the definition of murder. Even the Catholic Church says no, since it recognizes "indirect" abortion as sometime licit.

    • materetmagistra

      @David Nickol: "The question is whether abortion always meets the definition of murder."

      Define abortion.

      • David Nickol

        Wikipedia gives an adequate definition:

        Abortion is the ending of pregnancy by the removal or forcing out from the womb of a fetus or embryo before it is able to survive on its own. An abortion can occur spontaneously, in which case it is often called a miscarriage. It can also be purposely caused in which case it is known as an induced abortion. The term abortion most commonly refers to the induced abortion of a human pregnancy.

        • materetmagistra

          Well, then I do think it incorrect to claim all abortion is murder, or that the Church is against all abortion.....since the term abortion includes "spontaneous" abortions. In this discussion I think one needs to specify "procured abortion" rather than simply "abortion."

          • David Nickol

            Also, the Church permits indirect abortions, which in some cases are very difficult to distinguish from direct abortions. For example, in the case of ectopic pregnancy, removing the fallopian tube with the embryo in it is considered an indirect abortion.

            In the classic example, removing a cancerous uterus with an embryo inside it is considered an indirect abortion, but removing a noncancerous uterus with an embryo in it (which used to be done to effect abortion plus sterilization) was a direct abortion. The sole difference between the two is the intention.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      Whether or not abortion is a type of murder, it's not true that murder is wrong only by definition. Rather, there is any underlying principle which make both abortion and murder wrong.

    • Joseph Heschmeyer

      Anscombe on Abortion

      You're right that a little googling is a dangerous thing. Contrast that unsourced claim about what Anscombe believed about abortion to what she actually said:

      "More strikingly, people often do not want to know things that are readily available to be known if those things put their own opinions in a bad light. For example, that what is inside a pregnant woman (at least after the first two or three weeks) is undoubtedly a small human being (or more than one). Look at the odd arguments that have been purveyed on this subject. Is a fetus a human being? It's probably not said now, but a dozen years ago you might hear it confidently said that what's there is a jellied lump, an excrescence on part of the mother's body, which can have removed as readily as a wart. That used to be said. Again, Bronowski published a picture of an infant nearing birth, in one of those big picture books he put his name to, which infant, looking like an early fetus, must have surprised anyone bright enough to notice. (His interests were to do with evolution).

      "Favourers of abortion do not want to know what a fetus looks like, that it is active and complete from very early on. It forces itself on nurses' attention that they are helping to destroy for one woman what they are earnestly trying to save for another; but pro-abortionists do not want to know. They invent reasons, which sound like ones belonging to a very special religious position, why someone objects to abortion. 'It is, I suppose', a Polish apartczyk said to me (at a discussion organized by the Polish and British Academies), 'because you think that there is a soul that you speak with hostility of abortion.' I replied that the question whether what was inside a pregnant woman was a small human being was the same sort of question as whether what was inside a pregnant mare was a little horse, or what was inside a pregnant cat was a little kitten. Only at the very earliest stage would there (normally) be any dispute about these two cases; there should be more about the human one. My interlocutor had nothing to say to this; he was obviously taken aback."

      And elsewhere in this same collection of essays:

      "Each nation that has 'liberal' abortion laws has rapidly become, if it was not already, a nation of murderers. There are nearly a million abortions in the United States every year (perhaps more now) and in my own country it is proportionate. I assume that it is about the same in any advanced nation that has embraced abortion."

      So Anscombe was clear that abortion was murder, and simply withheld judgment about whether the unborn child was individuated within the first three weeks of pregnancy (still treating abortion as immoral during that period).

      • David Nickol

        So Anscombe was clear that abortion was murder, and simply withheld judgment about whether the unborn child was individuated within the
        first three weeks of pregnancy (still treating abortion as immoral during that period).

        I think it is clear from what you cite, and what additional reading I have done, that Anscombe unequivocally condemned abortion. As you note, she had doubts about the exact status of the embryo in the very earliest stages of pregnancy, but abortions are not performed until four to six weeks into pregnancy, so whether she would have considered an abortion at two weeks a murder is a moot question.

        I won't argue that she didn't consider abortion murder. The quote you provide about a "nation of murderers" is very suggestive. Still, I would like to see an explanation of why she considered abortion to be murder, and perhaps more importantly, what she had to say about "indirect" abortion. I think it is possible, based on what I have read, that she might have disagreed with Bishop Olmsted's declaration that the "Phoenix abortion" was a direct abortion. I think it is possible that, given her theory of "action," almost any abortion performed to save the life of the mother was an "indirect" abortion. But of course that admittedly is a tiny fraction of the number of abortions performed.

        • Joseph Heschmeyer

          David,

          I appreciate your humility in conceding the point on Anscombe's views on abortion (these views were actually quite well-established, and controversial, during her lifetime, as this eminent philosopher was part of a sit-in at an abortion clinic, and was carted off by the police).

          Regarding the Phoenix abortion case, she would have recognized it as abortion. We know this from her action theory generally, and from a few sets of cases on which she spoke specifically. All of this was raised a couple years ago in a debate over the morality of craniotomies (in which, in order to save a woman's life, the skull of her child is crushed to remove him from her womb), and whether these craniotomies constituted abortion.

          I'd recommend reading pages 96-100 here: it's by Prof. Luke Gormally (Anscombe's former son-in-law, incidentally), and he quotes her extensively and convincingly. Of particular relevance is this remark of hers, from an unpublished manuscript:

          [T]o kill an innocent person is to commit a very great injustice against him, to wrong him gravely. Life is not like property, something one's right to which lapses in face of another's need. To let another person die may sometimes be an injustice to him, if you could do something to save him; to kill him deliberately when he is neither aggressor nor criminal is certainly so; therefore if that is the only way of saving someone else, it is no injustice to that other to let him die, however bitterly he and others may feel about it.

          So directly killing the child to save the mother is immoral, as would be directly killing the mother to save the child.

          • David Nickol

            Suppose, under primitive medical conditions, a woman has been in labor an extremely long time and is in serious danger of dying because the baby's head is too large. The only alternatives to save either (a) the mother but not the baby or (b) the baby but not the mother are (a) a craniotomy, which will kill the baby, or (b) a caesarian delivery (attempted by someone who has never done one before and does not have the proper tools), which will kill the mother.

            One could argue that (as Germain Grisez does) that under these circumstances, there is no intention to kill the baby. In fact, the same exact procedure would be done were the baby already dead. One could argue also (especially if the mother says, "Do whatever is necessary to save my baby, even if it kills me!") that while performing a makeshift, amateur caesarian will certainly kill the woman, the sole intent is to save the life of the baby.

            Is either (a) or (b) licit under the circumstances? It seems to me this hypothetical case (as well as the Phoenix abortion case) require some determination of what intentional killing is. (I know Anscombe's most famous work is Intention, but let's leave her out of this for the moment, if we can.)

            I think many people either explicitly or implicitly conclude that merely touching the unborn baby (say, in the case of craniotomy) makes the killing "direct," no matter what the intention is. But it seems to me that is a very crude way to measure intention.

          • Alexandra

            (c) break the mother's pelvic cartilage and save both mother and baby.

            If option (a) or (b) directly kill the mother or child then it is not permissible.

            Edit to add word and sentence.

          • David Nickol

            If option (a) or (b) directly kill the mother or child then it is not permissible.

            The whole point of the message was to get an opinion as to whether (a) and/or (b) counted as direct or indirect killing.

            If a pregnant woman has her uterus removed, and there is an embryo in it, it is considered an indirect abortion if the uterus is removed because it is cancerous and threatens the life of the mother, but if the uterus is not cancerous and the mother just wants to get rid of the baby and to be sterilized, it is a direct abortion. But the surgeons, physically, are doing exactly the same operation. How can one be direct and the other be indirect?

    • Joseph Heschmeyer

      Anscombe on the Definition of Murder

      I've cited to Anscombe on purpose, because she has a very helpful essay
      ("Prolegomenon to a Pursuit of the Definition of Murder") debunking two common bad definitions of murder: that murder is "wrong killing" and that "murder is a purely juridical notion."

      In your comment, you seem to make both mistakes, "murder is wrong by definition" and that abortion's not murder since the British common law didn't recognize unborn children as people.

      Wrongness isn't part of the definition of murder (even though it's a good moral description of murder), as that would make "murder is wrong" tautological, and would be an extremely unhelpful definition of murder. And if something were murder solely because of its legal status, we would have to say that legalized genocide and war crimes aren't murder.

      • David Nickol

        In your comment, you seem to make both mistakes, "murder is wrong by definition" and that abortion's not murder since the British common law didn't recognize unborn children as people.

        I think in the first instance, you misinterpret Anscombe, and in the second instance, you misinterpret me. In the essay you cite, Anscombe makes a distinction between "unlawful" in the sense of illegal and in the sense of objectively, morally unlawful. She says the following:

        This fiction [that is, a fictitious statute and interpretation she invents] brings out how "unlawful" can be an adjective attaching to wrongs which are wrong independently of the law, and how it then has a moral and normative ring to it and does not sound equivalent to "illegal." Nevertheless, in this use, it still has a connexion with actual human law.

        If all this is right, then we shall not want to stop with a definition of murder as "unlawful killing" or "deliberate unlawful killing" even though we do not positively object to it. We shall want to find that objective concept, i.e., that standard not modifiable by those seeking an answer, by which an act has the character of being a murder. That is a standard which has been partially formulated precisely by attempts to capture it in laws will not surprise us either."

        First, I would note that what I said—murder is wrong by definition—is not the same as saying, "The definition of murder is 'wrongful killing'." The problem with that definition is not that it is false—murder is wrongful killing—but that it is inadequate and incomplete. All murder is wrongful killing, but not all wrongful killing is murder.

        As I read Anscombe, one problem she has with the definition of murder as wrongful killing is that it is then possible to make an argument that the murder you have committed is not wrongful, and consequently it was not murder. Again, the definition of murder as wrongful killing is not false, it is incomplete and inadequate. Murder is wrong by definition not because the definition of murder is "wrongful killing," but because murder is an intrinsic evil and is always wrong. I think it is safe to say that one thing virtually every moral philosopher agrees on is that murder is morally wrong. Consequently, to include in one of your four possibilities that "murder is okay" makes no logical sense. Murder can never be okay.

        In the second instance, when I argue that our legal system and its British antecedents have never classified abortion as murder, I am making a purely factual observation. I am not arguing that, if Catholicism is true, British and American law keep abortion from being murder. What I am trying to counter is the scare tactics and slippery slope arguments that if personhood is not construed to begin at conception, we are on a slippery slope where soon the old, the infirm, and the disabled will likewise be considered nonpersons. My point is that if there is a slippery slope in not recognizing zygotes as persons, we have been on that slippery slope for centuries, and we have not slid down that slope. If the argument is, "If the unborn don't have a right to life, then nobody's right to life is safe," that didn't begin with Roe v Wade. It has always been the case. It is not as though the idea that natural personhood begins at birth is a new idea cooked up by those who want to promote abortion. That is the way natural personhood has always been construed in our legal system. And I would argue, that not only have we not plummeted down a slipper slope. The rights of the disabled have never been a subject of more concern than they are today.

        The impression one often gets from reading pro-life advocates is that somehow the promoters of abortion have somehow managed to revise the legal notion of personhood, legalizing abortion by changing the definition of personhood. But the legal definition of personhood has not change in hundreds of years. What would be a revolutionary change with unpredictable outcome is if the law were changed (as Brandon advocates) to define personhood as beginning at conception. That would upset hundreds of years of jurisprudence.

  • SattaMassagana

    I don't understand the anima.. Generally, cells cease metabolism because they no longer receive nutrients and oxygen. Kreeft says "Life is breath", I agree, respiration is a vital part of cellular function. What am I missing?

    • Ignatius Reilly

      It is best not to take what Kreeft says too seriously.

      • David Nickol

        The best explanation was given by Aristotle, who said that the soul of a basketball is a sphere. When the basketball dies, the sphere goes to heaven.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          Over the winter, my basketball became deflated. This is the same as death, for it lost its soul the sphere. I pumped air into the basketball and it became a sphere again. It was a resurrection.

        • "The best explanation was given by Aristotle, who said that the soul of a basketball is a sphere. When the basketball dies, the sphere goes to heaven."

          Sarcastic or not, this is a crude twisting of Aristotle's theory of the forms. He of course said nothing like this.

          • David Nickol

            Sarcastic or not . . .

            Not sarcasm! It was a small joke meant to tweak YOS, if he is around.

            I think SN readers are smart enough to figure out that Aristotle didn't use the basketball as an example of anything, don't you???

          • Papalinton

            I know. Because there were no basketballs in Aristotle's time.
            It may sound a crude twisting to you, but the example is precisely analogical to the Catholic understanding of soul, and is perfectly logical.

            And that is the great irony of Catholic thought on this matter. Ensoulment is an exclusively theological conception that has absolutely no transfer value outside the boundary of religious conjurations.

  • David Nickol

    In contrast, Steven's inquiry imagines that you can have an animated
    human being, growing and developing in the womb of her mother, and that at some point, a soul suddenly enters her body. Not so. If you've got a living human, you've got an ensouled human.

    As far as I know, this is not an official teaching of the Church. There are some statements that come very close to assuming ensoulment takes place at conception, but there is no definitive statement to that effect.

    This principle of animation, separating the living from the dead, is what we call the anima or the soul. It's the organizational principle of the body, the body's “form.” And this is true whether we're talking about humans, or (to use Kreeft's example) cows, or ferns.

    Here we go again. Can a principle leave the body and await the general resurrection?

    • Kevin Aldrich

      This use of principle is quite different from say an idea like the principle of fairness. The soul as he his presenting it is an actual substance, whereas an idea like fairness only exists in a mind. (Unless Plato was right.)

      • David Nickol

        This use of principle is quite different from say an idea like the principle of fairness.

        But plants and animals have souls, and they are not "actual substances," are they? So there seem to be two kinds of principles when it comes to souls (according to Aquinas, but not according to Aristotle).

        • Kevin Aldrich

          The life or anima of every living thing is an individual substance. A vegetative substance in plants, a vegetative and sensitive substance in animals, and a vegetative, sensitive, and rational substance in man. It is because of the kind of substance that the rational soul is that it is posited to survive death.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      There are some statements that come very close to assuming ensoulment takes place at conception, but there is no definitive statement to that effect.

      Fr. Tad Pacholczyk from the National Catholic Bioethics Center is an expert on this issue, and I read one article where he agrees with you that there is no dogmatic belief on when ensoulment occurs.
      http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/science/ethical-issues/do-embryos-have-souls.html

      That being said, the moral teaching of the Church is that the human embryo must be treated as if it were already ensouled, even if it might not yet be so. It must be treated as if it were a person from the moment of conception, even if there exists the theoretical possibility that it might not yet be so.

  • David Nickol

    I found this kind of language jarring:

    So to frame the question slightly differently, to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay, and that (b) abortion falls within this class of exceptions.

    What in the world does it mean to say that murder, or abortion, or anything is okay?

    Now that I am an expert on Elizabeth Anscombe, I'd like to point out something the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy said about her.

    What Anscombe objects to is a secular use of religious concepts (not mere words). There is a religious tradition according to which certain kinds of action are commanded and others are forbidden by God. Within this tradition, the human race has an historical relationship with God, in which various promises have been made, covenants agreed to, and so on. It makes sense, therefore, to talk within this tradition of being bound or obliged to do this or that. It makes no sense, however, to think that one is equally bound in just the same way if this tradition is rejected or bracketed, set aside, for philosophical purposes. It is at best misleading, therefore, if anyone means to do philosophy in a religiously non-committal way but still asks what acts are forbidden, sinful, permissible, and so on. One problem with such language is that it seems to imply the very religious framework that is explicitly disavowed by the philosophers in question who use it.

    Another is that it is so imprecise. For instance, if an atheist philosopher argues that abortion is permissible not only are we likely to be thrown by her religious-sounding choice of words, but we also do not know whether by permissible she means just, or likely to promote utility, or rational, or what. Anscombe’s argument is that such philosophers ought instead to use words such as just. This way we will have a much better idea what is being said. Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous defense of abortion,for example, makes clear that she is talking about the justice of abortion, whether it violates the rights of the fetus, not whether it is callous or indecent, say. This is the kind of clarification that Anscombe recommends.

    So maybe we ought to discuss whether abortion is just (not okay).

    • Kevin Aldrich

      I think you are quibbling. It is obvious he means morally permissible.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I think Anscombe is also in favor of doing away with terms like morally permissible.

        • Joseph Heschmeyer

          Sort of!

          I'd highly recommend her essay "Modern Moral Philosophy," in which she shows that none of the modern philosophers are able to articulate a coherent account of moral philosophy (or even able to explain what they mean by "morality" in the first place).It's a devastating critique.

          One relevant part is right here:

          "To have a law conception of ethics is to hold that what is needed for conformity with the virtues failure in which is the mark of being bad qua man (and not merely, say, qua craftsman or logician)--that what is needed for this, is required by divine law. Naturally it is not possible to have such a conception unless you believe in God as a law‑giver; like Jews, Stoics, and Christians. But if such a conception is dominant for many centuries, and then is given up, it is a natural result that the concepts of "obligation,” of being bound or required as by a law, should remain though they had lost their root; and if the word "ought" has become invested in certain contexts with the sense of "obligation," it too will remain to be spoken with a special emphasis and special feeling in these contexts. [....]

          "I should judge that Hume and our present‑day ethicists had done a considerable service by showing that no content could be found in the notion "morally ought"; if it were not that the latter philosophers try to find an alternative (very fishy) content and to retain the psychological force of the term. It would be most reasonable to drop it. It has no reasonable sense outside a law conception of ethics; they are not going to maintain such a conception; and you can do ethics without it, as is shown by the example of Aristotle. It would be a great improvement if, instead of "morally wrong," one always named a genus such as "untruthful," "unchaste," "unjust." We should no longer ask whether doing something was "wrong," passing directly from some description of an action to this notion; we should ask whether, e.g., it was unjust; and the answer would sometimes be clear at once."

          In other words, the language of moral obligation, including the "moral ought," derives from a theory of ethics tied to belief in a Divine Lawgiver. Without such a Lawgiver, it's not clear what (if anything) is meant by saying that something is a "moral obligation." It's emotionally-charged language with no clear underlying content. She describes it analogously this way:

          "It is as if the notion "criminal" were to remain when criminal law and criminal courts had been abolished and forgotten. A Hume discovering this situation might conclude that there was a special sentiment, expressed by "criminal," which alone gave the word its sense."

          This essay makes more sense if you're aware of Peter Geach's essay On Good and Evil from two years prior. (Geach was Anscombe's husband).

          Anscombe's essay actually points to a unique angle with the question I've been asking (about whether or not atheists can know that murder is always wrong). If we say that we are morally obligated not to murder one another, what does that mean?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In other words, the language of moral obligation, including the "moral ought," derives from a theory of ethics tied to belief in a Divine Lawgiver. Without such a Lawgiver, it's not clear what (if anything) is meant by saying that something is a "moral obligation." It's emotionally-charged language with no clear underlying content.

            Why are we obligated to obey a Divine Lawgiver?

            Are Divine laws good because God commands them or does God command good things?

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            Are Divine laws good because God commands them or does God command good things?

            This is Euthyphro's dilemma. The solution is that goodness is God's nature. So God commands X because He's Good. But we're pretty far afield from the original topic at this point.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            This is Euthyphro's dilemma. The solution is that goodness is God's nature. So God commands X because He's Good. But we're pretty far afield from the original topic at this point.

            That is not a solution unless we talk about what it means to be good. That is how most interesting conversations work. One follows the conversation where it leads instead of asserting the same tired arguments back and forth.

            To a certain extent, we are not very far afield. Any moral question that we consider (such as abortion) will quickly lead to questions on the nature of morality itself. You believe that biological human beings and metaphysical human beings are one and the same category. I believe that having the potential for rationality and possessing rationality is an important distinction. The only way to decide who is right is to do some background philosophizing.

            I do not have a completely thought out life philosophy. My main philosophical contention is that the Catholicism that I left is false, and that an Omni-Max God cannot exist. I like certain ideas from different thinkers, but I have not yet and probably never will cobble it all together into one final piece. I prefer a sort of natural law ethic, but if pushed back hard enough, I will probably take recourse in utilitarianism.

            You seem to think that laws are given by a law giver. It would seem that in this case, acting morally is dependent on actually knowing what the divine laws are. How do we discover that the Divine Lawgiver wants us to protect fetuses?

            Finally, I asked this earlier, but why should we obey the Divine Lawgiver?

          • Papalinton

            ....in which she shows that none of the modern philosophers are able to articulate a coherent account of moral philosophy (or even able to explain what they mean by "morality" in the first place)."

            Through her highly and peculiarly catholicized lens, I think it would be fair to say most Catholic philosophical apologists, vis-a-vis Anscombe, would articulate that perspective. But modern philosophers have gone well beyond Anscombe's position and Thomistic philosophy is more of a boutique interest in the wider and broader contemporary philosophical sphere.

          • Joseph Heschmeyer

            "Highly and peculiarly catholicized lens," seriously?Anscombe was Wittgenstein's greatest student, and he named her as one of his three literary executors. She's the main reason that we have Wittgenstein's works in English, since she was the original translator, editor, and publisher.

            She was a Fellow at Oxford, a professor of philosophy at Cambridge, a member of the Socratic Club (where she debated against C.S. Lewis on one of his arguments for miracles, a debate that seems to have lead him to abandon apologetics for works like The Chronicles of Narnia), and one of the chief influences on Phillippa Foot and Alasdair Macintyre (both of whom, like Wittgenstein, were atheists, although Macintyre eventually converted). Her work on both analytical philosophy and action theory changed the world of philosophy, as did the essay that we're talking about, Modern Moral Philosophy.

            In this essay, she's showing the shortcomings of the positions held by Joseph Butler, David Hume, Immanuel Kant, Jeremy Bentham, John Stuart Mill, Henry Sidgwick, and a score of other modern philosophers who go unnamed. The essay made a huge splash: for example, if you've ever heard these positions described as "consequentialists," you can thank this essay, because she coined that term. And the essay more or less single-handedly led to a revival of what we now call "Virtue Ethics."

            But sure, write off her views as so peculiarly Catholic, that they belong in some boutique Thomistic corner to which nobody needs to pay attention.

          • Papalinton

            I don't understand why you found it necessary to trot out all this known stuff?

            So what are you telling me? That Anscombe's 'virtue ethics' is synonymous with 'Catholic ethics". And that her view is going to take over the world of philosophy?

            As I understand it 'virtue ethics' is but one of three major approaches in normative ethics, the other two focussing duties or rules (deontology), and the consequences of actions (consequentialism). Virtue ethics is hardly a new conception having been toyed with by Plato and Aristotle, and more's the point half a millennia even before Christianity was a twinkle in dissident Jesus's eye.

            To me virtue ethics, helping people develop good character traits, is a truism. Hardly a ground-breaking idea.

            I think her views would have resulted anyway because she was a smart cookie. And they would have resulted equally, had she been a Mormon. Ironically, the deontologists are still here in the world of philosophy and kicking strongly as are the consequentialists. If anything, 'Anscombe's 'virtue ethics' probably stirred up the other two into action, to begin to address some of the unanswered questions Anscombe raised that had been left hanging. So I am not sure what you are attempting to prove in this thread other than to catholicise the concept of 'virtue ethics', for Strange Notions is after all a Catholic site, and look to authority as a justification of its claims.

            What we do know of Anscombe is that: 'She was also known for her willingness to face fierce public controversy in the name of her Catholic faith. In 1956, while a research fellow at Oxford University, she protested against Oxford's decision to grant an honorary degree to Harry S. Truman, whom she denounced as a mass murderer for his use of atomic bombs at Hiroshima and Nagasaki." Wiki

            I don't remember too many Catholics objecting to those consequential events of WW2. So I guess, 'virtue ethics' is in the eye of the beholder.

      • David Nickol

        It is obvious he means morally permissible.

        Did you notice this part of the quote?

        For instance, if an atheist philosopher argues that abortion is permissible not only are we likely to be thrown by her
        religious-sounding choice of words, but we also do not know whether by permissible she means just, or likely to promote utility, or rational, or what.

        I think you are quibbling.

        Actually, I was trying to say, in a relatively nice way, that the use of okay in a serious, religious and/or philosophical argument is far too colloquial and vague. Suppose an act is the lesser of two evils. Would we call it "okay"? Is a just war "okay"? Is killing in self-defense "okay"?

  • Kevin Aldrich

    I think this is a great little series for SN because an actual dialogue is taking place between the two authors.

  • William Davis

    So whatever distinguishes them, whatever separates living things from dead ones, can't be amaterial difference... even though we can observe its effects on a material level.

    If there isn't a material difference between the living and the dead, why don't people just give up the ghost and die? It never happens that way, there is ALWAYS a material cause, always. When deprived of nutrients, the cells destroy their own internal structure in a process called necrosis.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Necrosis

  • Ladolcevipera

    A fetus has the inalienable right to live and grow because from the moment of its conception it has the dignity of the human person, whether it will be handicapped or not. Parents and communities have the duty to shelter and protect unborn life. But sometimes we have to make heartbreaking decisions on behalf of someone who cannot decide for themselves. Consider f.i. the case of a baby that will be born without a brain, or will suffer excruciating pain; or the case of a pregnancy as the result of rape. We will always have to consider what is the lesser evil. In the case of the baby I think the pregnancy should be terminated. In the case of rape the girl/woman should get all the support that can be given to her, but if she cannot cope mentally or physically, in that case also the pregnancy should be terminated. Such decisions are never taken lightly and we bear the full moral responsibility for them. For Christians it will be before God, for atheists before our own conscience. And YES, we can be moral without God. We may have acted conscientiously, but the pain will always be there.

    • Ignatius Reilly

      A fetus has the inalienable right to live and grow because from the moment of its conception it has the dignity of the human person, whether it will be handicapped or not.

      What about embryos?

      • Ladolcevipera

        I really don't know yet what to think. Superfluous embryo's are used for research that can save lifes. The ethical commission agrees under strict conditions.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          I generally agree with the spirit of your post. I do also agree that in the best of all worlds, a fetus would be allowed to thrive and grow into a metaphysical human being, but I think the mothers right to autonomy certainly trumps any right the fetus may have, especially in the first trimester.

          • Ladolcevipera

            The autonomy of the mother is not absolute. It is restricted by another human being's right to live.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            That is the question at hand. One can very reasonably hold that the autonomy of the mother is absolute.

          • "One can very reasonably hold that the autonomy of the mother is absolute."

            Then why not the absolute autonomy of a mother over her infant son? What if she decides that nursing and caring for her son infringes on her autonomy and decides to just abandon him in a dumpster. Is that morally permissible?

            If not, why is her act immoral while that of the mother who aborts her child is acceptable?

          • David Nickol

            There are many ways a woman may reasonably and easily unburden herself of caring for an infant son if she decides she does not want him.

            If not, why is her act immoral while that of the mother who aborts her child is acceptable?

            Do you believe—and do any people on SN who consider themselves pro-life believe—that a woman who has an abortion should be treated, by the law, the same way as a woman who abandons her child to die in a dumpster? That is, should women who procure abortions be legally charged with infanticide? Why or why not?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The fetus lives inside the mother. It is completely dependent on the mother. If the mother dies, the fetus would die as well.
            Infants are no longer completely reliant on a single person for life. There are many other people who could care for that infant.

          • Ladolcevipera

            Well, I absolutely disagree with you. I think our autonomy is limited by the responsibility we have for someone much weaker than we are.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Do you think people who believe otherwise are being reasonable?

          • Ladolcevipera

            I am not sure how to interpret "otherwise". Do you mean people who do not agree with me on the question of autonomy, or people who have different ideas in general?

          • Michael Murray

            I assume he means people who disagree with you on this question. There are women who would hold that until the umbilical cord is cut they have 100% autonomy over something which is a part of their body. Do you think that is reasonable ?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            People who think that all abortions are moral, people who think that early term abortions are always moral, etc
            I don't mean in the sense that their positions are coherent, but in the sense that their premises are reasonable.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I am reluctant to use the term "reasonable" in this discussion. People who think that all abortions are always moral, etc. will of course claim that they are very "reasonable" because they have arguments to defend that position and so they do. Since I have a different set of values, I would have to call them "unreasonable" because their premises and mine are totally different with respect to the content. I would rather use the concept morally right or wrong.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Why do otherwise smart people disagree with you then? These smart people consider themselves to be morally right on abortion, while you are morally wrong by violating the rights of the mother in a most egregious fashion.
            Where I am trying to go with this is: how should we govern, given the numerous moral interpretations of this issue?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Ignatius and Michael: In the context of logic they are perfectly reasonable. They respect the principle of non-contradiction and the argument is valid (but not true): "Women have 100% autonomy over their body. I am a woman. Therefore I have 100% autonomy over my body". But are they also necessarily right? In the context of ethics, I do not think so. In ethics the ultimate criterion should be: What does an act do to us as human beings? In the case of abortion we have two lifes of equal value and we annihilate one of them. If this is because this new life is inconvenient, the act is immoral.

          • Michael Murray

            I've never been pregnant but I have raised two boys to adulthood. A child changes your life completely. To suggest people decide to terminate a pregnancy because they regard having a child as an "inconvenience" is I think to totally miss the point.

          • Ladolcevipera

            You would be surprised why some people have an abortion. I know several women who had an abortion: one of them because she had not enough room to accomodate another child (in their not so small home), another because she had planned a holiday... I call that immoral. There are of course other, very serious reasons why women have an abortion. That is a totally different situation.

          • Michael Murray

            Some women just get totally rubbish advice and education. This is in the developed country with a high quality health system,

            http://www.mariestopes.org.uk/news/comment-some-women-have-more-one-abortion-–-why-we-should-listen-them-not-blame-them

          • Ladolcevipera

            So you agree that, after all, there cannot be 100% autonomy for girls/women because they sometimes are not in a position to consider other options? I think a proper sexual education from early age on (and embedded in a value system) is of paramount importance to avoid "accidents". But "accidents" will happen anyway. I think the ethical commission should advise whether or not a woman can have an abortion or whether other solutions should be considered and provided.
            And BTW what if the father does not want the abortion? Doesn't he have a say in the matter? Doesn't he limit the woman's autonomy?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Can one reasonably hold that a fetus is not a life of equal value to the mothers?

          • Ladolcevipera

            A fetus life is of equal value to the mother's. In case of a conflict between these two lifes there is however a criterion in favour of the life of the mother. Humans are social beings and we are connected in numerous ways with other people. We all have our social role as parents/child/brother or sister/citizen/employee etc. A fetus has the possibility to fulfil its social role; the mother is actually fulfilling it. So in case of a moral dilemma I think the mother's life takes priority over the fetus.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Do you think abortion should be illegal or do you think everyone should make be allowed to follow their own conscience on this issue?
            I think your position is very reasonable. I also think that the pro-choice position is also very reasonable. So how do we govern?

          • Ladolcevipera

            A fetus is a growing person and as such it is a member of a given society. What happens to it concerns the society as a whole, i.e. it concerns the res publica, not only the individual conscience. In democratic states the majority decides which laws will be adopted. We do that by entering in debate with our opponents about matters that concern us all. In doing so we are able to finetune our ethical standards and explain our motives and reasons. If the majority votes in favour of abortion, so be it. But nobody can ever be forced to have an abortion.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            But what if the majority is tyrannizing the minority? What if the majority decides to outlaw free speech or legalize slavery?

          • Ladolcevipera

            Then we are indeed facing the paradox of democracy. What if the majority decides to do away with democracy? It is the problem of procedural vs sustantial democracy. Not only numbers count, but also the content. And then we need an ethical criterium to decide what is right or wrong. So in the end it is a question of debate and of finetuning our ethical intuition. The most important things are also the most vulnerable...

          • William Davis

            If I put myself in place of the fetus, I would definitely value my mother's life over my own. One reason is because she is an already existing person who has relationships, including one with my father. If she died, it would harm my father more than my death would. The second reason is that the existence of my mother is required for my two younger sisters to exist. I would gladly give up my fetal life in exchange for the continued existence of my mother and two sisters.

            One case for me where abortion would have be the obvious correct move is this case of a 10 year old rape victim in Paraguay.

            http://nypost.com/2015/05/12/fierce-debate-after-paraguay-denies-abortion-to-10-year-old-rape-victim/

            I'm generally pretty pro-life, because of a strong instinct to protect children. Abortion in this case is nothing short of protecting a living child over a fetus. I think the Catholic position here is completely outrageous and quite wrong, even immoral. If I were the actual father (not the rapist piece of garbage step father) I'd be ready to go to war with your Church for interfering with my ability and right to protect my daughter.
            Luckily this position will never have a chance here in the U.S. We're smarter than that :)

          • Ladolcevipera

            I think you may have missed something here. I have always said that in some cases abortion is an option (although for me it is the lesser of two evils). That is the case when there is a conflict between the life of a mother and a fetus/child. The mother comes first. It is certainly the case with rape .
            I do not agree with the Catholic position on many issues, but I respect the Church in many other ways although I am an (open minded) atheist. So please do not patronise me by referring to the Church as "your Church".

          • William Davis

            My mistake. I noticed more of your comments afterward, I should have said something. I apologize.

          • George

            Could that also be the case with adult humans who are sick? Can the state or the pope or anybody demand that I give up a kidney for a person in need of one?

          • Ladolcevipera

            There is a difference between a fetus and a sick person. A fetus is totally dependent upon the mother; a person in need of a kidney(or any other lifesaving organs) is a shared responsibility. It is not up to the state (or the pope) to demand that a person give up an organ during his lifetime. The principle of solidarity on the other hand is very strongly emphasised and we are expected to be potential donors after our death, unless we explicitly object in a written statement). It is a small price to pay in exchange for the excellent social security we have.

    • David Nickol

      A fetus has the inalienable right to live and grow because from the
      moment of its conception it has the dignity of the human person, whether
      it will be handicapped or not.

      What is meant by "it has the dignity of a human person"? Does this mean it is a human person? If so, why not say that? If not, how do you know whether one human person has dignity and another doesn't? What is dignity, anyway? I am not sure it has any significant meaning.

      • Ladolcevipera

        "Human Dignity" is the concept we use in moral philosophy to express the idea that a person (i.e. any person, including a fetus) has an innate right to be valued, respected and to be treated in an ethical way.
        The Preamble of the The Charter of the United Nations also refers to "the dignity and the worth of the human person" - as countless philosophers did long before the U.N.

        • Michael Murray

          So basically you are saying that a fetus has the inalienable right to live and grown because from the moment of conception it has the inalienable right to live and grow ?

          • "So basically you are saying that a fetus has the inalienable right to live and grown because from the moment of conception it has the inalienable right to live and grow ?"

            How you arrived at this misunderstanding is beyond me. David asked what is meant by "Human Dignity" and Ladolce provided a definition while citing a respected source (the UN) which operated with the same understanding. Ladolce didn't attempt to defend the definition, only to provide it as requested.

            But if you're genuinely interested, the Christian worldview provides a coherent reason why humans of all sizes and level of development have innate dignity: because they were created in the image of God and thus carry the divine spark. As Thomas Jefferson affirmed in the Constitution: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights." The first self-evident truth is grounded in the second. We have inalienable rights because our Creator endowed them to us.

            But while Christianity coherently accounts for things we all agree on, like inalienable rights, atheism provides no good ground for them. To understand why, I recommend this article by Fr. Barron:

            http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/article/why-it-matters-that-our-democracy-trusts-in-god/407/

          • David Nickol

            As Thomas Jefferson affirmed in the Constitution: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal and that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights."

            Declaration of Independence!

            Didn't Jefferson own slaves, by the way?

          • Michael Murray

            Because the argument is essentially circular.

            A fetus has the inalienable right to live and grow because from the moment of its conception it has the dignity of the human person,

            and

            "Human Dignity" is the concept we use in moral philosophy to express the idea that a person (i.e. any person, including a fetus) has an innate right to be valued, respected and to be treated in an ethical way.

            Now put them together

            A fetus has the inalienable right to live and grow because from the moment of its conception it has the dignity of the human person
            innate right to be valued, respected and to be treated in an ethical way.

          • Ladolcevipera

            You make it sound like the fallacy of the petitio principii. I said that a fetus has the right to live because it is a human being and you do not kill human beings.

          • Michael Murray

            No you didn't. You said it had "the dignity of a human person". When asked what that meant you gave a reply that was essentially that it meant having the right to live.

            In any case you fail, as these Catholic arguments so often do, to address the dignity of the other person. You know the woman you have handcuffed to the bed to make sure she bears her husbands baby.

          • Ladolcevipera

            I am not a catholic. In fact I am an a-theist, but I firmly believe in the concept of human dignity and in a dignified life for everyone. The case of the "handcuffed woman" is rape.

          • Michael Murray

            It seems I was taking my irritation out on the wrong person then. My apologies.

            But how do you balance in your belief in the concept of human dignity the right of the woman to bodily autonomy ?

          • Ladolcevipera

            A woman's body is her own, but she can share it, and so can a man. In the case of making love, it is exactly what it is (or should be): love. You should never be forced and with love there is always trust and loyalty involved, and responsibility. A pregnant woman shares her body with a fetus/baby. In my view BOTH parents share the responsibility. I know of course that we do not live in an ideal world, but we can always try to make it better, especially for all the women who have to fight for every inch on their way to autonomy.
            BTW: where are the women in this discussion??

          • Michael Murray

            So when a woman says she wants to have a termination of her pregnancy, say in the first trimester, your reaction to this is ?

          • Ladolcevipera

            It depends on the circumstances. Unless it is rape, my reaction is that she AND the father should face their responsibility and accept the child. Otherwise they should have taken precautions. In the case of rape the woman should get all possible material and psychological support. If she cannot cope with the situation there is the possibility of adoption. The last resort is abortion as the lesser of two evils. But the trauma will not go way.

          • Michael Murray

            Quite a lot of women who have abortions have used contraception. It isn't always effective.

            http://mariestopes.org/media/research-reveals-more-half-young-women-who-have-abortions-were-using-contraception-when-they

            So do you think the laws should be adjusted to reflect your beliefs ? Should abortion (except possibly in cases of rape or abuse) be illegal ?

          • Ladolcevipera

            That is indeed very inconvenient, but it is not because a human being is inconvenient that you simply make it disappear.
            As to the second question: I do not put myself above the law. We live in a democracy and I accept that other people have other opinions. I believe that abortion is morally wrong (except etc..) and I'll live by that rule.

          • George

            And what if they feel no trauma over it ?

          • Ladolcevipera

            No trauma, so no problem? I think that in that case there is something wrong with their conscience or they are repressing the trauma.

          • Ladolcevipera

            My answer seems to have vanished into thin air?

  • GCBill

    "I'm actually doing no such thing: I mean human in the same sense in both (1) and (2), and reject the whole idea of humans who are biological-but-not-metaphysical (or vice versa)."

    To reject "the whole idea" of B-not-M humans, you must espouse special creation in the case of H. sapiens. Do you?

    "This can be shown easily enough, quite apart from Scripture or even philosophy. Simply envision two identical twins, one of whom suddenly dies. On the level of the matter, they are still identical. The same particles are swirling around, as before, and the dead twin has the same body that existed while he was alive, moments ago."

    Even absent souls, I think a distinction between token- and type-identity is enough to prevent the conclusion that identical twins are "the same." It has the added bonus of working for inanimate objects too (materially-identical chairs, bowling balls, etc.).

  • Kraker Jak

    So if the question of abortion boils down to a philosophical inquiry
    into whether or not the fetus has a human soul, very well: he does. But
    this still leaves me with my original question: does the question of abortion, or murder more broadly, boil down to whether or not the victim is ensouled? If so, where does that leave atheists?

    Clear as mud considering the following. Does one commit murder if the living human tissue zygote or embryo removed is not ensouled?

    While it is true that the Church teaches that the intentional and direct destruction of human embryos is always immoral, it would be incorrect to conclude that the Church teaches that zygotes (a single-cell embryo) or other early-stage embryos are persons, or that they already have immortal, rational souls. The magisterium of the Church has never definitively stated when the ensoulment of the human embryo takes place. It remains an open question.
    http://www.catholiceducation.org/en/science/ethical-issues/do-embryos-have-souls.html

  • Greg Schaefer

    Joe.

    You assert that "to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay." As a former lawyer, Joe, you know better than this. Tiresome, inflammatory rhetoric plays well with culture warriors, but is tedious in what is supposed to be a serious, responsible debate among grown-ups.

    As David Nickol has repeatedly pointed out in many of his astute comments on abortion threads over the past couple years at SN, this is little more than playing games with the English language and legal notions of crime.

    The point, of course, is that "murder," by definition, constitutes a form of killing that the people through their elected representatives have deemed to be wrong and thus punishable by the state, for the protection of other citizens.

    The real issue is whether abortion, which represents the termination of a human life while in utero, is a form of killing that the society is prepared to accept or not, and if so, under what set of circumstances and conditions.

    This requires the balancing of the rights and interests of (i) women, in particular, to bodily autonomy and the "right" to determine the paths of their own lives and their families, with (ii) the interest a fetus presumably has in continuing development in utero and being born, and (iii) with the larger (but more abstract) interests that all citizens of the society have in being able to chart the path of their own lives, to seek self-fulfillment and flourishing in ways important to them, their rights to privacy, and their interests in not having other citizens (or the government) impose on them forms of religious, moral or ethical views they don't accept themselves.

    Some, of course, privilege and prioritize the interest of the fetus to being born above all other competing interests of women who become pregnant and other members of society with a less direct stake in the outcome of any given pregnancy. They may have religiously-based or other moral or ethical reasons for arriving at that conclusion.

    But others, equally obviously, privilege and prioritize the rights and interests of pregnant women and other members of society with a less direct stake in the outcome of any given pregnancy over the presumed interest of the fetus in its continued development over the course of nine months in its mother's body and eventual birth. These others can include religious believers but also many non-religious believers who simply bring other moral and ethical considerations into play in arriving at their conclusion.

    I'd point out, to the devout Catholics and other religious believers on this site who believe that abortion is wrong, based on the dogmas or doctrines of the institutional religions to which they belong or for other personal moral or ethical reasons, that the Sixth Commandment is more properly framed in terms of "murder" not "killing," as had to be the case, with all the biblically-sanctioned killing that suffuse the pages of the Bible, particularly in so many of the books of the Old Testament. While there have been some religious traditions that are more pacifistic and generally abhorrent of killing (e.g., the Quakers?), that certainly has hardly been the case historically for most branches of Christianity and islam.

    In the US, it is clearly not the case that there is any abstract "right to life" possessed by all individual human beings.

    (1) The US has almost perpetually been engaged in war continuously over the past 100 years, and we all understand that there will be many innocent lives lost as a result of the wars we fight and others in which we support one side, tacitly and frequently with materiel support.

    (2) Every state in the US that I'm aware of permits the killing of others in self-defense, although the circumstances that define and circumscribe when killing is deemed justifiable in self-defense of course vary.

    (3) The federal government in the US and 32 states currently authorize the death penalty for specified crimes, and the US is the leader among so-called westernized countries in the numbers of people we put to death officially at the hands of the state.

    (4) I believe it is commonly accepted that lower speeding limits on our highways and major municipal thoroughfares would result in fewer deaths in vehicular accidents. We kill tens of thousands of people every year in the US through motor vehicle accidents. The competing interests here only are interests of convenience (most people prefer to drive faster, so as to minimize their time on the road) and commercial interests in having fewer people spending less productive time caught in traffic if slower speed limits were imposed, on the one hand, versus the actual, demonstrable loss of many innocent lives directly attributable to having existing higher speed limits. If we truly valued all human life as highly as some in the abortion debate appear to proclaim, then why don't we see mass movements by these same people advocating as vociferously for drastic reductions in our interstate, highway, and major municipal thoroughfare speed limits?

    I could go on to multiply many ways in which commercial interests (not to mention many political conservatives who profess to be so strongly committed to the sanctity and absolute value of every human life) in the US value perceived efficiency and economy and "freedom" over the value of individual human life, but I think the point is clear: we simply don't, as a society, absolutely value every individual human life, whether in utero or post-birth.

    So, it makes little sense to speak of a fetus in utero as having greater, indeed some purported absolute "right to life" that we don't extend to life at later stages of life after birth.

    That is not to say that there is no debate to be held here. Of course there is.

    But, it would seem pretty obvious that trying to impose abortion laws that are driven by religious beliefs in a society as diverse and pluralistic as is the US of 2015 is a non-starter for the majority of the citizens who reject the specific doctrinal beliefs and teachings of any specific religion. (The Pew poll released last week shows none of the broad groupings as representing more than 26% of the population (so-called Evangelical Protestants), with self-identifying Catholics down to about 20%, lower even than self-identifying "nones.")

    Rather, you have to seek to engage people and persuade them as to why the moral or ethical views that you rely upon in concluding that abortion should be outlawed or drastically restricted should lead others to change their calculus and prioritize the presumed interest of the fetus in being born over the rights and interests of independent, autonomous, fully self-realized adult human beings to make such profound decisions as when to have children and how many to have.

    • You assert that "to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay." As a former lawyer, Joe, you know better than this. Tiresome, inflammatory rhetoric plays well with culture warriors, but is tedious in what is supposed to be a serious, responsible debate among grown-ups...

      The point, of course, is that "murder," by definition, constitutes a form of killing that the people through their elected representatives have deemed to be wrong and thus punishable by the state, for the protection of other citizens."

      Murder, defined as the intentional killing of innocent human beings, is not wrong simply because elected representatives have deemed it to be wrong.

      What's at stake is whether abortion meets this definition. Nobody denies that abortion is intentional (it's a willful act) or that fetuses are innocent (I assume you would agree they have committed no evil or crime.) It's also clear that abortion involves killing since it directly terminates the life of a fetus.

      So the only relevant question is whether the fetus is a human being. If so, as Joe has persuasively argued in his articles, then the act of abortion should be outlawed as an act of murder. If the fetus is not a human being, as Steven has suggested (at least in a metaphysical sense), then it does not constitute murder.

      (1) The US has almost perpetually been engaged in war continuously over the past 100 years, and we all understand that there will be many innocent lives lost as a result of the wars we fight and others in which we support one side, tacitly and frequently with materiel support.

      (2) Every state in the US that I'm aware of permits the killing of others in self-defense, although the circumstances that define and circumscribe when killing is deemed justifiable in self-defense of course vary.

      (3) The federal government in the US and 32 states currently authorize the death penalty for specified crimes, and the US is the leader among so-called westernized countries in the numbers of people we put to death officially at the hands of the state.

      (4) I believe it is commonly accepted that lower speeding limits on our highways and major municipal thoroughfares would result in fewer deaths in vehicular accidents. We kill tens of thousands of people every year in the US through motor vehicle accidents. The competing interests here only are interests of convenience (most people prefer to drive faster, so as to minimize their time on the road) and commercial interests in having fewer people spending less productive time caught in traffic if slower speed limits were imposed, on the one hand, versus the actual, demonstrable loss of many innocent lives directly attributable to having existing higher speed limits. If we truly valued all human life as highly as some in the abortion debate appear to proclaim, then why don't we see mass movements by these same people advocating as vociferously for drastic reductions in our interstate, highway, and major municipal thoroughfare speed limits?

      None of these four cases are analogous to abortion. In (1), the innocent lives lost in war are indirectly and unintentionally lost. When innocent people are directly or intentionally killed, whether in wartime or not, that would constitute an act of murder. In the case of abortion, every termination is direct and intentional (for that's what an abortion is and partly what distinguishes it, for instance, from a miscarriage.)

      In (2), again, the aggressor is not innocent and the killing is unintentional. The aggressor is guilty of threatening another person's life (unlike an innocent fetus) and the the person defending his life only intends to protect himself and kills if absolutely necessary. Note that when people use excessive force in self-defense and kill an aggressor even when killing was unnecessary, they could be culpable for murder (in some states, at least.)

      In (3), the death penalty involves killing guilty citizens convicted of serious crime. But unborn children are guilty of no crime.

      In (4), high speed limits don't directly kill innocent motorists. There's not a direct correlation there, unlike with abortion, in which every abortion (by definition) terminates the life of an unborn child. Last year, 32,000 motorists died on the road (which represents 1.1 deaths for every 100 million vehicle miles travelled). During the same period, there were over 1 million abortions. Is it a surprise that one threat to human life gets disproportionately more attention?

      So, it makes little sense to speak of a fetus in utero as having greater, indeed some purported absolute "right to life" that we don't extend to life at later stages of life after birth.

      You've given no reason to assume this true, no reason to believe that the innocent, unborn child shouldn't have the same right to life as innocent, born children (or adults.) You've simply compared unborn children to civilians killed in war, an aggressor aiming to take someone's life, or a person on death row. As I've shown, these comparisons are not at all analogous and thus even if you rightfully denied life to the latter three types of people, that's not justification for denying it to the innocent, unborn child.

      "But, it would seem pretty obvious that trying to impose abortion laws that are driven by religious beliefs in a society as diverse and pluralistic as is the US of 2015...."

      The irony here is that Joe never once relied on religious authority or appealed to any specific divine revelation in any of his posts. He argued strictly from science and secular legal theory as to why abortion should be illegal since it involve the direct, willful killing of an innocent person.

      Accusing him of "trying to impose abortion laws that are driven by religious beliefs" is simply to attack and defeat a straw man.

      "the majority of the citizens who reject the specific doctrinal beliefs and teachings of any specific religion. (The Pew poll released last week shows none of the broad groupings as representing more than 26% of the population (so-called Evangelical Protestants), with self-identifying Catholics down to about 20%, lower even than self-identifying "nones.")"

      You do realize that the same Pew numbers show that over 70% of Americans identify as Christian, right? Even though they may identify with different traditions within Christianity, they overwhelmingly agree that abortion is wrong. Also, among the 30% of Americans who are non-Christian, many still reject abortion for the same non-religious reasons Joe has outlined.

      "...and prioritize the presumed interest of the fetus in being born over the rights and interests of independent, autonomous, fully self-realized adult human beings to make such profound decisions as when to have children and how many to have."

      This is what is called "begging the question" because you assume what's under discussion: whether the unborn fetus constitutes a child (and thus a human being.) Your language assumes that even while pregnant, a woman can still choose whether to "have" a child or add to the children she may already have.

      But once a women conceives a child, that decision is already made. She already "has children." There's no new decision concerning that question. Terminating a pregnancy doesn't change the fact that she's already created a new child. Her only decision is whether to grant her child his/her right to be born or to end his/her life.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Wow, Brandon, so much to reply to. I'll take it in piece by piece.

        You say: "Murder, defined as the intentional killing of innocent human beings, is
        not wrong simply because elected representatives have deemed it to be
        wrong."

        Sure it is, in the sense of a legal wrong. That's the point of having laws passed by the people, in a direct democracy, or their representatives, in a representative form of democracy. That's what murder is: the determination by a society to criminalize killings of other human beings under certain circumstances that the society has determined it will not accept, as recorded in the criminal code.

        That's not to say that individual citizens of the society might not arrive at conclusions, informed by moral reasoning or dictated by some religious authorities (or for other reasons), that certain actions that are not illegal are still "wrong." Virtually all of us, I'd wager, think many things that are not illegal are nevertheless wrong, and, that many things that are illegal are, in fact, not wrong. In other words, most of us disagree with some laws and live our lives according to moral and ethical codes (or, for some, religious beliefs) and other standards of conduct, rather than simply conforming our behavior to the criminal codes.

        In the context of abortion, saying abortion is wrong because it constitutes the murder of a human being is a non-starter. After all, in the US, abortion is in fact a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade and 40 years of subsequent jurisprudence, so abortion, in the US of 2015 is not, in fact murder.

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Aquinas said, and I agree, that any law that is unjust is not a law at all but a kind of violence. In this case, any Supreme Court Case that is unjust is "unlawful" violence, along the lines of Dred Scott.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I'm not sure I understand the thrust of your comment. Please elaborate, if you think it important enough to merit further comment.

            "Unjust" laws are still laws. If unjust, then the society's citizens should work to repeal or at least modify them. If one disagrees strongly enough with a law believed to be unjust, one can always engage in civil disobedience as a tactic to try and raise consciousness and motivate sufficient numbers of other citizens to take action to change the law.

            I'm sure virtually all Americans in 2015 conversant with such things regard the Dred Scott opinion as one of the worst in the 225 years of American legal history. (My own Top 10 list would include at least five or six opinions from the Rehnquist-O'Connor-Roberts-Scalia-Thomas-Alito-Kennedy block in the last 15 years, but I suspect you and I are likely to part company on that score. And, now I am wondering off topic.)

            Although you leave it unstated, I understand you to be implying that you regard Roe v. Wade and its progeny to be equally as unjust as Dred Scott and as tantamount to judicial sanctioning of unjustifiable violence against prenatal human life.

            Many of us, of course, disagree, and regard the result in Roe v. Wade as largely correct even if very few applaud the precise legal reasoning. That's why we even have this debate, at least in the US.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. Unjust laws are laws that deserve to be resisted.

            But Roe v. Wade is an even more egregious ruling than Dred Scott.

            I think Fr. Spitzer hits the nail on the head when he argues in "Ten Universal Principles" that life, liberty, and property are three classes of rights that are arranged in a hierarchy, such that if a right to property comes in conflict with a right to liberty (as in Dred Scott) then liberty must trump property and when liberty rights (or at least claims) come in conflict with the right to life (as in Roe) then the right to life must trump liberty.

            This is why pro life people cannot and will never accept the Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            If you are inclined to a "glass half full" mindset, you should be comforted in the knowledge that no one in this country is, to my knowledge anyway, forcing any woman who does not wish to terminate a pregnancy to undergo a forced abortion, under compulsion by the government.

            That is a great deal more than nothing. It permits you your own freedom of conscience and the ability to practice your religion and live your life in accordance with your own religious beliefs, morals, ethics and behavioral standards.

            That favor is not, it is safe to say, reciprocated. The position of tolerance and respect for diverse opinions (on this issue, at least) lies entirely with the pro-choice crowd.

            The entire thrust of the pro-birth -- a label I personally think more accurate than "pro-life" -- crowd is precisely the opposite: insisting that they should have the right to impose their religious (the predominant motivating factor for most, I'd wager, in the movement although the movement certainly includes some whose reasoning involves non-religious moral grounds for opposing abortion in some, or all, circumstances) beliefs and values through the power of the state on others who don't share those beliefs and values.

            Now, I well understand that the most committed among the pro-life crowd will never accept Roe v. Wade.

            To the extent this movement becomes more militant and confrontational, and more committed to the proposition that compromise and tolerance is tantamount to acquiescence in evil, the consequences are entirely predictable:

            (1) the culture war continues unabated (conflated by a new front in the same sex marriage battleground over the past decade, and -- with the tack taken by the very conservative USCCB, most of whom must have been appointed by very traditional and conservative popes like John Paul II and Benedict XVI, over the past several years -- even moving to ignite other battles on contraception issues most thought had been settled in the 60s);

            (2) commonality and social cohesion is increasingly fractured; and

            (3) the US moves with each passing year to become ever less tolerant, ever more strident, increasingly tribalistic, more in-your-face, I'm-certain-I'm-right-and-you're-evil-for-disagreeing-with-me, my God is the One, True God, and I know the Truth and what my God wants and demands of all humanity because the authoritarian clerics in my church tell me so.

            We have three millennia of history in the Middle East from which to learn how well intolerance and the certainties of aggressive monotheistic faiths jousting with others on behalf of the path they believe demanded by their One, True God has worked out in producing cohesive, productive and flourishing societies. That is not a pretty picture. You may even agree with me on that point. It is a mystery why anyone thinks that a helpful model to replicate in the US! But so it appears to be going anyway.

            (As an aside, since you posit that Roe was more egregiously wrong than Dred Scott, let it be noted how painless it is
            for white Americans in 2015 to downplay the evil that was legalized chattel slavery in this country for centuries (explicitly condoned and enforced by countless Christians of those times). Imagine for a moment instead that that you had been of African descent and lived during the 1700s or first half of the 19th Century in any of the states of the old confederacy, where you would almost certainly have been the property of a plantation owner, knowing your "wife" could be raped at will by your owner, you or any members of your family beaten at will (and to death), your family broken up and sold off to other slaveowners at the whim of your owner, and all manner of other indignities to your personhood, your life and your non-existent liberty. Might that affect your appraisal of the relative evils of abortion, of the legalized slavery originally permitted under the US Constitution -- despite Jefferson's high-flown rhetoric from the Declaration of Independence Brandon quoted elsewhere in this comment thread -- and maintained after the adoption of the Constitution for more than seven decades, of Dred Scott and Roe?)

            Note: edited to clean up formatting in final paragraph.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No one in this country is forcing any woman who does not wish to terminate a pregnancy to undergo a forced abortion, under compulsion by the government.

            Yet thousands of times each day, abortionists are forcing unborn babies to die. No decent person can be complacent in the face of this, just as the abolitionists could not stand for slavery.

            The position of tolerance and respect for diverse opinions . . . lies entirely with the pro-choice crowd.

            Not so. Intolerance and disrespect for diverse opinions is coming predominantly from the progressive side of the culture war debates these days. Certainly not from Catholics, like the 500,000 or so who peacefully demonstrate in DC each year in January. Progressives like to imagine that Catholics are as rigid, intolerant, and authoritarian as Progressives are. And Progressives like to imagine that they are open, tolerant, and democratic.

            Since all of American society in the 19th Century was Christian in some sense, you should admit that it was both Christians who claimed slavery was moral and Christians who claimed slavery was immoral.

            Jefferson posited the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. So, from the beginning, slavery was on a collision course with the right to liberty and since 1973, abortion has been on a collision course with life.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            With all due respect, a significant number of "decent people" do in fact find it morally preferable to recognize that the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy or to give birth belongs to each woman who becomes pregnant rather than to insist that we know better than the millions of woman who
            become pregnant every year, about whom and whose life's circumstances we know
            absolutely nothing (and have no right to know anything) and that we have the
            right to band together with like-minded religious believers and social conservatives to enlist the government to compel every woman who finds herself facing an unwanted pregnancy to
            carry the fetus to term and give birth to a child.

            As I and many other posters have laid out countless times at SN over the past couple years, we've arrived at that moral position for a variety of reasons. In my case, that is because I don't accord the same weight as you do to the presumed interest any embryo or fetus has in being born, which it appears you hold to be sacrosanct and absolute. Moreover, I accord very high weight to every woman's rights to her own bodily autonomy, privacy, and the ability to make such profound decisions governing her own, and her family's, path. In my view, it's not even a close case, and the woman's rights vastly outweigh and easily trump the presumed interest of the fetus.

            Fundamentally, I see no reason why I or you -- or the government acting at the behest of any coterie of other citizens -- should presume that our own personal religious or moral beliefs should hold sway over those of any woman who is pregnant, or why I would ever presume to imagine that my abstract opinions on such matters are more important that another human being's actual right to self-determination and control over their own life and life's path.

            Now, that is not to say that everyone in the pro-choice crowd is "complacent," as you seem to fear, about the decisions made by about a million woman a year in the US -- based on recent statistics -- to terminate pregnancies. Many of us might prefer that there be far fewer unwanted pregnancies and, thus, fewer abortions. We would prefer that every baby born into this world is wanted and welcomed into the world to be raised by parent(s) with adequate emotional, social, intellectual, moral and financial resources and the requisite support to provide a loving, nurturing, respectful yet challenging environment in which each child can flourish and grow to become a productive, moral, interesting, empathetic and engaged citizen as an adult.

            Not surprisingly, many of the same numbers of us find it perverse, at best, that the Catholic Church that so rails against abortion rails equally against contraception. Let's band together to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies, to reduce the number of abortions.

            (You needn't explain to me the details of how the Catholic Church has a magnificent, searching, beautiful, and wonderfully consistent ethic of life that weaves together masterfully its dogmas on contraception, abortion, human sexuality, stem cell research, IVF, euthanasia, and capital punishment. I'm quite aware of this and have read many of the underlying documents laying out the RCC's position on these related issues. I'm not impressed. Or persuaded, obviously.)

            I always find it curious how so many in the pro-life camp persist in characterizing the doctors who perform abortions as moral monsters who delight in killing and refuse to give the women who affirmatively sought out the doctor to perform the abortion any agency whatsoever or condescend to treat them as unknowing children who cannot possibly be aware that their pregnancy means they are carrying a developing human being and that their decision to seek an abortion somehow carries with it no awareness of the fact that the procedure terminates such a life.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            This concept of privacy you refer to was invented by the SCOTUS to justify abortion. It did not exist in relation to abortion before 1973. Why doesn't this exalted notion of privacy also apply to all those who break other laws?

            Every law is based on some moral belief.

            "Support contraception to lower unwanted pregnancies" has been a Planned Parenthood lie from the beginning to get girls having sex so they can sell them abortions.

            People in the abortion business are moral monsters because they are supposedly the experts. NARAL lobbied for legalized abortion for years with lies they invented themselves. Individual women have many reasons for seeking an abortion and that act is always gravely wrong, but it is also true that many of them have been lied to, lie to themselves, are pressured by the father of the child or her family, and so on.

            My 8-year-old is a developing human being too.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            There just isn't enough space in a combox discussion like this adequately to address such a complex matter. After all, lawyers write endless 10,000 word documents ("briefs") that develop these arguments in a parade of cases. But, I'll try.

            SCOTUS didn't "invent" a right to privacy in Roe in 1973. I understand that is a favorite meme that legal and social conservatives have been promoting for decades. But, that's really little more than shorthand for saying: "I disagree (vehemently) with a certain constitutional or statutory interpretation."

            It's similar to charges frequently bandied about of "judicial activism." But, legal and social conservatives who detest many of the decisions of the Warren Court in the 50s and 60s and the early Burger Court in the 70s and seek to denigrate those decisions they dislike as judicial activism run amok go strangely (and hypocritically) mute when a majority of like-minded conservative justices on the Rehnquist and Roberts Courts in the past couple decades have likewise acted to strike down legislative enactments they didn't like (think gun control, campaign finance regulation, civil rights/voting rights legislation, etc.) or have latched onto interpretations of constitutional provisions they would never ever adopt, and which in fact are diametrically opposed to the manner in which they've otherwise interpreted those provisions in many decisions stretching back over years on the Court in order to justify a decision they've reached for purely political considerations (think Bush v. Gore).

            Precious few use the term "judicial activism" in a consistent, principled and defined way, and certainly not most of the political and social conservatives for whom it is a favored charge to be used against their intellectual opponents/adversaries. It's really more a matter of whose ox happens to being gored in individual cases.

            Back to privacy.

            It is certainly true that there is no explicit language anywhere to be found in the US Constitution that says something like: "Congress shall make no law abridging the rights of citizens to their personal privacy."

            Rather, the majority of the SCOTUS back in those days (60s) had been interpreting various provisions in the US Constitution which protect citizens/persons from various forms of governmental interference in their personal lives (like the 4th, 5th, 9th and 14th Amendments) as giving rise to a generalized right citizens have to be left alone by the government when acting in ways that did not demonstrably harm other individuals or the public at large, which came to be designated the "right to privacy."

            That interpretive analysis was used in the SCOTUS decisions in the 60s that prohibited states from banning the use of contraceptives and which struck down miscegenation statutes in some states that outlawed interracial marriages. As you note, that brand of interpretive analysis and those precedents from the 60s were built upon when a 7-2 SCOTUS majority (including a number of justices whom everyone in those days regarded as rock-solid "conservatives" -- Burger and Blackmun (the opinion's author) -- and a couple "establishment" center-right to moderate justices -- Powell and Stewart -- voted with three justices regarded as the Court's liberals in those days, Brennan, Douglas and Marshall) held in 1973 in Roe that, broadly speaking (bear with me, this is from memory, as I haven't read Roe in many, many years):

            (1) states could not prohibit abortion in the first trimester, when the decision whether to abort was left to a woman and her doctor;

            (2) states could regulate abortion in the second trimester (prior to fetal viability), although the stated rationale was in the paternalistic guise of protecting the health and safety of the mother, not any abstract notion that a second semester, pre-viability fetus had a "right to life"; and

            (3) finally, in the third trimester, after fetal viability, states could regulate and even choose to prohibit abortion, because the Court deemed any state's stated interest in protecting a viable fetus a legitimate and sufficiently strong state interest, but even here a state could not prohibit abortion if an abortion was deemed necessary to protect the life or health of the mother.

            Many of our constitutional provisions are phrased in terms of broad, general principles. E.g., "due process of law," "the equal protection of the laws," "'establishment' of 'religion'," "'free exercise' of 'religion'," "'freedom' of 'speech'," "'unreasonable' 'searches' and 'seizures'", "probable cause," "'cruel' and 'unusual' punishment'," etc. These words, terms and phrases are hardly self-executing. They require interpretation and reasonable, educated, intelligent people of good will and good faith can reasonably arrive at different interpretations.

            It is not surprising that legal, political, social and religious conservatives don't like some judicial decisions. Join the club. There are lots of judicial decisions that legal, political, social and religious progressives and liberals are equally dismayed by. To list just a couple examples, why would anyone think that:

            "speech" = money?

            the legal entities authorized by state or federal law to permit the aggregation of capital and limited liability to their owners (shareholders) known as corporations = "persons"?

            So, with all due respect, Kevin, the concept of a right to privacy was not "invented." It came about as a result of interpretation of various explicit rights and guarantees in the US Constitution and in the context of more than two centuries of legal and constitutional history and evolving views about the appropriate roles of government, the right of free people to live their lives in the manner in which they choose, and appropriate relationships between and among individual humans and their government under specific circumstances and conditions as time marches on.

            Kind of sounds a bit like the interpretive traditions of another institution I know you hold near and dear to your heart, doesn't it?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The right to privacy was invented to apply to abortion.

            I've read Roe v. Wade. Despite what it says, it effectively legalized abortion through all nine months of pregnancy.

            Judicial activism is a discussion for another time.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I don't think you are correct in your assertion that the right of privacy was invented to apply to abortion in the Supreme Court's 1973 opinion in Roe v. Wade.

            Although it's been a very long time since I've read the several Warren Court opinions from the 60s that dealt with state statutes banning contraception and anti-miscegenation statutes that forbade interracial marriages, not to mention the Roe opinion itself, I am fairly certain a right of privacy argument was developed in the contraception case(s) that preceded Roe. If you are sufficiently interested, read Griswold v. Connecticut, Eisenstadt v. Baird, and Loving v. Virginia, which may lead you to other cases as well.

            In any event, the "right of privacy" has not been limited to the abortion context. In addition to the contraception context, it can also be found in one or more of the so-called gay rights cases the Court has decided over the past decade.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I mean that the majority opinion invented the connection between a right to privacy and abortion.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Certainly some laws can be said to be based on some moral beliefs. Examples abound. Laws against killing, stealing from, lying and defrauding others under various, specified circumstances.

            But, it seems a stretch to say that "[e]very law is based on some moral belief."

            What moral belief, for example, underlies why Texas, Idaho and Wyoming allow motorists to drive at 85 or 80 mph on some stretches of the interstate highway system in their states while Alaska limits motorists within its borders traveling on interstate highways to driving no more than 55 mph?

            I think you paint with too broad a brush here.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The moral belief behind different states' speed limits is that it is good to preserve human life and a certain limit is or is not a proportionate threat to safety.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            You not surprisingly, given your religious beliefs, have arrived at a dim view of Planned Parenthood. That is a rather desultory and highly cynical view of the motives of some people who work at Planned Parenthood.

            Some of us might take a more nuanced -- and, I submit -- much more factually accurate view of the objectives of Planned Parenthood as an organization and the motives of many of the people who work for Planned Parenthood. Something along the following lines.

            We have observed that humans will have sex. Sexual relations sometimes result in pregnancy. Some pregnancies happen, for a wide variety of reasons, to be unwanted in some circumstances. If contraception is made more widely available, and is more widely used by more people, perhaps we can reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies. If we can reduce the numbers of unwanted pregnancies, perhaps we can reduce the numbers of women who will seek out abortions.

            Just a thought.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Some people who go to work for PP probably think this way. Check out Lila Rose and Abby Johnson for inside views.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            While you believe that "people in the abortion business are moral monsters" you must recognize that there are many people who likewise believe the Catholic Church is an immoral institution that has done grave disservice and harm to the cause of humanity and civilization over the centuries, including up to the current day, and that some in the Catholic hierarchy and among the Catholic laity are moral monsters because they preach dogmas others find to be highly immoral and seek to impose their religious beliefs and dogmas on others who don't agree with those beliefs and dogmas.

            And, yet, we must all find ways in which we can live together in civil society, with each of us permitted within maximally allowable bounds without unduly infringing on the same right possessed by others in our society, to live our lives as we choose, consistent with our own beliefs and values.

            Tolerance for views with which we disagree, the humility to understand that, as humans, it is possible for us to be "wrong," and empathy, compassion and respect for the rights of the other humans to be able to chart their own path and follow their own consciences just as we insist upon for ourselves are the only way.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            You don't really believe in unlimited tolerance. The question is what will be tolerated and what will not.

            Other people's beliefs are why Christians are being murdered around the world daily.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            You are right. Nothing is absolute. Not even tolerance.

            After all, it's hard to be tolerant of those who refuse to extend the same rights to you that they demand for themselves.

            But, I do believe in tolerance to a far greater extent than it appears many on the religious right in the US do, particularly when it comes to issues like abortion, gay rights and same sex marriage.

            For my part, I'm not out trying to force anyone who doesn't want to have an abortion to undergo one. Nor am I seeking to force anyone to marry another person of their same sex who doesn't wish to do so.

            It is fair to say that the "religious right" in the US, including the Catholic Church as an institution, is not similarly tolerant when it comes to those who wish to marry a person of their same sex, because that is who they are and the person whom they love, or who find themselves with an unwanted pregnancy and wish to terminate the pregnancy rather than give birth and raise or put up for adoption the child.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Let's leave homosexuality aside for now.

            It is not true that no one is forcing anything on prolife people. That is exactly what the Obama Administration has been trying to force on businesses and other institutions through the Affordable Care Act. Some medical schools have tried to force medical students to observe and even perform abortions as required parts of their training. I have heard progressives argue that if you have a problem with abortion then the medical field is not for you.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            The ACA and its provisions regarding contraception coverage in employer-provided health insurance plans is a very interesting subject, to be sure. But, as you and I have engaged in what by now must already be one of the most voluminous one-on-one exchanges in a single discussion thread in the two-year history of SN, I'm going to decline your invitation to extend our debate to the ACA and its provisions relating to contraception coverage, beyond noting that I disagree with your second sentence in the second paragraph of your comment above.

            There was, of course, an article posted on SN in the first week of July 2014, also by Joe Heschmeyer coincidentally, in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision in the Hobby Lobby case. I posted some comments on that article back at that time IIRC.

            I do regard Hobby Lobby as having been wrongly decided, and as flying in the face of more than a hundred years of Supreme Court precedents in First Amendment free exercise cases (although Hobby Lobby was decided under the 1993 federal RFRA act, not the First Amendment) dating back to Reynolds v. US, 98 U.S. 145 (1879), in which the Court held that Utah did not unconstitutionally infringe Mormons’ religious freedom by enforcing a law forbidding polygamy even though Mormon doctrine commanded all male church members to practice polygamy).

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            It is not only Christians who are being murdered around the world daily. It, of course, is reprehensible if Christians are being killed by believers in other religious faiths who believe that the god they worship has commanded, or at least permits, them to kill infidels, apostates, heretics and non-believers simply because their religious (or non-religious) beliefs don't conform to their own.

            Catholicism and Christianity have not exactly been blameless themselves in these respects over the past couple millennia. Even in recent years in the US, we've seen fanatical Christians who've believed they were justified by their God and their religious beliefs in murdering doctors who perform abortions, to list one example of direct and immediate relevance to this thread.

            I'd prefer to abandon the tribalistic circling of the wagons, and the "otherizing" and demonization of others. We need to work hard to overcome those apparently innate tendencies that have evolved in our species over deep history from our hunter-gatherer ancestors' days and focus instead on that which is common to universal humanity and should unite us all and to develop mutual respect and tolerance for each other.

            Note: edited to clean up formatting.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Right. Let's all be tolerant, so long as we can keep killing the unborn.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            As I keep suggesting, it would be great for our society if the Catholic Church decided to become tolerant of others who don't accept its metaphysical beliefs or theological and moral doctrines and dogmas. We both know that's not going to happen.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            We understand that the Catholic Church teaches that the act of abortion is always gravely wrong.

            I take at least a couple messages from that. One is that the Catholic Church can seek to persuade all others to adopt its view on the matter. Another is that the Catholic Church can seek to impose doctrinal discipline on those who choose to become Catholic and can excommunicate those who have chosen to be Catholic but who act or speak in ways deemed heretical or otherwise unacceptable by the Church's hierarchy.

            What the Catholic Church doesn't get to do is impose its dogmatic religious beliefs on others who aren't Catholic and who don't accept the Catholic Church's claims in this regard.

            This really isn't complicated.

            And the wisdom of it is readily demonstrable.

            Imagine you live in a majoritarian Muslim or Hindu society (or, for that matter, a society in which the majority are members of Christian sects that have significant doctrinal and theological differences with Catholicism) and they start trying to impose their religious beliefs on you and to limit your behavior in ways deemed compatible with their faith but incompatible with yours.

            Are you happy? Is this acceptable?

            Or, imagine you live in a majoritarian and extremely intolerant and militant atheistic society in which the government seeks to abolish organized religion and is prepared to put to death anyone who is willing to publicly profess religious beliefs which have been outlawed.

            Is this acceptable?

            It really isn't hard to understand why non-Catholics who reject Catholic religious beliefs become fed up with a Catholic Church that seeks to impose its religious dogmas on them. Given the history the Catholic Church has undergone in the US, in which it suffered at various times and in various places at the hands of majoritarian Protestants who thought the Catholic Church the Great Satan, it's a bit surprising that the modern-day Catholic Church appears to have lost this message. Live and let live is a better way.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Church does not base its view of abortion on Revelation (although Revelation supports it). It is based on the natural law. Claiming that the RCC is trying to impose its religious beliefs on others is bogus.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Despite what you say -- "Claiming that the RCC is trying to impose its religious beliefs on others is bogus." -- I submit that the Catholic Church's intensive lobbying for and substantial financial support backing proposed constitutional amendments and federal and state statutes over the past several decades that would outlaw abortion, outlaw same sex marriage, prevent a state's recognition of citizen's rights to euthanasia in certain circumstances, and prevent the use of stem cells for research demonstrably belies your claim.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            These actions are perfectly appropriate to correct (largely) judicial abuses against the common good. All of them are based on the natural law and so in accord with human reason.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            What they are in accord with is Catholic dogma.

            Most Americans don't accept all Catholic dogma.

            The Catholic Church and its affiliates are free to seek leave of the Court to submit amicus briefs seeking to influence and persuade the Court to the Church's views on cases coming before the Court. It may not be the most prudential tactic, from a Supreme Court advocates' perspective, to start off telling the Court about all of the judicial abuses it has made against the common good in its prior opinions.

            There are lots of Americans who are quite rational, well-educated, thoughtful and intelligent who do not accept the Church's apparent conflation of many of the Church's dogmas as being in accord with human reason. Your continuing to repeat this assertion does not make it more true.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I don't doubt that there are woman who, as you say may have been lied to, who lie to themselves, or are pressured by others to have abortions.

            That is the way of the world.

            After all, there are those who would say that the Catholic Church lies to its parishioners and to society at large, that there are Catholics who lie to themselves, and that there are individuals who may be pressured by Catholic priests, others in the Catholic hierarchy, or Catholic spouses or other Catholic family members to do various things.

            Ultimately, unless there are sufficiently good reasons to think that individuals are not competent to make decisions for themselves (infancy, mental incompetence, etc., some severe mental or physical disorder that is sufficiently disabling, etc.) we have to allow people to make decisions, even if we disagree with those decisions and even if those people might come themselves at a later point in their lives to regret the decisions made earlier in their lives.

            After all, haven't we all been there? It's called life.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A fourteen year old girl can walk into a PP clinic with her older boyfriend/abuser and get am abortion. Can she make the decision freely?

            Anyway, no one is competent to make a decision for directly and intentionally killing an innocent unborn child any more than I am competent to decide to dispatch my enemy because he is a threat to me or I think he will ruin my life.

          • David Nickol

            A fourteen year old girl can walk into a PP clinic with her older boyfriend/abuser and get am abortion.

            Very largely untrue.

            In the United States, most states typically require one of two types of parental involvement—consent or notification, or both. 38 states required some type of parental involvement in a minor's decision to have an abortion—21 states require one or both parents to consent to the procedure, 12 require one or both parents be notified and 5 require both consent and notification before an elective abortion can occur. . . .

            If you are implying that in states without parental-involvement laws (and New York is one) that an older boyfriend can act in the place of a guardian, that is not the case. The standard is whether the person seeking the abortion can give informed consent. Abortions for girls under 15 are statistically quite rare.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            PP is not as law-abiding as you, DN:

            http://liveaction.org/monalisa/

          • David Nickol

            Planned Parenthood, in these kinds of instances, can use the same defense as the Catholic Church uses when wrongdoing by individual priests, nuns, or bishops is discovered. Planned Parenthood consists of 85 separately run affiliates. It is simply not possible to say that Planned Parenthood is not law abiding, any more than it is possible to say that the Catholic Church is not law abiding.

            It would be interesting (and utterly reprehensible) is some anti-Catholic organization concocted a heartbreaking case about a married woman who felt she needed to use contraceptives and had actors go to confession to a hundred different priests, no doubt finding many priests who would say it was permissible. There was a lot of very negative reaction among even conservative Catholics to the antics of Live Action.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Except that Live Action did not cherry pick.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I can't answer such an abstract question.

            It will depend on the particular circumstances of each such case, the actual people involved and what you mean by the word "freely." But, even in the toughest case you can devise, it is still her body, her life and, fundamentally, her choice.

            There are always going to be some extremely challenging, heart-wrenching cases that present agonizing choices and tough facts. There's nothing unique in that regard about abortion.

            Having read many of your comments over the past couple years at SN, not to mention our dialogue the past couple days just on this thread, I certainly understand the depth of your feelings and beliefs regarding abortion. But that does not and never will change the fact that others disagree just as strenuously with you, and whereas they are not seeking to force you to abandon your religious and moral values or to compel you to make a decision against your conscience that is precisely what you and the Catholic Church are attempting in seeking to outlaw abortion altogether from the moment of conception forward.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            If you look at particulars, in countless cases a pregnant woman or girl, who is often very vulnerable to begin with (which is often why she is pregnant in the first place), is under tremendous internal and external pressure to do what she really does not want to do, and is often lied to by abortionists, so she does something that wounds her even more deeply.

            The abortion debate is different from many debates because it is not just two persons who profoundly and sincerely disagree on something. A third person is also involved who is innocent and voiceless. That is why not Catholics in particular but everyone who sees what abortion is can never buy your tolerance argument. You keep trying to make this a religious issue. That is patently false.

            It is directly parallel to abolition. You are the slave holders, we are the abolitionists, and you want us to forget about the slaves. You think it is enough if we just don't own any ourselves if it bothers our consciences.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            With respect to your first paragraph, there may be examples that fit your description with respect to some abortion providers and some pregnant women who have contacted the provider about abortion services.

            However, it may not be particularly prudent or sagacious for an institution like the Catholic Church to advance as a reason for the civil government to outlaw institutions (1) their sometime practices of placing "tremendous internal and external pressure" on their customers "to do what [they, the customers] really do[] not want to do," or (2) their frequent lying to their customers.

            I trust you understand, without my having to elaborate further.

            As to your second paragraph, I'd be interested in learning the names of the major non-religious foundations, trade associations, corporations and other institutions that (1) lobby (or provide significant financial support to others who do) Congress and state legislatures seeking statutes and constitutional amendments that outlaw or seek to restrict abortion rights, or (2) engage in public advocacy seeking to outlaw or restrict abortion rights.

            As to your analogy to slavery in your third paragraph. I am not a member of a Church that worships and venerates a God who that Church teaches divinely inspired scriptures that explicitly condoned slavery. Nor am I a member of a Church that over time had popes, ordained clerics, and various religious orders who owned slaves. Nor am I a member of a Church whose popes issued papal bulls that sanctioned slavery. Nor am I a member of a Church that placed a number of books that condemned slavery on the Index of Forbidden Books for 250 years starting in the late 16th Century. Nor am I a member of a Church whose hierarchy, including American bishops and a pope as late as the mid 19th Century, was still supporting slave-holding interests and affirming that it was not contrary to divine law to buy, sell or exchange slaves.

            Your rhetorical trick of seeking to label those who support freedom of choice on the abortion issue as akin to slave holders is beyond ridiculous and patently false.

          • David Nickol

            Every law is based on some moral belief.

            Not really. Some laws, for example, are purely for the sake of good order. In New York City, for example, we have "alternate side of the street parking," which requires parking, at given times, on one side of the street and, at other times, on the other side of the street and, on occasions like holidays, allows parking on both sides of the street. This is to facilitate street cleaning. I suppose you could argue that having clean streets is ultimately a moral issue, but I think that would be stretching it.

            Cathy Kaveny over on Commonweal used to say there were two approaches to the law—the law as the teacher of virtue and the law as a keeper of order (as a sheriff in the Wild West). She said when there were disagreements about the law, it was often because one side assumed the "virtue" side and the other assumed the "order" side.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No there really is a moral law behind parking laws and street sweeping and no spitting your gum on the sidewalk. I think it has to do with the common good and man's social nature.

            Although it makes me wonder about Italy.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Of course your 8-year old son in a developing human being. So are you. So am I. So are all of the other 7.3 human inhabitants of the planet.

            But, we draw lines all the times for all kinds of reasons. You and the Catholic Church aren't, to my way of thinking, against the notion of drawing lines in principle.

            In this particular case, the only difference is that you wish to draw the line at a different stage of human development, namely, at the moment of conception, rather than at birth, a point of view largely driven by theological arguments that have been developed by humans seeking to explicate their understanding of what they think the God they venerate has either demanded or desires for us.

            One clear advantage of drawing a line for when a society is prepared to define a human being as a legal "person" entitled to the protection of the society's laws in its own right, as a member of that society, at birth is because it is such a bright, clear-cut line, and, unlike the situation at earlier stages of human development, the child after birth exists independently outside the mother's body and is not uniquely dependent on its mother's body for all of its physical and developmental needs.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Once we know when human life begins we know that there is no place to draw the line because there is no human life before conception and only human life after.

            This has nothing to do with religious-based arguments.

            The newborn actually needs more care once he is born than before. The newborn is totally vulnerable and unable to exist independently in any sense.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Nonsense.

            Life always involves choices, line-drawing and the balancing of competing rights, interests and considerations. Nothing is absolute.

            It is true that a newborn baby requires a great deal of care, and that no newborn human baby would survive on its own without care. But that care can come from any number of other humans, not simply its biological mother and father.

            That is not true for human life at the zygote, blastocyst, embryo or fetus stages, where it is in fact uniquely and solely dependent on the physical support and nourishment it can only receive from the woman in whose body it is developing. That is one reason why there is a significant distinction between developing human life in utero and babies that have been born.

            Finally, I don't see how your contention that the Catholic Church's position on abortion "has nothing to do with religious-based arguments" survives a reading of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. See, e.g., http://www.priestsforlife.org/magisterium/catechismonabortion.htm#abortion.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The difference between a fetus the day before it is born and the day after is for us largely psychological. This is because we knew so little about life in the womb.

            When teaching about the moral law to Catholics, the Magisterium of the Church draws on both reason and revelation.

            If I am talking with a fellow Catholic or Christian or believer in God, I can use arguments based on the Catechism, or Sacred Scripture, or somehow derived from our shared belief in God as creator. But in the secular public square (as it has become) only arguments based on reason are legitimate. For example, see: http://www.amazon.com/Embryo-A-Defense-Human-Life/dp/0385522827

            Do you think the commandment "Thou shalt not murder" cannot be known by reason and cannot be the basis of human laws?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Of course not. No society can survive if all of its members are free to kill other members of the society capriciously at whim.

            But humans hardly need a divine revelation from God to discern this. It's encoded in the Golden Rule. Basic human empathy gets the job done; we are a social species, after all, and there's every reason to suppose that evolution favored those of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who realized that banding together for the good of all in the clan was a more effective survival strategy than having to worry at every moment of every day if one of the others in your encampment or cave was going to club you in order to have something to eat that night.

            For this reason, I also suspect it is universal in human cultures, at least any human culture that survived long enough to leave us artifacts of its existence or descendents available for anthropologists to study. That's rather the point.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We know by reason and can learn by experience that murder is a bad thing. It grows out of our social nature.

            This is why I have been trying to show you that the Church's teachings on not killing the unborn or the elderly or the handicapped or those with a "marginal quality of life" are not based on Divine Revelation and so are not specifically religious but derive from natural law rooted in our human nature and discovered by reason and experience. You don't need Divine Revelation to know that abortion is wrong.

            Human societies can be cooperative but they can also be cruel and tyrannical. When it comes to its most vulnerable members, our current society can be cruel and tyrannical.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            In this particular case, the only difference is that you wish to draw the line at a different stage of human development, namely, at the moment of conception, rather than at birth, a point of view largely driven by theological arguments that have been developed by humans seeking to explicate their understanding of what they think the God they venerate has either demanded or desires for us.

            In this entire discussion, have I advanced ONE theological argument? Sure, THOU SHALT NOT MURDER is the fifth commandment, but all ten commandments are also natural law truths.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I confess to not being up on Aquinas and the nitty gritty of the Catholic exposition of those things the Church asserts are derived from so-called natural law truths, as opposed to divine revelation.

            I'd appreciate a link to a helpful reference, so I can learn more.

            In the meantime, can you briefly explain how it is that commandments 1-4, especially, but also commandments 5, 7 and 10 are said to be natural law truths? If the answers are too much for a combox reply, a link to useful references would suffice.

            Thanks.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Chapter 5 of Ed Feser's book "Aquinas" does a good job of explicating natural law, I think.

            I'll give you one example of a commandment in relation to God and one in relation to man. If I fail, that's my bad: not philosophy's or the Church's.

            The third commandment is "Keep holy the Sabbath." This most generally refers to the proper worship human beings owe to God. If you know that God exists and that he created you and provides for you (all of which are natural truths, we claim), then you realize as his creature that you ought to thank him for good things, recognize his greatness, ask pardon for things you have done wrong, and ask for further things you and others need. This is basically the virtue of religion (whose acts are thanksgiving, adoration, reparation, and petition) which the ancient Greeks and Romans recognized.

            So, reason cannot tell us that we should worship God on a particular day (that was something revealed to the Jews) but it can tell us we ought to worship him sometime. Even the Deistic American founding fathers were pretty good at reminding us that we should thank God for the many blessings we have received.

            The seventh commandment is "Thou shalt not steal." Even though all property has a communal dimension (since we don't create the world, but it has been given to the human race, we claim), the acquisition of property by work and inheritance is a fundamental way that human beings secure the goods necessary for life. Therefore, it is wrong to unjustly deprive someone of their property by stealing it.

            Another line of reasoning is: 1. Do good and avoid evil. 2. Don't do to others what you don't want done to yourself. 3. You don't want someone taking something that is yours and you need unless they have a really good reason. 4. The sneak who steals my lunch money to buy candy has no such good reason. 5. The sneak should not steal my lunch money.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Thanks for the recommendation. Prof. Feser is not the best choice for me, unfortunately. I realize he has many admirers on this site, and may be a recognized expert on Aquinas and Catholic natural law theory. Nevertheless, based on articles he's written that have been reposted in the past on SN as well as my having read perhaps too many of his blogs and comments on his own website, I can tell you that his style is not one that is going to work very well for me. Imagine yourself reading Christopher Hitchens or listening to Bill Maher and I know you'll understand.

            Having read yours, I'm embarrassed about mentioning Commandment 7 in my earlier post. I had in mind adultery, not stealing. I should have made sure I was working from a Catholic listing of the Ten Commandments. I neglected to do so, and was working off the ordering scheme common to the Jewish, Orthodox and Protestant traditions. That was my bad. Sorry I ended up wasting your time, albeit inadvertently.

            Incidentally, stealing is also an easy case (from my perspective, anyway). Like murder, as covered in my most recent reply to another of yours to me.

            Adultery is a different case, which is why I intended to capture it, by my reference to Commandment 7. While it is not difficult to understand, given the dynamics of human emotions, the need to maintain stable societies and efforts seeking to minimize avoidable conflict and internecine "warfare," it still seems more like a prudential rule than a foundational necessity, unlike the cases of murder and stealing. That is why I was wondering how it might be explained that it could be derived by virtue of pure human reason from what Catholics consider to be the natural law.

            I'll try and track down some source other than Feser that will be more palatable and accessible to me to elucidate the Catholic understanding of natural law, and perhaps the rationale for adultery will become obvious.

            I do note, for whatever it's worth, though, that some scholars (I have in mind some of John Shelby Spong's books) make it clear that the Israelites' notion of why adultery was wrong has to be understood with reference to their culture and times (not ours). At the time the Pentateuch was being written down, they point out that women were essentially regarded as the property of men. Thus, the prohibition on adultery as recorded in the Ten Commandments (the version in EXODUS 20:2-17) reflected the notion that a man committing adultery was essentially taking another man's property without payment or his consent. Not exactly, of course, reasons we moderns think about!

            As to the commandments that govern the relationship between God and humanity (1-3, in the Catholic ordering scheme), I am sure your explication of the Third Commandment regarding the Sabbath is solid and would receive a nihil obstat. Nevertheless, not persuasive to me. In the least. But, as that's wandering too far off topic here, I'll leave it at that, other than to say the reasons I find it wholly unpersuasive have nothing to do with your explication, which I found quite clear.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I know what you mean by Feser. He can be abrasive.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            By the way, it would not matter to Catholics if the ancient Jews had an imperfect view of things, like marriage. Christ came to perfect and to fulfill the OT (e.g., Mt 5:27-32 & Mt 19:3 ff on marriage and divorce).

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I want to apologize if my most recent comment to you came across as curt. Let me offer some background.

            I am a classic example of the type of Catholic it appears -- from recent reports, the Pew poll released last week, and as has been increasingly apparent to lots of folks who have been observing weekly mass attendance figures in so many parish churches in so many parts of the US in recent decades -- the Church has been hemorrhaging in the past couple decades (although in my case, the break dates farther back). It's not just about the Millennials!

            Cradle Catholic. Parents devout Catholics. Attended Mass every week through high school. Alter boy throughout my entire school years. Weekly attendance grades 1-12 at what were then called CCD classes.

            Undergraduate degree from a Jesuit college, Boston College. Had Prof. Kreeft as a professor. Although in a philosophy class, not a theology class. In those days (1979), Prof. Kreeft was still a working philosophy professor, and had not turned his attentions and focus to Catholic apologetics. He actually was one of my favorite undergrad professors. (I saw him debate Prof. David Boonin last year -- on abortion, coincidentally -- and the years appeared to have taken quite a toll on him. He was far removed from the optimistic, engaging, seemingly intellectually curious professor I remembered so fondly from my BC days who had guided me on a stimulating and immensely rewarding survey of western philosophy. Of course, time has a way of doing that to many of us! I realize he has been a prolific writer of Catholic apologia over the past 25 years or so, but he struck me as deeply weary and resigned from his years in the trenches of the culture wars.)

            Anyway, the Church lost its hold on me a long time back, as I grew to disagree strongly with many of the church's teachings, dogmas and doctrines as I learned more and experienced more of the world. Although I would never return to the Church, as I don't accept any of its metaphysical claims and have grown to distrust immensely any authoritarian and innately non-transparent institution like the RCC, it is certainly the case that I've become increasingly antagonized by the aggressive (I'd say bullying and intimidating and hectoring) stance the Church has come to take, to my way of thinking, and its endless obsession with the culture war issues of abortion, gay rights/same sex marriage, and contraception.

            So, it's not that I'm unfamiliar with the Church and its teachings. I was deeply immersed in them for years. I'd guess that I've read much more of some of the Catholic fathers, theologians and apologists than probably 90% of those still identifying as Catholics in the US these days, although not even a fraction of the reading that some here, like yourself, David Nickol, some of the authors, the moderators, and other commenters like Y.O.S have read. With some of us, it's not lack of exposure to the Church's teaching about the Truth, but non-acceptance of the Church's claims and teachings and doctrines and dogmas, despite the Church's best efforts to educate (or indoctrinate, depending on one's perspective) us. I'm living disproof of the adage attributed to some Jesuit of old who said, in effect, give me the child for six years and I'll give you the man.

            It seems Pope Benedict XVI may have been a bit more prescient than he might have intended early in his papacy when he intimated that he was prepared to accept a smaller church in exchange for greater doctrinal orthodoxy and control by the priesthood and the church hierarchy over the laity (I didn't go back and search for the quote, but I hope I am reporting the gist of it fairly). As the old saw goes, be careful what you wish for, you might get it!

            While I don't see any prospects that some liberal Catholics may be thinking they see with Pope Francis, in terms of any significant doctrinal change, I do find him a very refreshing change from the style and demeanor of his two immediate predecessors. It will be very interesting, indeed, to gauge the reaction among the USCCB and the more conservative elements in the US Catholic Church who've become so accustomed to the leadership style and focus of the past two popes when Pope Francis releases his encyclical on the environment in a month or so, and when the Synod on the Family resumes work again this fall.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Thanks for the background, Greg.

            Without chastity, men are blind.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I'd invite you to reflect on your comment that "no decent person . . . ."

            Is it truly your belief that one can't be a decent (or moral) person if one holds views on an issue like abortion that is different from your own and which is diametrically opposed to the doctrinal teachings of your church?

            If so, does it give you any trepidation to render such judgments on a wholesale basis about an entire class of people whom you've never met, of whose lives you know nothing, and of whose conduct and behavior you've never observed?

            While it will never persuade you (nor is that my intent in mentioning it to you), you might profit from reading a work like Prof. Ronald Dworkin's "Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia and Individual Freedom." It might offer you some useful insights and perspective on how rational, intelligent, thoughtful folks of good faith, good will, and education can arrive at such a radically different view than you have on the abortion subject.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The progressive camp has no problem shutting down all debate by calling the other side haters or on the wrong side of history.

            If there is no objective truth, then progressives have no leg to stand on when they think they take the high ground. If there is objective truth, then somebody is gravely wrong. Question is, who?

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I concede that there are voices of intolerance among those who consider themselves otherwise to hold progressive or liberal views on many political and social issues.

            I find that depressing and troubling. (But, I hasten to point out, there are no shortage of such voices on the social, political and conservative right, either, which is equally as depressing and troubling.)

            However, you err yourself in seeking to portray the "progressive camp" as if all those who considers themselves liberals or progressives hew to some common "liberal" or "progressive" dogma and denounce anyone who strays from such dogmas and seek to silence their expression of their views. That, again, paints with too broad a brush.

            For example, I consider myself extremely "liberal" on most matters of social justice, economics, politics and social issues, but I personally detest the very concept of "hate" speech, and efforts seeking to muzzle those who think differently than I do or to squelch their speech. I'm still one who (naively?) clings to a belief in the value of a marketplace in which a battle of ideas can take place and that the better ideas will win out in the end.

            It's one thing to say certain points of view are on "the wrong side of history." That's not an expression of hate; it's simply a prediction about the path of a given culture or society on a specific issue. Naturally, time will prove the test of the perspicacity of such predictions, whoever utters them.

            Although we come from opposite sides of the spectrum on many of the religious issues discussed on SN, it just so happens that I agree with you that there are too many in our society who bandy about too freely charges that others who hold different views than their own are "haters." There is no reason to label another person a "hater" simply because they think differently than oneself, particularly when one's only information about that person is reading something they've written that was published somewhere or which appeared on some internet blog.

            That is not to say, of course, that there is no such thing as groups that do promote ideologies marked by hatred or disdain or contempt for others they perceive for whatever reason to be different from themselves. Or individuals for whom hatred is a significant or dominant aspect of their personality and character and the manner in which they choose to portray themselves to the world and engage with others in their communities, jobs, social groups or, dare we say, on internet comment boards.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I'm not sure what you have in mind by "objective truth."

            Without knowing precisely what you have in mind by that term, I could not, of course, say.

            Even were you to define what you have in mind, it might well be the case that I would lack information sufficient upon which to form an opinion.

            And, even if it were the case that we might find agreement upon whether a concept we label objective truth actually exists in the natural universe we inhabit, there is the separate question of whether human beings are capable of ascertaining what any of those objective truths might be.

            I fear I am not going to be a very useful dialogue partner with you on this subject!

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Objective truth is "What is." Subjective truth is what I think is. The aim is for my idea of truth to line up with what really is true.

            We are typing comments on Disqus right now. That is one objective truth.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            That's a fine operative definition for present purposes.

            But, I don't see any demonstrated, necessary link between Catholic dogmas and doctrines regarding theological and metaphysical beliefs and morals and ethics said to represent the Objective Truth, binding on humans -- whether the source is claimed to be divine revelation or human reason accessing that which you call the "natural law" -- and "What Is."

            The RCC has certainly proffered one particular metaphysical system coupled with a set of rules by which human societies can be structured and human beings are to relate to each other and the God the Church posits. There are many other competing systems. Many of us see no mapping between the Catholic system (or those of other institutional religions, for that matter) and "What Is." I understand you do, but isn't that where "faith" comes into play?

            The past few hundred years in which humans have added exponentially to the information and knowledge we have about the material universe we inhabit and the rules and processes that appear -- so far as we are presently able to discern -- to govern various aspects of that universe accumulated through use of the scientific method in all the natural sciences would seem to have advanced us further along the road of gathering meaningful insights regarding "What Is" than the writings of Aristotle, Augustine and Aquinas -- no matter how brilliant each of them may have been -- so central to the philosophical edifice of Catholicism and the deep theological thinking of Catholic theologians and those in the ordained hierarchy.

            I am confident, Kevin -- given your religious beliefs -- that prayer is an important part of your life and your relationship to your God (and my apologies, if that is presumptuous on my part). I'd be interested in your assessment of whether you rely primarily upon prayer or visits to doctors and resort to modern medicine and medical technology when you or your family members come down with an illness.

            To the extent you have given meaningful thought to such things, is your primary resort to Genesis chap. 1 and writings through the centuries by Catholic theologians and Church fathers or to the discoveries of scientists working in the fields of cosmology, astronomy, geology, chemistry and biology when you want to learn about the material universe and the processes that appear to govern our planet and life on our planet?

            Do you subscribe to Aristotle's theory that all matter is comprised of five elements (earth, fire, air, water and aether), or would you instead turn to the Periodic Table of the Elements and modern particle physics?

            There seems ample reason why many of us seeking to know "What Is" are more comfortable relying on modern science and its methods (recognizing the limits inherent in the present extent of our knowledge base, technology and human ingenuity and creativity at this stage of our evolution) than the metaphysics developed between 750 and 2,400 years ago by means of the application of human reason to the vanishingly little the peoples of those times actually knew about nature upon which the RCC relies so heavily. Put simply: science appears to be working pretty well, and it keeps getting better with each passing decade.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Catholics value, rely on, and have constantly defended reason and Revelation, so your attempts to pit them against each other might create dilemmas for you but not for me.

            Christianity is the matrix of modern science so, again, science vs. faith is another false dilemma.

            Here is a comment I saved from YOS:

            It is therefore causally that Scripture has said that earth brought forth the crops and trees, in the sense that it received the power of bringing them forth. In the earth from the beginning, in what I might call the roots of time, God created what was to be in times to come.

            --On the literal meanings of Genesis, Book V Ch. 4:11

            This was the root of the doctrine of secondary causation which Aquinas described thusly:

            Nature is nothing but the plan of some art, namely a divine one, put into things themselves, by which those things move towards a concrete end: as if the man who builds up a ship could give to the pieces of wood that they could move by themselves to produce the form of the ship.
            -- Commentary on Physics II.8, lecture 14, no. 268

          • David Nickol

            Christianity is the matrix of modern science so, again, science vs. faith is another false dilemma.

            I am not sure exactly what it would mean for Christianity to be the "matrix" of modern science, but I am sure it is not true. It is one thing to claim that the idea that the world runs according to discoverable laws is a prerequisite for modern science. But to claim exclusive Christian ownership of that idea is quite another thing.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Matrix in its original meaning means womb. Modern science grew from the womb of Christendom. Dr. Stacy Trasancos has defended that thesis right here on SN.

          • David Nickol

            No, it was inwented in Russia.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Yes. By Chekov.

          • William Davis

            Aristotle (pagan) gets credit for empirical investigation, a muslim was one of the first to devise the scientific method:

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alhazen

            Science did to the best in Christendom for a while, but that seems completely unrelated to Christianity as a religion. The fact that 92% of the National Academy of Sciences is atheistic speaks for itself.
            Most of the famous scientists were heretics and/or protestants anyway.
            Descartes was Catholic, but the Church prohibited his books in 1663. Pascal was accused of Janesenism. Newton was into alchemy. I could go on but you get the picture. There were a few good Catholics that made some significant contributions, but let's not get carried away ;)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I suggest you get some edjumacation.

          • William Davis

            In Christian revisionist history? I had one, went to Christian schools through high school. I reject it as misleading and generally false...because it is.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Worry not.

            Pitting reason against Revelation creates no dilemma for me, albeit for a very different reason than is the case for you.

            There is no reason to think that (1) some six dozen odd scrolls written over the course of a millennia by numerous human authors writing in specific contexts and to meet certain needs or to tell certain stories, (2) translated to different languages by human translators at later times at the behest of other humans confronting their own specific contexts and to meet their own needs of the time, (3) compiled by other humans at later times based on their own specific contexts and to meet their own needs at the time, and then (4) copied and edited extensively over time by numerous other humans in their own specific contexts and to meet their own needs at the time (5) translated again by other humans based on their own specific contexts and to meet their own needs at the time, before (6) finally arriving into the form we presently know as the Bible, were, in fact, divinely inspired (or revealed, if you wish).

            Other, that is, than the say so of the Catholic Church. (Or other institutional faiths, defending their holy scriptures.)

            I don't accept the Catholic Church's say so.

            Thus, no dilemma.

            Nor does pitting science against faith create any dilemma for me, albeit here again for a very different reason than is the case for you.

            You have faith in the Catholic Church.

            I don't.

            Once again, no dilemma.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Progressives have precisely the same leg to stand on as do conservatives when it comes to thinking about morality and how we ought to relate to each other, structure human societies, and develop, enact and enforce laws that govern interpersonal relationships.

            That is, we are all human and we all have common human capacities and capabilities, and are part of age-old traditions of human communities through which social and cultural habits and practices, stories and myths, information, knowledge, technologies and ways of doing things have been handed down for countless generations.

            It is from such common capabilities, resources and traditions that we have to draw and seek to fashion societies, institutions within those societies, moral codes of conduct, norms of ethical behavior, and laws that are suitable to meet the ever-changing needs of differently-situated human societies in different places and under different conditions as time marches inexorably on.

            One major difference, of course -- and which one presents sometimes seemingly insuperable barriers and unbridgeable chasms between us -- is that, in certain religious traditions, ideas developed by our ancestors from 600, 1,900 - 2,000, and 2,200 - 3,000 or more years distant that served the needs and interests of certain elements of those societies in their time, under their conditions and circumstances, and given their level and state of knowledge, ideas and stories that got recorded into books, around which developed an institutional structure, in which arose a priestly caste that served as the guardians of the religious traditions that evolved and developed over time and as expositors of those books they deemed to be holy scriptures, which they claimed were revealed to certain of their ancestors by the God they imagined to have created the universe, life on Earth, and humanity.

            Those religious institutions and their clerical castes -- with varying levels of cooperation and support from secular authorities and elites who came to understand the value such religious institutions and ideas offered in maintaining ordered societies that served the interests of the elites, as well as from contributions made by some of the more intellectually gifted individuals capable of abstract thought and the time in which to think and write and develop elaborate written theologies that interpreted the inherited scriptures -- came to describe the ideas and morals and laws they were promulgating and seeking to enforce in their societies as representing some Objective Truth, revealed to the priestly caste and certain favored prophets in their particular traditions by the One, True God venerated by that religious tradition.

            Shrewd idea. Ingenious, really.

            Humans, after all, are capable of, if not prone to, being a disputatious and fractious lot. It is a lot of hard work, and of uncertain prospects for success, having to seek to persuade other humans of the utility and soundness of various ideas of how to structure societies and its institutions and develop and enforce laws that govern inter-human relations. How much easier if one can seek to privilege one's own preferred ideas by passing them off as Objective Truth handed down by the very Creator of the Universe and Humanity and as representing His Will for how things are to be for humanity.

            That is one thing, I submit, that at least some progressives who happen not to be theistic believers find frustrating in interacting with the clerical castes in the monotheistic, institutional religions, and at least some of the conservative believers in those religions who persist in claiming their own ideas are not subject to the give and take of debate and the need to persuade others, because they supposedly are the embodiment of Objective Truth, handed down from On High.

            I don't doubt that the reverse is true. That is, that the clerical castes and some of the conservative believers become exasperated by those others of their fellow citizens who they have been unable to convince of their God claims and the assertions that their ideas represent Objective Truth, binding on all humanity. That may, indeed, underlie the development of ideas by the former that the reason the latter so obstinately prove unwilling to assent to the former's ideas about God and Objective Truth must be attributable to the latter's desire to be immoral and defiant or due to their having cast their lots with Satan.

            No one who spoke truth ever said it was going to be easy.

            But, we are at base a social species. Developing and practicing attributes like empathy, compassion, humility, moderation and balance in action, and kindness to others seem better calculated to producing relatively well-adjusted, productive, flourishing humans and societies. As I keep noting in this line of correspondence with you, tolerance and respect for the rights of others to have different opinions and values, and to live the lives they wish rather than the lives we'd seek to dictate to them are imperative, as well.

            Of course, maybe you and the Catholic Church are correct and I'm wrong. If so, according to the teachings of the Church, I'll have to stand in judgment before the God you venerate just as you will. I'm fully prepared to do so. If there is a God, I welcome the opportunity to seek to acquit myself and the life I've lived before any God I could respect. If that's not good enough, so be it.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The Catholic Church and I are *not* right as you view us because what you view does not correspond to reality but to a fantasy version of history you hold! Who are these clerical castes? Hindu priests? Buddhist monks? You can't mean Jewish priests--there haven't been any since AD 70. Oh, you must mean Catholic priests.

            For the dozenth time, Catholic morality is grounded in the natural law, knowable by reason. This is not to say that there is not a perfection of that law we hold, given by Jesus Christ, but it is not anything that would threaten any progressive. All the really hard stuff is in the natural law, at least in my view. No one is asking you to live the beatitudes. The highest Christian law is the law of love: Love one another even to the point of sacrifice.

            Developing and practicing attributes like empathy, compassion, humility, moderation and balance in action, and kindness to others seem better calculated to producing relatively well-adjusted, productive, flourishing humans and societies.

            Catholics believe in these virtues too, and plenty more, especially the cardinal and theological virtues. But, dude, certain kinds of behavior don't contribute to human flourishing, like killing your offspring (not for the offspring) or abandoning your children. Have you paid any attention to what the sexual revolution has done to poor people in American, whether white or black?

            > "Live the lives they wish"? I can't believe you don't think there are limits to this.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            You contend that the view I have sketched here (http://strangenotions.com/abortion-souls-and-the-atheist-conundrum/#comment-2043500572) regarding the historical development of certain aspects of monotheistic religions "does not correspond to reality but to a fantasy version of history [I] hold!"

            Now, that is a provocative assertion.

            As I realize you are a prolific reader, I'd invite you to add to your reading list Richard Elliott Friedman's "Who Wrote the Bible" (1987), Robert Wright's "The Evolution of God" (2009), and Bart Ehrman's "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" (2005), and even former Catholic nun and religious scholar Karen Armstrong's "A History of God" (1993) and "The Bible" (2007).

            Speaking of reality and fantasy versions of history, which of the versions of the Noah and the Ark story (if either) related in Genesis reflect actual history, in your view?

            (1) The account scholars attribute to the source/author designated as "J", found in GEN. 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 7-10, 12, and 16-23; and 8:6-12, 20-21? This is the version of the story in which God is referred to as the “Lord”; Noah takes seven pair of every kind of “clean” animal and bird and one pair of every kind of “unclean” animal and bird into the Ark; the flood lasts 40 days after which Noah sends out a raven and then a dove twice to determine when the flood waters have receded enough to come out of the Ark; and sacrifices are made from among the clean animals and birds when they decamp from the Ark.

            (2) The account scholars attribute to the source designated as the "Priestly" author(s), found in GEN. 6:9-22; 7:6, 11, 13-16, and 24; and 8:1-5, 13-19. This is the version of the story in which God is referred to as “God”; Noah takes two of every kind of living creature into the Ark; the flood lasts 150 days, it is ten months before the tops of the mountains can be seen, and Noah, his family and all the animals and birds remain on the Ark for an entire year; and no animals or birds are sacrificed after Noah decamps from the Ark.

            See Friedman, Who Wrote the Bible, pp. 53-60, 246.

            I know we've all heard this story so many times since we were children that we think we know the story. But, go reread it, carefully, and as if for the first time. You'll see these two very different stories exist side by side, interlineated by some source scholars refer to as the "Redactor" in these three chapters of Genesis, apparently to preserve two different traditional accounts that had gained traction and served different theological purposes as the centuries passed from the division of the United Kingdom into the separate Kingdoms of Judah and Israel until the fall of the Kingdom of Judah to the Babylonians and the exile 300-400 years later.

            It's difficult to see how both accounts can be true, given the numerous and obvious contradictions. (Not to mention the prospect that the story is entirely mythological, based on repurposing of prevailing flood stories in ancient Babylon tracing to the Epic of Gilgamesh.)

            More questions.

            Are the stories of Abraham and Joseph related in GEN. chaps. 11-25, 37, 39-48, and 50 accurate historical accounts of those partriarchs?

            How about the story of Moses and the Israelites' journey out from their oppression under the Pharaoh in Egypt and their forty years in the wilderness en route to the Promised Land, related in EXODUS, LEVITICUS, NUMBERS and DEUTERONOMY. Accurate history?

            Is the conquest of Jericho under Joshua, and subsequent conquests of other cities and peoples in Palestine, as detailed in JOSHUA, an accurate account of the military history by which God fulfilled his covenant with the Israelites in exchange for their acceptance of Him as their God?

            If all these accounts from the first six books of the Old Testament reflect actual human history, why then, despite extraordinary, herculean efforts by teams upon teams of archeologists and other biblical scholars who have combed the Sinai and Israel, Jordan and Syria and the Palestinian territories for well over a century not uncovered evidence to substantiate these stories? See Israel Finkelstein & Neil Asher Silberman, "The Bible Unearthed: Archeologies' New Vision of Ancient Israel and the Origins of Its Sacred Texts" (2002).

            Let me conclude with perhaps the most famous accounts of all, the creation stories in GENSIS chaps. 1 and 2. History? Hmmmh.

            Based on knowledge we have discovered in the two and a half millennia since GENESIS 1 was written, in the realms of biology, geology and astronomy, we know that the “Priestly” source/authors responsible for the creation account in GENESIS 1 plainly got several things wrong:

            (1) GENESIS 1:3-5 suggests God created light – which He called “day” -- and darkness – which He called “night” -- on the first day of creation even though the stars supposedly were not created until the fourth day. GEN. 1:14-19. We now know that daylight on Earth comes from a garden-variety star, our Sun; that our nighttime light comes from the Sun’s reflection off the Earth’s Moon and from other, far distant stars; and that the darkness of the night is simply a consequence of the Earth’s rotation on its axis, always keeping part of Earth facing away from the Sun. Contrary to the account in GENESIS chapter 1, the “light” that illuminates Earth came after, not before, our Sun and the other stars were “born.”

            (2) GENESIS 1:16 implies that the Moon is a “lesser light” – in modern parlance, a smaller star – that provides our nighttime light. We now know that the Moon is not a star, like the Sun, but is simply a smaller planetary-type body more like the Earth than the Sun, and that the Moon, unlike the Sun, does not generate its own light by dint of the thermonuclear fusion reactions that power the Sun, but rather merely reflects sunlight coming from the Sun. The GENESIS 1 authors knew nothing about the physics that govern the Sun, the Moon and light.

            (3) GENESIS 1:11-13 suggests that the first living things created by God were the plants. We now know that the first living things that emerged on Earth, perhaps as much as 3.5 billion years ago, were single-celled organisms, likely similar to modern-day cyanobacteria. Next, perhaps 2.1 billion years ago, came the earliest multi-celled organisms, likely ancestral to modern-day algae. Somewhere on the order of 635 million years ago, during the Ediacaran period, came larger and more complex soft-bodied invertebrate animals that still lived in the oceans. During the so-called Cambrian explosion, beginning roughly 535 or 540 million years ago, there was a veritable explosion of several different phyla of animals, among them the sea anemones, sponges and mollusks, including the familiar trilobites known to schoolchildren everywhere. It appears that the colonization of land did not begin until perhaps 500 million years ago, during the Ordovician period, with the first vascular plants appearing later, during the Silurian period, roughly 440 million years ago. The first of the seed plants mentioned in GENESIS 1:11-13 probably didn’t appear until around 360 million years ago, with flowering plants (the angiosperms) not showing up until perhaps 145 million years ago. Here, again, the account in GENESIS chapter 1 gets the sequence of the progression of life on planet Earth wrong in several particulars.

            (4) GENESIS states that God created all the living creatures in the seas on the fifth day (GEN. 1:20-23), after the terrestrial plants had supposedly been created on the third day (GEN. 1:11-13). But, we’ve already seen that very simple single-celled organisms and more complex multi-cellular invertebrates were already living in the oceans for many hundreds of millions of years before the first terrestrial plants came into existence. So, Genesis also gets the order of the emergence of animals in the oceans and development of terrestrial plants backwards.

            Then there is the whole other issue about the rival creation
            accounts in GENESIS: the account found in GENESIS 1:1 to 2-4, thought to have originated with the “Priestly” authors in the mid first millennia BCE, and the rival account found in GENESIS 2:4-25, thought to be several hundred years older than the first account, and attributed to the "J" source.

            Note that, in the second, “J” account, God supposedly formed man, Adam, out of clay before there were any shrubs or grass on the Earth (GEN. 2:5-15). That contradicts the first creation account in GENESIS 1, which states that plants were created on the third day but man was not created until the sixth day.

            Note also that, in the second, “J” account, God created man before he created all the other animals and birds (GEN. 2:4-5, 18-20). That contradicts the first “Priestly” creation account, which indicates that all the other animals and birds were created on the fifth and sixth days before man was created later on the sixth day (GEN. 1:20-26).

            We'll just have to agree to disagree, I guess, about whose accounts "correspond to reality" and whose "fantasy versions of history" (however creative and inspiring they may be to some).

            But, thanks for the conversation the past few days. I've enjoyed engaging with you.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Just because your version of Catholicism is based on a fantasy does not mean I think you are the author of that fantasy.

            Then you change the subject and attack a fundamentalist and literal reading of some OT texts in order, I guess, to show that the Pentateuch is absurd and Catholicism is absurd for adhering to it. However, the Church does not approach the OT the way certain Protestant fundamentalists do and that you demand that I account for.

            I don't have any problem with the final author or editors of Genesis having woven together many traditions. But the Catholic Church from the beginning has read the OT in the light of Christ, so, for, example, Noah is a type of Christ, the ark, is a type of the Church, the flood a type of baptism, Isaac another type of Christ, Christ is the New Adam, Mary the New Eve, the Suffering Servant in Isaiah is a foreshadowing of Christ's Passion, etc.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I do not demand that you interpret the Bible in any particular manner. You are free to interpret it however you wish. The problem lies in the shifting interpretations over time, subject to the creativity and ingenuity of the literary critics qua theologians, reacting to changing conditions and needs as time marches on.

            It calls to mind a memorable exchange between Alice and Humpty Dumpty in Through the Looking Glass:

            "I don't know what you mean by 'glory,' " Alice said.

            Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. "Of course you don't -- till I
            tell you. I meant 'there's a nice knock-down argument for you!' "

            "But 'glory' doesn't mean 'a nice knock-down argument'," Alice objected.

            "When I use a word," Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, "it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less."

            "The question is," said Alice, "whether you can make words mean so many different things."

            "The question is," said Humpty Dumpty, "which is to be master -- that's all."

            Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking-Glass

            I feel like Alice.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            In case you were wondering, I don't advocate killing my offspring or abandoning my children.

            I genuinely doubt many of the others collectively included under the broad pro-choice umbrella side of the abortion chasm do, either.

            The core of my dispute with your position relates only to whether the government ought to be enlisted at the behest of certain very conservative religious (the RCC as an institution, a few of the Evangelical Protestant denominations, some of whom have chosen to follow the RCC's lead over the course of the past 35 years in the US) to dictate, at pain of criminal prosecution, that every woman who conceives must give birth to a baby (unless a miscarriage occurs through natural causes), against the explicit wishes of the woman (and, in many cases, also her partner and other family members).

            That's all. I'm not advocating for abortion. I wish there were far, far fewer, as a matter of fact. But I've articulated at great length in this comment thread the reasons why I don't think those who oppose abortion (for whatever reason) should have the power to impose their views on the matter on others who don't share those views.

            The abortion debate itself has been so divisive in the US over the past 42 years, and the level of dialogue in recent decades so desultory, simplistic and demonizing of the "others." Consider just how much uglier things will get if your "side" has its way and the government outlaws all abortions for any reason from the moment of conception.

            I know you think this would be heroic and a ringing declaration of our country's belief in the value and sanctity of human life.

            I wonder.

            Let's start with the most obvious (to me). From the perspective of those in the pro-life crowd who are the most insistent on characterizing abortion as a particularly heinous form of murder, doesn't abortion then represent the most depraved imaginable form of murder? It's essentially cold, callous, cruel, calculating murder for hire, with the pregnant woman playing the part of the murder-contracting party and the doctor playing the role of hit man.

            So, does this mean, in those jurisdictions that authorize capital punishment for murder-for-hire crimes, that both the pregnant woman and the performing doctor will be subjected to the death penalty upon conviction for an abortion?

            If not, why not?

            I realize that many in the pro-life crowd are prone to demonizing doctors who perform abortions and organizations like Planned Parenthood, while bending over backward in a patronizing manner so as to seek to absolve or hold the woman herself blameless. But I say you have to face the logic of claiming that abortion is murder. Elsewhere in the law in murder-for-hire cases, prosecutors may be prone to treat the contracting party as more culpable, offering a lesser sentence to the hit man in exchange for a guilty plea and the agreement to testify against the contracting party. So, why in the abortion context should not the district attorneys prosecute the pregnant woman at least as aggressively, if not more so, than the doctors?

            How about the husband, or partner, or boyfriend (or whatever) who is the biological father and who is on the scene at the time of the abortion. What if there is evidence that he knew of the woman's plan to obtain an abortion? What if he influenced the woman to seek an abortion she might not otherwise have been willing to undergo solely on her own? Is he subject to criminal prosecution? And to the death penalty? After all, in other contexts, we could call this a conspiracy to murder or aiding and abetting a murder. If not, why not?

            What do you imagine is likely to happen in jurisdictions with an ambitious and particularly zealous district attorney and in which such a district attorney may conclude there are votes to be garnered among a significant constituency in the county by becoming known for aggressively prosecuting abortion cases? Don't you have any concern about the prospects for potentially abusive and invasive investigations in the case of every miscarriage, with the DA trying to determine if a case can be made out for murder if he/she can assemble some evidence of deliberate recklessness on the part of the woman (or her partner) in an effort to induce a miscarriage?

            Are the abortion statutes going to be absolute, with no affirmative defenses or justification allowed? For example, what about pregnancies that result from aggravated rape? How about statutory rape? Incest? Although these situations reportedly are "popular" exceptions even among many of those who say they oppose abortion, applying the logic of the pro-life position would seem to disallow the possibility of exceptions in those cases. After all, human life is deemed to be sacred and inviolate from the moment of conception. (God, after all, decided to "bless" the particular act of intercourse in the case with conception and the creation of a new human life, with full knowledge that it occurred in the context of a rape or incest.) And the developing fetus can hardly be blamed for the criminal or societally-disapproved nature of the father's act which led to the pregnancy.

            Elsewhere in the thread I've mentioned among the cases in which we presently allow humans legally to kill other humans the situation of self defense. Will this be recognized in the case of abortion? What about cases involving ectopic, placenta previa, placenta abruption or other pregnancies that similarly threaten the mother's life if the pregnancy is not terminated? Are we going to permit pregnant women in such horrendous situations the privilege the law allows elsewhere to kill the fetus as a functional method of self-defense?

            Now, let's turn to a broad category of unwanted pregnancies.

            Many in the pro-life camp suggest that there is no need for any woman who doesn't want a child to kill it through abortion because she can choose to put it up for adoption immediately at birth, and thus suffers only the minimal "inconvenience" of gestating the baby to development for nine months.

            But what about fetuses bearing some severe genetic abnormality (e.g., Down Syndrome, Edwards Syndrome, Patau Syndrome, or pregnant women who contract the cytomegalovirus)?

            Please note I am not in any way suggesting children having such genetic abnormalities are not capable of living lives worth living and cannot lead meaningful lives consistent with their conditions and also add to the lives of their family members and others! I also recognize that there undoubtedly are many within the pro-life camp who have been, or might be, willing to adopt and raise children possessing such genetic defects or other severely-disabling conditions put up for adoption.

            But, are we really confident there will be willing and suitable individuals or families willing to adopt every such child put up for adoption after birth? What happens when the supply of such babies exceeds the demand (sorry to put it in such crude terms, but it's a short-hand way of stating the problem)?

            Take a modified hypothetical. Say the statutes are drawn so as to permit abortions prior to fetal viability but to outlaw abortions after fetal viability, on the ground that at that stage the fetus is, in fact, capable of surviving outside it's mother's uterus.

            In these situations, can society force the woman to carry the fetus to term before delivering? That, after all, is going to be in the best interests of the fetus in the overwhelming percentage of cases.

            If so, will we permit the woman to demand that the public bear all the expenses of medical care and delivery for the fetus after the point of viability? If not, why not? Because it is society's demand and contravenes the will of the woman, why shouldn't society be forced to bear the costs. (Again, please forgive the crude analogy, but in some ways an analogy could be drawn to eminent domain proceedings in so-called "takings" cases, where the public under certain circumstances is permitted to take private property for public use, provided just compensation is paid.)

            If society is not going to dictate that a woman who has decided she does not want to continue gestating the child, what happens in the case of woman who insists on delivering an unwanted baby prior to full term? Will the state bear the cost of the caesarian procedure? Surely the state, and not the woman or her family, will have to bear the immense medical costs that will result in many of these cases through the extraordinary medical measures and advanced medical technology that will be required to support and assist the child through early development that otherwise would have occurred in the mother's body. Are the same people so militantly opposed to paying taxes really going to step up and accept these financial burdens by paying higher taxes?

            Now, Kevin, you may not be one bit deterred by any of these cases, resting resolute in the certainty of the Objective Truth that you say demands recognition of the sanctity and inviolate nature of all human life. No.Matter.What.

            While I don't think you'll be marching solo, I wonder how many of the formerly erstwhile stalwarts in the former pro-life army might decide to go AWOL when some of the ramifications of their fervent desire to outlaw all abortions in every circumstance are brought to their attention.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Whether the government ought to be enlisted at the behest of certain very conservative religious to dictate, at pain of criminal prosecution, that every woman who conceives must give birth to a baby against the explicit wishes of the woman.

            If the government, either through legislation passed by the citizens' elected representatives and signed into law by their governor or president, or through judicial fiat, how is that being dictated to by some group? How is that different from how abortion came to be liberalized and then legalized in the first place? It sounds like you are trying to create a boogeyman to shut down debate.

            Since that is the core of your objection, I think it is refuted.

            In actual fact, a small, well-organized, well-financed pro-abortion lobbying group got abortion legalized in the first case, bringing two bogus cases before the Supreme Court, both plaintiffs later repudiating the Court's ruling. So you should be attacking NARAL and Planned Parenthood not the Catholic Church. You seem to be saying conservative groups and individuals don't have rights and don't have a voice in the public square.

            Your side does 99% of the demonizing and you have almost the entire news media, academia, the medical establishment, the Democrat Party, and Hollywood on your side. Yet the voters are moving slowly and solidly toward the prolife side.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Anyone who has followed the abortion controversy in this country over the past 42 years is wearily cognizant of the fact that no one is shutting down debate on abortion.

            I have no interest in shutting down debate. As our seemingly interminable back and forth in this thread should demonstrate adequately.

            You claim the Catholic Church is tolerant, open to dissenting views, and has no interest in shutting down debate.

            Square that with the story I related in one of my comments a couple days ago in this thread regarding the (successful) efforts by a Catholic priest to prevail upon a local newspaper publisher to kill a Letter to the Editor I'd written and which the paper's staff had already agreed to run and was set to go to press with when the priest intervened with the publisher, complained about my letter as an attack on the Church (it was fine, naturally, for the priest and another local Protestant minister to publish in the same paper their criticisms attacking their local parishioners allegedly for allowing their children to drift away from their faiths), and importuned the publisher not to run my letter.

            Need we once again bring up the Inquisition?

            Galileo?

            The Church's reluctance in earlier times to allow its parishioners to read the Bible themselves in their vernacular languages?

            The Index Librorum Prohibitorum?

            When I was growing up as a kid in the 60s, the weekly bulletin at our parish church listed movies parishioners were not supposed to attend.

            I'd say censorship and suppression of dissenting views are
            hallmarks of the Church whenever it has been in a position of power historically to do so and whenever it is able to do so even now.

            If you haven't been hearing demonization on the part of your church and many self-styled conservative Catholics of doctors who perform abortions and the women who obtain them, of LGBT Americans who act on their sexual orientations, of gay and lesbian Americans who wish to be able to marry partners of their own sex whom they love, of those who practice "the contraceptive lifestyle," and of political and social liberals and progressives, then I submit you need to start listening more.

            Have you heard of the Republican Party, Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestant Churches, AM political talk radio, AM Christian talk radio, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, numerous Catholic universities around the country? Whose "side" are they on?

            With respect to your concluding sentence, I imagine you must be well pleased. Most folk like to be on the right side of history.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I haven't and won't read your latest slew of comments--I'm just plumb tuckered out--but I have enjoyed interacting with you and admire your verbal loquacity.

          • William Davis

            Take a break, you deserve it :)

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I happily admit that there were Christians in the US in the 19th Century who opposed slavery and who were involved in the fight for abolition.

            The problem, of course, for Catholicism and Christianity in general is the flip side. There is so much in the Bible (including some in the New Testament, not just the Old) that explicitly condones slavery. And there were plenty of Christians who owned slaves and others who genuinely and unsurprisingly quoted at length from "the good book" to justify their position on slavery.

            If the God of the RCC exists, and if He revealed eternal Truths to His People back in Covenant Days as well as through Christ and his disciples and the evangelists and apostolic authors in the first century CE, why has the RCC not spoken with clear, unblemished, untarnished clarity on the great moral evil that chattel slavery is and has always been?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Why has the RCC not spoken with clear, unblemished, untarnished clarity on the great moral evil that chattel slavery is and has always been?

            I think she has spoken clearly for the last 2000 years against chattel slavery. It began with "there is neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, slave nor free."

            http://www.amazon.com/The-Popes-Slavery-Joel-Panzer/dp/0818907649

            That does not mean that the Church has always spoken the way a 21st Century Progressive finds ideal.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            You say: "That does not mean that the Church has always spoken the way a 21st Century Progressive finds ideal."

            Truer words may never have been spoken. ;)

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            One more on this comment of yours and I'll (mercifully) let it drop.

            I'm more than incredulous to see you contend that intolerance is predominatly the hallmark of political and social progressives these days and to profess not to recognize intolerance and disrespect for diverse (and divergent) opinions in the Catholic Church and among the Catholic hierarchy and laity.

            (I don't contend, BTW, that only political, social or religious conservatives display intolerance. There certainly are some liberals on some issues who can be intolerant and dismissive of those who don't hew to their opinions and favored policies. Anyone who has been following some of the speech codes and trigger policies on some American universitties the past couple years knows better than that.)

            Let me offer a couple anecdotes for your consideration.

            During the 2012 election cycle, I heard reports from family members and a friend, who live hundreds of miles apart, in different states, and in communities at the opposite ends of the demographic spectrum and the urban/rural divide, that their kids were told by their REFF teachers that anyone who voted for Democrats would go to hell.

            I grew up on a farm. The closest town had fewer than 2,000 people. The town's weekly newspaper offers space each week for a sermonette that rotates between the local Catholic priest and the ministers of the local Protestant Churches.

            I read a few months' back issues of that paper during August 2012. There were a couple sermonettes by the Catholic priest and the local EFC minister that hit on a common theme, chastising their adult parishioners for what they decried as the declining participation rates by the younger generation upon reaching adulthood.

            I penned a letter to the editor of the paper, offering what I thought were some alternative explanations for the younger generation being turned off by the incessant messages they were hearing from their churches' steady drumbeat on the culture war issues. An age-old theme, really. Maybe instead of being too quick to blame the messenger, consider whether it might be the message itself that is no longer selling well!

            Anyway, I submitted courtesy copies of my letter to both the Catholic priest and the EFC minister to whose sermonettes I was responding at the same time I submitted my letter to the paper. (I didn't know the Catholic priest well, although I'd been to Mass there a couple times while visiting my family at the holidays and he had also presided over a memorial service for my dad 18 months earlier and lunched with us thereafter. However, my mother and one of my brothers are parishioners in that church now and know him very well. My mother played the organ in church for 51 years and my brother
            built the church's alter.)

            Staff at the paper called me a couple days later, told me they were going to run my letter, but asked me to resubmit the letter, due to its length, in a form in which they could run it over the course of three weeks. You know. A la Charles Dickens serialization style.

            I did as requested, and again submitted a courtesy copy of the revised letter to the Catholic priest at the same time I submitted the revised version to the paper. The staff told me things were all set to go and that they planned to start running my letter the following week.

            A day before the paper was set to go to press, the paper's publisher called me and advised that he had decided not to run my letter after all, as a result of "a couple of meetings" he'd had the day before.

            Later that week -- content with the knowledge that he had prevalied upon the publisher to kill my letter -- I received a letter from the Catholic priest. He advised that he had had a meeting with the publisher. Shocking, I know. He admitted that during that meeting he had complained to the publisher about my letter and had expressed his opposition to the publication of my letter, which he characterized as an "attack" on the Catholic and Evangelical Churches.

            Nice.

            So, you'll have to excuse me if I don't share your same admiration for the alleged tolerance and welcoming of dissenting and diverse views by the Catholic Church of the US of the past few years.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I am an American Catholic who has run Catholic schools and CCD programs. I have never even heard of REFF and I find it highly implausible that any elementary-level teacher would tell her students that people who vote Democrat will go to hell.

            What I have personally observed over the past 40 years is a plethora of disrespect, disobedience, and intolerance from progressive priests and religious within the Catholic Church (that, thank goodness, is on the wane). They were ascendant all this time, not these intolerant conservative Catholics you find so offensive.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            REFF apparently is what that Diocese now calls what you know of and what I knew of as CCD.

            I wasn't there, so I don't know. Of course. But the comments came from long-time, faithful Catholics, one who has his kids in Catholic schools, and the other of whom is a devout Catholic and long-time REFF teacher himself.

            If it was from two people in the same church, that would be one thing, and you might write it off to an out-of-control parish. The fact that it was a very similar story from two different parishes 400 miles apart in two different states, one in a small rural area and the other in a major metro area, one to a child in 5th grade, the other to a child in junior high, is suggestive to me that the reports have much more plausibility than you seem to think possible.

            I also remember reading the Diocesan newsletter from one of the diocese at issue here back in the run-up to the 2008 election. I read every single article and calculated that roughly 70% of the content in that issue related to abortion and, as you'd expect, was none too charitable toward a number of higher-profile Demoratic candidates across the country. I also studied, at my sister's recommendations, the USCCB's Forming Consciences document put out that fall as well, in anticipation of that fall's election.

            Now, of course the USCCB would never be so crass as to explicitly come out and make such outrageous statements as I reported from the REFF teachers in a publication put out under their auspices. And, to the extent the IRS would ever decide to take seriously the prohibitions on 501.c.3 organizations engaging in direct electioneering activities, one would expect official Church organs to be careful about not crossing the line in a publication like the Forming Consciences document.

            Nevertheless, given the alignment of our political parties these days, you'd be hard-pressed not to get "the message," from studying Forming Consciences and reading that diocesan newsletter that one, as a faithful Catholic, might have grave reason to fear for your soul, by casting votes for Democratic candidates. Given this context, I found the stories far more credible than you seem prepared to.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            So REFF is religious education/faith formation.

            I would say that if somebody voted for a certain candidate who advocated seriously intrinsically wrong things and he voted for him because he supported those things that would constitute cooperation with evil that would be a serious sin.

            That is quite different than saying that anyone who votes for a Democrat is going to hell. After all, there are still a few pro life Democrats and more than a few pro-abortion Republicans.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            Yeah, I knew at one point what the REFF acronym stood for, but had forgotten. Until your comment yesterday, I had assumed that the name change from CCD to REFF was universal in every diocese in the US, and didn't know it was still referred to as CCD in some places.

            I studied the USCCB's Forming Consciences pamphlet in both 2008 and 2012. To my understanding, you are accurately portraying its core premise.

            I likewise agree that the core premise of Forming Consciences, as you frame it, is a vastly different thing from REFF instructors in two different parish churches in two different states and hundreds of miles apart, one in a major US city and the other in a small, rural farming community, telling their classes of late primary school and junior high age children in the run up to the 2012 presidential election that their parents will go to hell if they vote for Democratic candidates. And, yet, that doesn't mean it didn't happen.

            I related for you yesterday the reasons why I found the independent stories of that happening to be credible. Whether either you or I personally think it actually happened the way it was related to me doesn't matter as much, I would submit, as the consequences it produced: I am advised that, as a result of these incidents, one of these families has decided not to make further contributions to the Church and the other family pulled their two children out of REFF classes.

            That's just one of the problems the religious right in general and some of the very conservative elements in the Catholic Church in particular are facing given the extent to which they've seemingly thrown in with the GOP. I'll leave others inside the tent to point out the theological flaws with that strategic decision.

            I'll simply note that I'm sure there is a significant segment within the laity in the Catholic Church in the US that tend to identify to a greater extent with the Democratic Party than with the GOP. To the extent the Church conveys messages that get interpreted (rightly or wrongly) as castigating those who vote for Democrats and that are interpreted in the eyes of some as the Church essentially aligning itself with the GOP as "God's Party" it probably shouldn't come as a great surprise if the tribal political dentity prevails over the tribal religious identity among some Catholics and the Church, as a consequence, begins to hemorrhage believers who more strongly identify with the Democratic party.

            While I don't subscribe to the old adage that "image is everything," it can be important to many and in the hyper-partisan nature of the US of 2015, it surely can't come as news that image problems can hurt. The Catholic Church surely is painfully aware of this reality for other reasons, which are far off topic here, and thus shall not be named.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My father and all his siblings were a life-long Democrats and my mother her Irish immigrant siblings were too. I started that way until the Democrat party became more and more radical.

            If prolife Catholics identify with the Republican Party in the USA, it is just because there is nowhere else to go. However, a well-formed Catholic is a Catholic first and a member of a political party second.

            On the other hand, I uphold the right of anyone to join any political party they want, unless its platform is objectively evil. The Communist party certainly was. The Democratic party is getting close.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Kevin.

            I wonder how you think the US can survive as a nation if one of the two major parties is, in your view, "getting close" to having a public policy platform that is "objectively evil."

            If your take regarding the Democratic Party, Kevin, is that it has become "more and more radical," I presume you would acknowledge the even greater seismic lurch rightward by the GOP since 1980:

            (1) The then-radical extremist positions of Barry Goldwater, the GOP's standard-bearer in 1964, would be somewhere in the center to moderate spectrum of the GOP of 2015.

            (2) Richard Nixon would be an outright liberal and viewed as a total apostate, not simply a RINO.

            (3) Despite the mythologized nature of the Reagan lionized in the pantheon of GOP heroes, the reality is that Reagan, the actual human being and politician of the 80s, not the myth, could not even get elected in today's GOP: despite his public rhetoric, he was too willing to cut deals with O'Neill; too willing to compromise in order to make government function; too willing to raise taxes; and (gasp) pioneered the concept of running huge deficits in peacetime (US total debt essentially tripled during his Administration, far and away the greatest increase, percentage-wise, in the debt accumulated under any Administration since WWII (and, yes, that includes the current Administration)).

            One last illustration. John Paul Stevens was widely regarded as the intellectual leader of the "liberals" on the SCOTUS, and either its most or second most "liberal" member -- depending on who was doing the ranking and the metrics being taken into account -- for essentially the last twenty years he served on the Court, and he was a Republican by party affiliation and deemed a judicial moderate when appointed by President Ford to the Court in 1975.

            I shudder to think what it must be like for you, Kevin, to face a country in which you appear to believe (as indicated in several of your comments on this thread) that increasing numbers of your fellow citizens have no decency, lead lives that are gravely and intrinsically disordered, and lead lives and favor policies that are objectively evil.

            I may be pessimistic, too, but only because I perceive the country becoming captured economically and politically by large corporations and the very, very rich who are effectively disbanding our traditional democracy and taking us toward an oligarchy, pursuing policies that are decimating the middle class and drastically reducing social mobility and opportunity for increasing numbers in our society, with political and economic extreme conservatives on the ascendency. While I think their politics and policies misguided and counterproductive and are leading this country in the wrong direction, I don't think many people are objectively evil and intrinsically disordered.

            My hope for you, Kevin -- and I genuinely mean this -- is that you are able to reorient some of your focus away from the hot button issues of abortion, same sex marriage and contraception that seem to be causing you such despair in order to focus on some of the more life-affirming and positive aspects of the faith. To the extent that my (and others' from the "wrong" side on this debate) comments may only be exacerbating your pain and despair, I think I'll call it quits with our dialogue on this thread on this post.

            While this may not offer much solace to you, I'd recommend you peruse some of Benjamin Corey's blogs at Patheos. While not Catholic, Corey is a believing Christian (although admittedly of the "progressive" stripe) and, wearying of the culture wars himself, strikes me as having an ability to focus on other aspects of Christ's message and core values of Christianity that keep him centered, reaffirm his faith, and sustain him in some hope for humanity. I wish I were able to point you to some of the Catholic authors on Patheos or elsewhere, but my sense from reading their columns is that they may only reinforce your despair.

            If Corey doesn't do it for you, i hope Pope Francis' style and personality might inspire some others within the Catholic tent with broader and more life-affirming and hopeful messages to become prominent advocates for a more positive message of the Church in engaging with the world.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            My hope for you, Kevin -- and I genuinely mean this -- is that you are able to reorient some of your focus away from the hot button issues of abortion, same sex marriage and contraception that seem to be causing you such despair in order to focus on some of the more life-affirming and positive aspects of the faith. To the extent that my (and others' from the "wrong" side on this debate) comments may only be exacerbating your pain and despair, I think I'll call it quits with our dialogue on this thread on this post.

            Another character of progressives I have seen many times is that they project their own emotions on other people. Is it possible that since you can't present a coherent defense of your position, you project them on me to justify calling it quits? Your assumption that I am in pain and despair and need to focus on life-affirming and positive aspects of the faith is absurd and presumptuous.

            And in fact, the full prolife agenda, the family, and natural sexual relations are as about life-affirming as anyone can get. Pope St. John Paul II called your side's agenda the culture of death.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Ok, Kevin. Message received. I acknowledge my error in drawing some inferences in the latter few paragraphs of my comment, based on a number of comments you've made the past couple days on this thread. I shan't travel that road again. Rest assured.

            But perhaps not nearly as wrong as you in your surmise that I allegedly "can't present a coherent defense of [my] position" and so have constructed a ruse "to justify calling it quits."

            It's always ironic to hear Catholics refer to other's agenda as a culture of death. The mind boggles.

            If you think that progressives project their emotions on other people, you ought to spend some time listening to AM right-wing talk radio hosts and the conservative "entertainers" at Fox News. Psychologists would find a veritable cornucopia of examples with which to fill textbooks and seminars.

            Moratorium lifted.

          • Mila

            REFF teacher? I been a Catholic my entire life and never heard of it. I think someone is making stuff up.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. It is legit. Add it to CCD and PSR!

          • Greg Schaefer

            Mila.

            Perhaps.

            But, then, consider whether the fact that you may never personally have heard of something is not necessarily co-extensive with the set of things that are not true.

            I am sure it will come as news to the Catholic parishes that sponsor REFF classes, to whomever it is within the Catholic Church that prepares the written class materials used in REFF classes, and to the Catholic laity who have been teaching REFF classes for many years that REFF classes are likely a figment of someone's imagination or scurrilous propaganda manufactured by some opponent of Catholicism.

            I have two siblings who have taught REFF classes for years. I assure you they are not a figment of my imagination. I even attended one of the REFF classes one of my siblings was leading a few years ago for a class of high school seniors, and skimmed the materials from which he was teaching that night's class.

          • William Davis

            Good to know that you don't think I'm a decent person. For the record. I think you are a decent person, and there is plenty of room for decent people to disagree on complex moral issues. I think catholicism creates a real problem here with its false pretense of objective morality. I blame the religion, not you :)

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I guess I should have written, "no decent person who knows this."

            But tell me, what kind of adjectives would you use to modify the noun slaveholder?

          • William Davis

            Decent is possible. While the institution of slavery itself is clearly wrong, a decent slaveholder would treat his slaves well and fairly. Many decent slaveholders would free slaves based on good behavior. I suppose they would be more decent if they freed them all, but some decency is better than none, and fair better than cruelty.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Ha! So you have joined the ranks of those who so easily defend slavery. http://strangenotions.com/abortion-souls-and-the-atheist-conundrum/#comment-2041582552

          • William Davis

            I figured you might say that. I didn't defend slavery, I said individual slave owners could be decent. Massive difference. I even said the institution of slavery was clearly wrong ;)

        • "In the context of abortion, saying abortion is wrong because it constitutes the murder of a human being is a non-starter. After all, in the US, abortion is in fact a constitutional right under Roe v. Wade and 40 years of subsequent jurisprudence, so abortion, in the US of 2015 is not, in fact murder."

          Simply stating the current legal reality is not to argue for its veracity. Otherwise, someone in the 1850 could use your exact reasoning to say:

          "In the context of slavery, saying slavery is wrong because it constitutes the unjust subjugation of a human being is a non-starter. After all, in the US, slavery is in fact a constitutional right, so slavery, in the US of 1850 is not, in fact unjust subjugation."

          But we know this is absurd. Simply stating an unjust law is no reason to continue supporting it. Unjust laws need to change.

          Which is why abortion, while not legally recognized as murder right now, should be.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Brandon.

            There's very little on which we agree, but I can happily report that we are in full agreement on the notions that "stating the current legal reality is not to argue for its veracity" and "Simply stating an unjust law is no reason to continue supporting it. Unjust laws need to change."

            I never had any doubt but that you oppose abortion and believe it should be outlawed. On that we disagree. It's not that I don't understand yours, or the Catholic Church's position, on the issue. I do, and I reject it.

            People of good faith, intelligence, and thoughtfulness can arrive at different conclusions on such issues because they balance the competing interests, rights and considerations differently. Demonizing others as immoral or evil simply because they come to different conclusions is not a productive way to maintain a civil, respectful and tolerant society in which its citizens can thrive, flourish and lead meaningful lives.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next, you say: "What's at stake is whether abortion meets this definition [the intentional killing of innocent human beings]. . . . So the only relevant question is whether the fetus is a human being. "

        No. I'll happily stipulate that abortion results in the intentional killing of another human being at very early stages of development. I think the addition of "innocent" is more about marketing and PR by some advocates within the pro-birth movement, but for purposes of this argument, I'll also stipulate that a fetus is an "innocent human being."

        What's actually at stake is whether the society reaches a consensus that it wishes to give precedence to the presumed interest a fetus in utero has of being allowed to develop to term and then being born over the competing interests and rights of pregnant women and other members of the society, as I laid out in my original comment.

        If society reaches that consensus, then its elected representatives can adopt laws that criminalize abortions under specified circumstances, making them illegal, effectively extending the protections afforded under that society's laws, regulations and constitutions to "persons" or citizens to early-stage developing human beings still be in utero.

        Unless, that is, there is an independent check on the ability of a majority of the citizenry to infringe on the individual rights our courts are prepared to say are guaranteed to citizens or "persons" -- under the US Constitution, some rights are given to citizens and some to all "persons" -- under the federal or a state constitution, as those constitutional rights are interpreted by the courts. (This is the way it works in the US; other countries of course have different legal traditions.)

        One other way of framing what's at stake, I suppose, is if those in the pro-birth movement (again, this is from the perspective of the US; the situation might well be different in other countries, given different constitutions, statutes, interpretive traditions, and the roles of the judiciary) can prevail upon the courts to define prenatal human life at various stages (i.e., zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus) and in certain conditions (what about abnormal forms of pregnancy which present more direct threats to the mother's own health or life, such as ectopic pregnancies, placenta previa, placenta abruption, etc.?) as being "persons" within the meaning of constitutions and statutes that offer state protection to life.

        So, not the relevant question is not whether a fetus is a human being. Rather, the relevant question, at least in the US, is always going to remain whether human life at prenatal stages of development, when the embryo or fetus is in the mother's body, is going to be treated as being a legal "person," having the same legal rights as those human beings who have been born.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next, you seek to distinguish several situations I raised as evidence that the US does not recognize an absolute "right to life" even for human beings who have been born.

        Nothing you have done, in your efforts to distinguish those situations, undercuts the general thrust of my argument at this point. The fact is that human life is not regarded in the US as being sacred and as outweighing all other considerations and interests in all circumstances. All of the situations I outlined prove the point that the US does not regard human life as an absolute value.

        But, let's take your attempts to distinguish each situation from that of a fetus in the abortion context one by one.

        First, war.

        You try to distinguish the killings in war as being "indirect" and "unintentional."

        I see nothing about killing in war as being indirect or unintentional.

        Perhaps what you have in mind is the distinction between the killing of soldiers engaged on the battlefield and that of civilians and other non-combatants, often referred to euphemistically as "collateral damage." But, the fact remains that non-combatants are always killed during war, so the decision to go to war involves knowing that non-combatants are going to be killed. Such killings, in context, are neither meaningfully indirect nor unintentional.

        In any event, I think you make too much of intent. There was a very interesting exchange a few weeks back between Noam Chomsky and Sam Harris that makes this very point. Millions have been slaughtered in humanities' wars, but it is child's play for the kings, dictators, presidents and generals who instigate and direct wars to claim they had innocent intent and were only doing things they truly thought were in their country's best interests.

        I'm not saying intent isn't important in some contexts, as it surely is. (After all, there are laws of war, and the US occasionally does prosecute some of its soldiers and contractors for murder in war zones, as you will no doubt wish to "remind" me.) But, it's an easy resort of scoundrels and duplicitous leaders to evade responsibility for the effects of actions they direct. Perhaps, expressions of the noble intentions of the US in our wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen and elsewhere in the Middle East and on the African continent the past 25 years are more easily accepted by American citizens than by residents in those countries whose infrastructure we have decimated and who have lost tens of thousands and, in some cases, hundreds of thousands of their people as a direct consequence of the US war efforts.

        In the end, I'm utterly unpersuaded by your attempts to rationalize the loss of innocent human lives as a consequence of war.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next, you take on my case for killings committed under claim of self defense. Again, I find your attempts to distinguish this situation wholly unpersuasive.

        You try, understandably, to put the best face on such killings, characterizing the dead as "aggressors" and the killings as unintentional.

        I suspect the assertion that killings in self defense are unintentional would come as a shock to the shooters themselves in the vast majority of such cases.

        Aggression, of course, can be a matter of perception and context. And, self defense in so-called "castle" doctrine cases need not involve any aggression whatsoever. In such cases, it is entirely possible for innocent persons to wind up dead of a gunshot wound if they surprise a nervous (or sometimes trigger-happy) homeowner in the middle of the night.

        In any event, my fundamental point remains that society has decided that some human beings are deemed to be justified taking the life of other human beings under specified circumstances. Society simply does not accord an absolute right to life even to human beings who have emerged from their mother's womb.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next comes capital punishment.

        Again, to seek to elide the force of the example you focus on the "easy" cases. Surely, some folks (we can even stipulate for purposes of this argument, that most of those) executed at the hands of the state in capital punishment jurisdictions committed serious crimes that eventually resulted in their executions. In that sense, such folks are not "innocent" in the sense that you rightly claim an embryo or fetus is.

        But I presume you are aware of statistics that demonstrate that some criminal defendants who have been put to death were, in fact, innocent of the crimes for which they were charged. Nor is it infrequent news to read of a death row inmates being released from prison after having been exonerated by DNA evidence, or freed on habeas corpus proceedings based on mistaken or faulty evidence produced at trial, or some form of prosecutorial misconduct.

        But regardless, the point remains that we -- in the US in this particular case, as most other modern, industrialized, "western" societies have abolished the death penalty -- have determined that human life is not an absolute value and that other interests and considerations in certain circumstances are deemed to override the interest adult human beings have in continuing to live.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Finally, the last of my examples. I used speed limits, but the principle exists in countless contexts and industries in which our society has deemed commercial considerations, corporate profits, and jobs as more important than human life.

        You say that high speed limits don't directly kill humans. While your statement is true in a very literal sense, the fact remains that experts tell us that increasing speed increases both the likelihood of accidents and their severity. There is little doubt that, if we adopted speed limits of, say, 30 mph on our highways that we'd save many lives that are lost every year as a consequence of existing speed limits of 65, 70 and 75 mph (and, on some interstate highways in some states, like Texas, Idaho, and Montana, to list a few notorious high speed jurisdictions, even higher).

        The fact that we lose "only" 32,000 motorists a year hardly meets my point that we, as a society, have decided that considerations like commercial interests, corporate profits, "freedom," convenience, and productivity are deemed more important than the many human lives that would be saved if we actually valued human life more highly and backed up our lofty sentiments with actual conduct.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next, you assert that I've given: "no reason to believe that
        the innocent, unborn child shouldn't have the same right to life as
        innocent, born children (or adults)."

        It is certainly not lost on me, Brandon, that you and many others in what you term the "pro-life" movement have virulently strong antipathy to abortion and would like to see it abolished. I could be wrong, of course, but I think that most of the most vociferous and crusading opponents of abortion tend to be motivated largely by religious beliefs, although I don't question the sincerity of their claim to moral reasons for opposing abortion independent of their religious beliefs (or the dogmas of the institutional church to which they may belong).

        However, even though you disagree, you surely do understand that, in fact, many Americans don't think that every embryo or fetus has exactly the same "right to life" as do children and adults. There are many reasons people who fall broadly under the umbrella label "pro-choice" come to that conclusion. Books have been written on this subject, which obviously can't be adequately addressed in a combox comment.

        But, broadly speaking, the overarching reason is those of us in the pro-choice camp plainly don't accord the same weight to the presumed interest that every embryo and fetus has in its continuing development in its mother's body and eventual birth as do those who believe abortion is wrong in some or -- for some -- all circumstances.

        We plainly value other factors and values -- things like a woman's right to bodily autonomy; rights of post-natal humans to privacy and self-determination and control over the path of their own lives; rights of women/parents to determine for themselves the size of their families and rights of women to determine whether they wish to carry a given pregnancy to term and give birth to a child, whether with the intention of raising the child herself or putting the child up for adoption; freedom of conscience and the right not to have others , or the state, dictate how they live their lives, etc. -- more highly in certain circumstances than they do every embryo or fetus' presumed interest in being born.

        The fact is that human beings at prenatal stages of development are different than children and adult human beings in an incredibly fundamental way. That difference is highly relevant to many of us, even though it is not to you and to other vociferous opponents of abortion.

        I can respect that those in the pro-life camp have arrived at a different conclusion than I have on the abortion issue, whether on religious grounds or for independent moral or ethical reasons. I say, if you're opposed to abortion, then don't have an abortion any time you become pregnant.

        But, as we live in a highly diverse, pluralistic society with wildly divergent religious, moral and ethical views on this subject, the maintenance of a civil, cohesive society necessitates tolerance for the rights of others who disagree with our own religious (or lack thereof), moral and ethical views, values and opinions.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        As to your complaint that I "attacked" Joe for an argument he never made in his OP, I confess that, at the time that I posted my original comment, I had not read through Joe's piece in its entirety. I had only started perusing his article, and came across his comment: "to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay." That particular line of reasoning drives me crazy, as I think it very wrongheaded. That led me to the posting of my original comment, without reading through the entirety of Joe's piece.

        I've now gone back and reread my original comment in light of yours. I don't think my comment, fairly read in context, accuses Joe directly with having made an argument on religious grounds. But, it is certainly the case that one of the principal drivers of anti-abortion sentiment in the US is religious beliefs. If that remark is "off topic," and not suitable for combox discussion in this particular context, then I apologize. I certainly did not intend to insinuate that Joe was making only a religiously-based argument.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        Next, you write: "You do realize that the same Pew numbers show that over 70% of Americans
        identify as Christian, right? Even though they may identify with
        different traditions within Christianity, they overwhelmingly agree that
        abortion is wrong.

        As to your first question, yes, despite your apparently condescending remark, I do realize that. I know you also realize that there are vehement interdenominational disagreements within Christianity on a wide variety of doctrinal matters, beliefs, theology, interpretive traditions regarding the Bible, worship practices, etc. and even countless intradenominational disputes and disagreements on various matters. The fact that 70% of the American public self-identifies with a Christian church tells us precious little about their beliefs and opinions on the subject of abortion.

        As to your second remark, I am sure it is true that the most devout and orthodox among the Catholic laity and in the fundamentalist and Evangelical churches who seek to conform their beliefs to the teachings and religious doctrines/dogmas of their faiths express opposition in some form to abortion. I very much doubt it is true that "overwhelming" numbers within the 70% of Americans who self-identify as Christians actually believe that abortion is wrong in all circumstances and should be outlawed, and that women who procure abortions and doctors (or other non-medical persons) who perform them should be prosecuted for murder.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Brandon.

        I find your remarks in your penultimate paragraph condescending.

        And ironic, coming from folks who post articles claiming that abortion is wrong because it is murder.

        Your comments are indicative of the level to which the pro-life crowd in the US has stooped to misappropriating and misusing language in an attempt to play on emotions in the abortion debate.

        There are several technical medical terms commonly used to refer to the developing human being during its prenatal development. These include terms like zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus.

        I have no problem (others do, and some of them have commented on various of the SN articles dealing with abortion) with referring to a zygote, a blastocyst, an embryo or a fetus as a developing human being. But, to call a developing human being at any prenatal stage a "child" does violence to the ordinary meaning of that word, which plainly refers to a young human being who has been born.

        As to your last sentence in that paragraph, it is a fact in the US, given the present state of the law, that a pregnant woman has several choices: she may choose to give birth to a child and raise that child; she may choose to give birth to a child and give that child up for adoption; or she may choose to obtain an abortion and terminate the pregnancy.

    • Jonathan Brumley

      Tiresome, inflammatory rhetoric plays well with culture warriors, but is tedious in what is supposed to be a serious, responsible debate among grown-ups.

      Please follow the posting guidelines and avoid the use of ad hominems.

      • Greg Schaefer

        Jonathan.

        I perceived Joe's comment to which I was responding to be exactly as I referred to it.

        Do you not understand the specific comment "to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay" as being rhetorical and intended to provoke, particularly coming from a former lawyer like Joe who, at a minimum, had to have taken at least one criminal procedure class in law school, and thus knows that murder is, by definition, an unlawful, unjustified killing?

        I try to abide by the posting guidelines, but I don't see this comment to which you've apparently taken offense as an ad hominem. But, I'm always willing to learn, and will clarify or edit my remark, and apologize, if warranted, if you are willing to explain to me how I've gone astray.

        • Jonathan Brumley

          The ad hominem is this:

          Tiresome, inflammatory rhetoric plays well with culture warriors, but is tedious in what is supposed to be a serious, responsible debate among grown-ups.

          You might as well have rephrased this way:

          Joe's comment is tiresome and inflammatory, and it indicates that Joe is not serious, responsible, and grown-up enough to participate in this debate.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Jonathan.

            I've consulted with others elsewhere whom I have reason to believe are far more knowledgeable than I in this area for their opinion whether the sentence in my original comment to Joe to which you objected was an inappropriate ad hominem.

            The uniform response has been "no."

            The essential rationale is that I was not attacking Joe personally but rather was pointing out what I believed to be a flaw in his argument and explaining the basis upon which I had reasonable grounds for believing that Joe must have known, given his background and education, about that flaw. The thrust of my point was directed at a specific rhetorical point Joe was making, not at Joe himself.

            So, I stand by my phrasing.

            Speaking only for myself, I find your suggested rephrasing to be worse. In fact, the phrase after the comma in your suggested rephrasing I would myself view as an ad hominem attack, unless I knew a great deal more about Joe personally that might possibly serve as a basis upon which to make such comments, and I do not, in fact, know Joe. I was not intending, nor do I believe, that Joe is not serious or grown-up enough to participate in this debate. I would never make such a statement, given the articles and comments I've seen from Joe, limited though they may be.

            But thanks for calling this to my attention.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            Hi Greg,

            In the English language, stating "supposed to be" as part of a negative critique means the opposite about the thing being critiqued. In this case, your critique is about Joe's comment, so by writing "supposed to be", the words in your comment mean that his comment is not serious, not responsible, and not grown-up.

            But these words "serious", "responsible", and "grown-up" can't apply to a comment. A comment cannot be "irresponsible", because words have no responsibility. A comment cannot be "serious", because words have no attitude of seriousness. A comment cannot be "grown up" or not because comments don't grow. The adjectives can only be applied to the author of the comment.

            For instance, if I were to say your comment were "stupid", that word doesn't actually describe the comment. That word would describe the author of the comment, because words have no intelligence.

            I am glad you say you did not intend an ad hominem, but what you wrote is an attack, even if the it was disguised by the use of "supposed to be" and as a critique of the comment rather than the author.

            I would appreciate it if you and the moderators are more careful in the future.

          • David Nickol

            But these words "serious", "responsible", and "grown-up" can't apply to a comment.

            This is simply wrong.

            From the dictionary definition of serious:

            3 a : being in earnest : not jesting, trifling, or deceiving
            <this observation was not serious. It was merely a trifle of affectionate malicious embroidery — Arnold Bennett>
            <no serious antiquarian researches have been carried out — Norman Douglas>
            <serious conversation>
            <a serious question>

            From the dictionary definition of grown-up

            2: of, for, or characteristic of adults
            <the only grown-up way to keep peace in the world — Leverett Saltonstall>
            <began reading grown-up books at an early age>
            <insisted on wearing grown-up clothes>

            From the dictionary definition of irresponsible:

            b : not based on sound reasoned considerations
            <irresponsible optimism>
            <irresponsible dreams>
            especially : uttered without regard to truth, propriety, or fairness
            <irresponsible gossip>
            <these irresponsible charges<

          • William Davis

            But these words "serious", "responsible", and "grown-up" can't apply to a comment.

            "Yesterday I let my 4 year old yell "poop" at everyone who walked by my house"

            That comment wasn't serious or grown-up. I'm grown up, and I'm serious. The comment has different properties than I do.

            "Your house is on fire"
            If this isn't true, and said in the correct context, this comment could be irresponsible, and a very bad taste joke. That doesn't mean that the person that said it isn't normally responsible. Again comments have their own properties that may or may not match the person commenting.

            In the other words, you are quite wrong. ;)

          • Jonathan Brumley

            In all the cases you mentioned, calling the comment "irresponsible" or "not grown-up" describes the character or motivations of the commentator. Just because we are grown up or usually responsible doesn't mean we always act as someone who is.

            But in charitable dialogue, it's not helpful to state that someone's character or motivations are bad. When we do, that's the ad hominem fallacy. It's the character or motivations of the commentator who made the comment, rather than debating the truth of the statement or argument.

            And it's still an ad hominem fallacy with respect to the argument regardless if the characterization is true or false. It can be irresponsible to yell "your house is on fire" or juvenile to yell "poop!"

          • William Davis

            In all the cases you mentioned, calling the comment "irresponsible" or "not grown-up" describes the character or motivations of the commentator.

            I'm sorry that isn't the case. When I wrote the comment ""Yesterday I let my 4 year old yell "poop" at everyone who walked by my house" my motivations were quite grown up and completely serious. My intention was to demonstrate something about comments, but the nature of the comment itself was something else entire. Obviously this is a special case, but there are plenty of other possible cases. I've often written something and later come back and read it again, the second time I read something noticeable different from what I actually intended. This is usually because most of our brain (at least mine) is working on what to say, and the "how to say it" part is somewhat automatic. Attention to writing something is very different from attention to how something will be perceived, thus resulting in comments that diverge from their author's intentions. Something can be offensive without the author intending it to be, I would have thought this was obvious.

          • David Nickol

            And it's still an ad hominem fallacy with respect to the argument regardless if the characterization is true or false.

            It is not an ad hominem attack to characterize a comment, and certainly an argument in which comments are characterized accurately is not an ad hominem argument. It may be uncivil or uncharitable to characterize comments in blunt, negative terms, but if the characterizations are correct, the argument is not ad hominem. Also note that Wikipedia points out

            Ad hominem reasoning is not always fallacious, for example, when it relates to the credibility of statements of fact or when used in certain kinds of moral and practical reasoning.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            It is not an ad hominem attack to characterize a comment.

            There are several ways to negatively characterize a comment. Some characterizations describe the comment itself, i.e. "that statement did not contain proper English", or "that statement was not true". Sometimes a characterization describes something about the person writing the characterization, i.e. "that statement was boring". And sometimes the characterization describes the person who wrote the comment, i.e. "that statement was stupid". Only the third type of characterization can be an ad hominem.

            It may be uncivil or uncharitable to characterize comments in blunt, negative terms, but if the characterizations are correct, the argument is not ad hominem.

            Even if the characterizaion is true, it's an ad hominem whenever an attack or insult is the premise of an argument. It's not an ad hominem if the characterization is the conclusion of an argument.

            Properly speaking, an insult is not an ad hominem if it's a plain insult and not part of an argument. However, I believe the intent of the comment guidelines is to ban insults in general, because such statements are neither charitable nor helpful.

          • William Davis

            And sometimes the characterization describes the person who wrote the comment, i.e. "that statement was stupid"

            No, this statement still describes the comment. If the statement had been "The person that wrote this is stupid" it would be an ad hominem attack.

            Some ad hominem arguments are not fallacies. I'll give an example of a valid ad hominem argument.

            Salesmen are likely to mislead to get you to buy something.

            Mark is a salesman who sells pots.

            I should trust Mark about pots because he is a salesman.

            Now this argument doesn't prove any particular claim Mark makes is false, but it is a valid argument for bringing additional scrutiny to any of his claims and realize his interpretation of fact is likely to be biased in specific ways.

            Businesses use ad hominem arguments all the time when they decline to hire criminals.

            I'm saying all this not to argue for the sake of arguing, but help clarify what is going on here. I think it is very healthy mentally to separate comments and actions from an individual. This allows the comment or action to be criticized without taking things too personally. Thinking this way has helped me a great deal in being critical of myself, and being critical of myself dramatically helps me improve and think better :)

            Notice in Greg's comment he even used the word "rhetoric". Rhetoric is defined as "language designed to have a persuasive or impressive effect on its audience, but often regarded as lacking in sincerity or meaningful content." Joe is not rhetoric, that's impossible. His writing is rhetoric. I don't know how Greg could have been more clear that he was talking about the rhetoric, not the person.
            In the end, I see what you are saying, but you inferred incorrectly (communication is part inference, part implication). Greg's wording directly indicates he is describing the words, i.e. rhetoric.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            William, in reference to my example:

            "that statement was stupid"

            You wrote:

            No, this statement still describes the comment. If the statement had been "The person that wrote this is stupid" it would be an ad hominem attack.

            It seems you missed the point of my three examples of types of characterizations. The point is that it's possible to describe a comment itself, or by personification, indirectly describe either the author or the listener/reader.

            I agree it's not the same thing as saying "the person that wrote this is stupid". When you say a person is stupid, that's a general characterization of the whole person, whereas describing a comment is "stupid" only says that the author expressed stupidity at the time of writing the comment.

          • David Nickol

            If I say someone made an illogical statement, is that an ad hominem attack? According to your interpretation, it means at minimum that the person engaged in illogicality when he or she made the statement, and it may even mean the person in question is illogical.

            There are many problems with what you have been saying, but one of them is that you seem to be mixing up the idea of an ad hominem attack with the ad hominem fallacy. If all of the negative things you say about a person's argument are correct, and any negative characteristics you identify your opponent as having are both true and relevant, there is no ad hominem fallacy.

          • Jonathan Brumley

            There are many problems with what you have been saying, but one of them is that you seem to be mixing up the idea of an ad hominem attack with the ad hominem fallacy.

            Agreed, I'm mixing these up. By "attack" I mean a plain insult, like calling someone "juvenile" (directly or indirectly). An insult only becomes the ad hominem fallacy when it is used as the premise of an argument.

            I suspect the intent of the comment guidelines is to ban plain "ad hominem" insults, not only ad hominem fallacies.

            If all of the negative things you say about a person's argument are correct, and any negative characteristics you identify your opponent as having are both true and relevant, there is no ad hominem fallacy.

            It's a fallacy when the description of the opponent is used as a premise of an argument. The reason it's a fallacy is that a person's argument can be true even if the person's character is bad.

            If I say someone made an illogical statement, is that an ad hominem attack? According to your interpretation, it means at minimum that the person engaged in illogicality when he or she made the statement, and it may even mean the person in question is illogical.

            The difference is whether you can show how the statement is "illogical". It's not an "ad hominem" fallacy or even an insult when the characterization is the conclusion of an argument.

          • Greg Schaefer

            Jonathan.

            I've really said my piece on this, and as I am also confident that the time and space devoted to this has far, far exceeded any possible value, I'm happy let you have the last word, and thank you for your time and attention explaining your position to me.

            To all who read my comment to Joe and thought I was being uncharitable or uncivil, I apologize.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    Since the scientific point is clear-cut and settled (it's inescapable that unique human beings are created at the moment of fertilization), everything turns on point

    Twinning?

    • What about twinning? A unique human being is created at fertilization. If that unique human beings splits into two (or more) human beings, then there are still unique human beings (albeit, the in case of twins, two unique human beings with identical DNA).

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Unique means one and only one. Two is more than one.

        • They are unique persons with identical DNA.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            we have one unique human being at conception according to Joe.
            That becomes two unique beings. Both of which were "created" after conception.

          • What happens if you cut a flatworm in half? You get two flatworms. Does it follow from this that there was not one individual flatworm before the split? Of course not. When an embryo twins, there was still one individual embryo before that.

            A unique human being is created at fertilization. That is fact. Twinning occurs after fertilization, and if it does, then there are two unique human beings. I'm not sure what your objection is?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            I object that the twins were created at conception.

          • Good, because so do I.

            A unique human being is created at fertilization. That is fact. Twinning occurs *after* fertilization, and if it does, then there are two unique human beings where there used to be just one. I'm not sure what your objection is?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            In the case of twins, the life is not created at conception. It is created at twinning.
            Twinning raises a problem for those who think that embryos should be protected at the same level as infants or even fetuses

          • Once again... a unique human being is created at fertilization. That is fact. Twinning occurs *after* fertilization, and if it does, then there are two unique human beings where there used to be just one. ADDITIONAL life is creating at twinning, but the ORIGINAL life was created at fertilization.

            Why does twinning raise that problem? The answer is: protect them both. No problem at all.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because whatever it was that we were protecting is gone. In the case of twins, we cannot always trace their existence to the moment of conception. Therefore, in general, it does not make sense to consider the infant as having existed, as a unique human, since conception.

            Pro-lifers claim that life begins at conception and continues uninterrupted till natural death. Twinning proves that this is not always the case.

          • "Because whatever it was that we were protecting is gone." No, that's not accurate.

            "In the case of twins, we cannot always trace their existence to the moment of conception." But we can trace the creation of one unique human being to conception. The fact that twinning occurs afterwards means there is another human being to consider IN ADDITION TO the original human being.

            "it does not make sense to consider the infant as having existed, as a unique human, since conception." Yes it does, because one of them did. The other came into being shortly afterward.

            "Pro-lifers claim that life begins at conception and continues uninterrupted till natural death. Twinning proves that this is not always the case." Incorrect. Life did begin at conception, and additional life came into being at twinning. Both are valuable human lives that should be protected. Again, not seeing the problem.

          • William Davis

            Life did begin at conception, and additional life came into being at twinning.

            One life began at conception. The other life began at twinning. You just said it, how do you not see it?

          • How do I not see what?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            You said it. Life does not always begin at conception.

            It is quite possible that the original life, becomes two different lives at twinning. The first life is then no more.

          • Given that we don't know for sure, why not err on the side of life?

            Life does always begin at conception. Even in a twinning situation, there is a life that starts at conception. In most cases twinning occurs very soon after fertilization, so what does it matter? Any law protecting life *from conception onwards* would also protect twins.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because the mother has rights as well. And utility,

          • Which is completely irrelevant to our discussion twinning and when it occurs in the context of laws that protect life from conception onwards.
            However, even Roe v Wade acknowledged that the right to bodily autonomy is not absolute. The right to life trumps the right to bodily autonomy, given that pregnancy is temporary and death is permanent.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is relevant. You want laws that protect embryos. Laws which are an egregious violation of the mother's rights.

            Pro-lifers pretend like life begins at conception and if left alone, the embryo will grow into a fetus, which will be born and eventually become an adult human. This is not the case for numerous reasons and twinning is one of them. In the case of twinning, the two lives that were born did not begin at conception. The earliest we could say they began is when twinning occurred.

          • The laws protect life from conception *onward*. That would include twinning.
            Prolifers don't "pretend" anything. We state biological fact. Embryology textbooks state that life begins at fertilization. For example:
            "Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus." [Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146]
            "The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote." [Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]
            "The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote." [Sadler, T.W. Langman's Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]
            I've already demonstrated how the right to bodily autonomy is not absolute, as Roe v Wade says.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Your quotes from textbooks evade the point. A zygote will not necessarily, if left alone become an infant. Sometimes the zygote will twin and become to different organisms. Most of the time, the embryo will spontaneously abort.

            An organism is not a person.

            Everyone accepts that bodily autonomy is not absolute. What we do not accept is that an organism non-existent right to life supersedes the rights of the mother.

          • "The development of a human being begins with fertilization" evades the point that the development of a human being begins with fertilization? How so?
            How is spontaneous abortion relevant? It is natural death. Senior citizens die of natural causes; can we declare open season on them, too?
            Why do you think that an unborn child's right to life is subordinate to the right to bodily autonomy, given that death is permanent while pregnancy is temporary? And what about parental obligation?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It is all relevant, because pro-lifers claim that life begins at conceptions and if that life is left uninterrupted, it will become an infant. This is not true. Spontaneous abortions show that this is not true. Senior citizens have a right to life for various reasons.

            A person has the right to make his or her own medical decisions. They have the right to autonomy over their body in where they go, where they work, who they marry, etc. A person has the right to make decisions concerning them selves and their body - this a general principle of law and ethics.

            The fetus is entirely dependent on an autonomous person for its development and growth. It lacks awareness of its own existence. It has no memories and no prior personality. It has no right to life.
            If it did have a right to life, it is completely dependent on the mother for its life. The fetus has no claim to the body of the mother. So, the mother is justified in removing the fetus.

          • Why does the fact that natural death sometimes occur negate the right to life for unborn children? I have had two miscarriages - does that mean I need to kill two of my born children? I don't see your logic.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Not sometimes, but nearly all of the time. Most of the souls in Heaven are embryos.

            My point was that a conception will not always end in a live birth. Spontaneous abortion is a problem for those who argue that because the embryo will eventually be a human person we should treat it as a human person.

            Embryos don't have a right to life. They are merely a clump of cells that could eventually grow into a human person, but it most cases do not.

          • Two problems with your logic.

            1. We have no guarantee that any child will grow to an adult. Or that any fetus will live be born. Accidents happen, illness happens, crime happens. Babies are stillborn or die of SIDS. So, by your logic, we should have NO laws protecting any human life at all, since we don't know for sure if someone will live past a certain age.
            2. If unborn children are not human, then what species are they? Are you saying that two humans have non-human offspring? That is a biological impossibility.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) Not at all, because I am simply showing the flaw in pro-life logic.
            2) Embryos are human organisms as opposed to human persons.

          • 1) what flaw? You've yet to show one.

            2) What is the difference?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) Any argument that asserts that zygotes will necessarily be born, if we allow nature to take her course. It is not true that potentially X is actually X.
            2) Free will and sentience. Feeling pain. Autonomy. Memories and personality.

          • 1) That's not my argument. It's a strawman.

            Human rights are not dependent upon our ability to know if someone will or will not die a natural death. By your logic, newborns are not persons because we have no idea which ones will die of SIDS.

            2) Why do these make a difference? Comatose people do not have free will and sentience. People with anhidrosis don't feel pain. Newborns don't have autonomy. People with dementia or Alzheimers don't have memories. Comatose people don't have personalities. Do you think they are all non-person human beings as well?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) You stepped in to criticize my criticism of an argument. Whether or not you actually argued it is not the point. It has been argued multiple times on this thread. It is often implicit in the whole "life begins at conception" bumper sticker talking point.
            2) Justify a human beings right to life without mentioning any of the qualities that I listed.

          • 1) I haven't seen a single person on this thread argue that it's not okay to kill a child simply because that child might not die naturally. Are you sure you're understanding the argument correctly?

            2) A human being is defined as an organism of the species homo sapiens. All human beings have the right to life.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            What differentiates then a homo sapiens from a lophophora williamsii, a mola mola or a homo neandertalis? Or do they have the same right to life? If so, why do you specify "human beings"? Reason your answer.

          • You answered your own question. An organism of the species homo sapiens is of a different species than an organism of the species lophophora williamsii, mola mola or homo neandertalis. Otherwise they would all have the same name (i.e., the same classification). Isn't that obvious?

            I'm afraid I'm going to have to pose your own question back at you. Can you please give a reasoned argument for why human beings do *not* have human rights? For example, have you asked the United Nations why they bother to have a Universial Declaration of Human Rights if humans are just one animal among many? They take it as a given: "...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..." (source: http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/) Do you disagree with the United Nations?

            Unborn children are also members of the human family. They are organisms of the species homo sapiens, just like I am. Just like you are. They are entitled to equal rights.

          • El Suscriptor Justiciero

            You didn't understand my question. What is the reason why a homo sapiens has a certain set of rights and a peyote cactus doesn't have it? And if the reason is simply that a peyote cactus is not human, then why do apes and cetacea, which aren't human either, have these rights? What's the difference between a human and a sunfish, and what's the similarity between a human and an orangoutan?

          • No, I understand your question. But I don't see why you are asking it. The United Nations, for example, doesn't argue that human beings SHOULD have rights. They accept it as a given. "...recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world..."

            So what is your argument for why human beings should not have rights?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            1) You misstated my position, btw

          • How so? You said, "My point was that a conception will not always end in a live birth." Well, a live birth will not always result in a toddler (e.g., SIDS). Therefore, by your logic, infants aren't persons either.

          • Papalinton

            But if as Catholics say, ensoulment occurs at fertilisation [or conception] and twinning occurs up to 14 days after fertilisation, do the wins share half a soul each?

          • Ensoulment is irrelevant to the abortion debate because abortion is a human rights issue, not a religious issue. See secularprolife.org

          • Papalinton

            Obscurantism.
            That's not what the Pope says.

          • Yes, the Pope supports human rights for all human beings. So do a lot of people. But the issue of ensoulment is irrelevant to the question of whether or not human beings should have human rights. Atheists, for example, don't believe in ensoulment and many still oppose abortion. See secularprolife.org.

          • David Nickol

            But it is the Catholic Church (and other Christian Churches) that insists the difference between human beings and animals is that human beings have spiritual souls.

            Atheists, for example, don't believe in ensoulment and many still oppose abortion.

            How can you hold atheists up as examples when, from your point of view, they are so clearly wrong? From your point of view, any human or animal or plant without a soul is dead! If atheists consider zygotes to be persons, they do so for the wrong reasons. So why are they good examples?

          • And if United States was a Catholic theocracy, ensoulment would be a relevant subject to discuss in terms of abortion. But it's not, so it's really irrelevant, especially given the scope of this article.
            What, pray tell, are the "wrong reasons" atheists oppose abortion? Have you ever visited secularprolife.org? They oppose abortion because they believe that human beings should have human rights. Do you think human rights are wrong?

          • David Nickol

            What, pray tell . . . . Do you think human rights are wrong?

            Apologies if I am misreading you, but I detect something in the tone of your message the makes me want to bow out of this conversation.

          • I have no idea what you may be inferring, because the only emotion I feel is curiosity. Genuinely interested in hearing why you oppose human rights for all human beings, because that is what atheist pro-lifers push for.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    In his response, Steven takes issue with my twofold formulation. Specifically, he accuses me of conflating terms, between biological humans in (1) and metaphysical humans in (2). I'm actually doing no such thing: I mean human in the same sense in both (1) and (2), and reject the whole idea of humans who are biological-but-not-metaphysical (or vice versa). It's immoral, and ought to be illegal, to murder those that we recognize, scientifically, as human beings. Furthermore, any sort of metaphysical definition of “human” that fails to capture the entire set of all humans is a bad definition.

    And so here you would need to demonstrate that it is wrong to murder humans, using your definition of human, without recourse to the properties of metaphysical humans like sentience, free will, and autonomy.

    • "And so here you would need to demonstrate that it is wrong to murder humans..."

      Does that need justification? Does anyone in this debate think it is morally acceptable to murder humans (i.e., directly and intentionally kill innocent human beings)?

      Both Joe and Steven share this assumption and if you disagree, I'd be both surprised and alarmed.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        I think it is morally wrong to intentionally kill metaphysical humans. The fact that it is morally wrong to intentionally kill a human must fall from the definition of a human.

        Consider Joe's definition:

        A Human Person is a biological human (has the DNA of species homo Sapien).
        Consider my definition:

        A Person is an autonomous being with free will, sentience, and memories.
        From the first definition it is impossible to prove that it is wrong to kill humans without adding the traits that I include in my definition. Philosophers don't believe it is wrong to kill an animal because it belongs to a certain species.

        Using the definition that is provided, one needs to show why it is wrong to kill humans or else discard the definition in search of a new one or discard the intuition that killing is wrong. This is how logic works.

        • Aquinasbot

          >A Person is an autonomous being with free will, sentience, and memories.

          You've painted a target around your arrow. Why do these qualities need to be active in order for personhood to exist?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Because they are the qualities that we use to demonstrate that persons have the right to life.

          • William Davis

            Brandon just told me that Catholic Morality says it's find to disconnect a brain dead person from life support. Isn't the reason why that's ok because they lack consciousness and memories?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            No. Because there is not an obligation to keep someone alive at all costs. (Remember negative commands vs. positive commands.) But pulling the plug is totally different than injecting a killing drug.

          • William Davis

            But pulling the plug is totally different than injecting a killing drug.

            Why?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            At the end of life, when there is little to be gained, removing a respirator is letting nature take its course. The person dies but you didn't kill him.

            On the other hand, if you inject someone with a drug which will kill him, you *did* kill him.

          • William Davis

            I'll repost my response to mater, but that fact is that you DO kill the person when remove the respirator. This is true because of the chance even if it's slight, of recovery. This is why it is up to the family to make the decision.

            Here is your problem. When you disconnect a brain dead person from life support, you never know for sure if you doing the right thing. It is somewhat rare, but sometimes these people recover. It could take week, months, or sometimes years. The problem is typically the cost of maintaining them. Pulling the plug really isn't all that different than pulling the plug on an 8 week old embryo. The probably that the embryo will develop a functional mind is likely greater than the probably that the brain dead person will recover (depending on the brain damage 85% likely hood for embryo, 15% likelihood for serious brain damage) but you are still calculating the odds and taking a life through a specific action, removing life support.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            A doctor does not pull the plug in an embryo. He rips it apart.

            Turning off a respirator is wholly different than smothering the patient with her pillow.

          • William Davis

            Abortion doesn't work that way anymore, thanks to it being legal and improvement in medicine. That type of procedure also tended to damage the mother and make future births much more difficult.

            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK138200/

            Turning off a respirator is just a different way of smothering someone. The distinction isn't that large to me. To me, it is simply obvious that allowing someone to be smothered is sometimes justified, and it should always be the families decision.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            What do you imagine suction aspiration abortion is?

            When the family smothers grandma, that is homicide.

          • Kraker Jak

            Grandma should never be "smothered" , asphixiated or deyhdrated to death. I have seem family members go this way and it took days of painful suffering. Surely with all of our medical expertise, pain killers, drugs capable of inducing euphoria etc. there are more humane ways of doing things. One would think that we are still living in the dark ages of medicine. Jeez....they shoot horses don't they?

          • William Davis

            I agree with you. My mother in law died of cancer, and the last few days were just torture for everyone. She had pain killers but she literally suffocated from the tumors. A voluntary painless lethal injection a day or so before she died would have been a mercy for everyone.

          • Kraker Jak

            If I was the one suffering a terminal illness, I would definitely be willing to explore, participate in research involving shrooms or ayawaska as an experimental door to psychological insight or experimentation as per psycho active chemicals pain killers etc.....especially if these would have the potential so shuffle me off in peace rather than physical torment. Where do I sign up?....I am well into my seventh decade of life. Must I content myself with medicinal herbs and merlot? :_)

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Also, we know that it is wrong to torture humans beyond a reasonable doubt. This is not the case with abortion.

  • Kevin Aldrich

    It might be useful to introduce a distinction in ethics between the requirements never to do something and the lack of obligation to always do a positive.

    In the right to life, the negative is to never directly, intentionally kill innocent human life. The positive is to act to protect and preserve life.

    It is possible (and pro life people argue morally necessary) to never murder, and there is no getting off the hook if you do. On the other hand, it is impossible and even absurd to attempt always and everywhere act to protect life, as in allowing people to drive motor cars or prescribe drugs, since some loss of life in bound to occur. In the case of a positive commandment, prudence is necessary to weigh competing "interests."

    I don't think there are really any competing interests when it comes to "do not murder."

  • The soul is the animating principle of the human being, by which he possesses intellectual and volitional powers, by which powers he understands human nature and the ethical behavior required by that nature. The proximate basis of ethics is human nature, just as are all of the characteristics of humans. Explaining the existence of man, in contrast to explaining the characteristics of human nature, leads to the conclusion of the existence of God. Theism/atheism is a topic different from the nature of man and ethics. The answer to your question, ‘where does that leave atheists?’ is ‘in the same ethical boat as theists, if both are thinking rightly up to that point’. Theism expands ethics. It doesn’t change the ethics of human relationships.

  • Michael Murray

    I thought that the new Pope had told Catholic's to stop going on and on about sexual morality and to concentrate on other issues such as social justice ? Maybe it's time for Strange Notions to give abortion a rest and put up an article about social justice.

    For example what is the Catholic attitude to the increasing level of movement of people between countries to escape death, danger, disease and poverty ? Is it acceptable for people to move to another country without the other countries permission if they are escaping poverty ?

    Such a discussion would fit in with my previous post about dialogue starting with trying to find common cause instead of just banging heads over issues we know already that we disagree strongly about. Thanks to Geena Safire who is banned from posting here for suggesting the idea.

    • "I thought that the new Pope had told Catholic's to stop going on and on about sexual morality and to concentrate on other issues such as social justice ? Maybe it's time for Strange Notions to give abortion a rest and put up an article about social justice."

      Why would an atheist respect the Pope's authority? You're starting to sound more like a liberal Catholic than an atheist ;)

      (On a side note, the Pope never even said what you've credited him with saying.)

      This site isn't really designed to comment on social justice. But if you're genuinely interested, I wrote a whole book on the topic (which, not to toot my own horn, just won 1st place at the Association of Catholic Press awards): Saints and Social Justice.

      "Such a discussion would fit in with my previous post about dialogue starting with trying to find common cause instead of just banging heads over issues we know already that we disagree strongly about."

      Sometimes that's nice, but other times it's just a retreat from the truly important issues. Just because we disagree strongly about something doesn't mean it should be off-limits; in fact, that's a very good reason to discuss it more!

      • Michael Murray

        Why would an atheist respect the Pope's authority?

        If I ask why the members of a sporting team aren't following their Captains advice that doesn't mean I respect the Captains' authority more that I'm wondering why the team don't ?

        This site isn't really designed to comment on social justice.

        Well it's your site so you do as you wish but I'm mystified as to why the Catholic view of social justice isn't a relevant topic on a site devoted to Catholic atheist dialogue.

        • Alexandra

          Michael, we are discussing Catholic social justice in this very OP and dialogue. The life and dignity of the human person is a fundamental theme.

          I'm glad you seek common cause between Catholics and Athiests. What do you think we have in common?

          • Michael Murray

            Michael, we are discussing Catholic social justice in this very OP and dialogue.

            The topic may be social justice but I'm not sure it's a dialogue. Looks to me more like just restating the same positions we have all heard before. I could argue either side of this argument as could all of us I'm sure. But in any case I was suggesting some other social justice issues like refugees.

            What to Catholics and Athiests have in common? We are all human, we live, we get sick, we love, we worry, we sometimes have children, we grow old, we die.

            Somewhat ironically many of the atheists here, particularly before the Great Purge, had Catholic childhoods which you might imagine created a shared bond with the Catholics. The Catholic's however seem to predominantly have Protestant childhoods.

          • Alexandra

            Thank you for your response.

            "Looks to me more like just restating the same positions we have all heard before."

            Which statement(s) of Joe H. are you referring to?

          • Michael Murray

            I'm talking about the comments. I assume the "atheist catholic dialogue" that is supposed to be happening is in the comments.

        • Kraker Jak

          If I ask why the members of a sporting team aren't following their Captains advice that doesn't mean I respect the Captains' authority more that I'm wondering why the team don't ?

          Perhaps liberal Catholics in the not too distant past have not really considered themselves as part of the team, until Pope Francis came along and seems to at least be paying lip service to their concerns, but time will tell if his "lip service" has any genuine heft to it.

          • Michael Murray

            I don't know what to make of this new team captain. He's good with the media but the game is still going down hill. We lost 62 : 38 overnight in Ireland where traditionally we have had some great wins, match attendance is way down in the developed world and the scandals just keep coming. In Australia people are demanding senior players who are touring in Rome be bought back to face their Royal Commission. People just aren't interested in the game played by the old rules. I know what the conservatives say, if you change the rules it's a different game. But I tend to agree with the liberals: if you don't change the rules there won't be a game. Still I haven't played or watched a match for years so I'm probably not entitled to an opinion.

      • Alexandra

        Congratulations on your award Brandon! That's wonderful.

      • Kraker Jak

        You're starting to sound more like a liberal Catholic than an atheist ;)

        Is there really much difference between the two when it comes to political and moral opinions in general?.;-)

        • Mila

          Haha true!

  • David Nickol

    But this still leaves me with my original question: does the
    question of abortion, or murder more broadly, boil down to whether or
    not the victim is ensouled? If so, where does that leave atheists?

    Atheists, can, of course, have some kind of concept of the soul as an animating principle similar to Aristotle's that does not make the leap Aquinas makes in defining the soul to be made of some spiritual "substance," giving it immortality, and conceiving of it as something that can exist independent of the body. Atheists, for example, could say a developing human has a "soul" when it has the attributes that make a person a person—the ability to feel, think, and so on (not just the potential). Soul could be thought of as personality at some very rudimentary level.

    • "Atheists, for example, could say a developing human has a "soul" when it has the attributes that make a person a person—the ability to feel, think, and so on (not just the potential). Soul could be thought of as personality at some very rudimentary level."

      This gets right back to the problem Joe identified: if you're distinguishing between a potential or actual human trait, and thus potential or actual human personhood, what happens when an adult human person stops displaying that trait, either because of sleep, physical dysfunction, or a coma? Do they lose their "personality" (in the sense you outlined) and thus lose their personhood? Of course not. That would be absurd. People don't transition from non-personhood to personhood and then back to non-personhood. Which is why the idea that personhood can be dependent on personality is also absurd.

      • Pofarmer

        If you've never been conscious, never had a personality?

      • David Nickol

        Do they lose their "personality" (in the sense you outlined) and thus lose their personhood? Of course not.

        You are correct here, which is why all the objections from pro-life advocates involving sleep or general anesthesia or whatever are nonsense. A person does not stop having a trait just because he or she is not exhibiting it at the moment. This is inherent to the notion of "personality." If I say, "David Letterman is a funny man," must I check to make sure he is awake and telling a joke at the moment to make that a true remark?

        People don't transition from non-personhood to personhood and then back to non-personhood.

        Certainly they don't by going to sleep, or undergoing general anesthesia, or even (sometimes) going into a coma. A person does not wink out of existence at bedtime and wink back into existence when the alarm clock goes off. Duration and continuity are parts of what make a person a person (and a personality a personality).

        In any case, I was not attempting to give definitive explanation of an atheist conception of soul. I was saying that it is possible to conceive of a concept of soul that does not involve the supernatural.

      • No, if it is temporary and or they do not lose the human capacity, it makes sense to maintain their rights. But if they die including brain death, it no longer makes sense to afford human rights.

        It is not a question of personality at all it is a question of brain function.

  • I don't believe this article is 'off-topic'. Indeed there is a specific
    reference to such debates as this post on 'abortion'. Hope you find it
    of value. Habermas, belongs to the later Frankfurt School, and is a
    renowned atheist, who does however converse with the Jesuits. Here is
    the article:

    http://www.ucd.ie/philosophy/perspectives/resources/naturalism_religion.pdf

    • Kraker Jak

      Habermas, belongs to the later Frankfurt School, and is a renowned atheist, who does however converse with the Jesuits.

      This is a six page article opinion expressed or not.

      • Hi Kraker Jak. (First, please get in touch with Brian Green Adams if you live in Toronto, cause he has an atheist group that you might be interested in. End of promo!)
        Yes. I can appreciate your remark. Rather than condense, perhaps I can successfully (or note) supply a little background that might make another reading 'easier'. It is a long argument, and although I considered lifting out certain quotes, and commenting on those, although I often go into long rants, because of the precision of his writing, any translation on my part could extend to a book-length discourse.

        Habermas is most aware of the kind of dialogue/debate that occurs within posts such as these, and the continuing dichotomies between civil society and religious belief. As per Kant, the idealizations of freedom of individual will, or choice, are considered prerequisites for moral thought. However, a distinction remains between pragmatic goals and morality, for the latter are 'deontological', i.e. are considered to be duties that arise from a consideration of both universality, and necessity, limited however, within the possibilities of the individual subject to be 'regulative' rather than 'dogmatic' principles. The 'state' in contrast legislates according to moral dictates, but is encumbered by not representing all individual cases. The essay presents several 'problems' that arise both respect to 'tolerance', and forms of argumentation that do not deny the expression of individual experience. (I have commented against some of the uses/abuses of argument) However, he also makes the point that much argument about such issues as that considered today, is often more opinionated than reasoned, formal discourse. It is difficult to find a balance.
        I'll leave you to reread the selection again, because I assure you his explanation is far more eloquent than mine, and well, if I can 'understand it', I'm sure that you can too!!
        I will, if I may, suggest several possibilities that could reveal certain forms of 'self-deceit' regarding such a problematic as the abortion debate. Geena referred to a comment which asked why for instance women were not part of the debate. (I make the following statements or questions hesitantly, because I don't think they are going to be 'appreciated'. I would ask in this regard, the following) l. Is it the actual time of labor that is considered to be the necessary element that would guarantee a woman's freedom of choice, or it it not possible that considerations regarding abortion extend beyond the time of pregnancy, into suppositions regarding the life long considerations of the 'parent' and 'child'.l 2. With respect to a comment regarding the interest of a male with respect to a pregnancy, we recall that the age of 'shotgun marriages' has not been an option generally for some time. But is there perhaps a possible collusion, (this possibility is referred to within the article) within recent modernism that takes the onus of responsibility of the male with respect to child-bearing, in return for granting a similar privilege, or unspoken agreement, to the female. The understatement might read: I don't have to marry you, but you don't have to bear my child'. Thus the woman achieves a claim of dependence with respect to her body and 'every child is a wanted child'.

        This is difficult for me, as I do not believe it is a 'true' independence. During the last couple of posts, I believe I have come to 'understand?' better church dogma on this issue. The idea of even an 'immaculate' conception, places this idea of 'a wanted child' within the 'religious context'. Unfortunately,although I am aware that this priority within church legislation has resulted in so many authoritarian dictates that have been rejected, (such as use of condom, which many people don't like anyway because it limits pleasure!!!!) I highly doubt whether these legalities have actually resulted in any kind of explicit consciousness on the part of indi8viduals having sex, even within marriage, that makes having a child, that is an 'immaculate conception' unburdened by thoughts of pleasure, or even affection, the priority within even the sexual practices of the most devout. (My skepticism here!!) I have herein elaborated on just several examples of themes touch upon in the paper on Habermas.
        He also: 1. criticizes Heidegger's philosophy as bearing the remnants of the 'romanticism of Nazi philosophy' which has often been regarded as a kind of 'religion'. Indeed, the reference to Darwinism is critical to the extent that many of the tenets can indeed fall short of what he would consider 'good argument'.
        So the failure is on both sides: the naturalism and the religious, it would seem. And thus, within the current post-modernism/post-metaphysics of the modern age, I believe Habermas merely is cautioning us to 'avoid throwing out the baby with the bath water'.

        Hope this helps. Do read it again, even a couple of times. If you have specific questions, I will try to help. But my little experiment, (which according to EN resulted in my lack of coherence) has given me an insight, hopefully, that there are indeed very serious problems, not only with Aristotelean/Platonic/Thomistic philosophy but with the secular perspectives of science, in that the 'problem of consciousness' is not 'necessarily' being addressed with 'conscience'. Thank, K. Send me a cartoon on this! I'd look forward to it.

        • Kraker Jak

          I have herein elaborated on just several examples of
          themes touched upon in the paper on Habermas.

          Thankyou...for your effort. The issue is certainly not cut and dried.

          • Thank you for 'acknowledging my effort'. These philosophic posts and comments I direct to these sites represent my attempt to express a more detached perspective than what occurs generally in the comment box. It is true that they may be 'too abstract', but such is philosophy. Apart from my acknowledgement that my little 'experiment at self analysis' could rightly have produced some incoherence on my part, on thinking it over, it is also possible that it may be just as difficult for say, the 'evil overlord' to read such abstractions as it is for me to understand mathematical equations. This after noticing, for instance, his remark that it was Plato who wrote: "Man is a feathered biped", a jest made I believe either by Hume, or by J.S. Mill, providing a definition that is possibly becoming more and more acceptable with time. But Habermas I believe has touched on the contradictions within the 'old' and 'new' philosophies, that there may be some self-deception, taking the easy way out, and even lack of responsibility, rather than the attempt to develop a more comprehensive understanding and other remarks that he makes which are I believe noteworthy. He is of course the originator of Communicative Action, (or a philosophy direct towards developing better interaction between individuals) a response to what he believed was an over-emphasis on representational thinking. I shall continue to attempt to understand these guys in order to get some perspective on the 'issues of today', whether or not they are deemed to be 'incoherent'. . Thanks, always for your support Kraker Jak..

          • Kraker Jak

            You may find the following useful. I like my philosophy served in small portions. I am in my seventh decade of life, My tired old eyes and weary intellect can only absorb so much at a time. So condensed versions and nutshells serve me well in both philosophy and quantum physics.

            Habermas's Discourse Ethic In A Nutshellhttp://tornhalves.blogspot.ca/2008/09/habermass-discourse-ethic-in-nutshell.html

          • Hi Kraker Jaki. I'm an 'oldie' like you! The above link was not quite in order so here it is for future reference: http://tornhalves.blogspot.ca/2008/09/habermass-discourse-ethic-in-nutshell.html Also thanks for putting me onto marxists.org. So at least I'm consistent in my choice of philosophers. When I first came to this site I preached Kantianism. In the last week I found the argument called the Continental Divide between Heidegger and Cassirer, which explains how Kant's philosophy was adopted to serve the scientific perspectives of the Analytic philosophers.

            So you did it on your own. Sorry I couldn't have been more illuminated in the remarks which followed your request. But the 'link' you provided was by far the better 'discovery' Take care.

            .

        • Kraker Jak

          Wannabe Babies. No offense intended to anyone.

          • I do love your sense of humor. It is objective and not detrimental. Thanks. 'Euthanism!!!!'

          • Kraker Jak

            Thanks....but credit goes to San Miquel for his cartoon.

          • I am in sympathy somewhat with the distinction made by William Davis, regarding the subject of abortion: i.e. in principle, or within the internal dynamics, I would, like him agree that it is a perplexing moral issue. But within the practical limitations of the perplexities of life, I would not for instance want anyone incarcerated for instance, for this.
            Indeed, early in the sixties I underwent an abortion, given me by a doctor who was later both incarcerated, and then given the award of the Order of Canada. From your 'emblem', I expect you would know who I am talking about. As just a incident recorded here, but long ago dealt with, I did not have enough money to pay. This was responded to with the 'fact' that the pregnancy was late in term, and I felt the guilt, added to my shame. I never did make the cheque I gave him valid however, having felt that I had already paid enough, and had been given no help by the 'supposed father', and that I was tired, in any case of being taken advantage of by those 'males' within the liberation movement of the sixties. Several years later I was admitted to hospital after taking MDMA, and among other 'acting outs', found myself pretending to be a priest, and while eating a dinner of lamb, imagined my forgiveness of my self, (indeed I had the abortion thinking that it was better than giving birth to a child that would have in effect the same type of experience which I felt I had. So in a way, consciously, my abortion was a kind of -self-abortion, if you can fathom this) So I understand the 'feeling' at least of necessity in so many of these acts, and hope always to develop consciousness of such issues historically, and currently., and to have empathy with the many women for instance whose pregnancy is the result of abuse.

            However, I find again, that history is often rewritten, and thus always reserve a bit of skepticism with such disclosures that are not a 'revelation' of personal experience.. At least I did not find myself pregnant when the Catholic church was in power. But as now that power has diminished, I will support to some extent the pro-life stance within the jurisdiction of 'principle' to offset trends that are directed towards the other direction. There is for instance, the possibility that much more care could be taken to prevent 'conception', and indeed some of the motivations for abortion, such as what is called gender preference,I'm sure you would agree, do not suggest to me responsible, action, nor care for the possibilities if not potential within human life.
            It is for instance not a matter of scientific knowledge to have access to when for instance, a fetus feels pain, or has consciousness. It is not a mathematical construct, and I think we cannot even admit that we do not even have access to the possible feelings and thoughts of other adults, even within this forum. I do not want to be more critical than that of some of the comments within this forum. I am too old to get myself involved within direct confrontations or arguments in this and many other cases. This is possibly a reason why I attempt to limit my remarks to information, and 'abstract' philosophical positions. I remain as Habermas in this regard 'Between naturalism, and (rather than saying God) our inability to know just what consciousness is, and indeed what constitutes the 'Self'. Thanks again, Kraker Jak..

          • Kevin Aldrich

            I've heard this is a good resource:

            http://hopeafterabortion.com

          • Such a kind thought, Kevin. But please understand that I was speaking of what happened fifty years ago, and consider myself most fortunate in having 'children' that are now in their forties. Yet this remains an issue that still demands a greater awareness and understanding, even I believe for those who are given the guidance of which you speak. I am sure therefore that we can both appreciate so many of the comments here and on EN that speak to the delicacy of this situation. Thank you all..

    • Mila

      I keep getting an error message when I click on that link. Do you have another link maybe? Or the title of the article?

    • I posted this on EN as well, but it was removed. At this point I can only conclude that this site is far more 'liberal'. Thanks for your patience, all.

  • Kraker Jak

    I am must admit that I am bit amazed that there are over three hundred comments on this topic at this time? Any explanations or theories anyone?

    • Michael Murray

      You would expect more or less ? I have to know what answer you want before I invent a theory :-)

      • Greg Schaefer

        HI Michael.

        Would that more lawyers, yours truly included, possessed (at least some) mathematicians' sense of humor! ;)

      • William Davis

        This is the essence of teleology ;)

        • Kevin Aldrich

          Teleology is the inherent tendency of a cause to result in a usual effect or range of effects. To use a Feser example, a struck match tends to produce the effect of a flame and heat, not balloons or lollipops.

          • William Davis

            It's a joke about the way scientific theories often get developed, especially the bad ones. One of those jokes that you might need some scientific edjumacation to get ;)

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Maybe because there really can be common dialogue on the question, since the Catholic position is fundamentally rooted in reason, not revelation, and the atheist position (not that there is one officially (that would be impossible)) must also be rooted in reason?

  • Kraker Jak

    I am thinking of coming up with an A-- of the month Graphic award as a
    tongue in cheek presentation, if it would be acceptable to commenters
    in general. It could be awarded arbitrarily on my part...or could be
    posted after due consideration re comments and upvotes. Just trying to
    inject a bit of levity here, especially considering that there are many
    posts where the emperor has no clothes on. I don't think that could hurt.
    According to WD I am the one in the lead at the moment, and I accept that designation...but that could change.

    • William Davis

      I don't know. I'm thinking Boris (you're better off if you haven't had the pleasure of meeting him, he's atheist) and neil (creationist) are the top 2, you probably aren't even 3, but you and I are still close, wherever we happen to be on the scale ;P

  • Well, I tried to read again through all the comments, but that does not mean that my self-confession or disclosure means that I consider that I have in any way made myself vulnerable to some possible judgments that have been expressed in the comments.l
    I still feel for instance, that Kant's distinction between morality and pragmatics has made a valuable contribution to ethics. It implies that value judgments or the ought are something that can be discerned only within the life experience of individuals, and their ability to assess the parameters that govern their choices. He states that any decision that is the result of blindly or legally following the 'dictates' of 'external' authority, cannot for the reasons he states be considered anything but pragmatic decisions, based on some need to conform to the prescriptions of others. I actually believe this is held to be a truth within Islam for instance, where it is considered that even the Imam does not have, at least theoretically, the power of such jurisdiction over the individual. It is also a tenet of Buddhism, as I understand it. In this regard the search for an 'absolute' moral authority, such as is held within the conception of the concept of God, remains the responsibility of the individual rather than church (or state) authority. As I stated, we cannot 'know' the intricate and subtle situations of others, including their personal history. In this sense, we can all consider ourselves to be a-moral, within the context that an absolute moral parameter remains inaccessible to us. 'Judge not lest you be judged'.
    With respect to the situation of women, it has rarely been acknowledged, that even if abortion is considered to be a 'crime', the situation is not one of individual responsibility.
    Indeed, I thought while reading one of the comments, how so many 'sexual' relations depend on assumptions of obligation to others, for instance, which can even be the basis of a comparison of such sexuality to a form of 'slavery' (to norms or to the dictates or desires of others) and other forms of implicit coercive parameters. Of course, it could be argued that the pursuit of pleasure for 'itself' could also be considered a form of slavery. I am aware of biblical quotations which are directed to such distinctions. But there are also cases in the bible where a child (often the first) is sacrificed, or otherwise falls victim to the dictates of religious or secular authority. Even in the NT, there is the flight to Egypt, although I do not want to get into arguments of the reasons or significance of same.
    The importance of this last example, is that it can be the case, that the need for development of the potential of even the possibility of becoming more conscious of moral duty can be a factor in many instances regarding actions, words, or deeds that are or could be considered as immoral (rather than a-moral) by others, whether these relate to individuals, church or state. We know not the intricacies that constitute the basis for the choices of other individuals, and indeed in many cases, the individual herself/himself is unaware of possible a-morality within even a seemingly well-developed moral ethic. I offer these comments to remind even just myself, that it is ever necessary to continue to grow in understanding (and spirit) and that this can be far more difficult than, (to quote the bible again) finding the beam within the eye of another, which may I suggest seems often to be a dominant feature of these 'culture wars'. My stance then within the comparable positions of naturalism and religion, is that it demands of me that I identify with neither, (as I do not believe that science nor religion can offer me any absolute answer with respect to a dilemna such as this. It is just not (to quote scripture again) within my jurisdiction or ability to 'make the final judgment'.

    Just thought of the mention of Kant in a recent post by Just Thomism, regarding possible developments of our conception of consciousness, they may be considered relevant to this comment. . Will return with the copy. Thank you. https://thomism.wordpress.com/2015/05/23/lecture-on-kant/

  • Andrew McArthur

    Assume hypothetically that the entire human race has a propensity for playing Russian Roulette. Now imagine there are organization which deem it immoral to remove all the bullets from a gun before playing, threatening horrific consequences for those who do. It is impossible to have a real conversation about the morality of abortion, without also discussing the possibility of safe, effective, approved and accessible contraception. Also I am an Anti-theist and do not believe we have souls. Let's pretend for a moment we do. Is it moral to commit murder when you hold certain knowledge that you are doing the person a favour by ending their earthly pain and anguish, and sending them to a better place. Is it murder if the person continues to exist. I submit that non-believers have a greater respect for individual life than those who believe in an after life, because we know this is the only chance we have.

  • I think this discussion should focus on to what should we afford human rights. What properties and capacities must exist.

    I would suggest the definition advanced by Peter Singer, which if I recall, is: entities who are aware of their life and have an objective interest in continuing that life. Or, those that can suffer, and have an awareness of that suffering.

    Singer would accordingly afford rights to some animals, but not the unborn, and not newly born. Though, there are other moral reasons for affording rights, or, rather, prohibiting certain conduct with respect to the newly born or almost born.

    • Kraker Jak
      • Well done Kraker Jak. The extremes within the polarity of this debate, and why I support the value of life ethics which is fundamental to both Christian and Buddhist ethics, and perhaps to 'religion' generally. But the 'problem of consciousness' remains.

        • David Nickol

          The less you know about Peter Singer, the easier it is to demonize him. In some respects, that is also true of the Catholic Church. While I disagree with many Catholic positions, there is a rationale behind them, and if you do not understand that rationale, the more likely you are to make ridiculous charges such as that the Catholic Church opposes abortion because it wants to maximize the number of Catholics.

          • Thanks David. I did say in a recent post that I was on the side of the animals rather than the angels, if I had to make this choice. It's alll very difficult isn't it. I thought Thomism was so simply true for instance when it was taught me as a child. (I have just deleted this from another comment I made, but this will demonstrate my current perplexity in trying to sort out the rationals between say reductionism and my childhood Catholicism). (if it's still on the clipboard - here it is - I know you 'didn't ask for it' but the Catholics don't seem to be giving any solutions.

            The following I admit is off topic. So please delete according to your authority: I just get drawn into these problematics when considering 'moral issues'.
            And also, is the 'idea held by Thomism that the intellect and will, (but not Kant's third book on judgment-The Holy Ghost??) are not capable of being placed within a Kantian schemata what makes them 'immaterial'? This problem has already led within a self-analytic introspection to the problem of finding continual contradiction within the continuity of my thought, and thus what was observed as my incoherence. Although I believe my thoughts were neither an expression of my conscious will or obviously intellect, I must 'confess' that it certainly gives me 'pause for "thought"' especially as I was exploring the reductionist thesis. I intend to stay away from such 'experiments' in the future, although I am seriously convinced that there is something 'really wrong' or something about AT/Platonic metaphysics. (And it doesn't help me when I am told that it is because I need a 'lifetime' to understand the trinity, when the exemplification of say
            God's existence is given to me in proofs, etc. that such knowledge does at least 'seem' to be attainable) (Added- another concern) - And if my will and intellect are 'immaterial' would not that imply that this intellect/will/ being is more than a mere 'image' of God. Are there indeed, as I remember being taught as a child, different levels of immateriality? This is too difficult for me. Or perhaps I don't have the intellect/will common to those within a higher order of Christian authority. What distinguishes the angels within this parameter, (or even myself) from 'being' God, a thesis which I find entirely 'theologically contradictory'? Can a being be immaterial but not a subsistent reality, which I understand constitutes God's Being? Where is the line drawn between God and his creation, even that of angels according to AT, if this is the case? At least I'm putting my 'heresy', or 'confusion' on record, whether or not you can/will illuminate 'me'. So I will 'confess' that I do have a real problem in understanding what is 'immaterial'. (Like math and logic????) But do these ideas, particularly, really need to be thought of as immaterial, as Matthew, the Dominican Ph.D. candidate is questioning?

          • William Davis

            Kevin recently linked an article to me that makes me think the position on contraception is all about more Catholic babies. I don't think this is the case about abortion, but contraception... Here's a key quote:

            On the other hand, contraception is not only morally evil; it is also a road to vice in general. As we have pointed out above, the decision to contracept can be made without a serous reason. Since there is no difficulty in having sex when you want it, you have no motivation to reevaluate whether you really have a serious reason to not have a child now. In addition, for the contracepting couple, Paul VI warned inHumanae Vitae that contraception opens “wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards” (§17). In addition, the pontiff wrote, “a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection” (§17). In other words, the husband is tempted to see his wife no longer as a person but as an object of his pleasure to be used. This is a direct result of the joint decision to say no to God by saying yes to sex but not to its procreative purpose.

            http://www.catholicstand.com/humanae-vitae-nfp-contraception/

            Maybe I'm mischaracterizing it, but replace God's will with the Church's will and we have a direct admission that the Church wills more Catholic babies. To be fair, they have been against contraception the whole time, but what's to say this wasn't the motive of the original teaching. Logically they are on horribly thin ice, so motivated reasoning can be legitimately suspect (in my opinion at least).

          • Dear William: As I have been saying: I see 'error' on both sides. One of the reasons I said that women have not attained the self-determination/independence spoken about by those in favor of abortion is

            that within the cultural milieu, and within the limitations of my own understanding I was in my youth particularly vulnerable, which I think could describe many instances within the social sphere with respect to women, generally, even today. I just hope that a particular example serves some purpose in this debate, although now I doubt it.
            Among the vulnerabilities of my youth, however, I could consider the lack of empowerment I experienced, a situation which I have found continues to this day under church 'authority'. There are more complicating factors in my case, but hopefully the disclosure merely asserts the need for the individual to constantly develop awareness, not only in a pragmatic, but in a philosophical/moral/or/spiritual sense.

            Even on these websites, I'm sure there are many examples of social influence on individual or personal standards. A reason why I raised the question as to whether or to what extent the individual alone is responsible for immorality/a-morality without taking into account the context of community both cultural and within the individual's personal history, something that we could even abstractly refer to as 'original'. (No I won't say the s word!!). Such factors as ruling out the use of contraception, etc. as opposed to natural planning, could even be interpreted as given more importance to 'means rather than ends', in the sense that they are not directly related to the development of the capacity of individuals both for critical thought, and indeed the capacity to 'love' or 'spirituality'. In theory, perhaps, the rules are well formulated, but 'we cannot live by bread alone'. We do need as individuals to be able to develop a healthy 'self concept'. .

          • William Davis

            I actually find myself to be anti-abortion, but I think the person hood of the fetus is gray enough to allow abortions up to a certain point, I like the 20 week cutoff except for medical necessity, but many argue with that, and reasonably so. Contraception is something else entirely.
            There are two primary reason for sex. The first is reproduction. The second is pair bonding. Sex with contraception fulfills the second reason, if not the first. That's perfectly fine. Saying contraception is immoral is like saying 0 calorie candy is immoral since the primary end of digestion is for nutrition. It's also like saying the primary purpose of a car is to go somewhere, so taking a joy ride is immoral. Sorry if it offends anyone, but the contraception position is nothing but complete nonsense from my point of view. I think my relationship with my wife would be worse if I were Catholic, we have a ton of great memories together thanks to condoms. I think the Catholic position causes harm to the lives of it's members for no good reason at all. The only reason I can see is to cause their sexual frustration to force them to have more babies. /Endrant
            Anyway, nice to talk to you again, hope you are doing well :)

          • As usual,. William I agree with your point of view. You 'say it' much better than me. Perhaps we are somehow outgrowing out need to relate only to metaphysical 'abstractions', but I also believe that we cannot misrepresent the 'fact' that this will/can entail a very difficult road. I say this, because I cannot trust entirely the 'objectification' that seems to be inherent in science when applied to 'persons', among other things. I know this from experience with 'psychiatry' for instance. Thanks for remembering me. I'll leave you to your 'work'.

          • Kraker Jak

            I actually find myself to be anti-abortion, but I think the person hood
            of the fetus is gray enough to allow abortions up to a certain point

            I find myself agreeing with you WD....This is difficult topic with a lot of overlapping gray areas. But I think it better to err on the side of caution rather than opt for a free for all type of society where newborn babies have little or no rights as per Peter Singer.

          • Hope I'm not taking too much of your time, but coincidentally this was waiting for me in my Inbox, from OEN: http://blog.oup.com/2015/05/the-genetics-of-consciousness/

          • Just so you know: I AM still working on this: As in: subsistence/hypo stasis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypostasis.

          • Kraker Jak

            To disagree with some of his ideas should not be equated with demonizing the man.

      • Got it on the first try, he is the Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University, and his book Practical Ethics was required reading in my first year philosophy course.

        • Kraker Jak

          his book Practical Ethics was required reading in my first year philosophy course.

          A very interesting guy with interesting ideas.The fact that he was required reading on your philosophy course does not give his ideas any more validity than those of other philosophers who disagree with his ideas who also may have been required reading.

          • Well, your comment linked to a site labelling him as potentially the most dangerous man in the world, which seemed to me to be pejorative. This is why I gave the context that this is not a fringe blogger with a self-published book. This is someone who is mainstream and for decades has been considered relevant in an introduction to philosophy at a major university.

    • William Davis

      I don't think rights should be all or none. We can easily give a 28 week fetus and a dog partial rights. These wouldn't be on the same level with an adult human, but they could be used to prevent random executions and/or torturing animals. This is basically how things work in the current legal systems of most modern countries, and it makes sense.

      • Well I have to say that when we speak of rights to life, or security of the person, they do need to apply to all equally. The question is, what gets included in the "all". These rights become limited by other factors, generally the rights of others.

        In this situation, we would be balancing the right of even a single cell human's right to life, versus, the woman's right to bodily autonomy.

        But first we need to determine whether that cell is entitled to this right in the first place.

        Animals have no rights in any society I am familiar with, rather we limit human freedom to do certain things to animals.

        • William Davis

          But first we need to determine whether that cell is entitled to this right in the first place.

          I think the rights of the cell are next to nothing. The rights of an embryo something slightly more, but not much. It is my view that bodily autonomy rules up until about 50% gestation where we now have a half person (0 person at conception, 100% person at full term, 40 weeks). 50% gestation (20-24 weeks) is a great marker to take the entire decision away from the mother. Instead of just a cell we have what looks like a human baby, and we have a generally formed brain. I personally think that is enough to grant some privilege in the form of protection from abortion on a whim, but not enough to prefer the fetus over the life of the mother. I am also open to abortion due to serious deformation or congenital defects (let's call these medical reasons). In most states in the U.S., abortion is illegal past 24 weeks, basically matching this view.

          Animals have no rights in any society I am familiar with, rather we limit human freedom to do certain things to animals.

          In the U.S. you can be imprisoned for dog fighting. This is considered cruelty to animals. Dogs and cats tend to have more rights than any old animal since they are pets. I'm familiar with other animal cruelty laws in the U.S., and it looks like they are in Canada too.

          http://aldf.org/resources/advocating-for-animals/animal-protection-laws-of-the-united-states-of-america-and-canada/

          With animals this isn't the right to life (euthanasia requires no justification), but it is the right not to be tortured...which seems reasonable to me :)

          • So we have an extension of human rights to the domain of animal rights, although there is still controversy regarding what defines both the 'human' and the 'personal' Thank goodness we have not brought up the issue of corporations being defined according to some definition of 'person'. So what would you consider has more rights, a mosquito or a zygote. In this respect, I don't think the zygote is in 'existence' for a very long time. Perhaps long enough to be 'destroyed' by the 'morning after pill'. It just seems sometimes that this whole secular/scientific foundation can be as complicated as scholastic metaphysics, and when I think of this I can't help being in appreciation of such philosophies as Thomistic Personalism, for instance.

          • I think your position is reasonable, but I am not sure you have thought through the justification.

            Is it really viability that should ground rights? If a born human cannot survive without significant assistance, does she lose her rights? Does a terminally ill human who cannot be saved by medicine lose human rights because they are no longer viable?

            Again with respect to animal rights, these are prohibitions on human behaviour. You can also go to jail for destroying a public monument. That doesn't mean monuments have "rights".

            The reasoning behind this is that once we afford "human rights", all kinds of things would be prohibited, unless they could be justified. Eating meat, wearing leather, habitiat encroachment, riding horses, and so on. If animals have the right to life we would have to justify killing or imprisoning an animal in the same way as we do for humans. The reason we don't, is because we don't really care about them as much as we do humans. Rather we find some cruelty to them abhorrent and prohibit it.

          • William Davis

            I'm not actually using viability as a marker like the U.S. Supreme court, I'm using a definition of person hood that progresses with the biological development of the embryo. The moment prior to conception we have a 0% person, conception starts at 1%. Half term is 50%, and full term is 100%. I think 50% person-hood is sufficient for some legal protection, but not enough to allow the rights of the fetus to trump the right to life of the mother. Viability is usually a bit after half term.
            If you model rights as a property of the object being protected you get the same results as modeling as a prohibition on people.
            Prohibiting anyone (including those in government) from taking the life and/or property of a person is the same thing as bestowing a right on an individual. By the same token you can say that a public monument has a right not to be destroyed (even though people usually don't word it this way). Of course the right of the monument not to be destroyed stems from the rights of those who own the monument (the public), but those rights grant a "not to be destroyed" property to the monument itself (or any public property).
            I don't think I'm off-base in saying that person hood is purely social fiction. It's a concept that we use and need, but not a concept that actually exists in any objective form. Thus there isn't a wrong approach to person-hood, but there some approaches are better than others because more people will tend to see it that way and agree with it.
            Again note that I'm not talking about full "human rights" with regards to a fetus, animals, or monuments, I'm talking about different, specific legal rights granted non-persons. One other example of animal rights is the "right to not be driven extinct". We enforce this on Bald eagles in the U.S. for instance. You can get up to 2 years in prison for intentionally killing one. Hopefully you can see the general equivalence between a prohibition of harm (assigned to a person who would perform an act) and a granted right (fictional legal property granted to the object)

        • Pofarmer

          I think we need to take societal effects into account, as well.

        • materetmagistra

          @Brian Green Adams: "....the woman's right to bodily autonomy."

          But, in the situation at hand, nature has certainly not afforded a mother any such "autonomy" from her developing child. There is no such "right."

  • The other issue that is lacking from this discussion is the argument that, even if we grant a newly fertilized egg the same rights as a new born, a woman is entitled to withdraw her body from sustaining that individual.

    Women have the right to bodily autonomy and not risk pain and death by carrying a pregnancy to term. No individual has the right to someone else's body.

    Of you think that this isn't fair, that the fetus is not the same as any other individual human being who might require her body, say a kidney to live, you're right! They aren't the same. They are not autonomous individuals, at that stage they are part of the woman's body, and should be treated differently.

    • Perhaps I could also point out that here in Canada I am aware from experience that the possibility of mental illness (as a result of the pregnancy) was at one time considered a factor to be considered in the adjudication of what would , constitute a legal abortion. These discussions, however, took place according to my memory a very long time ago. I would place them in the sixties even, or perhaps after the Wade and Roe deliberations. I can't remember. But I believe that it is an issue that is relevant to this discussion, which has been ignored within the ongoing discussion..
      Edit: I'm learning to reread my posts!!!

    • materetmagistra

      @Brian Green Adams: "...a woman is entitled to withdraw her body from sustaining that individual."

      (1) "...that individual...." happens to be the son or daughter of said woman. Who is responsible for sons and daughters well-being if not the mother (and the father)?

      (2) The mother's body has played a prime roll in the coming into being of that child. The child is the innocent bystander that finds itself in the position it is in, needing the protection and nutrition afforded it by its mother.

      So, I do not think you are correct. The mother does not have the right to withhold her care from her needy child.

  • Mikebert

    The author writes: The pro-life argument is simple: (1) human beings are alive from the moment of fertilization, and (2) it is morally wrong (and ought to be illegal) to intentionally kill innocent human beings. The first point is a scientific one.

    A human zygote is certainly alive. So is a cow, and we kill and eat them. Then you assert that it is human, and state this as a scientific fact. Whether or not this is true depends on your definition of human being. Do you mean an organism that is genetically human? If so then you would have to ban cancer treatment because that involves the killing of a genetically human creature capable if life outside its host (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immortalised_cell_line#Methods_for_generating_immortalised_cell_lines)

  • Kraker Jak

    I agree with some of your astute political assessments.....I looked at your comment history.But for goodness sakes man....get a new avatar. Perhaps some of the ladies are enamoured of your left nipple...but I am not one of them. :-) Just an attempt at humor friend.

    • Good grief. I didn't 'dare' reply to Mikebert. Of course I had 'difficulty' in understanding the Wikipedia article. But immortalized cells, (which included an example from a discarded? fetus? I've been having difficuloty enough understanding 'immortality' within the religious context. So now is the immortality within somehow the temporal processes of life of something? No wonder I'm confused. Everyone seems to speak a different language, and the definitions propagate. (I have commented on this before, and I do understand the age of the being able to have an 'encyclopaedic' knowledge is over. But those were the days of Michael Angelo, etc. And after all I am a mere woman, so perhaps my pretensions are excusable.
      I just wish I could 'shut up', and stop proving I'm a fool within such discourses. ---Maybe you know the proper saying I'm referring to here.
      The left nipple bit? Why would I be enamored? I am just confused again, this time about what this might have to do with the current gender wars! (In hope that this imitates your 'sense of humor --friend!!!!) No I didn't really find it funny! I didn't even 'understand' it. And for years I've questioned why I have the propensity to slip into 'satire'.
      (Am going to try to send his comments on politics to my once-upon spouse for some explanation, though. Maybe your comment has put me onto a site he'd be interested in) In any case, the situation in the world today isn't really very 'funny' is it? But as far as the relation of irony to wisdom is concerned:: If only Socrates could be my guide, but I guess he couldn't really 'shut up', either.

      • Kraker Jak

        I am concerned about my propensity towards satire

        Do not be concerned....I don't think anything you could say would upset me. My comment to Mikebert about his avatar was tongue in cheek...a failed attempt at humor? I didn't understand the wikipedia thing either. I don't think that just because a cell or clump of cells because they are genetically human classifies those cells as a human creature or a human being.

  • You simply assume your definition of murder is true, without showing it. That makes the rest of your argument faulty.